Humanitarian panel debates military repercussions of Sept. 11

Naomi Kim

The United States must stop violating human rights, end sanctions against Iraq and support mediation in the Middle East, a panel of humanitarian organization participants said at a forum Sunday.

More than 100 people attended “After Sept. 11: Reconstructing the World,” at the Unitarian Church of Evanston. The event was co-sponsored by the Peace and Justice Group of Unitarian Church and Neighbors for Peace, a community-based organization formed in response to the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan after Sept. 11.

“Often we see our government doesn’t create peace and justice but pursues a corporate interest,” said Emerald Young, a member of Neighbors for Peace. “This war and the war to be are packaged as a war on terrorism – a one size fits all. The media has suppressed civilian casualties. The dispersion of truth is the first step to reconstructing our democracy.”

Nancy J. Bothne, midwest regional director of Amnesty International, discussed the organization’s stance on U.S. human rights violations and said citizens should hold the government responsible for its actions. The United States must stop detaining its citizens without cause, she said, and should train military personnel to comply with international human rights laws.

Bothne said international human rights agreements are “essential to building a just and peaceful world.” Sept. 11 has led to a violation of these rights and U.S. military action has caused other nations to “position themselves internally against terrorism,” she said.

“One country’s terrorism is another country’s freedom fighters,” Bothne said, noting that some nations have censored the media and persecuted anti-government groups.

She also said Amnesty International made recommendations to Congress to protect refugees against torture, end the military draft of children and defuse land mines in Afghanistan.

“Human rights laws are internationally agreed upon … standards of conduct,” she said. “The United States has an obligation to report what’s happening … which it has not.”

Gabe Huck and Theresa Kubasak, members of Voices in the Wilderness, said U.S. sanctions have led to “the devastation of Iraq.” Their slides of children in schools, hospitals, refugee camps and soup kitchens illustrated the damage civilians suffered during the Persian Gulf War. Kubasak said that because the United States bombed all of Iraq rather than military-occupied areas, much of the nation’s water supply was contaminated.

One in eight babies in Iraq dies before age 1 and 5,000 children die every month due to malnutrition, waterborne diseases and lack of medicine, Kubasak said.

“It’s a police state and we don’t deny that, but these sanctions don’t affect Saddam Hussein,” Kubasak said. “It’s affecting ordinary people and their children.”

Huck said the United States was responsible for Iraq’s current condition.

“They were an educated and advancing country but now for the past 11 years, they’ve been turned into a soup kitchen,” he said. “By terrorists – by us.”