January article 2012

Chapter 13: Judge Jones dismisses the case (January 2012)

Welcome to the thirteenth monthly posting: As those who have followed this website will know, the U.S. has been suing me to collect a $10,000 fine. In 1997 I was unwilling to ask for a U.S. license for a trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay that fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On December 28th, the judge issued his ruling: “For the reasons stated herein, the court concludes that the Government did not timely sue Mr. Sacks. The court DISMISSES this case with prejudice and directs the clerk to enter judgment for Mr. Sacks.” That means the fine against me goes away. My Declaration, our Briefs, the Court’s ruling, and two good media summaries are available here.

This ruling has released me from a significant financial burden but denied me a chance to use the courtroom to say what I’ve been saying here at IraqiKids.org for 12 months. So I plan to use my workshop at Seattle’s MLK Day event to have my say. Here’s my invitation to the media:


Date: Monday, January 16, 2012, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Time: 9:30 – 10:45 am
Place: Garfield High School, 400 23rd Ave, Seattle
Theme of the day: “Recapturing MLK Jr.’s Revolutionary Spirit”

In the midst of Vietnam on April 4th, 1967, Dr. King made a revolutionary statement:
… the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.
In the midst of our current war on terrorism here is another revolutionary statement:
… the greatest purveyor of terrorism in the world today is my own government.

That is the theme of a workshop by Bert Sacks at this year’s MLK Day events. Despite amazing misuses of the term “terrorism” – e.g., by the Orlando Mayor who called folks “food terrorists” who were distributing food to the needy – our legal code does have a definition. It is not difficult to find, yet it remains a revolutionary question to ask: Might this apply to U.S. policy on Iraq, 1991-2003?

Sacks will raise this question at Garfield. He says evidence is available from many public sources, but he will focus on statements by Madeleine Albright from her book Madam Secretary. He will also ask several more basic and interesting questions: What are the consequences of not looking at the issue? Why is it so difficult (and revolutionary) for Americans to consider the question? How would a nonviolent attitude bring insight into these questions and the people involved?

In a 1996 interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes Madeleine Albright answered Leslie Stahl’s question about half a million Iraqi children’s deaths with the blunt reply, “We think it is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.” (Madam Secretary, p 275, emphasis added)

She did not question that statistic – not on 60 Minutes and not in her 2003 book – and she did not question that ending economic sanctions could prevent deaths. Instead she wished she’d said: “Saddam Hussein could have prevented any child from suffering by simply meeting his obligations.” (p 275) This admits that the suffering (and death) of Iraqi children was to coerce Saddam Hussein.

Former U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer cites our law: “Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2331 defines international terrorism as acts dangerous to human life … when those acts are intended … to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

If economic sanctions were to force Saddam Hussein “to comply with his obligations,” what were they? According to the UN resolution, sanctions would end when Iraq was disarmed. Our 2003 invasion of Iraq proved that Iraq had been disarmed. But Albright writes, “The senior President Bush had vowed that sanctions would never be lifted as long as Saddam remained in power.” (p 275)

There’s more. Albright calls the 60 Minutes program “Iraqi propaganda” and regrets that “Little effort was made to explain … [that] we were not embargoing medicine.” (p 274)

Except that we were! In 2011, the Seattle Times made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. sanctions agency (OFAC) and found there were seven license requests to send medicine to Iraq in 1993. Four were denied. Even when two were granted, OFAC said no U.S. person may use his or her own money to buy the medicine.

Denying medicine to those in need is unequivocally “an act dangerous to human life.” When done to overthrow a government it is an admission of terrorism.

What happens when we don’t look at this issue? Very simply, much of the world does look. It is dangerous for us not to recognize how a significant part of the world sees us.

Why is it so difficult for us to look at this question? As Americans we are constantly bombarded with two messages: Go shopping! (Remember President Bush after 9/11.) That’s one. The second is this. The world is a dangerous place because there are a lot of “bad guys” out there.

Given this division of the world into bad guys and good guys, it’s obvious we’d want to see ourselves as good guys and would resist information that might challenge that label. A wiser view is not to accept a label of bad or good – but to resist dividing the world into these two camps. That is an idea which leads directly to violence. How much of the violence in our country is based on the “simple” attitude in the following quote?

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Solzhenitsyn

Which leads to the final question Sacks will speak to at the workshop. How would a nonviolent perspective bring insight into these questions and the people involved?

If the notion of good guys and bad guys leads to violence, what leads to a nonviolent attitude? Sacks claims that a good start, strangely enough, is a genuine willingness to be introspective and honest about oneself. He says when he feels himself getting angry at Madeleine Albright, he reminds himself of times he has avoided knowing a truth about some situation because it would require him to take action – or to know something – which he didn’t want to do or know about.

No one doubts that sometimes people act and do bad things, even terrible things. Sacks also reminds himself – when he assures himself that he hasn’t done anything that bad – that he really doesn’t know how he would have acted if he’d grown up in another’s life circumstances and experiences.

This does not keep him from opposing actions he sees as harmful. On the contrary, this perspective helps him, he says, to be less emotional and more skillful in opposing those actions, not making them into a basis for a personal attack. All of which is ongoing work – trying to make things better “out there” by making them better inside.

Contact: Bert Sacks, media@IraqiKids.org


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