The Starving of the Five (Hundred) Thousand
April 1, 2005
By Ken Sanders
the hollow piety of the sanctimonious and self-righteous. They who
shout and weep, curse and pray, toot horns and even juggle outside
a Florida hospice where one very famous woman has died, and several
other less-known and therefore unimportant people, gradually, slowly,
and even painfully die. Sadly, none of them can die peacefully so
long as the circus from on high is in town.
Genuflecting before poorly-made signs bearing poorly-conceived
slogans, hands raised in order to be that much closer to Heaven,
these self-declared men and women of faith clutch their personalized
Bibles and bemoan the "black-robed tyrants" who sanctioned the "murder"
of Terri Schiavo.
In the same breath, many of these same God-fearing opponents of
the Constitution and its separation of powers, praise their President
Bush and other "saved" elected officials like Representative Tom
DeLay and Senator Bill Frist for being honorable men by legislating
increased activism in the federal judiciary for the sake of poor
Terri. Of what use is the Constitution, after all, when it cannot
save the chosen or, at least, increase one's political capital?
Honorable men, indeed.
As determined by courts of law (activist and tyrannical though
they might be), upon review of evidence to which the general public
has not been privy, Terri preferred death over a persistent state
of mere existence. According to those courts - bodies for which
our fair President and his disciples have little need and less respect
- the evidence of Terri's wishes was clear and convincing. In short,
Terri had choices.
Those condemned to death by St. George the Pious and St. Thomas
the Just, and the "honorable men" who preceded them, didn't and
don't have such choices. By way of example, the ordinary citizens
of Iraq were long subjected to sanctions imposed by the honorable
men of the United States through the United Nations, before the
U.S. relegated U.N. to the dustbin of irrelevance. After ten years,
those sanctions were responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter-million
Iraqi children. Many starved to death.
Increasing the number of dead Iraqi children were the 90,000 tons
of bombs dropped on Iraq's civilian infrastructure during the U.S.-led
Gulf War air campaign. Ninety percent of Iraq's electricity-generating
facilities were destroyed, as well as water-pumping and sanitation
systems. Raw sewage flowed through Iraqi streets and contaminated
the drinking water, resulting in an explosion of infectious disease.
By 2000, thirteen percent of all Iraqi children died before they
could turn five, more than double the child-mortality rate before
the imposition of sanctions. By 2000, twenty-five percent of Iraqi
children suffered from chronic and frequently irreversible malnutrition.
Nine percent suffered from acute malnutrition.
In 1995, then-U.N. Ambassador Madeline Albright, when asked about
the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, remorselessly
said, "[W]e think the price is worth it."
Apologists for U.S. policy argue that Saddam Hussein did far more
to harm his people than sanctions ever did. Granted, Saddam Hussein
must bear a significant portion of the blame for such deaths, particularly
for his regime's obstruction of the Oil-for-Food program. Be that
as it may, for years the U.S. deliberately turned a blind eye to
the prohibited trade of Iraqi oil, trade which undermined the Oil-for-Food
program and enriched only Saddam and his corporate partners in crime.
Regardless, justifying U.S. behavior by comparing it to that of
Saddam Hussein is, quite simply, asinine.
The honorable men of the United States intended to deprive ordinary
Iraqis of food and drinkable water through sanctions and massive
bombing. During the Gulf War, Iraq's electrical grid was deliberately
targeted by U.S. "smart" bombs in order to degrade the civilian
infrastructure and accelerate the impact of the sanctions regime.
In January of 1991, just before the start of the Gulf War and six
months into the sanctions regime, the U.S. predicted that Iraq's
ability to provide clean drinking water could not last more than
six months. As a result, the U.S., with gruesome accuracy, predicted
epidemics of cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid.
Having achieved their desired end of killing hundreds of thousands
of Iraqi children, the U.S. then repeatedly blocked U.N. humanitarian
projects aimed at alleviating the suffering it had created. The
U.S. blocked international efforts to permit foreign companies to
mill flour for Iraq to curb the unconscionable rate of civilian
deaths from malnutrition. The U.S. also blocked efforts to provide
Iraq with water tankers, arguing they could be used to haul Iraq's
much-celebrated but never-located chemical weapons. The U.S. thus
denied Iraqis access to potable water despite the insistence of
UNMOVIC that tankers designed to carry water could not also carry
In today's parlance, the U.S. blocked every effort to have Iraq's
feeding tube reinserted.
The pious and the holy did not protest the deaths of hundreds
of thousands of Iraqi children at the hands of the U.S. through
its deliberate and calculated denial of food and water. Our sanctimonious
elected officials did not pass ill-conceived and illegal legislation
to end the suffering of Iraqi children. The falsely-pious pundits
and politicians did not deem the starvation and thirst of the Iraqis
sufficient bases to primp and preen before the cameras and congratulate
themselves for being sufficiently familiar with the commands of
the good book and the fundamentals of morality.
Instead, St. George and his disciples, under false pretenses but
with overwhelming popular support, decided to invade Iraq. The result?
Sure, Saddam is gone. Good riddance. But unnoticed and unreported
is that the already staggering rates of child malnutrition and child
mortality have doubled and tripled, respectively, since the
invasion. No demonstrations. No illegal legislation. No televised
prayer vigils. Nothing.
What if Terri Schiavo were not white and Christian? What is she
were, instead, a Muslim Arab? Would the self-righteous still have
gathered outside her hospice and decried her court-sanctioned murder?
Would they have given her a second thought? Would they have given
her any thought at all?