About 1.5 million Iraqis have died as a result of the United Nations Security Council's efforts to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
UNICEF has confirmed that 5,000-6,000 Iraqi children are dying every month due to the impact of the U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. These sanctions have seen everything from baby food, children's clothes, toothpaste, and ping-pong balls to disposable surgical gloves, x-ray film, and syringes banned by the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has described the sanctions as a "crime against humanity" and "genocide."
These are strong terms in anyone's language, but they are echoed by one of those best placed to know: Denis Halliday, who resigned his position as U.N. Assistant Secretary General and head of the U.N. humanitarian mission in Iraq, earlier this year, in protest at what he described as the "tragic incompatibility of the sanctions with the U.N. charter and the Convention on Human Rights."
Halliday said the humanitarian program, paid for out of the oil for food deal, was "underfunded, cumbersome, slow and costly."
Those that try and place the blame for this humanitarian catastrophe at the door of Saddam Hussein are defying logic. Shooting down a hijacked plane to punish the hijackers is not the action of a clear-thinking community.
And putting in place the most crippling sanctions in history, and in the process strengthening the position of its dictator, is not the action of a clear thinking international community driven by humanitarian concerns.
It is the cynical action of a handful of rich and powerful countries determined to protect their strategic advantage in the Middle East - in other words, to protect their access to cheap oil.
That ridding Iraq, the region, and indeed the world of weapons of mass destruction is a laudable goal is beyond argument. That more than 750,000 children should die trying to achieve that aim is, however, more than simply ironic. It is a moral obscenity.
That the U.N. body charged with ridding Iraq of its remaining weapons of mass destruction, UNSCOM, has openly admitted sharing intelligence with Israel, the region's only possessor of nuclear weapons, is an example of shameless international hypocrisy.
The legacy of the sanctions - when they are finally lifted - will be a generation of Iraqi children, who, quite rationally, will see the Western World as their deadly enemy. The sanctions will all too probably be the breeding ground for the new millennium's terrorists. And they will be terrorists determined to extract revenge for the death of more than one million of their compatriots.