From Iraq to Serbia,
Burying the News and our Humanness with it

by Gilles d'Aymery

April 2, 2000



Since Drew Hamre filed his extensively-researched and outstanding report -- a report that not one main media publication has accepted to publish -- the meeting of the U.N. Security Nations on March 31 to review the sanctions against Iraq has taken place in near total obscurity. After a week when Officialdom rallied support for the renewal of those sanctions -- see our last week's article -- silence has once again fallen. And for cause, the sanctions, insidiously labeled the "oil for food" program, have indeed been renewed.

The public would have a hard time to even notice the occurrence as it was by all accounts left practically unreported. But please note the qualifying adverb "practically". For it was, in fact, reported by The New York Times U.N. correspondent, Barbara Crossette, in a March 31 article, Security Council Votes to Let Iraq Buy Oil Gear. The article, through its headline and its byline (Baghdad increased its pumping capacity even before crude prices rose) leads the reader to believe that the issue is all about oil. But buried in the article is the news that "At the same time, the council's Iraqi sanctions committee completed work on four lists - of food, pharmaceuticals, educational material and agricultural equipment - that Iraq will be permitted to purchase without a committee review, although United Nations officials will oversee and approve the purchases."

And if the readers keep reading Crossette's piece they would actually learn a lot about this "food for oil" program. Crossette: "The four lists of civilian goods no longer subject to scrutiny by the sanctions committee include not only food, but also soap, packaging and storage materials. In the education category, the list of 137 items include classroom furniture, printing equipment, paper for textbooks, photocopying and duplicating machinery, sport equipment and clothing, musical instruments, and audio-visual aids." Furthermore, Crossette continues, "The medical list runs to about 50 pages of specific pharmaceuticals, plus a variety of supplies for baby and child care and equipment for hospitals like sheets, radiology film, surgical goods and anesthesiology equipment."

Now, first, read the headline and the byline again. Would you have expected to find the information about the sanctions quoted above in that article? If that's not a perfect example of buried news, of silence, then what is it?

Then, pause for a second and think. If those goods and products, the soap, the food, the paper for textbooks, the supplies for baby and child care, the surgical goods, the anesthesiology equipment, etc., are no longer subject to the scrutiny by the sanctions committee, it does mean that they were subject to scrutiny before, does it not?

Take a hard look at this. Do you have children? Do friends of yours have children? Soap, paper for textbooks, supplies for baby and child care... How would you feel if American and British children were subjugated to these conditions? The U.S.A. and Britain are the only two countries left in the world that want those sanctions to remain until Saddam Hussein is out of power. And what America wants, the world obliges. Would America accept these types of inhumane conditions imposed on, forced upon, her own children?

You may consider that the very fact that these "four lists of civilian goods [are] no longer subject to scrutiny" is in itself an improvement. And you would be correct, indeed, even though the Security Council added a caveat, reported by Barbara Crossette, "although United Nations officials will oversee and approve the purchases." It is still an improvement compared to the mere horror of yesterday. And it is an improvement thanks mainly to countless people, like Drew Hamre, who keep working day in and day out to publicize the inanity, the disproportion, perhaps even the criminal nature (when viewed in human terms) of our policy, so that out of fear of losing the "propaganda war" as expressed by Security General Kofi Annan, last week, James B. Cunningham, the deputy American representative to the United Nations, came up with this small relaxation of the sanctions.

But there are hundreds of pages of goods and products that have been drawn with perfect bureaucratic minutia that remain on the Sanctions book. We can kill in total impunity and good conscience because we don't even know we are killing in total impunity and good conscience!

Do you feel this is a bit exaggerated?

Then turn your attention to Serbia for a moment. Here is an excerpt of a mail forwarded to me this week. It's from a young Belgrade resident who needed a benign surgery. I quote it in his own terms: "The operation went good, but not in good conditions, but with good outcome. It was successful. As for the conditions, they were terrible and they are an excellent picture and illustration in which conditions hospitals in Belgrade are working. They do not have basic necessities such as bandages and hanzaplasts [band-aids]... Anesthesia is unbelievably expensive for our [economic] conditions (more than DM 50), etc., etc., etc." Please note the amount, that is about $25. When most Serbs have to make by with less than $100 per month to survive, yes anesthesia is unbelievably expensive in Belgrade - and this was a local, not a general, anesthesia. Belgrade residents lack the basics of life, from cooking oil to heating oil. Have you read about the severity of the sanctions against Serbia in The New York Times?

Have you read about the severity of the sanctions against Cuba in the mainstream media?

But you know all about Elián Gonzalez, don't you?


Please take a moment and send Drew Hamre's article to your local paper. And take the time to write your elected representatives, President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke and U.N. Security General Koffi Annan. Write a simple and short question: "Dear Sir, Madam, Can you, in your heart, guarantee me that your policies are worth it?"


This Week's Other Articles

Another Tap-Dance If You Please, Mr. Rubin - by Drew Hamre

Madeleine Albright: "We Did The Right Thing." - by Gilles d'Aymery


Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath


Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath

Published April 2, 2000
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