While Ben Grosscup was in Basrh, Iraq, last December, he met children of all ages who showed him with pride the scars they had suffered from bombings.
Grosscup also met a young girl named Israh. Her arm had been severed by an explosion.
Those children’s scars were a testament to the ongoing airstrikes the United States has launched on the Middle Eastern state since December 1998.
Grosscup and Tad Hinnenkamp were at an Amnesty International meeting in Kolthoff Hall on Wednesday night to describe their experiences in Iraq and speak against the United Nations’ international trade sanctions against Iraq.
Grosscup, a University of St. Thomas student, and Hinnenkamp traveled to Iraq separately to witness the effect of the sanctions on Iraqi civilians.
“There’s a whole new perspective you gain after going to Iraq,” said Hinnenkamp, a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
Grosscup, a professed pacifist, said the ultimate goal of opponents to the U.N. sanctions is peace in the Middle East.
The speakers criticized the United States — by far the state with the most decision power within the United Nations — for being stubborn.
“(U.S. officials) are willing to do pretty much anything to get (Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein out of there,” Hinnekamp said.
The United Nations started imposing trade sanctions on Iraq immediately after Hussein’s troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Grosscup and Hinnenkamp provided the audience with data from several U.N. and World Health Organization studies showing that, as a result, millions of Iraqis have died in the last decade.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan chided the United States and Britain in a report this week for withholding money for humanitarian supplies for the suffering Iraqi population.
Another issue Grosscup and Hinnenkamp challenged was the 1996 oil-for-food deal. The agreement between the United Nations and the Iraqi government grants Iraq food and supplies in exchange for its oil.
The speakers blamed the American military-industrial complex, which they said has many financial interests in the Middle East, for neglecting the fate of the Iraqi population.
“There’s a lot of oil money to be made in Iraq, and I think that’s basically one of the main reasons for the sanctions,” Hinnenkamp said.
The presentation was sponsored by the University’s chapter of Amnesty International and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.
“We need to get our government to change what it’s doing,” said Joe Kirchhof, a University freshman and member of Amnesty International. “Anything people can do to raise the issue is going to help.”
The goal of Amnesty International and its University chapter is to promote awareness of human rights throughout the world.