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Who is Killing Iraqi Babies?
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Those who argue against a war to remove Saddam Hussein often point to the "war" the international community is already waging on the people of Iraq in the form of sanctions. A while back a friend showed me a Harpers Magazine article referring to a "slow genocide" in Iraq due to the sanctions.

Today, Andrew Sullivan points to this Washington Post op-ed, which is in favor of war, but notes:

Sanctions are inevitably the cornerstone of containment, and in Iraq, sanctions kill.

In this case, containment is not an alternative to war. Containment is war: a slow, grinding war in which the only certainty is that hundreds of thousands of civilians will die.

The Gulf War killed somewhere between 21,000 and 35,000 Iraqis, of whom between 1,000 and 5,000 were civilians.

Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment kills roughly 5,000 Iraqi babies (children under 5 years of age) every month, or 60,000 per year. Other estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills about as many people every year as the Gulf War -- and almost all the victims of containment are civilian, and two-thirds are children under 5.

Note the part that says "sanctions kill." Now, I think this is just idiotic. Saddam kills.

Think of it this way: If the government was giving a welfare check to a mother with five children, and instead of using it to buy milk and bread and medicine, she spent it all on drugs. Her children suffer from malnutrition and poor health, and three of them die. Who killed her kids? The government? Or her?

There was a story on 60 Minutes recently about tracking the billions of dollars that Saddam has skimmed, stolen, and stashed away in numerous bank accounts around the world.

Financial sleuth John Fawcett tells 60 Minutes that his investigation of wealth controlled by Saddam Hussein found assets estimated at between $10 and $20 billion, mostly skimmed from the sales of Iraqi oil.


It’s money that really belongs to all Iraqis, but Hussein controls it, "directed to wherever Saddam wants to direct it. It could be his own bank account, his nest egg if he gets chased out of Iraq."

The assets are hidden but the source of the revenue is in the open. “This is oil and to smuggle any quantity of it, you can see it,” says Fawcett. So it’s no secret that trucks – in long lines clearly visible to the CIA – carry Iraqi oil into Turkey and Jordan while some gets piped into Syria, all against U.N. sanctions. What’s not as well known, Fawcett says, is that Hussein also makes money from the U.N.-sanctioned Iraqi oil sales, revenues from which go in U.N. accounts to provide humanitarian aid for Iraqis.

I would imagine that $10-20 billion (and that's a low-end estimate), could go a long way to relieving the suffering of Iraqi children. But the anti-war protestors might say that we're blocking vital medicine and equipment. And that would be propaganda. We're not, of course. But even that argument wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. Why would it be so easy for Hussein to smuggle oil, but not medicine, if he really cared for the Iraqi people?

The answer is, it wouldn't. If Iraqi children were dying because they couldn't get readily-available antibiotics, it would be trivially easy for Iraq to smuggle them in. So the argument, besides being propaganda, is simply stupid.

Any deaths related to malnutrition or poor health care are the responsibility of one man: Saddam Hussein. He has billions that could easily be used to relieve the suffering of his people, and instead he lets them suffer, blames it on the sanctions, and uses the propaganda.

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