USA: State Dept. Blocks Congressional Staff Visit to Iraq

ADC Press Release:
State Dept. Blocks Congressional Staff Visit to Iraq Arab-Americans Criticize Blocking of Investigation on Impact of Sanctions
Washington, D.C., August 23 — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee (ADC) criticized the State Department’s decision to deny permission for a delegation of congressional aides to visit Iraq on a fact-finding mission. Aides from six congressional offices had planned a first-hand investigation of the impact of the UN economic sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq. ADC President Hala Maksoud said, “It is scandalous for the Administration to deny congressional offices access to the information they need in order to evaluate and rethink U.S. policy. It is time that policy makers face up to and take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. The delegation of aides is a welcome first step, but we call on members of Congress themselves to visit Iraq, meet with the families of dying children, and see for themselves the devastation of hospitals, clinics and the public health institutions of Iraq.”
A recent UNICEF survey on Child and Maternal Mortality shows a dramatic increase in child mortality in Iraq since the Gulf War. The report estimates that there have been at least half a million child deaths which could have been prevented and that “in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the UN Security Council,” Iraqis would not have suffered the malnutrition and disease resulting in the increased death rates. The report estimates that 20% of Iraqi children under five suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. Criticism has been voiced by UN administrators of the Oil-for-Food program, the Red Cross, and numerous religious leaders and human rights organizations. UNICEF officials estimate that some 5000-6000 Iraqi children under five die each month.
Maksoud added, “This is another indication that the Administration’s sanctions policy is badly flawed and indefensible. Administration officials fear that the Congress and the public will become more fully aware of the catastrophic impact of eight years of economic sanctions which have denied the Iraqi people even their most basic and essential human needs.” The State Department claimed that Iraq was unsafe for the delegation because of U.S. bombing and “Iraqi hatred” of Americans.
These claims fly in the face of the experience of dozens of humanitarian delegations which have visited Iraq in the past few years, which have not been harmed by U.S. bombs and have been warmly received by Iraqi civilians and officials.
The delegation was planned with the sponsorship of over forty organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee, Institute for Policy Studies Middle East Project, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Voices in the Wilderness, and ADC. It also has the endorsement of Senator Paul Simon, and Nobel Peace Laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire.

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