Dr. Steven Miles, an associate professor at the University’s Medical School and a candidate for U.S. Senate, spoke at Macalester College on Saturday about the international community’s role in addressing economic sanctions in Iraq.
Conference organizers said Saturday’s events were intended to raise awareness about the ongoing bombing campaign and heavy economic sanctions the United Nations has imposed against Iraq.
The St. Paul symposium was a prelude to a national conference scheduled for Oct. 13-17 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Miles addressed what he called contradictions between U.S.-supported sanctions and the International Declaration of Human Rights.
The updated declaration states that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living. Miles said many items on the embargo list have worsened health conditions for Iraqis.
Miles’ medical background includes work as the chief medial officer for 45,000 refugees on the Thai-Cambodian border from 1981-82.
“The economic sanctions — actually from a technical standpoint in international law — fall outside of Geneva protocols,” Miles said. “(Sanctions) should be brought within them.”
On Sept. 23, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reaffirmed the United States’ refusal to lifts sanctions until Iraqi President Saddam Hussein complies to all parts of U.N. resolutions drafted after the Gulf War.
Miles also noted several international treaties signed by most nations but which the United States either opposes or refuses to ratify.
“We must support the treaty to ban anti-personnel land mines,” Miles said. “One hundred thirty nations have supported this treaty. The United States and only a handful of nations, like Libya, have opposed it.”
Miles cited figures that indicate 90 percent of war casualty victims are civilians, and he said that economic sanctions are a war against public health.
Some University students who attended the conference said the discussions helped reaffirm much of what they had already thought about the sanctions.
“So many people are dying so quickly,” said Christopher Mitchell, one of the coordinators of the event and a junior in political science. “Every day the sanctions are in place is another day Saddam is in power.”
Others noted that the symposium provided an outlet for debate that is not available on campus.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of activism at the University,” said Amanda Schwanz, a cultural anthropology sophomore.
John Coutley, a sophomore in political science, said the conference provided information about the sanctions that is otherwise difficult to find.
A Macalester student speaker lambasted the United States bombing and strafing of old buildings in Iraq.
“Of the 88,500 tons of bombs that fell on Iraq prior to December (1998), 70 percent missed their sites,” said Nathan Larson, a senior classics major at Macalester, citing a book written by former attorney general Ramsey Clark.
Bryan Keogh welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.