Larry Kerschner Writes

Editor, The Chronicle,

        On August 12, 2005, U.S. Federal Judge John Bates upheld a fine of $20,000 imposed against Voices in the Wilderness for violating the sanctions against Iraq.  Voices in the Wilderness was organized in 1996 to challenge U.S. economic sanctions laws by bringing medicine and other humanitarian supplies to Iraqi citizens without a government license.  I took medical journals and medical education materials for Iraqi doctors as part of a Voices group in August 2000.   Imagine one country isolating health care providers in another country not only from medicine and supplies but from basic new knowledge about treating disease and alleviating suffering.

          During the First Gulf War the U.S. and the coalition forces purposely destroyed waste and water treatment plants and electricity generating facilities.  According to U.N. studies this led to one million 'excess' deaths of Iraqis including 500,000 children under the age of five.  The greatest weapon of mass destruction in the Middle East was the sanctions which targeted the ordinary Iraqi civilians and the most vulnerable of Iraqi society their children.  Most of the deaths of the children were due to normally easily treated diarrheal diseases.

          Now after several years of U.S. military occupation, according to U.N. Development Program on Hunger, 300,000 children are still suffering from malnourishment.  Children's brains are permanently damaged from chronic malnourishment.  Sixty percent of rural Iraqi areas currently do not have potable water and twenty percent of the urban areas have only contaminated water to drink.  What chance do the children have in this situation? 

        The U.S. Government thinks bringing medicine to these children was a great crime.   But according to testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 17, two major Texas based oil companies were involved in smuggling oil out of Iraq at the same time we were trying to bring in some humanitarian aid.  The Bay Oil Company paid Saddam Hussein kickbacks in order to do this.  When the U.N. reported this to the U.S. Government no action was taken. 

        Another company, Odin Oil, actually asked the U.S. Navy if it was OK to load smuggled oil at Khor al-Amiya and they were told that there would be no interference.   Smuggle millions of dollars of oil and it gets a blind eye.  Openly bring in medicine for children and you get fined.  Makes sense to me. 

     Voices in the Wilderness has no intention of paying this fine.  If necessary, members of Voices will go to jail but continuing to support the brutal attacks on the children of Iraq with our funds cannot be countenanced. It is time to stop our military occupation of Iraq.  Bring our troops home alive.  Stop inventing excuses to ste's natural resources.