Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Since the end of the Persian Gulf War we have been showered with tales of the awful effects of United Nations’sanctions on Iraqi civilians: children dying in hospitals without medicine; no milk for babies; no fresh vegetables for urban dwellers; no school materials for little Abdul; no hope of employment for that man, etc. On Nov. 24, The Japan Times rant the Associate Press story “Iraqis forced to scavenge in order to make a living - U.N.-Imposed Sanctions Blamed.”
Yes, I suppose Iraqi civilians are living with greater inconvenience than ever. But are U.N. sanctions (often wrongly confused with “U.S. sanctions”) to blame, and should they there fore be lifted because they are said to cause inconvenience? Certainly not. Let’s be clear about b lame. There would be no suffering creditable to the U.N. - no lack of medicine, no lack of school supplies, no lack of employment - if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would abide by the terms of his defeat and acquiescence during the Gulf War.
Living with sanctions has not stopped Hussein from rebuilding and maintaining his considerable military forces as well as continuing prohibited weapons research with funds that ought to go towards bettering people’s lives. U.N. sanctions against Iraq are definitely not causing suffering among the Iraqi people. Hussein is causing enough of that himself.
Published on Sunday, December 9, 2001 as “Don’t blame U.N. for Iraq’s plight.”
Supporters of the United Nations are so devoted to the idea of its benevolence and virtue that saying anything against it is a virtual guarantee of attracting attacks like walking into a pack of Dingos. I am not a great lover of the United Nations, nor am I of the regime of Saddam Hussein. But I thought the U.N. was taking too much of a wrap on the matter of economic sanctions and the condition of Iraqi civilians, especially children.
I credit responsibility for the condition of a country primarily on the shoulders of the citizens of that country itself, just as I credit individuals with responsibility for themselves. If I as an individual person feel scared, threatened, prejudiced against, happy and loved, etc., I say that I own those feelings and others are not primarily responsible for my feeling. My feeling is my own. So, too, with nation states. If a country’s economy is bad, then the primary reason is that country’s economic policy and behavior. If a country is at war then it is primarily responsible for its suffering by its own decision to participate in it. We must claim responsibility for ourselves all the time, not only in the good times. However, evasion of personal responsibility is one of the characteristics of modern society.
In the case of 2001 Iraq many of that country’s problems were old, chronic problems either uniquely its own and the product of its culture - Shiite Muslim, Shuni Muslim, and tribal rivalries, economic suffering - or, they were the result of its policies (the policy of Saddam Hussein’s government not to cooperate with the United Nations).
In short, do not blame others for yourself. You are responsible for yourself, and nations are primarily responsible for / to themselves, as well.