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Tapping an empty well: Whats happening in Iraq today
by Joe Proulx
On Nov. 10 at about 6 p.m., most of us here at Columbia were at home watching "The Simpsons." But at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, Madeline Albright was preparing to address a receptive crowd. The international ballroom was filled with ultra-conservatives, including members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
What Albright wasn't anticipating, however, was a large group of concerned civilians, some of whom belong to a dedicated, nonviolent organization called Voices in the Wilderness, sitting amongst the audience.
Voices in the Wilderness is a group dedicated to ending economic sanctions applied by the United Nations against Iraq. They opposed the Gulf War in a variety of nonviolent ways. Many of them have witnessed the consequences of these sanctions, as well as the war, firsthand.
In the tradition of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Voices in the Wilderness advocate nonviolence as a means for social change. They oppose the development, storage and use in any country of weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, chemical, biological or economic. They develop effective methods of nonviolent social struggle. They are teachers, social workers, authors, health care professionals, tradespeople, and church workers.
Madeline Albright is no stranger to attacks by the media on her policies. In May of 1996, "60 Minutes" reporter Leslie Stahl, in reference to the millions of Iraqis, half of which were children, who had already died because of the sanctions, asked Albright, "Is the price worth it?" Albright's response: "Yes, I think the price is worth it."
After people's reaction to that comment, Albright has been careful to distance herself from media attention. An example of this was her refusal to have an open forum for questions at the Hilton.
But that didn't stop activists who needed to make a point. One by one, 14 activists stood up, holding pictures of friends and family who are dying in Iraq because of the embargo, demanding answers. "Madeline Albright, you could do so much good," said one of the activists. "So why are you killing the people of Iraq?"
These questions were quickly silenced by security and abuse from the angry right wing mob. The pictures were torn up, and protesters were dragged out of the room against their will.
When Albright could no longer restrain the crowd, she addressed the problem in Iraq with the following:
"If you remember in 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded another country, he plagued it, he set fire to it, and he decided that he could control the region. Before that, he had gassed his own people.
"Saddam Hussein had been acquiring weapons of mass destruction. We carried out with the help of an alliance, a war [Desert Storm], in which we put Saddam Hussein back into his box. The United Nations voted on a set of resolutions, which demanded Saddam Hussein live up to his obligations and get rid of weapons of mass destruction.
"The United Nations Security Council imposed a set of sanctions on Saddam Hussein until he did that. It also established an organization that is set up to monitor whether Hussein had gotten rid of his weapons of mass destruction.
"There has never been an embargo against food and medicine. It's just that Hussein has just not chosen to spend his money on that. Instead, he has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction, and palaces for his cronies."
Lets take another look Ms. Secretary, at the issues you brought up. First of all, I would like to think that most of us can see past your constant crutch on Hussein's villainous image as nothing more than the propaganda that it is.
Secondly, it was the United States that originally sold Hussein these weapons of mass destruction to which you refer so frequently. Weapons inspectors have all left Iraq satisfied. So why do the sanctions remain?
The answer is oil. American oil companies have much to gain if Iraq cannot sell, and we have destroyed Iraq's means of producing oil. The tools they need to repair these damages are restricted from entering the country because of the sanctions. For that same reason, it would be impossible for Hussein to make weapons of mass destruction.
The sanctions the United Nations have put on Iraq go against protocol set by the Geneva Convention, which states that one cannot deprive people of clean water, food, and medicine as a means of controlling their leader.
This is a serious issue, Columbia. We as students are obligated to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must educate ourselves on injustice, and do something to change it. Write a letter to your local paper or to the U.S. Government. Your constant voice can and will make a difference. We are the people that the government wants to keep quiet, because we are also the ones who make change.
For more information on Voices in the Wilderness visit its Web site at http://www.nonviolence.org/vitw.
Columbia College Chicago
The Columbia Chronicle is an award-winning college newspaper written and distributed weekly by students at
Views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Journalism Department or the college.