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House Legislation

House Legislation

Statement on Iraq
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney

May 3, 2000

Good afternoon.

Let me begin by thanking Congressman Kuchinich and his staff for bringing together this extraordinary and distinguished panel. I also want to thank my colleague John Conyers for his leadership in introducing common sense legislation that would provide some relief to the Iraqi people suffering under the dual burden of a repressive regime and the crippling U.S. led economic sanctions.

Earlier this year, the State Department presented their annual Country Reports on Human Rights to the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, where I serve as the Ranking Democrat. Their report on Iraq depicted a brutal and repressive regime. I have questions about some of the State Departments observations in the report -- particularly their claim that Iraqi diverted oil for food program goods to benefit the regime. I hope members of the panel will address that in their remarks -- but overall, I don't disagree with their general assessment of the Iraqi government. After all, we helped to create Saddam Hussein.

Despite his well known despotic rule, the United States provided him with critical diplomatic, financial, political, and military support right up to the beginning of the Persian Gulf war. That support had even continued after Saddam used illegal gas against Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians in 1988 because we were more concerned about Iranian fundamentalist expansion than we were about the brutality of Hussein. Then he messed with "our" oil. Suddenly we discovered that Hussein is a bad guy. Well, he is.

But it is an indisputable fact the we ourselves bear responsibility for the death of over one million innocent Iraqi people, mostly children under five years old in what my colleague David Bonior aptly described as "infanticide masquerading as policy."

The economic sanctions we have imposed on the nation of Iraq are the most comprehensive in modern history and have become themselves, a weapon of mass destruction. To put that in perspective, the sanctions have killed or contrib uted to the death of more children under five years old than all of the U.S. servicemen killed in all the wars the U.S. fought in the last century combined.

And the incredible hubris of U.S. policymakers to declare that the death of-at the time it was a half a million kids, is "worth it" in order to achieve U.S. policy objectives is unconscionable. Well, here we are, another half a million preventable deaths later and Saddam is still there just as he will be when President Clinton moves to New York, and our so-called policy objectives have not advanced an inch.

Equally appalling is the trite dismissal of our own responsibility for the mounting death toll through the simplistic expedient of just blaming Saddam.

Last year, I dispatched one of my staff to Iraq to investigate the impact our sanctions were having on the ordinary Iraqi people and to collect data on the effect of depleted uranium from the Iraqi medical community. He joined four others in the first trip by congressional staff to Iraq since the end of the war. Their trip report is available to any of you who request it but I can summarize it in this way: the sanctions are brutal; they have not advanced U.S. policy objectives; they have killed between 1 and 1.7 million people; children, the old and the poor suffer most, all are of whom are already victims of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, Saddam still lives in a palace. So I ask our panel, is the price still "worth it?"

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