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The Deadly Sanctions on Iraq


The federal government has indicted an American man from Detroit, Muthanna al-Hanooti, for working on behalf of the Saddam Hussein government to help get the brutal sanctions.

lifted that the U.S. government was enforcing against Iraq for more than a decade. While working for a Detroit-based charity whose mission was to fund humanitarian work in Iraq after the first Gulf War, al-Hanooti allegedly was secretly working for the Iraqi government to help secure the lifting of the sanctions.

According to the BBC, “Prosecutors also said he was responsible for monitoring Congress for Iraqi intelligence — allegedly providing Baghdad with a list of lawmakers he believed favoured lifting economic sanctions against Iraq.”

Even worse, from the standpoint of the feds, is that al-Hanooti was allegedly working for money — million of dollars in Iraqi oil contracts in exchange for his assistance.

What better textbook example of a case where law and morality are in contradiction to each other than that?

First of all, let’s not forget what the cruel and brutal sanctions were accomplishing, year after year, with the full knowledge and indifference of U.S. officials — death. Massive death. Deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Almost as much death as that wreaked on Iraq during the first few years of the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country.

The U.S. position toward the Iraqi deaths caused by the sanctions was summed up in the words of UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright when she told “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.”

We also shouldn’t forget that during the Gulf War the Pentagon knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately bombed water-and-sewage treatment plants in Iraq, with full knowledge of the effect that would have on the health and safety of the Iraqi people, especially when combined with tightly enforced sanctions that would prevent the repair of such facilities at the conclusion of hostilities.

So, in response to the massive death of Iraqi children resulting from the sanctions, the Iraqi government apparently hires an American man, one who is already terribly concerned with the plight of the Iraqi children and their families, to monitor efforts in Congress during the 1990s to get those sanctions lifted.

Under modern-day U.S. law, al-Hanooti is a bad man for doing that. A good man, federal thinking goes, would have instead done what Madeleine Albright did — proclaim that the killing of Iraqi children was “worth it” — as a proper step in getting Iraq closer to the ouster of Saddam Hussein and to his replacement by a U.S.-approved ruler.

After all, let’s not forget that that was the real intent behind the sanctions. Oh yes, I know what President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton said — that the sanctions were intended to make Saddam Hussein rid himself of those infamous weapons of mass destruction. But the truth was that the sanctions had nothing to do with WMDs. The WMDs were nothing more than the cover story for the sanctions. The real purpose of the sanctions was to get rid of Saddam Hussein because he wouldn’t “play ball” with U.S. officials. If he had “played ball,” he’d still be in office, just as the brutal military dictator of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is still in power as a loyal ally of the U.S. government.

In their charges against al-Hanooti, the feds allege that he helped set up a trip to Iraq for three U.S. congressmen who were opposing the sanctions. The idea was to demonstrate to Congress the brutal consequences of the sanctions as well as the fact that there were no more WMDs in Iraq, not even those that the U.S. had delivered to him during the 1980s. Today, the three congressmen, who weren’t indicted, are running for cover, exclaiming that if they had known that the Iraqi government was funding their trip, they would never have made it.

Apparently, a man named Bert Sacks helped coordinate the congressmen’s trip to Iraq through the Detroit-based charity that al-Hanooti was working for. Sacks also didn’t know that the money was coming from the Iraqi government.

The reason that Sacks’ involvement in the case is interesting is because he too has been at the receiving end of federal wrath for helping the Iraqi people during the sanctions regime. The feds fined him $10,000 for violating the sanctions by bringing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people.

In the eyes of the feds, Sacks is another bad man who deserves to be punished for trying to mitigate the effects of the brutal sanctions rather than celebrating their adverse effects on the Iraqi children. That’s why they’re still trying to collect their $10,000 fine from him. To Sacks’ everlasting credit, he has steadfastly refused to pay the fine.

We probably also shouldn’t forget that there were other people who were angry and outraged over the brutal effects that the sanctions had on Iraqi children. There were also high UN officials Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, both of whom resigned in protest against the deadly horrors produced by the sanctions.

Halliday and von Sponeck were “bad” people too. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that “the U.S. State Department has been unrelenting in its criticism of Mr. von Sponeck,” as the BBC reported.

But in the minds of U.S. officials, all these people — al-Hanooti, Sacks, Halliday, von Sponeck, and all the others who opposed the sanctions on Iraq — were bad people because they were opposing U.S. foreign policy on Iraq. Once U.S. officials had concluded that regime change was necessary for Iraq (just as they had concluded that regime change had been necessary for Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Cuba in the 1960s, and in Chile in the 1970s), in the minds of U.S. officials all those bad people should have risen to the support of U.S. policy, just as Madeleine Albright had loyally done. In the absence of such unconditional “patriotic” support, they would just have to suffer the consequences — indictments, fines, and public condemnation.

By the way, doesn’t the U.S. government fund individuals and groups in foreign countries to monitor political activity in such countries? In other words, don’t U.S. officials do the same thing in foreign countries that the Saddam Hussein regime was doing with Muthanna al-Hanooti, the man the feds have now indicted? Well, of course they do, and they’re proud of it, as proud as they still are with the results of their deadly sanctions on Iraq.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.