May 23, 2003


Baghdad – Throughout the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that were ended yesterday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children.

“It is one of the results of the embargo,” Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad’s Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. “This is a crime on Iraq.”

It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein’s Ministry of Information.

Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn Al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said in interviews this week that Hussein turned the children’s deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies’ corpses to have them publicly paraded.

I’m waiting for the apologies and retractions from all those who accused the United States of murder-by-sanctions.

UPDATE: Reader Linda Jones emails:

It will be interesting to see if Saddam and the Baath party come in for criticism from the Muslim world over their refusal to allow these babies to be buried according to Muslim strictures. Where is the Muslim outrage over this?

“Muslim outrage” seems to appear only when convenient. I should note that it’s not at all unlikely that sanctions did lead indirectly to some deaths — particularly as Saddam was diverting the oil-for-food money to palaces and weapons. But, given that diversion, it’s pretty damned indirect.

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