Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, President Barack Obama is threatening to impose even stricter sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to bend Iranian leaders to his will.
Let’s examine two major cases in which the U.S. government has imposed sanctions, examples that any reasonable person would not consider to be success stories: Iraq and Cuba.
For more than 10 continuous years after the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. government, under Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush imposed one of the most brutal systems of sanctions in history on Iraq. (See this web page for a good collection of articles describing the Iraqi sanctions.)
While the ostensible purpose of the Iraq sanctions was to require Saddam Hussein to “disarm,” the real purpose was to drive him from office and replace him with a U.S.-approved puppet, one who could be counted on to do the bidding of U.S. officials.
How would sanctions accomplish such a feat? The idea was that the sanctions would cause so much economic misery among the citizenry that they would force the Iraqi military to oust Saddam and install a U.S. puppet in order to bring the misery to an end.
And the sanctions did indeed bring misery to Iraq. The sanctions, in combination with the Pentagon’s intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment facilities during the Persian Gulf War, brought massive death to the Iraqi people from infectious illnesses and diseases, especially among the children of the country. Think New Orleans/Hurricane Katrina and multiply that a thousand times for 11 continuous years, and you’ll have a sense of what life was like in Iraq throughout the sanctions.
It is, of course, impossible to state with certainty the precise number of Iraqi children who died because of the sanctions but the best estimates range in the hundreds of thousands. When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright was asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children had been worth it, she didn’t challenge the number but simply responded, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
Actually, Albright was wrong. It wasn’t a hard choice at all for U.S. officials. It didn’t matter one whit to them how many Iraqi children or Iraqi adults died by virtue of the sanctions. No price was too high to pay in terms of Iraqi life to get rid of Saddam and install a U.S. puppet in his stead.
Despite 11 years of massive death, impoverishment, and destruction, Saddam Hussein remained in power. It took an invasion and occupation to accomplish what the sanctions had failed to accomplish, an invasion and an occupation that have killed an additional 1 million Iraqis, sent millions more into foreign exile, and destroyed the country.
This mindset of callous indifference is no different with respect to Cuba. For some 50 years, the U.S. government has maintained a cruel and brutal embargo against Cuba.
The goal? Again, regime change, just like with Iraq.
Why cruel and brutal? Because the effect of the embargo has fallen not on Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his communist cronies but instead on the Cuban people. Sure, it’s true that socialism has contributed mightily to the economic desperation under which the Cuban people have long suffered but the U.S. embargo has served as the other side of a vise that has squeezed the economic lifeblood out of the Cuban people.
U.S. officials have never cared one whit about the pain and suffering to which they have subjected the Cuban people with their decades-old embargo. Their callous and indifferent attitude has always been the same as it has been with the Iraqi people: “If you don’t like the sanctions, then oust your dictator from office and replace him with someone else, someone we approve of, and then we will lift the sanctions.” As with Iraq, no price has been too high to pay in terms of Cuba death, impoverishment, and misery.
Sanctions and embargoes are the essence of evil, not just because they are ineffective but also because their cruel and brutal consequences fall on the innocent. How appalling that a people that pride themselves on Judeo-Christian values permit their government to employ them.