During frequent and extensive travels across the United States, I
discovered 'another America.' What I found is an America which is
concerned, well informed, human rights-minded as well as compassionate
toward the plight of others. There is an America which wants to speak out.
The growing public protests in Washington and elsewhere in the United
States against the Middle East policy of the US government is undeniable
A good number of United States citizens have had the courage to visit Iraq
while ignoring threats of penalty by their government. They have seen the
deepening human crisis and returned aware of wrong images they are
receiving at home about the causes of Iraqi suffering. To point this out is
not playing into the hands of the Baghdad government or worse, spreading
propaganda. The Iraq story is simply different from the one US
administrations are portraying.
The oil-for-food programme, the humanitarian exemption for Iraq with
pitiful annual limits of less than $150 per person as the value of actually
arrived civilian supplies constitutes, no doubt, an important yet totally
inadequate life-line. It is difficult to comprehend how the US
representative could look into the eyes of his colleagues during a recent
UN Security Council meeting and state that the US government was satisfied
that the oil-for-food programme was meeting the needs of the Iraqi people.
The uncomfortable truth is that the Iraqi people are held hostage to the
compliance of their leader to ever shifting UN/US demands. Compare the
injustice of this with Germany after World War II. The Germans were given
massive Marshall Plan assistance when they lost the war and their leader
was dead. By contrast, after the Gulf War, the Iraqis are punished because
their leader survived.
The US and UK administrations dismiss these facts by pointing out that the
Iraqi people are being punished by Baghdad. If true, why do we punish them
further? Why is the political battle played on the backs of the Iraqi
people? Is it, as Henry Kissinger bluntly observed many years ago, because
'oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the
The response to this reality is a deepening apprehension of decent people,
in the US and elsewhere, against the sanction policy of punishment of the
civilians in Iraq for something which they have not done. There is also an
outcry against appalling disinformation. US authorities have made every
conceivable effort to link Iraq to international terrorism and to the
anthrax scare. They frighten the world with references to a resumption by
Iraq of the production of weapons of mass destruction. What they are unable
to offer are unambiguous facts. No responsible person would disagree that
if such facts were indeed available the international community would have
a right to respond.
The British and US intelligence organs have proudly proclaimed that in the
war against the Taleban of Afghanistan they did have the technology to
identify, from high altitudes, human presence in the caves of Afghanistan.
They surely know what is in the ?caves of Iraq.? They know that Iraq is
qualitatively disarmed. They have not forgotten what outgoing Secretary of
Defence William Cohen conveyed to incoming President Bush on Jan. 10,
namely that 'Iraq no longer poses a military threat to its neighbours.'
They have been told the same by former arms inspectors in Iraq. However, to
admit this fact would constitute the death nail to the US Iraq policy.
To maintain such a false image also provides an important smoke screen at a
time when the hawks are arguing for an attack on Iraq. Were there evidence
that the Iraq government has been involved in any of the atrocities of
terrorism before or after Sept. 11, there should be no delay in finding and
punishing the perpetrators. At the same time, international warnings,
particularly from the Arab League and its 22 -member governments, against
an unwarranted strike on Iraq must be taken seriously. Calling for 'the
lifting of sanctions on Iraq' and 'ending the tribulation against the
fraternal Iraqi people' and the 'categorical rejection of an attack against
Iraq' are strong statements contained in the Beirut summit's final
communiqu of March 28, 2002. They cannot be ignored and provide, yet
again, a double standard in dealing with the Middle East.
What is needed more urgently than anything else is to bomb injustice, not
the Iraqi people. Travels across the United States have powerfully and
impressively revealed that there is an America which shares this
perception. In a democracy such a voice must be heard and taken into
The writer is former UN humanitarian aid coordinator to Iraq. He
contributed this article to The Jordan Times