Editorial: No U.S. Sanctions Against Iraq!

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A full page advertisement, “Sanctions ARE Weapons of Mass Destruction,” is slated for publication in The New York Times. Signers include Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, prominent anti-war and human rights fighters who are undisputed opponents of U.S. intervention in Iraq.

The ad exposes the terrible toll that U.S. bombing and sanctions have wrought on the Iraqi people, including one million dead. It properly concludes, “If we remain silent, we are condoning a genocide that is being perpetrated in the name of peace in the Middle East, a mass slaughter that is being perpetrated in our name.”

But the ad is fundamentally flawed. It states, “The Iraqi people are suffering because of the actions of both the Iraqi and U.S. governments, but our moral responsibility lies here in the United States.”

“Moreover,” say the signers, “the sanctions have not affected the lifestyle of Saddam Hussein or his inner circle. … The sanctions hurt only the Iraqi people.”

And finally, the signers feel compelled to state, “Saddam Hussein is a murderous dictator, who promotes those who are loyal to him and kills all those who voice opposition to his regime.”

It is not true that the plight of the Iraqi people is due to “both the Iraqi and U.S. governments.” The one million dead are the product, in the first place, of a U.S. imperialist slaughter that in a single week took the lives of 250,000 people with virtually no losses on the U.S. side. Similarly, the imperialist sanctions killed an estimated 750,000 additional Iraqis, not the Iraqi regime.

Those who seek to stop this U.S. genocide have a single responsibility. We must oppose any and all imperialist intervention, and thereby support the right of self-determination of the Iraqi people.

To condemn Saddam Hussein in the pages of the nation’s leading capitalist and pro-war paper is to inadvertently raise the very arguments that U.S. warmongers offer daily to justify their actions.

To argue that the sanctions have not affected Saddam Hussein and his “inner circle” is to imply that perhaps the U.S. does have a right to single out these people for murder.

We must reject this orientation. Without the aid and comfort of U.S. and world imperialism, there would be few, if any, dictators in the world. These privileged few are installed by their masters to serve the needs of the foreign invaders.

Without imperialist intervention, the masses of workers and peasants in the Middle East would have long ago rid themselves of their local tyrants.

This task can only be achieved by the oppressed themselves, not by the imperialists, and certainly not by commentators from afar who place an equal sign between the imperialist monolith and their petty paid agents.

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My Friend Michael Ratner

[The following is the July 27, 2021 presentation by Michael Steven Smith at a book party in New York City’s Lower East Side sponsored by