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MARCH 27, 2003
11:31 AM
CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020
Humanitarian Impact: Image and Reality

WASHINGTON - March 27 -

Hurley and Edwards (al-Dar Hotel), Liteky and Kelly (al-Fanar Hotel) are in Baghdad with 20 other members of the Iraq Peace Team. Phone lines are intermittent. Team members are assessing damage, visiting hospitals and placing articles and photos on the web. Several additional team members have recently crossed into Iraq from Jordan. Muller, in Chicago, is in regular touch with team members.

Gordon, a Fairfield University professor, wrote "Cool War: Economic Sanctions as Weapons of Mass Destruction," which appeared in Harper's magazine (Nov. 2002). She said today: "The head of USAID, Andrew Natsios, claimed Tuesday that the Iraqi regime chose 'not to repair the water system or replace old equipment with new equipment, so in many cases people are basically drinking untreated sewer water in their homes and have been for some years.' But it has been the U.S. government that has prevented the procurement of the material needed to fix the water system. As a veto-bearing member of the Security Council's 661 Committee, whose approval is required for infrastructure contracts for the oil-for-food program, the U.S. government unilaterally blocked billions of dollars of urgent humanitarian goods, including critical water and sanitation supplies. This, despite the frequent pleas from the Secretary General and continual requests from agencies such as UNICEF. While child mortality rates skyrocketed from water-borne diseases and other illnesses, the U.S. government unilaterally blocked or delayed urgently needed humanitarian contracts, including three sewage treatment plants, refrigerators for blood banks -- even $210 million of child vaccines."

President of Conscience International, a humanitarian relief organization, Jennings is currently in Amman, Jordan, working with the U.N. and other relief organizations. He said today: "The U.S. government has recently discovered the Geneva Conventions, along with Iraq's desperate humanitarian need, after years of deliberate deafness to urgent pleas. Now, ironically, these two agendas have suddenly become a lately-invented casus belli for invasion. The international humanitarian aid community is firmly against the idea of armies posing as humanitarians, with bread in one hand and a gun in the other. This discredits genuine humanitarian assistance and puts the lives of aid workers in jeopardy."

Zaidi is the research director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights and coauthor of the report, "The Human Costs of War in Iraq," issued in February following a CESR research visit to Iraq. The report warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of war and outlined likely failures of water and sewage systems, as is now occurring in Basra.


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