High-school "Amnesty" group seeks to aid Iraqis

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Dec 25 11:00:56 MST 2002

Sanctions don't deter students (excerpt)

By Jesse J. DeConto
Portsmouth Herald (NH), December 15, 2002

HAMPTON - Numerous sources estimate at least 350,000 and probably more
than half a million Iraqi children have died because of economic
sanctions imposed by the United States in 1990. "Until you see the faces,
it's just a number," said Winnacunnet High School senior Jared Middleton.

He's never visited Iraq, but he has seen a documentary by New
Hampshire filmmaker Tom Jackson titled "Greetings from Missile
Street." By watching the film and interacting with other N.H.
residents who've been to Iraq, Middleton learned something about the
children there.

That's why he and his friends from the WHS chapter of Amnesty
International have begun a donation drive to send art materials, toys,
children's clothing and basic medical supplies to Iraq.

The fact that this is illegal is both an obstacle and an opportunity
for the kids. They plan to find some alternative route to get the
supplies to the Iraqi equivalent of the Red Cross, but not before
visiting a post office on Saturday morning, Jan. 26, and trying to
mail the donations as a protest against the U.S. sanctions that
prohibit Americans from sending anything to Iraq without a license
from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Jackson visited Iraq twice in 2000 with a group called Voices in the
Wilderness. Now, members of that organization are facing $60,000 in
potential for really severe jail time and fines," he said.
fines for illegally delivering aid to Iraq without federal approval.

According to U.S. Treasury Department spokesman Robert Nichols, "You
can't just send money to Iraq. We just don't want to prop up their

A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document dated Jan. 22, 1991,
outlined the expected results of the U.N. sanctions on the people of Iraq.

"Unless the water is purified with chlorine, epidemics of such
diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid would occur," the DIA
reports states, as quoted in The Progressive magazine.

Middleton would like to be able to send chlorine and other water
treatment supplies in the January package, but these dual-use items
are on a list of goods whose shipment must be reviewed by a U.N.
monitoring commission because they can be used in making weapons.

"Those are the really risky things to send," Middleton said. "We're
fully ready to be risky. To us, that shouldn't be illegal."

When Middleton says "us" he means himself and friends Jake Hess and
Chris Caesar, who have organized a group called Student Advocates for
Freedom and Equality. It's not an official extracurricular group at
Winnacunnet, but a grassroots organization that aims to attract
students from all over the United States.

Middleton says today's youth are interested in peace, social action
and accountable government. He's also working with the American
Friends Service Committee in Concord to recruit students from other
N.H. communities to join the "Mail to Iraq" effort.

"So many people know the repercussions of U.S. intervention in a
country that's already knocked back to the Stone Age," he said. "The
more that comes out about this war, the more upset they get."

"If they try to mail them, the post office is going to refuse to send
them," Jackson said.

Seacoast Peace Response is the local arm of N.H. Peace Action, and
that agency's co-director Patrick Carkin said the Winnacunnet student
activists are a rarity in the state.

"This is the first time I'm aware of a student group doing it," Carkin
said. "It's not too often that high school students do things like this."

Carkin said he is among nearly a dozen N.H. residents who have
personally delivered humanitarian aid to Iraq in violation of U.S. law.

"Tomorrow they could come along and nail us with a fine and press
charges," he said.

Ironically, Carkin argued, the same government that could prosecute
him is guilty of destroying Iraq's water treatment capabilities
against the Geneva Convention.

As part of their relief packages, the Winnacunnet youth plan to send
generic medical supplies such as aspirin and vitamin supplements,
particularly iron.

To help with the "Mail to Iraq" project, e-mail info at safeaction.org or
call the American Friends Service Committee at 224-2407.

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