1991 to present: American planes bomb Iraq on a weekly basis. U.N. estimates 500,000 Iraqi children die from bombing and sanctions.
The Gulf War officially lasted for six weeks. In that time, the United States dropped 85,000 tons of explosives in 110,000 sorties over Iraq. The United States lost 125 troops, most of them from friendly fire. It was a new style of war, fought and won-for the most part-from the sky.
On the ground, where the bombs and missiles fell, more than just victory was achieved. The Jordanian Red Crescent estimated that 113,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the 1991 war.
After the war, of course, came the sanctions. America and the West pushed sanctions through the United Nations, though the sanctions themselves were bound to affect the Iraqi people more than their oppressive, dictatorial rulers. In the past twelve years, Saddam Hussein has lived comfortably, untouched by the sanctions the United States has fought, against growing international outcries, to keep in place.
The sanctions were not without effect. The UN Oil-for-Food program
provides a whopping $190 to each Iraqi per year. The middle class
in the country is gone-only Hussein
and his inner circle and the impoverished masses remain. Diseases
eradicated in the 80s have returned, and in many cases-due
to the sanctions-the medications needed to treat the diseases
are not available. UNICEF, a part of the United Nations, estimated
that between 1991 and 1998 over a million Iraqis died from malnutrition
and disease, due in large part to the UN implemented sanctions and
the US and British bombings that have decimated
the Iraqi water supply and overall infrastructure. Half of those
dead Iraqis were children under five.
Many have argued that Saddam Hussein is holding aid in warehouses,
not releasing it to the people and diverting it to his army and
political allies. There is truth in this, certainly, but the UN's
sanctions have never worked and have done nothing to weaken Hussein's
hold on the country. Additionally, the United Nations, and particularly
the United States, have worked tirelessly to keep
Iraq from receiving the aid.
There is no denying the cruel and dictatorial leadership of Saddam Hussein. At the same time, there should be no denying the cruelty of the sanctions, and the United States' insistence on maintaining them. If they didn't work at first, and they didn't work five years later, and they still didn't work ten years later, at some point you would think the United States would have tried something different. For some reason, they did not. As Dennis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary-General of The United Nations, said in 2000:
Does the West want to hold on to Saddam? If so, why?
"Bush [the First] or somebody in the United States made a decision not to overthrow Saddam Hussein. What is the motive? Traditionally the motive was that they needed him to provide stability in Iraq, to keep Iraq together, to avoid the Kurds going their way and the Shia perhaps going there way in the South, and so on; and the Shia of course would threaten Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, being Shia as opposed to Suni – so he's a good enemy this man, he's great! Said Aburish in his new book has said that the CIA has worked with him for 30 years. So there is a ploy to keep him in power, but of course to destroy him at the same time, to enable him to survive without having any capacity to threaten his neighbours. If you look at the sales of US military hardware, Saddam is the best salesman in town. I think over $100 billion has been sold to the Saudis, Kuwaitis, the Gulf states, Turkey, Israel, and so on. It's thanks to Saddam. Just last week they sold $6.2 billion of military aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. What on earth does a little country need hardware like that for? Saddam provides that – he should be getting a cut."
Clinton is gone now and in his place George W. Bush has taken it upon himself to avenge his father's failed presidency and seize Iraq's vast oil fields. If everything goes as planned, the increase in Islamic militancy may just keep the fire burning beneath the mammoth arms sales. If it doesn't, all hell will break loose. One thing's for certain though: more Iraqi civilians, particularly children, will die.
At least we've got that.