Despite Fines, U.S. Group Vows Continued Iraq Aid
A Chicago-based group of mostly pacifists faces fines totaling $163,000 for delivering medical supplies, toys and other goods to Iraq, but its defiant leaders said Wednesday that their violations of a U.N. trade embargo will continue.
Kathy Kelly, who returned Tuesday night from Baghdad, alleged that the sanctions are designed to keep Iraqi oil off world markets so Saudi Arabia and Kuwait can sell more and use the revenue “to buy our cash crop: weapons.”
Kelly and other members of the group, Voices in the Wilderness, have taken 19 trips to Iraq in three years despite a warning from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets that the penalty for violating the embargo runs up to 12 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
Earlier this month, they received a “pre-penalty notice” from Treasury proposing a fine of $120,000 for the group and an additional $43,000 in fines for four of its members for taking supplies to Iraq without permission.
The group responded Wednesday to the government, admitting that its members have been going to Iraq, saying it does not consider the trips a crime and inviting U.S. officials to join the organization in helping the Iraqi people, Kelly said.
The embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council eight years ago after Iraq invaded Kuwait prohibits trade with Baghdad. The United Nations since has allowed Iraq to sell $5.2 billion in oil every six months, provided the revenue is used for the purchase and supervised distribution of food and medicine.
Under U.S. law, trade with Iraq and travel to the country without U.S. government permission are illegal.