u n c o v e r I r a q . c o m

[First published in the Minnepaolis StarTribune on July 21, 2001]

In Hunt for Scandal, The Media Ignore Sanctions
by Drew Hamre

Thrilling to see Maureen Dowd leap like a ninja (that recent Pulitzer didn't slow her down at all!) and defend the Washington Post as it roasts a congressman in the name of "investigative journalism" (Commentary, July 12). But what's that awful smell coming from the kitchens of the Post and New York Times? Have they misplaced a few pages from their journalistic cookbooks? Let's, um, investigate.

In 1996, Madeleine Albright told CBS that containing Iraq by sanctions was worth the death of 500,000 Iraqi children. She defended this stance as necessary to avoid the risk of American miliatry involvement. Her comments went unremarked.


Three years later, UNICEF estimated that an excess 500,000 Iraqi children had in fact died since sanctions were imposed. Despite being the first in-country independent survey in a decade, UNICEF's death estimate went unreported.

Sniff, sniff.

In 1998, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday resigned his post as humanitarian coordinator of Iraq to protest sanctions, policies he later called genocidal. Instant pariah. In 2000, Halliday's successor also resigned in protest, along with the head of the World Food Program in Iraq.

Largely ignored. Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Maj. Scott Ritter, the head of UNSCOM's covert inspection team in Iraq, says sanctions stain America's honor. His former boss and nemesis, Richard Butler, says sanctions harm Iraqi civilians and are "utterly counterproductive for this disarmament purpose."

Unanalyzed. Sniff, sniff.

Today as we near sanctions' 11th anniversary, the popularity of that pompous, bloody thug, Saddam Hussein, is soaring throughout the Arab world. The United States has countered with a cynical PR initiative, "smart sanctions," that -- as the Economist magazine noted -- "would have kept Iraq a soup kitchen, albeit a more efficient one."

An unnoticed subtlety. Sniff.

Today, thousands upon thousands of Iraqi parents blame America, with varying justification, for the death of their child. Is it any surprise that their putative avengers have cited sanctions as motive for the Cole and Kenyan embassy bombings? So now, instead of claiming Iraqi lives only, blowback from sanctions has begun to claim our own.

Talk about burying the lead. Mmmmm ... is that Pulitzer I smell?

So when Maureen Dowd argues that attention paid the Condit case is appropriate, because "this is the stuff of great ... journalism through the ages ... here the press has a crucial role in forcing out the truth ...," well sorry, I just won't bite.

Roast, fried or drenched in a fine cream sauce, we all know fishwrap when we smell it.


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