Ever since the U.S. government was converted to a national-security state after World War II, sanctions and embargoes have been one of the principal means by which the U.S. government tries to achieve regime change in foreign countries. (Other means include assassination, coups, and invasions.)
Sanctions and embargoes target the citizenry of a nation whose ruler the U.S. government is trying to oust from power. The aim is to inflict so much economic suffering on the citizenry that they will rise up, revolt, oust their ruler from power, and install a regime that is satisfactory to U.S. officials. An alternative hope is that the suffering citizenry will pressure their government’s military-intelligence establishment to oust their ruler in a coup, take military control of the government, and pledge allegiance to the U.S. government.
A good example of this phenomenon was the sanctions that the U.S. government imposed and enforced on Iraq throughout the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children.
What type of person could ever knowingly kill innocent children? If a private individual were to intentionally kill innocent children, my hunch is that most everyone would recognize that as the epitome of evil. Yet, strangely, I hardly ever come across an U.S. op-ed or an editorial commenting on the evil of killing Iraqi children with the sanctions that the U.S. government enforced for more than 10 years.
In fact, during the decade those Iraqi children were dying, year after year, I don’t recall seeing many op-eds and editorials in the U.S. mainstream press pointing out the evil in killing innocent children. It’s almost as if the deaths of those children were considered to be no big deal, especially since the killings were part of an ongoing sanctions policy, which has become a well-established part of U.S. foreign policy. I think the notion was that killing children by sanctions was different from lining them up against a wall and shooting them or exploding a bombing within their midst.
In 1996, the television news show 60 Minutes asked Madeleine Albright about the high death toll among Iraqi children from the sanctions. Why Albright? She was the U.S. government’s official representative to the United Nations — the government’s diplomatic spokesperson to the world.
60 Minutes asked Albright whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were worth it. By “it” they were referring to the U.S. government’s attempt to achieve regime-change in Iraq, which would oust Iraq’s ruler (and a former partner and ally of the U.S. government), Saddam Hussein, from power and replace him with a new approved U.S. ruler.
Albright’s answer was revealing. She said that while the issue was a difficult one, the deaths were nonetheless worth it.
But from a moral standpoint, how can the killing of even one innocent child be worth achieving a political end, much less hundreds of thousands of innocent children?
To my knowledge, not one single U.S. official, from President Bill Clinton on down, criticized, expressed disagreement with, or condemned Albright’s statement. I can only assume that that’s because most of them agreed with her sentiment. I can only assume that there were some in the mainstream press who disagreed with Albright, but I have never come across any op-ed or editorial that did so.
I find that amazing. How can people not see the evil in intentionally killing innocent children, especially to achieve a political end? How can people not see that a policy that kills innocent children as a way to pressure families to oust their ruler is the epitome of evil?
That’s not to say that everyone failed to recognize the evil in killing those Iraqi children. There were high officials in the United Nations who resigned their positions in a crisis of conscience and in protest against the U.S. sanctions, which one of them labeled a “genocide.” In 1998, UN humanitarian coordinator Denis Halliday resigned in protest over the killing of the Iraqi children. In 2000, his successor, Hans von Sponek, resigned for the same reason, followed by the resignation of Jutta Purghart, head of the UN World Food Programme in Iraq.
What did the UN have to do with all this? The U.S. government not only had imposed its own sanctions on Iraq, it had also used its power and influence to persuade the UN to do the same.
The resignations of those three high UN officials, unfortunately, did not succeed in persuading U.S. officials to abandon their sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions continued killing Iraqi children all the way through 2003, when the U.S. military, using the 9/11 attacks to garner support, invaded Iraq to achieve the regime change that the sanctions — and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children — had failed to achieve. And as everyone knows, that regime-change invasion has resulted in another million or so dead people, including children, not to mention the number injured, maimed, tortured, assassinated, executed, or exiled or who have had their homes or businesses destroyed.
Interestingly enough, while the U.S. mainstream press failed to recognize the evil of killing children, a terrorist brought the issue to the forefront in 1993. The terrorist was Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for bombing the World Trade Center in 1993. At Yousef’s sentencing hearing in federal court, he angrily called U.S. officials butchers and cited the killing of those innocent Iraqi children as proof.
Why is it that some people are unable to see the evil in killing innocent children, especially as a means to achieve a political end? For the life of me, I just don’t know the answer to that one.