A very thorough and extensive timeline of U.S. relations with Iraq from 1979 to 2004 is available at these two sites. There are other excellent sources for the overall history of economic sanctions against Iraq, such as CASI’s website based in the UK. Therefor the timeline presented here will focus only on my own history, the fine and the law suit. The first few entries are lengthy because I wish to explain the background of my involvement.
March 22, 1991 The New York Times carried a front-page story surveying the conditions in Iraq immediately after the 1991 Gulf War. The survey, by UN Under Secretary General Martti Ahtisaari, called the Iraqi situation “near apocalyptic” and that “the bombing has relegated Iraq to a pre-industrical age.” His report warned that the nation could soon face “epidemic and famine.” The very same article continued: “[T]he United States has argued against any premature relaxation [of sanctions] in the belief that by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power. (emphasis added) I was stunned then — and continue to be stunned — that our newpaper of record would so publicly announce that the U.S. was going to use epidemic and famine to overthrow the government of Iraq.
June 23, 1991 The Washington Post in a front-page story described the destruction of Iraq’s electrical-generating plants during the Gulf War — and the reasons given by the Pentagon bombing planners: “Saddam Hussein cannot restore his own electricity,” [U.S.A.F. Colonel John Warden III] said. “He needs help. If there are political objectives that the U.N. coalition has, it can say, ‘Saddam, when you agree to do these things, we will allow people to come in and fix your electricity.’ It gives us long-term leverage.” Another planner said, “People say, ‘You didn’t recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage,’” said the planning officer. “Well, what were we trying to do with [United Nations-approved economic] sanctions — help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of sanctions.” (emphasis added)
Thanksgiving 1994 I had personal business in Boston. While there I made a life-changing decision: I decided to track down a report from a group then called the Harvard Study Team (later called the International Study Team or IST) which had gone to Iraq in 1991 after the first Gulf War. They were quoted in the (same) Washington Post article that by their estimate the destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and sanctions were going to cause some 170,000 Iraqi children to die as a consequence. I found someone who’d been on that team and was pointed to a New England Journal of Medicine article from September 1992. It contained the estimate that 46,900 Iraqi children had died in the first eight months of 1991; these were excess deaths above the number of deaths that would otherwise occur. (Since that time 15 years ago I could not leave this issue alone.)
November 1996 I made my first trip to Iraq as one member of a Voices in the Wilderness delegation. Voices in the Wilderness was formed early in 1996 “to nonviolently challenge the economic warfare being waged by the US against the people of Iraq.” We publicly violated the U.S. sanctions on Iraq — and informed U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno of our plans. In return we were warned of a possible 12 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine. Altogether I made eight more trips to Iraq, through September-October 2002. The purpose was to bring needed medicines, medical supplies, even embargoed medical textbooks. But the greater purpose was to bring back to Americans the very under-reported story of what U.S. policy was doing to normal Iraqi people and to their children.
November 21-30, 1997 On this my second trip to Iraq — when our trip was reported on the ABC and NBC Nightly News and even in the New York Times — when we returned to the U.S. we were interviewed by Customs agents.
December 3, 1998 This led to what the agency responsible for enforcing U.S. sanctions — Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) — calls a pre-penalty notice. We replied to that notice, explaining why we had openly done what we had.
May 17, 2002 I was sent a penalty notice from OFAC. On June 17, 2002, I was in Washington, DC, for a press conference to explain why I would not pay the fine — and to hand deliver my letter (with 100 pages of supporting evidence) to OFAC. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper did a front-page story.
January 14, 2004 We filed suit against OFAC in federal district court in Seattle.
October 22, 2004 Judge Robart filed his judgment against us on all of the substantive points. In particular, his ruling on international law and our claim of genocide against the Iraqi people was shocking to me. (I’ll cover this much more in the sub-page Legal documents.)
October 10, 2006 We fared no better with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They affirmed Judge Robart’s decisions in their own ruling.
April 16, 2007 The U.S. Supreme Court rejected our petition of certiorari — i.e., they refused to consider our case (one ‘petitions’ but doesn’t ‘appeal’ to the Supreme Court).
March 29, 2010 The United States of America has elected to file suit against me to collect the fine (and interest and penalties) which I refused to pay in 2002 for my 1997 trip to Iraq.
September 19, 2011 This is the date of the trial to collect the fine and penalties. It will be in Seattle federal district court with Judge Richard A. Jones. I will post and email more details when they are known.