Saturday, July 09, 2005

Billions for oil, jail for medicines

Before the US started to bomb the living crap out of Iraq to destabilize Saddam's regime and before they launched a full scale invasion to finish the job, they tried do it by starving the population to create enough unrest that Saddam would fall from internal opposition. The 12 years of cruel sanctions didn't topple Saddam but did bring down innocent civilians. In 1999 the United Nations Children's Fund estimated the sanctions may have caused as many as 500,000 ghe deaths of Iraqi children under the age of 5 between the years 1991 and 1998.

The sanctions were widely opposed in other countries and also by some courageous and determined people within the US. One of them was Bert Sacks, a sixty-something Seattle engineer who defied the sanctions and made eight trips to Iraq with antibiotics and vitamins. For this he was fined $10,000 for a single trip in 1997, a trip on which he freely acknowledges he carried $40,000 in medicines to the Iraqi people. He refused to pay the fine. (via Common Dreams)

Last Wednesday (July 6, 2005) Sacks and the organization Voices in the Wilderness, also fined $20,000, were in Federal District Court for oral arguments to avoid up to 12 years in jail for failure to pay. (Institute for Public Advocacy)
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control alleges that a 1998 Voices delegation violated economic sanctions law when it delivered medical supplies to Iraqis. Voices organized over 70 such delegations as part of a campaign of civil disobedience from 1996 to 2003.

[Bill] Quigley, the attorney representing Voices in the Wilderness, said this afternoon shortly after leaving the courtroom: "The judge was particularly focused on why the government waited for years to issue these fines. The fines were issued shortly after members of Voices in the Wilderness were prominently involved in anti-war protests on October 26, 2002. He said that he will decide in the coming weeks if he will compel the government to turn over their papers on the case."


Sacks, the first person to be fined by the government for breaking the sanctions on Iraq, said today:

"Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control paid almost no attention to U.S. oil companies that violated economic sanctions so they could make millions of dollars and yet was swift to threaten and penalize people who traveled to Iraq for humanitarian reasons."