Your report on diplomatic wrangling over easing of sanctions against Iraq (May 23) overlooks the real tragedy of the effects of these sanctions, particularly in your illustration of dual-use goods that are being withheld from Iraq. Yes, chlorine is a component of mustard gas, but former U.N. weapons inspector and retired U.S. Marine Scott Ritter quantified the threat of weapons of mass destruction to be zero to none in 1998.
Moreover, your description of chlorine as “a chemical used to purify swimming pools” is telling of the shallowness, if not callousness, with which most people view the sanctions. More to the point is chlorine’s function in the purification of safe drinking water. According to U.N. statistics, 4,500 Iraqi children under age 5 die each month from hunger and disease attributable to the lack of basic necessities, including drinking water, withheld due to the sanctions.
Denis Halliday, former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, resigned as a result of what he labeled illegal and immoral actions toward Iraq, saying that we are in the process of destroying an entire society. How will this read in the history books? A genocide.