Former Senior UN Officials Denounce Iraq Sanctions at Congressional Briefing
Washington, DC, May 4 — Three former senior UN officials denounced and called for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq at a congressional briefing on Wednesday, May 3. Former UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, and former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, called on the US government to abandon its policy of economic sanctions against Iraq. Despite their diverse backgrounds, all three agreed that economic sanctions are the principle cause of the humanitarian disaster in Iraq, and dismissed claims that American policy is not to blame. US Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Conyers (D-MI) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) also called for the lifting of sanctions.
Former UN weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter debunked what he called “the myth” of a threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which is typically cited as a reason for maintaining sanctions. Calling himself “an unlikely ally in this matter,” Ritter said that “a lot of the blame for this perception can be laid at my doorstep.” But, Ritter said, “the reality is that when you judge Iraq’s current weapons of mass destruction capabilities today, they have none.”
Hans von Sponeck, who resigned in March in protest of the effects of sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq, said that the “oil for food” program which he had administered was not meeting the most basic needs of the Iraqi population. He said that because of sanctions, Iraqis simply do not have enough to eat. “The conditions in hospitals are atrocious,” he added. “Diseases that had disappeared from a country with one of the best infrastructures in the Middle East have reappeared and have become a major killer of children under five” he said.
Denis Halliday, who was von Sponeck’s predecessor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq resigned in September 1998 in protest of the effects of what he yesterday called “the human calamity going on in Iraq today on account of widespread deprivation caused by US-driven economic sanctions.” Halliday presented a plan calling for the lifting of economic sanctions, an end to US bombing of Iraq, renewed weapons inspections, a dialogue between the Iraqi and US governments, releasing the oil production equipment on hold in the UN sanctions committee, private investment in Iraq and postponement of reparations payments.
The UN estimates that about 5,000 Iraqis die every month as a result of economic sanctions.