Letter: Goalposts move as Iraqis starve

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Letter: Goalposts move as Iraqis starve

Sir: The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, makes it clear that the ever-moving goalposts relating to the lifting of the embargo on Iraq have again shifted ("US committed to hard line against Saddam's Iraq", 27 March). Compliance with UN resolutions concerning Iraq's weapons is no longer sufficient for the lifting of sanctions. Given the Security Council's dexterity since the end of the Gulf War, even if total compliance is achieved, another goal post will appear.

One condition to be complied with by Iraq is human rights. Yet according to the US-based International Humanitarian Law Commission report, compiled from UN agencies' own figures, 47,500 people died in one year alone as a direct result of UN sanctions. By 1994, 500,000 children were dead. Deaths from malnutrition have increased eightfold since 1989.

A project undertaken in Baghdad found 28 per cent of children stunted. There was severe vitamin D deficiency amongst the population. Diarrhoea, dehydration, typhoid, diabetes, hepatitis, marasmus and kwashiorkor (the last eradicated prior to the embargo) were soaring. Medication is almost non-existent, and surgery has been cut by 70 per cent and is often performed without anaesthesia because of shortage, the report states.

Chlorine and spare parts for water treatment plants are banned under the sanctions, so the water is severely contaminated and water-borne diseases also endemic.

Yet in spite of this silent holocaust in the name of democracy, when Ms Albright was asked on the US television programme Sixty Minutes (12 May 1996) if the deaths of half a million children "was worth it" in order to overthrow Saddam Hussein, she replied " ... it is a hard choice, but yes, the price, we think the price is worth it."

FELICITY ARBUTHNOT

London E9

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