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[whitespace] Kathy Kelly, Hans von Sponack
Cutting Noose. Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness and former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Hans von Sponeck denounce international policy toward Iraq.


Cutting the Noose

Hans von Sponeck, a 36-year veteran of the United Nations, was in town last week talking about the high cost in human life in Iraq, which he believes is a result of U.S. sanctions. Von Sponeck was appointed U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq in October 1998, but he resigned his post in February 2000. In his resignation statement, von Sponeck asked, "How long must the civilian population be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?"

According to von Sponeck, infant morality has more than doubled since sanctions were imposed, and one Iraqi child in five suffers from malnutrition. "Can anyone afford to associate himself or herself with such a reality? I cannot," von Sponeck asked.

Appearing with von Sponeck was Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, an organization working to end the U.N. Security Council's economic sanctions against Iraq, which it views as a "form of silent yet deadly warfare ... a crime against humanity because it makes innocent civilians the main victims of siege enforced by military might."

Kelly says that recent reports predict that one out of every 10 Iraqi children will not live to age 1--a situation attributed to high rates of cholera, typhus, dysentery and diarrhea, along with pneumonia, cancer, diabetes and kidney failure.

"Iraq is not able to procure adequate amount of drugs, or distribute them, because of sanctions imposed by the U.N. in 1990, four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait," says Kelly, adding that sanctions were imposed with the expectation that Iraq would withdraw--which it did.

"Thereafter, Iraq was told sanctions would not be lifted until it could prove it had eliminated all weapons of mass destruction. Today, Iraqis claim they have complied," says Kelly, who is not asking that inspection teams and surveillance cease but believes "benchmarks were set too high, statements left too vague."

"If we're waiting to see if some computer disk still exists, that's like looking for a black cat in a darkened room," says Kelly, who believes we should concentrate on "reducing Iraq's felt need to build up defenses, as well as engaging in fair-trade practices."

Since March 1996, Voices has organized 39 delegations which have visited hospitals in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, thereby breaking the siege imposed by sanctions. Before each departure, Voices has notified the U.S. Attorney General of its action and invited his office to join it in "conscientious objection to laws which themselves violate international law and basic human rights."

In 1996, U.S. authorities sent Voices what Kelly describes as "a very stiff letter threatening 12 years in prison and high fines for violating the state department law regarding travel to Iraq."

Kelly, who advocates nonviolence as a means for social change, says she will continue to draw attention to "this massive loss of life until sanctions against the Iraqi people are lifted." Says Kelly, "We believe all United States

citizens are responsible for the U.N./U.S. policy, which holds innocent children of Iraq as dying hostages to the oil policy objectives of the United States government."

Fine Print

With U.S. forces in Afghanistan "setting in for the long haul," the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government reports that 79 percent of college students support U.S.-led air strikes, while 68 percent support the use of ground troops. The survey, conducted Oct. 17-25., also indicated that 71 percent of male undergraduates would serve if the draft were reinstated, while 26 percent would seek other options.

Erik Larsen, a former Marine lance corporal who joined up right out of high school in 1986, recommends that people get informed about what the military entails before they enlist.

Larsen, who went AWOL when his Hayward-based unit was told to prepare for desert training during the Gulf War, turned himself in a week later--to find he was facing the death penalty.

"It was a shock" says Larsen, who in 1991 became an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience for refusing to obey orders. Larsen, who ended up serving six months in a military prison and getting a dishonorable discharge, says for the first few years he was a gung-ho Marine, willing to "take names, kick ass and do whatever it took." Trouble began when Larsen began questioning training chants of "rape the town, kill the people, napalm the school house" that promoted the , to his mind, untenable view that civilians are targets.

When the Gulf War came up, Larsen asked to be a conscientious objector but was denied on grounds of being "too political." When he turned himself in, after going AWOL, Larsen was handcuffed for 24 hours and flown to North Carolina, away from his family and friends. "When I heard the charges I was shocked., but I know what I believe, so regardless of threats, I was gonna stand firm," says Larsen, who's recently fielded calls from people in the National Guard who've been assigned bridge and airport duty, as well as parents with teenage sons.

Larsen warns that not signing up for Selective Service also presents problems.

"You'll jeopardize your legal status if you're not a citizen or here illegally. And if you're a student, not signing prohibits you from getting any financial aid."

Larsen recommends people who want to be conscientious objectors start now by creating files containing evidence--tapes, letters, videos--that they don't want to be part of a war.

Those who want to serve should still read the fine print. "Everyone signs up for eight years, but once you're in, it's very difficult to make changes, protest harassment or leave, so it's worth reading the entire military contract before signing," says Larsen, warning that you'll find a clause that allows the military to change your assignment any time they want. "And once you enlist, you're subject to military objectives, policy, discipline, law, courts and imprisonment. In-service resistance is difficult and lonely."

A public workshop titled Understanding the Draft, Conscientious Objection and Selective Service takes place Nov. 15, 7-9pm, at the First Congregational Church, 900 High St., Santa Cruz. Call 423.1626 for information.

Dirty Nukes

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last Friday it's worried terrorists will steal nuclear materials and combine them into a bomb using a conventional explosive. The resulting weapon could spew out deadly nuclear materials to contaminate a wide area, making it uninhabitable for decades.

Since 1993, there have been 175 cases of trafficking in nuclear materials, according to the IAEA. Spent fuel could be stolen from any of the world's 438 nuclear power reactors, where tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste material are poorly protected, or even from hospitals and research labs. And there's the possibility that a jumbo jet will ram into a nuclear power reactor--like the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo, 170 miles south of Santa Cruz.

Mike Dever, Santa Cruz County emergency services administrator, is not concerned about fallout here. "We have an advantage here that prevailing winds come from the ocean and would take it generally to the southeast, away from us," Dever says. "Santa Cruz is a safe place to be in terms of terrorist activities--we don't have recognizable symbolic structures." Dever also said the county has emergency plans in place and well-trained haz-mat people.

Marshall Smith, a former aerospace engineer and physicist in Silicon Valley, agrees. Because of the prevailing easterly wind patterns, he told Nüz, "the safest place to be in the United States during a nuclear or radiological attack would be Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz or the Big Sur region--those places in between targets in San Francisco, the Moss Landing power plant and nuclear reactors along the coast in Southern California. I have had no desire to live anywhere else in the United States."

Still paranoid? Consider stocking up on potassium iodide pills to avoid thyroid damage, advises the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness site (www.oism.org/ddp). Or download its Nuclear War Survival Skills book, which is free and includes info on building your own low-cost nuclear fallout detector and bomb shelter.

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From the November 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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