Over the past seven years, Voices in the Wilderness has been a nonviolent campaign to end the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq. Our focus has never been on political interests or the balance of power in international politics. Our concern has always been for the needs and interests of ordinary Iraqis, many of whom we have come to know.
From our presence in Iraq, we have seen no evidence that the lives of ordinary Iraqis are considered in US policy decisions. When sanctions were deemed expedient to fulfil US foreign policy goals, they were touted by US officials as indispensable. Now US administration officials have called for the lifting of economic sanctions. US corporations see a gold mine in Iraq, and the removal of sanctions will give this administration and its corporate entities free access to Iraq's potential wealth. Iraq's culture, economy, and resources belong to the Iraqis, not to any US administration or foreign power.
We have seen, however, that legitimate third parties have the expertise and credibility to serve humanitarian needs. NGOs such as UNICEF, WHO and UNDP have a history of responding to such. We hope that the UN General Assembly, in which no country has veto power, will assert its legitimacy and act as a concerned third party to encourage the lifting of sanctions and emphasise that all countries should respect and abide by the UN charter.
It would be in the best interests of the suffering families of Iraq to lift the economic sanctions now so that those who have legitimate claim to Iraq's finances and resources can use them, free of the paralysis of international power struggles, to restore Iraq's civilian infrastructure as quickly as possible. It is important for the lives of families in Iraq that true security and stability emerge from the present chaos.
It will not serve the tremendous human need in Iraq for the US military to immediately withdraw without a legitimate international presence to take its place; from what we've witnessed, this would create a power vacuum that could precipitate the implosion of Iraq's civil society. The US military should be pulled back from its role as a foreign occupation power into a protective role sufficient to allow for Iraq's social and political concerns to be dictated by Iraqi parties.
The shouts of “victory” by US government officials and media personalities have nearly eclipsed this complex reality. The future looks less certain from the streets of Iraq than it does from mainstream newspapers and television in the United States. The last 38 days may have ended in a “victory” for the White House and the Pentagon, but not for countless Iraqis subject to the forces of power politics beyond their control.
But how do we define “victory?” The end of a regime? The occupation of a foreign land against the will of its people? The capture of Iraq's oil reserves? The more than 10,000 Gulf War veterans who survived the 1991 war but died upon their return? The hundreds of thousands of veterans exposed to depleted uranium and other hazardous contaminants, returning home to rapidly shrinking veterans' health benefits? The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children killed by economic sanctions? The masses of Iraqi civilians living and dying with this “victory”? A New American Century of rule by force?
For whom is this “victory?”