Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth.

This video has gone almost viral in right wing circles. They are pushing it as the ultimate proof that Imam Feisal Rauf cannot be a "moderate", simply because he states a truth which they find unpalatable.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.
The deaths of children as a result of the sanctions regime against Iraq is already well documented. It was UNICEF who stated that the sanctions had resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. So, stating this fact ought not to be controversial.
The surveys reveal that in the south and center of Iraq -- home to 85 per cent of the country's population -- under-5 mortality more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live births (1994-1999). Likewise infant mortality -- defined as the death of children in their first year -- increased from 47 per 1000 live births to 108 per 1000 live births within the same time frame. The surveys indicate a maternal mortality ratio in the south and center of 294 deaths per 100,000 live births over the ten-year period 1989 to 1999.

Ms. Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.
But, when dealing with the rabid right wing critics of the Park 51 mosque, one finds that "moderates" - according to the Pamela Geller mindset - are people who ignore inconvenient truths. Imam Feisal Rauf has stated something which this set finds intolerable. It matters not whether or not this was true. It matters not the context in which he said it. No "moderate" could ever speak such a truth as far as Geller and her friends are concerned.
[E]veryone who lectured us about how moderate and sensible Imam Rauf is is invited to eat their words with the sauce of their choice.
If someone wants to argue that the sanctions regime on Iraq was counterproductive, because Saddam’s regime simply seized the resources they needed and let the Iraqi people suffer and starve, that’s a fair point. Madeline Albright’s comment that containing Saddam was “worth it” — i.e., the death of Iraqi children — was idiotic. But to suggest that the indirect effects of a U.S. sanctions regime is remotely morally comparable to al-Qaeda’s deliberate mass murder — much less to suggest that they are morally worse — is to eviscerate one’s claim to be moderate, pro-American, or sensible. He says it is a “difficult subject to discuss with Western audiences.” Does he ever wonder why?
This is a common argument on the right. The notion that Saddam seized the resources "and let the Iraqi people starve". But it is completely false. The children were not dying from malnutrition.
Throughout the period of sanctions, the United States frustrated Iraq’s attempts to import pumps needed in the plants treating water from the Tigris, which had become an open sewer thanks to the destruction of treatment plants. Chlorine, vital for treating a contaminated water supply, was banned on the grounds that it could be used as a chemical weapon. The consequences of all this were visible in paediatric wards. Every year the number of children who died before they reached their first birthday rose, from one in 30 in 1990 to one in eight seven years later. Health specialists agreed that contaminated water was responsible: children were especially susceptible to the gastroenteritis and cholera caused by dirty water.
And, of course, we banned certain medicines. Indeed, the sanctions regime was referred to by David Bonior as "infanticide masquerading as policy". And we mustn't forget that the co-ordinator of the UN oil-for-food deal in Iraq, Denis Halliday, resigned because he thought the sanctions regime was incompatible with the UN charter as well as UN conventions on human rights and the rights of the child.

These facts may be unpalatable to right wing Americans, but they remain facts. And yes, to her eternal shame, Madeleine Albright did say that "it was worth it". Of course, this was scarcely reported in the US, which might account for the outrage currently being expressed in right wing circles.

But it is a well known fact outside of the United States and Imam Feisal Rauf stating it does not mean that he is less "moderate" than was previously presumed. It merely means that he is better informed than some of his opponents.

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