Nobel nominee opposes Iraqi sanctions

By Rowena Sampang

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Denis J. Halliday spoke on behalf of Iraqi people on Nov. 18, giving audience members an alternative perspective to what is regularly portrayed in the media. Halliday’s lecture was titled "Genocide in Iraq: What Can We Do To Stop It?"

Halliday, a former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Humanitarian Coordinator spoke out against sanctions in Iraq, which are causing both widespread suffering and death among its people. An estimated 1.5 million Iraqi individuals have lost their lives to UN sanctions, which claim approximately 5,000-10,000 lives a month. Although there is an Oil for Food program, it is exclusively run by oil companies in Iraq. Its capacity to provide food and assistance is limited as it requires outside
assistance that the UN refuses to provide.

"There is actually no aid being given to Iraq," said Halliday. "The Oil for Food program is fully funded by oil resources and revenues of the Iraqi people. We are not giving humanitarian assistance to Iraq."

Halliday began the lecture by dispelling several myths about Iraq and its people, which are misconceptions held commonly in the U.S. Halliday stated that Iraq is not made up of millions of Saddam Husseins, nor are they a milieu for weapons of mass destruction. Negative effects from the Gulf War still persist today such as the eradication of thriving urban areas and depletion of electric power systems which affect both water treatment and the breakdown of sewage systems, causing water-borne diseases.

Depleted uranium used from weaponry during the Gulf War has also released both nuclear dust and toxins into the air.

"The Gulf War was not about getting Iraqis out of Kuwait," said Halliday. "The truth is, it’s about oil. It’s about making sure the control of oil remains in the hands of the U.S."

Halliday criticized both U.S. and Canadian governments in their contribution to the sanctions. Security Councils made up of U.S., U.K., and Canadian member states knowingly contribute to the depletion of important human resources such as employment, education and housing. Canada, Halliday claims, has not stood up to the powers in Washington, which could help end sanctions imposed on Iraqi people.

"This is equivalent to genocide because the Council knows people are dying, yet allows this to occur," said Halliday.

Groups such as the Canadian Network to End Sanctions on Iraq are one of the few organizations working to eliminate all UN sanctions on Iraq.

"There [are] a certain amount of shipments from Canada and the U.S. by active groups who are in a sense making a symbolic gesture to Iraqi people," said Halliday. "They want to make a point that these sanctions are in themselves a breach of international law."

Halliday, however, does not deny the atrocities that occurred in Kuwait during the Gulf War, in which the Iraqi regime claimed many Kuwaiti lives–just as senseless as the oppression experienced by Iraqi children today, he feels.

"Young anemic mothers are giving birth to children at an average birth rate of five pounds or less," said Halliday. "There is chronic malnutrition despite Oil for Food; perhaps 15 per cent of Iraqi children are malnourished. This leads to physical and mental damage that can never be repaired. ‘Sanction Generations’ describe these young people who will be challenged for the rest of their lives."