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Kathy Kelly: Monetizing Mercy

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    Where is the UN? Can It Prevent Monetizing Mercy? KATHY KELLY CounterPunch www.counterpunch.org/kelly06272005.html [See website above for photo: Iraqi child,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2005
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      Where is the UN? Can It Prevent Monetizing Mercy?

      [See website above for photo: Iraqi child, severely malnourished]

      In Baghdad, under economic sanctions, landing a job in a hotel offered
      at least a steady pittance of earnings. Some men made ends meet by
      working two eight hour shifts in different hotels. A dignified, well
      educated fellow would don a restaurant worker's uniform in one hotel
      to serve tables all day and then quickly change into the uniform of a
      maintenance crew worker at the hotel across the street so that he
      could spend the next eight hours sweeping up cigarette butts.

      But over time, in spite of the glaring disparities between their
      material well being and ours, durable friendships developed between
      members of Voices in the Wilderness delegations and the workers at
      hotels where we stayed. When, on rare occasions, we'd visit their
      homes, we'd leave wishing we could alleviate the harsh circumstances
      in which they lived. Especially during rainy, cold or extremely hot
      seasons, their homes were inadequate shelters. And they would never be
      able to save any money to get ahead working at the hotels.

      Most of the men I knew no longer work at the hotels. Now that Baghdad
      is the most dangerous city in the world, random groups fire mortars,
      bombs, and other explosives at hotels. Some men were willing to risk
      staying on the job but were laid off by managers who, with few guests,
      couldn't meet payrolls.

      We've lost contact with most of our old friends. We often worry about
      them. But, occasionally, an email will arrive. Here is an excerpt from
      a letter sent June 4, 2005, from Ali, a gardener, a man who treated
      plants and people with great tenderness. He also admired Gandhi and,
      after the Occupation began, spoke at length with us about how much
      hope he placed in the possibility that nonviolent movements could
      emerge in Iraq.

      Ali wrote:

      "What happened in US if any one from US army feels hungry? For sure
      you all now saying the US government will do all they can to do, even
      they will send in… many airplanes … bringing all the best types of
      good energy foods and best supplements to make them (the army)
      stronger to kill the life in poor people. BUT, what about if any one
      from Iraqi people feels hungry? Simply the answer is no one will care
      about us…

      In every month when Iraqi families go to the shops to get the (oil for
      food rations) foods, we just get some of the things:

      1. Tea.
      2. Milk of adults.
      3. Soap.
      4. Oils.
      5. Sugar (some months).
      And other important types are not found:
      1. Milk of babies.
      2. Rice.
      3. Flour.
      4. beans.

      So, why we are still suffering from hungry and may be some families
      rich or they have the ability of shopping but what about others
      sleeping without dinner and what about the crying of baby for milk and
      his mother dying to give it to him, crying … who give mercy to her and
      her baby? Where is Bush and his flag he carried to bring the democracy
      and freedom? Who is the hero in our government … and why all the world
      organizations still silent and where is the UN?"
      Where is the UN?

      It's unthinkable, but an honest answer to Ali's question about the UN
      would acknowledge that in two days time, the UN will very likely
      tighten the thumbscrews still further in afflicting pain on innocent
      Iraqis. June 28–30, 2005, the United Nations Compensation Commission
      (UNCC) will hold its final round of discussions before determining how
      much of an outstanding 65 billion in reparations Iraq should be
      required to pay for Saddam Hussein's 1990-91 warmaking.

      In the years between 1996–2003, the UNCC approved 52.1 billion in
      payment to individuals, companies and countries. As one of the most
      secretive of all UN organizational structures, the UNCC forbade the
      Iraqi negotiators to see many of the claims made against them, refused
      to allow Iraq to contest claims it did see, and forced the Iraqis to
      underwrite expenses for translation of all documents as it insisted
      that no discussions be held in Arabic.

      The UNCC could have chosen to pay the individual claimants but then
      ask the countries and companies, many of them quite wealthy, to wait
      until Iraq was first able to meet the needs of starving and diseased
      children. It could still choose to give priority to alleviating
      suffering in Iraq.

      Instead, after all of the decisions are recorded, after the lawyers,
      accountants, claims analysts, secretaries, translators, and
      negotiators sign off on their part in the procedures, Iraq will very
      likely face demands to continue using its desperately needed oil
      revenue to pay reparations to claimants whose complaints are deemed
      more worthy of attention than the pleas raised in Ali's letter.

      In the coming months, Ali may find that world bodies such as the IMF
      and the World Bank, when they step up to the plate to negotiate
      payment schedules that Iraq will be forced to meet, will insist that
      Iraq's government impose austerity measures such as "monetizing
      subsidies." In other words, the mothers whose lament Ali wants us to
      hear would be told that they must pay for their meager ration baskets.

      Today is the 60th birthday of the United Nations. In only six decades,
      the UN mission to eliminate the scourge of warfare and uphold basic
      human rights has scored remarkable gains. In many disputes, worldwide,
      the UN is the only referee on the bench.

      And yet, the warmakers, weapon manufacturers and rabid money makers
      have held on to and gained significant footholds within the UN. 85% of
      the world's weapon sales are controlled by the five veto bearing
      members of the UN Security Council; in very recent history, The U.S.
      and the UK have used the UN to wage economic and military warfare
      against innocent people in Iraq. And the UNCC has been a black stain
      on UN history.

      There are no adequate answers to Ali's anguished letter. In a fair and
      just world governance, the US would be required to pay reparations to
      Iraq. Such justice seems utterly elusive right now, but those of us
      who live in countries where we ostensibly can influence our
      governments, bear responsibility to break silence and hold up a mirror
      to reveal the greatest scandals happening within the UN at the behest
      of the Security Council.

      Perhaps future generations can one day celebrate the rebirth of a UN
      committed to paying recompense to those who are most in need, a UN
      unshackled from the demands of warmakers and money mongers.

      Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness
      (www.vitw.org). Her book, Other Lands Have Dreams, was recently
      published by Counterpunch.Along with eight other internationals, Kelly
      is on day 11 of the Geneva Fast for Economic Justice for Iraq. They
      will end their fast on the final day of UNCC deliberations (June 30)
      which are occurring at the UN in Geneva. She can be reached at:
      Kathy @ vitw.org



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