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Posts Tagged ‘economic sanctions’

Advocates of Economic Sanctions Mirror the Morality of al Qaeda – Stark Realities

Posted by M. C. on March 18, 2021

Like Terrorists, Sanctioning Governments Intentionally Harm Civilians

Brian McGlinchey

Efforts to restore American and Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal—formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—are at an impasse.

President Biden has declared there will be no relaxing of smothering economic sanctions on Iran unless the country first returns to full compliance with the deal. Iran, which began exceeding nuclear enrichment thresholds in response to America’s total withdrawal from the deal under President Trump, wants the United States to begin easing sanctions first.

As that chess game continues, there’s something missing from op-ed pages, network news studios and the House and Senate chambers: a fundamental debate about the morality of economic sanctions.

If we reduce economic sanctions to a general characterization that encompasses both ends and means, we arrive at a truth that is as damning as it is incontrovertible:

Economic sanctions intentionally inflict suffering on civilian populations to force a change in their governments’ policies

If that has a familiar ring, perhaps it’s because “the intentional use of violence against civilians in order to obtain political aims” is one definition of terrorism.

Sanction Architect Bob Menendez, Terrorism Architect Osama bin Laden

That’s not to say “sanctions” and “terrorism” are interchangeable terms. However, both practices center on willfully harming civilians to accomplish political goals.

Like Sanctioning Governments, Terrorists Have Political Objectives

Some resist the fact that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are principally motivated by political goals. That’s understandable, given establishment media grossly underreports terrorist motivations.

The resulting vacuum is filled with reflexive and false assumptions—for example, that Muslim terrorists are principally motivated by religion—or deliberately misleading government claims, like President George W. Bush’s baseless assertion that al Qaeda terrorists “hate our freedoms.”

Through various written and recorded pronouncements, Osama bin Laden made al Qaeda’s political motivations clear. His aims included the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East, and termination of U.S. support of the region’s dictators and the government of Israel.

The political nature of terrorism was particularly apparent in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The attacks came three days before Spain’s general election, and a video received by Spanish authorities said the attacks were punishment for the country’s participation in the occupation of Iraq.

On election day, the shaken Spanish population gave an upset victory to the Socialist party, and the newly elected prime minister immediately pledged to withdrawal Spanish troops from Iraq.

Those examples focus on al Qaeda and its kin, but terrorists of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities have political aims. An exhaustive study of worldwide suicide bombing by University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape found nearly all such attacks seek “to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”

Like Terrorists, Sanctioning Governments Intentionally Harm Civilians

In a hearing earlier this month, Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has been one of Capitol Hill’s most prolific authors of Iran sanction legislation, praised sanctions as part of “our arsenal of peaceful diplomacy.”

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip that led him to oxymoronically place his supposedly “peaceful” sanctions inside an “arsenal”—in their effect, there’s little difference between imposing economic sanctions and mining Iranian harbors.

Of course, “peaceful” isn’t the favorite adjective of sanction advocates. When boasting about their handiwork, Menendez and others invariably use a far more appropriate descriptor: “crippling.” Barack Obama @BarackObamaVP Biden on Iran: “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions. Period.”October 12th 2012758 Retweets220 Likes

Officials assure us that sanctions are meant to cripple governments, but any honest observer understands that’s achieved by first crippling the country’s economy.

Since the concept of economic harm is somewhat abstract, it’s easy for Americans to limit their visualization of that harm to a downward slope on a gross domestic product chart, failing to appreciate what economic warfare means to the everyday lives of individual humans.

Occasionally, though, American media provides a window on the harms being visited upon the Iranian people.

Consider a 2019 Los Angeles Times story, “Middle-Class Iranians Resort to Buying Rotting Produce as U.S. Sanctions Take Toll.” Reading the title alone would give most Americans a far better appreciation of sanctions’ real-world impact. The article provides other examples, such as a single mother forced by skyrocketing prices into abandoning her apartment and moving into her mother’s one-bedroom dwelling.

