Sanctioning Ongoing Devastation: Killing Iraq’s Children


 Paying the Price – Killing the children of Iraq [2000] is another documentary made by John Pilger. Pilger examines the economic sanctions placed on Iraq in August 1990, after disputes over oil with Kuwait. Some of the most “comprehensive [sanctions] of modern history” including denial of food and medicine for over eight months created an unprecedented human rights disaster, according to Pilger.

In Southern Iraq, the dust laden region carries cancer in the winds, literally. The source of radiation comes from the U.S. and U.K. fired shells covered in depleted Uranium, and the sanctions preventing Iraq from cleaning up its battlefields. Professor Doug Rokke, a former US Army Health Physicist was in charge of cleaning up Kuwait in 1991, witnessing this first hand. He now has 5000 times the level of radiation in his body. [Mark 51:22]

Half of the population have the potential for cancer, according to Iraqi doctors specializing in the field, but without medical equipment to do accurate testing, there is no way to know if these figures are higher. “It is comparable to the Hiroshima tragedy,” says Dr Al-Ali. [Mark 54:57]

Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General, resigned from the United Nations in 1998, recalls how he decided to help four children diagnosed with acute leukemia by bringing in enough drugs to treat their illness for two years, illegally. Two died and two survived; one now almost cured. “I had to breach my own economic sanctions, so to speak,” he says, “the very provisions of the Charter of the Declaration of Human Rights are being set aside…we are targeting children. It’s a monstrous situation.”


The United Nations Security Council allowed an “oil for food” exchange, allowing some of Iraq’s oil reserves to be sold in exchange for basic needs. The Security Council that was dominated by the United States and the U.K., oversaw a special sanctions committee that consistently blocked restoration of basic services, including agricultural equipment, medical supplies, fire-fighting equipment, and basic soap. [Mark 10:46]

Further blockades by the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry prevented vaccinations for Yellow Fever and Diphtheria, marked for Iraqi children. The minister at the time cited their potential use in weapons of mass destruction. Mark [11:27] Morphine for pain relief in cancer patients: also blocked, with only basic Aspirin to relieve the pain in end stage patients. [23:30]

When interviewed for Washington’s perspective, US State Department spokesman James Rubin, tells Pilger blatantly that they don’t accept the half a million figure in children’s deaths presented by the World Health Organization. Rubin goes on to argue the justification of sanctions as the lesser of two evils. [Mark 16:00]

Professor Doug Rokke reflects on the Iraqi situation and the sanctions. “Unless the environmental cleanup is totally completed, and the medical care is provided, the effects are permanent and lasting forever and ever and ever. That’s wrong.” [Mark 53:45]

You can watch the full documentary below:


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