Bert Sacks was fined $10,000 for traveling to Iraq to bring medicines to needy children. Through his fine he is challenging US policies on Iraq with a question to the Supreme Court: Was it legal for the US to have knowingly caused the deaths of Iraqis, especially the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died from unsafe water during sanctions?
On Tuesday, January 16th, in a press conference from 1 to 2 pm at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, he will discuss his petition to the court, filed January 8th.
His petition to the Supreme Court details the results of bombing Iraq’s electrical plants in 1991, followed by 12 years of economic sanctions. The petition itself is posted at BertOnIraq.blogspot.com. It is hard to imagine a topic more relevant to considerations of future US actions than the impact of so many deaths caused by previous US actions.
Sacks will be introduced by Denis Halliday, a 34-year veteran of the UN who resigned his positions as UN Assistant Secretary General and Chief UN Relief Coordinator to protest the sanctions in 1998, after heading the Iraq oil-for-food program for 13 months.
The press conference will take place on the 16th anniversary of the start of the 1991 Gulf War. This date marks 16 years of war, occurring in three different forms, which the Iraqi people have suffered through. There have certainly been well over a million Iraqi deaths.
It will also take place one day after Martin Luther King Day. In his famous Riverside Church address speaking about Vietnam Dr. King said, “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese …. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat.”
Might not the same be said today about our calculations regarding Iraq? The news conference will provide evidence that the preceding years of sanctions are not ancient history for Iraqis. To choose wise actions today, it is necessary to understand those years.
As British foreign journalist Robert Fisk put it, “The sanctions that smothered Iraq for almost thirteen years have largely dropped from the story of our Middle East adventures. Our invasion of Iraq in March 2003 closed the page – or so we hoped – on our treatment of the Iraqi people before that date, removed the stigma attached to the imprisonment of an entire nation and their steady debilitation and death under the UN sanctions regime. When the Anglo-American occupiers settled into their palaces in Baghdad, they would blame the collapse of electrical power, water-pumping stations, factories and commercial life on Saddam Hussein … [Sanctions] were “ghosted” out of the story.”