Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Saddam manipulated and lied to the media (who were very sceptical I am sure) about sanctions killing Iraqi children? I just don't know who to believe anymore.

Most of the youngsters suffered from leukemia, the head of the hospital said, and all of the leukemia patients died.

The regime pinned the blame on the sanctions after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, using the hospital and its victims as an example of how the West--particularly the United States--allowed children to die.

But now, after the U.S.-led war in Iraq that ousted Hussein, hospital staff members say they knew all along that the regime intentionally withheld vital medicine for propaganda purposes. That decision, they said, led to thousands of deaths.

"You asked why a government would not give medicine to children," said Dr. Oasem Al Taey, who has run the hospital since U.S. forces entered Baghdad on April 9. "They made this a place of death. They were willing to sacrifice the children for the sake of propaganda."

Al Taey, who was elected by the staff to head the hospital after former chief Ali Al Timemy fled, said UN sanctions against Iraq contributed to the hospital's difficulties in obtaining supplies needed to care for infants and children.

"This made it harder to give help," he said. "But there were also internal sanctions," he added, explaining that Hussein's Baath Party so dominated the distribution of medicine and vital equipment that the staff could not get what was needed for the children.

"This is what we could expect," said Dr. Eaman Al Gobory, drawing her index finger under her chin as if slitting her throat.

Al Taey and Al Gobory said that after U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, they found ample supplies of medicine and sophisticated medical equipment that could have benefited the children stored in the Idn-Sina Hospital on the grounds of the Republican Palace along the Tigris River.

It was one of Hussein's biggest palace complexes, and the hospital served senior Baath Party members.

And now even the people at Voices in the Wilderness are admitting it.

Kathy Kelly, an aid worker with Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness who was in Iraq this spring when the first U.S. cruise missiles began falling on Baghdad, said the Hussein regime required all foreign aid agencies to turn over donated pharmaceuticals to the Ministry of Health.

A grass-roots group organized to end sanctions against Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness grew weary of surrendering prescription drugs to Hussein's administrators, said Kelly, a member of the group's Iraq Peace Team.

"When we realized we were turning over the medicines and losing control, we were reluctant to hand the medicines over," she said. "It was true that once you turned your medicines over to the Ministry of Health, we heard rumors that they weren't being distributed. We never knew for sure. It was difficult to document."

So Voices in the Wilderness opted to distribute its donated drugs through alternative channels, including other aid groups working in southern Iraq as well as under-the-radar pharmacies run by Iraqi doctors.

After several trips to Iraq that included regular visits to Saddam Children's Hospital, Kelly said she believed Hussein was capable of using sick children as propaganda tools.

"All I can tell you is that children were dying horrible and torturous deaths on a daily basis. There was a zero percent cure rate," she said. "They [were] a ruthless government that tried to use propaganda to gain ground."

Yet before now their strict line was that it was all the fault of US sanctions.

Remember this when you are told that our sanctionas and embargos on Cuba and North Korea and Iran are causing deaths.

< email | 6/10/2003 02:13:00 PM | link

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