April 25, 2000
It has almost been a decade since the U.N. sanctions were placed on Iraq after the Gulf War. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio), who recently visited Iraq, reports on the sanctions' impact on the Iraqi people.
SUAREZ: Iraq has been under a U.N. economic embargo ever since it invaded
Kuwait in 1990. By most accounts, many ordinary Iraqi people have suffered
shortages and hardships as a result, even as Iraq's ruler, Saddam Hussein,
remains in power. A U.S. Congressman with a long interest in hunger and
humanitarian issues is just back from a trip to Iraq. Congressman Tony
Hall, Democrat of Ohio, has been reporting on what he saw.
Welcome to the program.
REP. TONY HALL, (D) Ohio: Thank you.
|Widespread disease, malnutrition|
|RAY SUAREZ: Were you able to see a lot of the country and
able to move freely?
REP. TONY HALL: I saw a good portion of the country. As you may know, with sanctions you can't fly into the country, so you have to drive in. So it's a ten-hour drive from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad. So it's ten hours in, ten hours back, and then that's in the central part. And then from there, I went south about seven hours and stopped at various little towns, looked at hospitals, various health care centers, water treatment plants, and then came back up on the other side. So I saw approximately, you know, a good portion of the central and southern portion of Iraq.
RAY SUAREZ: And were you able to move freely, and take a look at the things that interested you?
REP. TONY HALL: Well, before I went, there was a schedule that I had asked for. I had told them that I wanted to see basic primary health care, water treatment centers, hospitals, orphans, widows, the kinds of things that I could evaluate, and match what I had read from UNICEF reports and Red Cross. And they pretty much let me see what I wanted to see.
On the other hand, a lot of the things that they showed me were set up. I mean there was a lot of propaganda. Obviously, you can't go into Iraq and not receive a lot of their propaganda, and there was a lot of setups. For example, I mean, first thing they try to do, they try to get you to stay in this one hotel that is in Baghdad, that has a picture of George Bush on the floor. So they want you to step on his face, take a picture of it, and make it look like, you know, you don't agree with George Bush. So I wouldn't stay at that hotel. They played these kind of games, but if you look below the surface, you could see that there is a real humanitarian problem there.
RAY SUAREZ: Well what are the kinds of things that you saw and were able to tease apart from what they were trying to show you, the impression they were trying to create, so you could conclude for yourself?
REP. TONY HALL: Well, you see malnourished children and they have distended stomachs, you know, red hair. They have spots all over their hair. They... there is certainly a lot of wasting among children. Wasting is a term that they use in countries that are facing famine. 25-30% of the children that are from the ages of one to six are chronically malnourished. There is cholera, and polio has come back with a vengeance, all of the major diseases. Any time you have cholera and the major diseases like this, you have a country that's going downhill quickly health-wise.
RAY SUAREZ: And the built-in infrastructure, water supplies, that kind of thing?
REP. TONY HALL: Well, the infrastructure was there in the 70's and 80's, and it's a vast infrastructure, even the highways -- six, seven lanes. The problem is it is crumbling now, a lot of the infrastructure, especially the water, because, you know, first off they had a war with Iran that lasted eight years. And apparently there was something like almost eight million people that lost their lives on the combined totals of the two countries. Then you had the Gulf War, then you had the sanctions. You put all that together and you have an infrastructure that hasn't been repaired and that is coming apart.
|The oil-for-food program|
|RAY SUAREZ: So after the sanctions were put in place, Iraq
was allowed to sell some of its oil and buy needed supplies. Why is there
this kind of privation?
REP. TONY HALL: Not enough food, not enough medicines are coming in, in any large quantities. That's the first thing. Secondly, there is a sanctions committee; it is called the 661 Committee, and it's made up of a lot of bureaucrats that are not particularly sensitive to emergency needs and to the disease and things that are going on there. They hold up lists of consumer... not consumer goods, but humanitarian goods like medicines and foods and refrigeration parts that they need to keep serum for polio cool, and they hold these parts up for... because there might be a list of maybe a hundred items, and there might be two or three items that they don't like, so the whole list is held up, and one of the things that we could do is they ought to be able to line item veto -- you know, things that might have a dual purpose, and then send the rest in and don't even question it, especially if it's food and medicines.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, along with the people who are in charge of managing the sanctions, if you had a different kind of administration in Baghdad, would there be this kind of distribution with so many people having so little?
REP. TONY HALL: Well, the NGO's that are there, the international humanitarian organizations, the heads of them feel that the distribution is... what they have now is fairly decent. Doesn't mean they don't have problems, but they feel that the food and medicines are getting to the hospitals. I, you know, I saw pharmacies. I saw not a lot of drugs, but I saw some drugs. The only thing I could do is to take the word of the international... international humanitarian workers so we would have to check on that, but they are not bad. I mean, the monitoring is somewhat decent right now, and it's getting better.
|A call for changes to sanctions|
SUAREZ: So where does the blame lie for the situation in Iraq today?
REP. TONY HALL: The blame lies in a lot of different places. First off, you got to blame Saddam Hussein. He uses the situation very well as far as propaganda. He uses his own people, in my opinion. Secondly, I think the blame belongs with the United Nations and while we have... United Nations and other countries, because we have held up shipments of humanitarian goods. While we have focused on sanctions, which are important, we've missed the most important point that's going on right now, that the people, especially the children, which are innocent, they're dying. And they are not living a good life, and they are they're not even having a life. As a matter of fact, one of the humanitarian workers said that the kids don't dream anymore. They don't have anything to dream about, and they lost their ability to dream about good things.
RAY SUAREZ: So would you advocate having them lifted, modified, sharpened? What conclusion did you come to?
REP. TONY HALL: Sharpened, smarter. We've got to have better, a better sanction committee. We've got to put, allow emergency equipment and emergency goods for humanitarian purposes to go in immediately. We need serums for cholera and diseases. We need more international workers. That's the first thing I would do. Secondly, as far as the sanctions on weapons of mass destruction, those in my opinion should not be lifted.
RAY SUAREZ: So make the weight lie heavier on the government, the military and less of a burden on the people?
REP. TONY HALL: Exactly, and really, really pick up on the humanitarian part.
RAY SUAREZ: Can it be done?
REP. TONY HALL: It can be done. And as we talk, the sanctions committee in New York, they are continuing to review some of the things that they've heard, not only from my trip but from other people that have gone in there and that it is a necessity. And they are starting to hear very strongly. Hopefully they can hear from other nations that are very close, that have members on these sanctions committee because they're not doing a good job.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Tony Hall, thanks for being with us.
REP. TONY HALL: Thank you.
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