While the U.S. sanctions regime provides exceptions for Iran’s import of food and medicine, other limitations on the flow of Iranian money—and vendors’ and bankers’ fears of accidentally running afoul of U.S. restrictions—often render those exceptions meaningless.

As a result, sanctions can have profound consequences for Iran’s sick. Among other observations, a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch found:

  • Iranian patients with rare diseases were finding it increasingly difficult to access essential, imported medicines
  • A pediatric cancer treatment center was unable to acquire medications deemed essential by the World Health Organization
  • Patients with epidermolysis bullosa—a rare disease that causes blistering— had their supply of a special kind of foam dressing cut off when a European producer ceased business in Iran due to U.S. sanctions. The domestic alternative dressing “often gets attached to the blisters, causing excruciating pain for the patients,” according to an attorney representing a health NGO.

The report also noted Iranians were finding it harder to acquire imported eye drops, “causing suffering for the large number of patients affected by chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.”

Exasperatingly, many of those eye patients are being victimized by the U.S. government for a second time: During the Iran-Iraq War, American intelligence officials provided targeting information to the Iraqi military, fully aware Saddam Hussein’s forces would attack with chemical weapons.

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TGIF: U(nspeakably) S(adistic) Foreign Policy | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on March 13, 2021

by Sheldon Richman

sign warning that economic sanctions are ahead

If you had set out to construct a foreign policy designed to impose indescribable suffering on millions of innocent people around the world, you’d have a tough time coming up with anything more systematic and effective than U.S. foreign policy. An inventory of U.S. direct military and covert operations, aid to savage governments and murderous “rebels,” and economic sanctions would easily lead one to think that the architects of this constellation of policies aimed to inflict death and maximum pain on innocent bystanders. It has been one series of crimes against humanity.

That would be an oversimplification of course. Clearly, the makers and executors of those policies have not merely aimed to inflict such suffering on innocents. Larger geopolitical goals have always been in play. But that by no means mitigated the results, which have been foreseeable and avoidable. Besides, the geopolitical goals are themselves to be condemned, seeing as how they flow from U.S. rulers’ “exceptional nation” zeal to shape the world according to their idea of what’s good.

Nor does it help to point out that the foreign regimes and other targets of U.S. policy have often perpetrated unfathomable brutality against innocents. The fact is that U.S. intervention predictably enlarges local and regional violence by orders of magnitude. So other people’s crimes are no excuse for U.S. piling on.

Over many years, from Latin America to Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia, U.S. policymakers have imposed great hardship in a variety of forms: open combat through invasion and occupation, covert activities, and aid to allied repressive governments and insurgent groups aiming at regime change.

And then there are the economic sanctions. The U.S. government seems ready to impose sanctions on a population at the drop of a hat. (Thomas Jefferson called sanctions “peaceful coercion” presumably because shots need not be fired.) News of sanctions gets good play in the media. They may even bring sighs of relief if the public sees them as a substitute for sending American troops into yet another endless war. But detailed media follow-up is rare, and the real story of suffering is rarely told. On their own, most people won’t give the sanctions on any given country a moment’s thought, much less use their common sense to trace out the lethal implications. They certainly won’t read sources that specialize in meticulous description of the ugly consequences.

Sanctions of course cut the target population off from global trade/finance and humanitarian assistance. The policy is meant to keep building materials, food, medicines, medical equipment, and other critical goods from reaching the victims of the policy. These are not unavoidable and unfortunate secondary consequences or collateral damage. They are the prime objective. That is nothing less than policy sadism, crimes against humanity.

Often sanctions are defended on the grounds that they will cause the stricken people to rise up and overthrow their bad rulers. But does that ever happen? It appears not. (The U.S. government has had sanctions on Cuba and Iran for a very long time, to name just two stark examples.)

