News

May 15, 1998

Dear Colleague:

We are writing as members who are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. While United States policy has changed little in the seven years since the end of the Gulf War, sanctions leveled at the regime have taken a deadly humanitarian toll on innocent civilians - a toll that has been cynically exploited by Iraqi leaders who show little interest in helping their own people. We believe that it is nonetheless to the United States' long-term advantage to shape a policy toward Iraq that embraces humanitarian standards and allows new ways to address the humanitarian crisis the nation faces now. Upholding basic humanitarian principles need not be at odds with maintaining a tough stance on Iraq; on the contrary, it could strengthen our relations with Iraq's neighbors.

The letter that follows asks President Clinton to:

* De-link the economic sanctions on Iraq, which have been a political and humanitarian failure, from the military sanctions;

* Improve the oversight and processing mechanisms of the oil-for-food deal, and consider allowing importation of equipment to repair some of the oil infrastructure;

* Change federal regulations which impede the flow of humanitarian goods to Iraq.

We hope you will join us in signing this important letter. To sign on, please contact Carl LeVan in the office of Rep. Conyers at 225-5126 or Deborah Willig in the office of Rep. Kilpatrick at 225-2261.

Sincerely, John Conyers, Jr. David Bonior Carolyn C. Kilpatrick Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress


President William Jefferson Clinton The White House Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to you regarding our urgent concern for the serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Iraq. It has been over seven years now since the Gulf War ended, yet tremendous suffering remains unabated and indeed appears to have accelerated in recent months. As the weapons inspections by international officials continue, the Iraqi people have been left behind. While they have been orphaned by their own leader's manipulations, the international community has also shown flagging creativity in finding workable approaches to these difficult problems.

Official and unofficial reports about the situation faced daily by ordinary people in Iraq are devastating. According to a report issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in November 1997, "the food rationing system provides less than 60% of the required daily calorie intake, the water and sanitation systems are in a state of collapse, and there is a critical shortage of life-saving drugs." Moreover, it points out that "the balance sheet of several years of sanctions against Iraq reveals a minimum of political dividends as against a high human price paid primarily by women and children." Nearly a million children are chronically malnourished. A new UNICEF report, due out soon, will repeat many of these same concerns.

Several delegations of American citizens have gone to Iraq to document and relieve this suffering. One recent delegation, led by religious leaders and medical professionals, included Bishop Thomas Gumbleton from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Reverend Lucius Walker, and representatives from the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, the National Arab-American Medical Association, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the American Muslim Council.

There are mechanisms in place meant to address the humanitarian situation, primarily the oil-for-food deal permitted under United Nations Security Council Resolution 986. We believe that increasing the deal to permit a sale of $5.2 billion worth of oil every six months was a step in the right direction. However, as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan indicated in his April 16 report, Iraq's oil industry is currently incapable of producing anything close to that amount of oil. We urge you to lead the Security Council Sanctions Committee in allowing the importation of repair supplies and spare parts for Iraq's oil infrastructure. This is necessary if the food-for-oil deal is really going to work.

In addition, the monitoring and oversight mechanisms need to be improved to provide quicker movement of relief supplies to needy civilians. In a recent report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization noted serious problems with the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 986. The approval of contracts has been slow, the amounts permitted remain insufficient, and Iraq lacks adequate infrastructure for potable water. Full implementation of UNSCR 986 will still fall short of the nutritional and health needs of the citizens. The report concluded that unless water and sanitation systems are comprehensively rehabilitated, "the continuation of the economic embargo, even allowing for the amelioration that will occur with UNSCR 986, the situation will progressively deteriorate with grave consequences to the health and life of the Iraqi people." We are aware that Saddam Hussein does not spend his money well, but that should not justify our own inaction or apathy toward the implementation of these large and well-intentioned programs that shape the Iraqi people's attitudes toward the U.S. and democratic nations in general.

Moreover, private charities should be permitted to deliver humanitarian aid without the threat of prosecution. We are aware, as is the humanitarian mission traveling to Iraq, of the regulations contained in Title 31 Section 575.525 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These rules stipulate that the sale of humanitarian items to Iraq by U.S. citizens must be licensed by the Department of Treasury. Criminal penalties for violations of the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations are as high as 12 years in jail and one million dollars in fines, plus civil penalties of $275,000 per violation that may be imposed administratively.

We recognize the importance of making sure assistance gets to the people who need it and not the Iraqi military. However, U.S. policy toward Iraq should be geared toward assuring compliance with United Nations resolutions pertaining to weapons inspections, addressing the future of democratic leadership in Iraq, and securing the good faith of the Iraqi people toward the U.S. and the international community. Prosecuting American religious leaders and doctors seeking to alleviate suffering will not serve these ends.

The time has come to re-examine the intended goals and the actual effects of these sanctions. The first step should be to de-link the economic sanctions, which have been a complete failure, from the military sanctions, which have ad a measured success. We hold no illusions about Iraq's overall record of compliance with weapons inspections. It is clear, however, that continued economic sanctions allow Saddam Hussein to exploit the suffering of his people to his political advantage.

We are simply asking you to look squarely at the economic sanctions, which have outlasted their political utility. They now serve only to extend the human suffering of the population and carry out a policy that has driven religious leaders -- the moral conscience of our nation -- to acts of desperation.

We urge you to give serious consideration to these concerns. We will be seeking Congressional hearings to review humanitarian policy toward Iraq, and we hope that you are prepared to re-evaluate and re-invent our policy. We welcome the opportunity to work with you on these issues and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Current signatures: Reps. John Conyers, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Dave Bonior, William Clay, Tom Campbell, Elizabeth Furse, Alcee Hastings, Cynthia McKinney, John Olver, Major Owens, John LaFalce, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, Bobby Rush, Bart Stupak, Melvin Watts...