Clinton's Hail Mary

A political action that couples sex with death

No one in the Clinton administration, however, has embraced the hard line with as much gusto as Secretary of State Madeline Albright. While her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, has at least paid lip service to designing and implementing an "ethical" foreign policy, Albright— when presented in 1996 with the fact that sanctions had led to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children— simply responded, "We think the price is worth it."

Despite repeated reports from the United Nations that the death toll of innocents has steadily climbed past 1 million, and despite even a plea from Pope John Paul II to end the "pitiless embargo [against] the weak and innocent [who] cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible," the fundamental effect of the Clinton administration's policy of privately impeding inspections while publicly perpetuating sanctions is more Iraqi civilians dead from hunger and disease.

"Their policies of both sanctions and bombings are inconsistent with their own goals— they've admitted sanctions won't take Hussein out of power, they've admitted air strikes aren't likely to take Hussein out of power, and they've admitted sanctions and air strikes aren't likely to increase access to weapons-of-mass-destruction sites," says Jon Strange, an activist who drew Albright's ire when he asked her several pointed questions about U.S. foreign policy at a public forum in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year. "Saddam's a butcher, but he's not irrational— what's his incentive to comply? I went to Iraq earlier this year to deliver medicine, and what I saw was horrifying. Because there's no chlorine, children are dying from water-borne bacteria and treatable ailments like asthma. We saw hospitals with unclean sheets, three kids to a bed, and absolutely no medicine."

According to Strange and others who have recently been to Iraq and were interviewed by the Voice, the Clinton administration has failed to face the reality that while the majority of Iraqi citizens live in fear of Saddam, the sanctions have little impact on the military, which Saddam cares about more than civilians. And earlier this month, the U.S. proved it cares more about the embargo than Iraqi citizens: members of Voices in the Wilderness, a relief group that has delivered medicine and toys to Iraqi children and families, were notified that they're facing a $163,000 fine for making their deliveries in violation of the embargo.

"It could have been worse," said Jeff Guntzel, a member of the group. "I think what's more frustrating to us right now is the bombings, which show that there seems to be no real plan about how to deal with Iraq."

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