In 1990, Iraq's army invaded neighboring Kuwait in a border dispute regarding oil drilling rights.
The U.S., which had backed Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, began a propaganda war
demonizing President Saddam Hussein, urged the United Nations to impose comprehensive
economic sanctions, and eventually, pushed the U.N. to support a massive military attack on the
nation of 22 million people.
After the shooting war ended in late February, 1991, the economic sanctions were kept in
place, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. A Security Council Resolution passed in
April, 1991 calling for Iraq to perform a number of tasksincluding recognizing the Kuwaiti border
and destroying its weapons of mass destructionbefore sanctions would be lifted.
Beginning that year, visiting medical teams noted that the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure by the
U.S. and its allies had led to a health crisis, since water, electrical and sewage treatment plants had
all been targeted. While the economic sanctions allow for the importation of food and medicine,
they also prohibit Iraq from selling its oil to pay for these basic supplies. Since 1990, estimates of the number of people who
have died as a result of the sanctions vary from 300,000 children under the age of 5 (Dr. Richard
Garfield of Columbia University's School of Public Health, October, 1999) to 1.25 million
children and adults combined (Iraq's Health Ministry, Reuters news service, December 29, 1999).
According to Dr. Garfield, the increase in mortality was caused mainly by diarrhea and respiratory
illnesses. (see Dr. Garfield's July, 1999 study on line at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/casi).
In December, 1996, the "oil-for-food" program was created to bring more food and medicine to the
people of Iraq. Initially, Iraq was allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil every 6 months, a figure
which was raised to $5.2 billion in February, 1998. While $3 billion could bring substantial
humanitarian relief, 30% of the "oil-for-food" money goes to a compensation fund. Money in the
fund is distributed by the U.N. to Kuwait and others who claim economic damages from the 1990
invasion and the subsequent U.N.-led war. "On June 25, 1999, the U.N. awarded almost $2.8
billion to several oil companies, including more than $500 million to a subsidiary of Texaco, Inc.,
for equipment and facilities that were damaged when the U.S. led a 43-day war against Iraq in
1991." (Update on Iraq, International Action Center,
December 24, 1999). It seems hypocritical that this money, meant to help ordinary Iraqis, is being
given to corporations, since the U.S. implies that Iraq is not spending enough money to feed its
The shooting war on Iraq has also continued. Immediately after the "Gulf War," the U.S.
and Great Britain set up so-called "no-fly zones" in the north and south of Iraq, allegedly to protect
the Kurds and Shiite Muslims living in those areas. Unfortunately, those civilians are the very ones
suffering from the air patrols. "During 1999, U.S and British warplanes bombed Iraq on 138
separate days, attacking more than 450 targets and dropping more than 1,800 bombs ‹ all, insists
the Pentagon, in response to Iraqi provocations" (CNN, December 28, 1999).
"The air strikes from December 1998 to December 1999 have left 156 dead and wounded another
371, according to an AFP casualty toll compiled from Iraqi military statements" (Agence France-
Presse, December 15, 1999). Activist Drew Hamre notes AFP's estimate of 156 people killed by
these airstrikes is comparable to the 168 deaths in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. But, he
notes, the bombings of Iraq and Oklahoma pale next to the sanctions, which contribute to the
deaths of 150-200 people every day. UNICEF estimates that 40,000 children under 5 and 50,000
others die each year as a result of sanctions ("Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Iraq,"