54 U.S. Bishops Urge Clinton to Work for End to Iraq Embargo

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Asserting that U.N. sanctions over the past seven years have caused the deaths of more than a million Iraqis, 54 Roman Catholic bishops from the U.S. urged President Clinton on Tuesday to work for the “immediate cessation” of the embargo.

“For us, this is a moral question,” said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit. “We are killing people, and it has to stop.”

Gumbleton said that he and two other bishops were beginning a fast Tuesday to show their solidarity with the people of Iraq. During the fast, he said, they would take only liquids or eat the meager daily rations that Iraqis receive.


In a letter to Clinton, the bishops--representing about one-fifth of Catholic bishops in the U.S.--said that whatever the purpose of the U.N. sanctions, they “are not only in violation of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but they violate the human rights of the Iraqi people because they deprive innocent people [of] food and medicine.”

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops refused at its meeting in November to take a position on actions against Iraq. Its president, Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, said bishops respond to the humanitarian issues involved but that the majority “recognize on the political side this is a highly complex issue.”

The United Nations imposed the sanctions in 1990, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The Security Council and Clinton administration say they will remain in place as long as Iraq continues to defy an obligation to destroy all chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

Last month, UNICEF reported that 960,000 Iraqi children are suffering from malnutrition. In 1996, the organization estimated that 4,500 children younger than 5 were dying each month.