Speakers discuss

by Brian Close

Iraqi music and pastries treated visitors of the Carlson School of Management on Saturday to a picture of life in Iraq.
The Iraq Peace Action Coalition, a group that includes the Progressive Student Organization and the University-YW, sponsored the discussion of the United States’ policies in Iraq.
After hearing from several speakers, the 40 participants broke into smaller workshops to discuss some specific aspects of United States-Iraq relations.
Mike Miles, a member of Voices in the Wilderness, a group opposing sanctions against Iraq, talked about his experiences bringing medicine into Iraq. He said the people of Iraq were very friendly after reading a brochure explaining their mission.
“We gave our fliers to taxis and shopkeepers, and they would refuse to take our money,” he said.
Miles had strong criticism for the sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
“The problem is not that Iraq needs relief,” he said. “What they need is to be able to sell oil to buy what they need to survive.”
The United Nations’ oil-for-food agreement allows Iraq to sell a certain amount of oil to buy food and medicine. However, Miles said, much of the money is earmarked by the United Nations for the Kurds and for Kuwait to pay for reparations from the Persian Gulf War.
To portray Iraq’s food situation, Miles passed around a plate with typical rations, including a half cup of rice, 1.5 cups of wheat flour, some oil and sugar. He said the conditions in Iraq have led to an exodus of the middle class, the group needed for stability in the country.
“The ones who can, flee,” he said. “The others are trying to stay alive.”
Abdulwahab Asamarai, who moved to the United States from Iraq in 1981, discussed the living conditions and culture of the people of Iraq, while Iraqi music played in the background.
He showed pictures of the people of Iraq, as well as the city of Baghdad. He said the family connection is very strong; he counts 500 people as relatives.
He agreed with Miles’ assessment that the U.N. sanctions are causing the emigration of Iraq’s educated professionals.
“This kind of sanction will destroy the social structure of Iraq,” he said.
Kathryn Haddad, president of the Minnesota chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, spoke about the media’s portrayal of Arabs.
“The prevalence of negative images makes it easy for the American people to accept the destruction of the Arab people,” she said.
Some of the participants will travel to Iraq in several weeks to bring medicine to Iraqi hospitals.