PHOTO: This 24 hour vigil was maintained outside the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in London prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The protesters emphasized that over 500,000 Iraqi children had died during the UN sanctions period. There is considerable documentation from the World Health Organization to support their claims.
Many people claim the Iraq war was not worth it because of the cost and civilian casualties. Al-Qaeda Iraq is responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but the critics ignore the large number of people, especially children, who were dying every day during the sanctions period. Sanctions were maintained after the 1991 Gulf War because of Saddam Hussein’s refusal to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq. His refusal to comply with the UN remains a mystery, but the result is not.
During the sanctions period, Iraq’s GDP declined by 75%. According to the World Health Organization, during the next decade over 500,000 Iraqi children needlessly died of malnutrition. Their story is told in two powerful documentaries, “Genocide by Sanctions” (1999) which claimed the total the number was 1.25 million, and “Killing the Children of Iraq—A Price Worth Paying?” (2000).
Iraq obviously had the available funds to feed those children, and if a problem developed, international humanitarian organizations would have gladly made donations of food assistance. The children died because they were being used for political propaganda purposes, and the construction of 54 palaces was a far higher priority. Saddam Hussein could have prevented any child from suffering simply by meeting his obligations.
In a 1996 “60 Minutes” interview, Lesley Stahl questioned our then UN Ambassador, Madeleine Albright, about the sanctions policy. Stahl said “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
Albright responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.” It was this comment that led to the title of the documentary I already mentioned.
In her book, “Madam Secretary”, Albright regretted the tone of her comment and said: “I must have been crazy; I should have answered the question by reframing it and pointing out the inherent flaws in the premise behind it. Little effort was made to explain Saddam’s culpability, his misuse of Iraqi resources, or the fact that we were not embargoing medicine or food. . . . Religious and human rights groups may be well-meaning [but] they need to understand who the real villain is. The villain is Saddam Hussein. It is not the international community that is keeping the Iraqi children and people from eating. It is Saddam Hussein. . . .He is the one that can pick up the key and let himself out of the sanctions box. He knows how to do it.”
The squandered money is regrettable, but the great crime is what the late dictator did to own people.
In discussing casualties, critics of the Iraq war do not mention:
The over 1 million dead during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s.
The over 500,000 children who died during the 1990 – 2003 sanctions period.
The over 300,000 victims who died because of torture and other human rights violations during the Saddam era.
The over 60,000 Kurds who died during the Al-Anfal campaign of 1988.
The 85,000 casualties of 1991 Gulf War.
The 30,000 Kurds and 70,000 Shi’ites who died because of Saddam’s retribution after losing the 1991 Gulf War. After Saddam’s downfall, 270 mass graves have been discovered and exhumed.If sanctions had remained in effect from 2003 to 2010 perhaps another 500,000 children would have perished.
On the positive side, there are no longer any political prisoners, no executions, no torture at Abu Ghraib Prison and no limit on the freedom of expression. The terrorists have not abandoned Iraq, but the large scale inhuman carnage and suffering has stopped, and 27 million people have a better life.