Bookreview from Al Jadid, Vol. 2, No. 7, May 1996

The Impact of Sanctions on Iraq: The Children Are Dying
Reports by UN Food and Agriculture, Ramsey Clark, and an Appeal by World Leaders to the United States and the United Nations:
End the Use of Sanctions as a Weapon of War
ISBN 0-89567-127-1

Can the killing of children ever be moral? Can one justify the killing of thousands of infants every month and the starvation of a population of twenty million in order to achieve a political gain? For more than five years now, the effectiveness of the sanctions against the 20 million people of Iraq has been discussed in the absence of any morality about its lethality. How many more children must die?

The mainstream media has been silent, ignoring the greatest tragedy ever committed by the United Nations against a sovereign state. Silence is acceptance; complicity in the face of a subtle genocide. This painful silence is about to be broken.

“Sanctions are war. They are the most brutal form of war because they punish an entire population, targeting children, the future, most of all. Sanctions are a weapon of mass destruction.” So begins The Children Are Dying, a book that exposes and documents the truth behind the UN sanctions against the people of Iraq.

More than half a million children under the age of five have died in Iraq as a direct consequence of the sanctions, as stated in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 1995 report published in full in The Children Are Dying. “Painless sanctions are a contradiction in terms and child deaths especially in the poor and vulnerable are an inevitable consequence of economic pain,” writes Peter Pellet, the team leader of the UN/FAO Mission to Iraq. “Having seen the effects of the embargo in Iraq both in 1993 and the summer of 1995 as well as comparing this and the prewar situation, malnutrition, beggars, crime, street children, a collapsed health care system, hyperinflation, and widespread suffering are the new realities.”

In addition to the 1995 UN FAO report that evaluates the food and nutrition situation in Iraq, The Children Are Dying includes a photographic documentary, an international appeal against the use of sanctions, supporting documents and articles, and a listing of international organizations working to end the blockade of Iraq. A new video, also entitled The Children Are Dying, has been released as a companion to the book. The video records Ramsey Clark’s 1996 visit to hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods in Iraq, and includes interviews with members of the UN FAO team.

More than two million children are suffering from severe malnutrition because of this blockade. According to conservative estimates, more than one million people, most of them children, have died in Iraq because of the sanctions. Four million people are now starving to death in Iraq. The sanctions have been a quiet war against the people of Iraq, a war that has killed twenty-six times more people than died in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, by the atomic bomb (source: Britannica encyclopedia, Nagasaki — “39,000 people were killed”). Like the nuclear fallout of the atomic bomb, the brutal effects of the sanctions will continue for many years after their eventual lifting since the sanctions have already permanently damaged the physical and mental development of millions of children in Iraq.

How can the UN Security Council, and all who support this slow massacre, continue to speak in the name of humanity and justice while they continue to inflict hunger, disease, and death upon millions in Iraq? Dr. Sofia Softwood explains in the book, “no matter what Iraq does in fulfillment of its obligations under the Security Council resolutions, the unjust sentence passed by the Council to starve the people of Iraq and deny them the right to life continues, simply because this is the will of certain influential governments in the Council.”

The Children Are Dying reveals not only the truth that has been hidden, but awakens the conscience and reinforces the spirit of humanity; it is a refusal to silence one’s morality. The book is both an objective, scientific study and an impassioned plea to end the suffering in Iraq. It also describes the work of international organizations dedicated to the lifting of the sanctions and explains how an individual can contribute to these worldwide efforts.

We are not helpless in the face of this tragedy. Our passive acceptance, however, contributes to the misery and oppression imposed upon the Iraqi people, and amounts to complicity in the crimes against humanity committed by the United Nations. The voice of humanity must be louder than the voice of economic power and greed. Ramsey Clark writes, “It is our struggle, our responsibility. We have to end those sanctions, we have to recognize that they are the cruelest form of death.”

To place an order for The Children Are Dying, contact the International Action Center at (212) 633-6646, fax (212) 633-2889, e-mail, or send pre-paid orders to International Action Center, 39 W. 14 St. #206, New York, NY 10011. ($10 for one book, orders of 20 or more $5 each; $20 per video; $3 shipping and handling for each book or video).

*Rania Masri can be reached at



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