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While some American mainstream commentators express concern about the large death toll among children in Gaza, we mustn’t forget that when it is the U.S. government — and, specifically, the U.S. national-security branch of the government — that is killing large numbers of children, most U.S. mainstream commentators go into silent mode or, even worse, play supportive roles in such killings.
Who can forget the 1990s, when U.S. officials were killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, with nary a concern expressed by U.S. mainstream commentators? Oh, sure, it’s true that those killings were being inflicted by economic sanctions, rather than bombs, but so what? The Iraqi children were just as dead. What difference does it make whether a child is killed by sanctions instead of bombs?
The official mindset toward the mass numbers of Iraqi children being killed by the U.S. government was perfectly reflected in the infamous response that Madeleine Albright gave in 1996 to Leslie Stahl of Sixty Minutes. Stahl pointed out that half-a-million Iraqi children had been killed by U.S. and UN sanctions, more than the number killed at Hiroshima as a result of the U.S. government’s targeting of the civilian population, including children, of that city with a nuclear bomb. Stahl asked Albright, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”
Albright was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. As such, she was the official spokesperson for the U.S. government to the world. She was serving in the Clinton administration. No one within the government criticized her statement and there was little, if any, condemnation among U.S. mainstream commentators. That’s because her callous statement undoubtedly reflected the mindset of both her cohorts in the U.S. government and the mindset of the government’s loyal supporters in the mainstream press. That mindset was a classic example of Hannah Arendt’s term “the banality of evil.”
What was the “it” to which Albright was referring? The “it” was regime change, a U.S. foreign-policy concept that has been at the center of the U.S. national-security state ever since this governmental structure was brought into existence after the Second World War.
U.S. officials decided that they wanted to get rid of Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, and replace him with another U.S. stooge. But Saddam refused to budge. Thus, the purpose of the sanctions was threefold: (1) to induce Saddam to resign, after which the deadly sanctions would be lifted; (2) induce the Iraqi people to rise up in a violent revolution against Saddam’s government, which would produce more massive deaths; or (3) incite a coup in which Iraq’s national-security establishment assassinated or otherwise removed Saddam from power and replaced him with a U.S.-approved puppet.
According to a review at National Catholic Reporter of Joy Gordon’s excellent 2012 book Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, “UNICEF documented the deaths of 500,000 children under 5 from dysentery and malnutrition (Gordon says the latest figure is 880,000). All three U.S. administrations — Bush, Clinton, Bush — whenever challenged on its responsibility for an epidemic or a famine, simply blamed Hussein.”
How could they blame Saddam Hussein? They said that all he had to do to stop the killings of the Iraqi children was resign. U.S. officials made it clear that once he resigned, they would lift their deadly sanctions and, therefore, no more Iraqi children would have to die. Therefore, in their twisted and perverted logic, they said it was Saddam, not U.S. officials who were imposing and enforcing the sanctions, who was actually responsible for the deaths caused by the sanctions.
A 2003 article entitled “Sanctioned Genocide” stated:
The U.N. humanitarian reports on the blockade’s effects on Iraqi children tell a grisly tale. In December 1995, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported 567,000 Iraqi children had died as a direct consequence of economic sanctions. In March 1996, a World Health Organization study released found the blockade had caused a six-fold increase in the mortality rate of Iraqi children under age five. UNICEF reported in October 1996 that 4,500 Iraqi children under five were dying every month as a result of sanctions-induced starvation and disease.
Two high UN officials, Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck resigned their posts because they did not want to be part of what they labeled as genocide. In a 2021 interview, Halliday stated:
This completely undermined the water treatment and distribution system of Iraq, which depended on electricity to drive it, and drove people to use contaminated water from the Tigris and the Euphrates. That was the beginning of the death-knell for young children, because mothers were not breast-feeding, they were feeding their children with child formula, but mixing it with foul water from the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
In addition, these conflicts introduced a new weapon called depleted uranium, which was used by the U.S. forces driving the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. That was used again in southern Iraq in the Basra area, and led to a massive accumulation of nuclear debris which led to leukemia in children, which took three, four, or five years to become evident.
When I got to Iraq in 1998, the hospitals in Baghdad, and also of course in Basra and other cities, were full of children suffering from leukemia. Those children, we reckon perhaps 200,000 children, died of leukemia. At the same time, Washington and London withheld some of the medicines and treatment components that leukemia requires, again, it seemed, in a genocidal manner, denying Iraqi children the right to remain alive.
It’s worth mentioning that prior to the U.S. killing of Iraqi children as a way to get regime change in Iraq, Saddam Hussein had been a partner and ally of the U.S. national-security state during the 1980s. That was when U.S. officials were helping Iraqi forces to kill Iranian citizens in Iraq’s war of aggression against that country. See my articles “Where Did Iraq Get Its Weapons of Mass Destruction” and “Where Did Iraq Get Its Weapons of Mass Destruction, Part 2.”
Of course, Iran is pertinent to this discussion because while U.S. officials no longer target the people of Iraq with deadly sanctions, they continue to target people in other nations, including children, with death by sanctions. Iran, along with Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, China, and other targets of regime change, come to mind, with nary a concern expressed by most U.S. mainstream commentators.