Instead, people rally around “their” existing government in opposition to the cruel foreign government that is making their lives miserable. That’s the most likely reaction, and it’s unreasonable to expect otherwise. (Not that the policy would be justified under other circumstances.)

As has been pointed out so often, sanctions also give the government of the target country a plausible excuse for its own home-grown economic disasters. A government that tries to centralize economic activity according to a top-down plan will always fail miserably, creating terrible hardship including starvation  and disease for the public. In the absence of foreign intervention, the target public might figure out that the hardship is the government planners’ fault, and that could lead to some kind of movement for change, possibly toward a free or at least freer market-based society.

But if the country is the target of sanctions, especially imposed by the powerful U.S. government (which has the clout to force other governments to comply), the local rulers can blame their own shortcomings on the outside intervention–blockades, boycotts, and the like–and survive. The self-serving rulers may even be able to throw in credible allegations about CIA-sponsored “liberal” insurgents because this sort of thing has happened often before. Most people in the population won’t have the information necessary to understand their rulers’ crimes and so will continue to look to those rulers for assistance in hard times. Savvy governments will score points by providing some relief to at least part of the population. Meanwhile, the rulers will demonize America, perhaps even creating conditions in which terrorism takes place.

In other words, sanctions may be counterproductive even from the point of view of the U.S. government. This, however, may not be the case if it wants to sow chaos in the target country and use terrorism as an excuse to violate civil liberties at home. That, too, of course would be sadism in action.

While I’ve focused on the harm U.S. sanctions inflict on the target populations, we should also mention that they have bad consequences for Americans who are not part of the policy elite. Sanctions obviously forbid them from trading with the target populations, harming firms and their employees and shareholders. This should not be overlooked, though the primary victims are the people of the target countries.

The upshot is that in the name of the American people but without their real consent, the political elite casually imposes unimaginable cruelties on foreign populations in pursuit of objectives that are not in the interest of Americans. The ordinary people of the target countries simply do not count in the policymakers’ global gamesmanship. They are expendable. This is intolerable. Somehow the mass of the American people must be made aware of this long-standing cruelty so that they may be enlisted in a campaign to finally end the unspeakable sadism.

TGIF–The Goal Is Freedom–appears occasionally on Fridays.

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Doug Casey: Iran Is a Danger to No One – Casey Research

Posted by M. C. on May 25, 2019

Justin: Doug, how do you see the situation in the Middle East playing out? Do you think we’re on the verge of a major shooting war?

Doug: The way the U.S. is antagonizing Iran is stupid, criminal, dangerous, and counterproductive.

Right now, one or more carrier groups are sitting in the Persian Gulf. Presumably to intimidate the Iranians – which makes no sense. It amounts to bullying, going out of your way to pick a fight. The U.S. had better hope this adventure doesn’t spin out of control, because the Gulf is a narrow, shallow sea. Those ships are sitting ducks. A number of them, including a $15 billion carrier, could wind up as a new artificial reef.

How can that happen? U.S. carrier groups are well defended with all kinds of advanced weaponry. But every country today, absolutely including Iran, has supersonic sea-skimming missiles. In addition to ballistic missiles. Even poor backward places like North Korea, with the gross domestic product the size of a medium U.S. city, is a dangerous opponent.

Taking out a carrier in the Gulf, which Caesar would have called a “narrow and difficult” place, won’t be hard. But there won’t just be one missile approaching at 2000 mph from perhaps 30 miles away. They’ll launch them by the hundreds, and quantity has a quality all its own.

That could happen if the U.S. provokes the Iranians. And if that happens, the U.S. will feel obligated to counter attack. The cat’s out of the bag at that point. This could go in any direction, unpredictably, and get completely out of control. It could lead to something resembling World War III. It’s criminally stupid to go looking for trouble – pointlessly – on the other side of the world. The Iranians pose no threat to anyone. In fact, they have cordial relations with everyone in the region, and the world, except the Israelis and the Saudis.

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