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Chomsky Speaks Out Against Iraqi Embargo

By Kristen Landino

Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky and other intellectuals announced a national signature advertising campaign to protest United Nations sanctions against Iraq Tuesday.

Professor of Journalism Robert W. Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin and Professor of English William Keach of Brown University joined Chomsky in announcing the campaign.

“The number of Iraqi people who have died in the last eight years as a result of the sanctions exceeds the death toll due to all the weapons of mass destruction used in human history,” Chomsky said.

The advertisement cost $34,000 and is expected to be printed in The New York Times. Funds for the ad campaign were raised through the support of U.S. citizens opposed to the Iraqi sanctions.

Members of the advisory board for the campaign include Chomsky, Jensen, Keach, Edward W. Said of Columbia University, Howard Zinn of Boston University, Edward S. Herman of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Angela Y. Davis, Carlos Munoz, and June Jordan, all of the University of California.

Public not informed of situation

Supporters of the End the Sanctions Campaign hope to spark involvement of citizens and draw attention to the gravity of the situation in Iraq.

“There has been minimal outcry from the public on the Iraqi situation,” Jensen said. “The problem relates to lack of information and action. Society is becoming increasing depoliticized. They don’t realize that mass movement and organization can have an effect,” he said.

“The real test will be if [the campaign] becomes an organizing initiative. It will take follow-up action to have an effect on U.S. policy,” Keach said.

According to Keach, the response to the ads which have run in newspapers across the country has been positive.

“Supporters of the campaign are a diverse group of people. Not only the anti-war left, but also trade unionists and religious groups have joined the mission,” Keach said.

The sanctions in Iraq have been imposed by the United Nations; however, they are supported by only two permanent members on the Security Council: the United States and Britain, according to campaign organizers. The remaining three members -- France, Russia, and China -- have all made it clear that they in no way support the continuation of sanctions, the organizers said.

“The sanctions are the result of U.S. policy, not U.N. policy,” Jensen said.

Although sanctions are not supported by a majority of the U.N. Security Council, council decisions cannot be reversed unless all the members agree to do so.

Organizers hope to attract media

Through the ad campaign, organizers also hope to draw the attention of the media.

“We are trying to bring the plight of the Iraqi people to light,” Jensen said. “We want to bring public attention to something that has been largely ignored by the media, especially since the recent crisis in Kosovo.”

According to campaign officials, the sanctions actually support the regime of Saddam Hussein by weakening the Iraqi people and preventing a rebellion.

“In a situation as grave as this one, often people will rally around a strong figure... the [United States] does not support popular rebellion in Iraq,” Chomsky said.

According to campaign organizers, the sanctions continue largely due to U.S. business interests in the region.

“Keeping Iraqi oil off the market is in the U.S. interest. When oil prices rise, Iraq will be brought into the international scene by the U.S., under U.S. control and on U.S. terms,” Chomsky said.

According to campaign officials, the sanctions are a flagrant violation of international law -- in particular, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- and constitute terrorism on the part of the United States.

“This is not foreign policy -- it is state sanctioned mass murder. 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,” Jensen said, quoting text from the ad.