Global Policy Forum

Saddam Makes Children Hostages to His Future

San Francisco Chronicle
September 1, 1999

The plight of Iraqi's children should remind the world of the vicious and calculating nature of Saddam Hussein. A United Nations' report details that since the Persian Gulf War in 1990, the death rate for children under age 5 has more than doubled.

The U.N. study bore out prior American claims that Saddam has manipulated a humanitarian program that allows him to sell $10 billion of oil per year for food and medicine. Instead of going to the hungry and sick, the goods have ended up in warehouses while other proceeds have gone elsewhere in Iraq's ramshackle economy, including a lavish set of palaces for himself and his cronies. It's a catastrophe of one man's making.

Still, this lamentable leader survives. This month, a new U.N. session will reconsider the tough sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. Remember: Iraq launched the war, lost it, and then refused to live up to promises to disclose its armory of weapons of mass destruction. He has eliminated all significant opposition and remains entrenched.

So far, Washington has managed to keep the United Nations behind a two-edged policy of trade sanctions and grudging support for near-daily U.S. and British air attacks on Saddam's military. But this policy is fraying because the Iraqi dictator is impervious to the losses he brings on his country.

China, Russia and France favor dropping the sanctions in favor of ``normalized'' relations that will allow trade and outside aid. Other diplomats are also weary of American dictums and Washington's frequent use of sanctions to punish troublemaking countries.

The U.S. policy of bomb- and-isolate may well be a half-success. It has kept Saddam reined in though there is no reason to think his warlike instincts have softened. But there is no evidence that loosening the leash on Saddam will produce peace or changed behavior in a dangerous neighborhood. In addition, easing restrictions on the Iraqi dictator hands him a victory for his inhuman survival tactics.

Let the United Nations deliberate and declaim on Iraq. New notions of controlling this menacing ruler should be floated for inspection. But U.N. diplomats should read their agency's own report on Saddam's treatment of his smallest subjects before choosing a policy without tough limits and firm guidelines.

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