Alternative Insight

The Politics of Starvation
An Updated Survey

Note: This recent survey updates a previous article.
The revised article has an INTRODUCTION, short studies of five nations; Cuba, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, North Korea and a CONCLUSION.

The powerful can't always use military might to suppress adversaries. Their own citizens and world opinion may react unfavorably and undermine a military adventure. Logistics may not favor it. Beside, they have other means. One of these means is economic warfare; a method that can silently crush an adversary without firing a shot. Gone to its extreme, economic warfare has the force of a neutron bomb: It disables the nation's infrastructure and debilitates its population.

Economic warfare requires preparation before implementation.
First, the "grieved" country accuses its adversary of intended crimes of aggression. The adversary is powerless to defend itself and becomes marked with the adjective "rogue state." Since the "rogue state" cannot ameliorate the crimes of which it is accused, being that they may not exist, and since these states are usually proud and will not compromise with their national integrity (one reason for their fate) further action must be taken against them. The next step is isolation. This step has several stages.

Although contrary to law in democratic countries and contradictory to the criticism made by the democratic countries against a policy of the former Soviet Union, which imposed travel restrictions on its citizens, the "grieved" country cautions and sometimes forbids all its citizens, except its intelligence services, to travel to the "rogue state." The "grieved" nation then uses enforcement procedures that bypass its own constitutional laws. These include actions such as heavy fines, harassment, embarrassing airport searches, letting the neighbors know, and calls from the internal revenue department. The reasons mentioned for these undemocratic actions are: to protect travelers from being contaminated with "rogue" germs, shield them from vicious propaganda and prevent them from being kidnapped for ransom and from accusations of spying. These are valid reasons, The unmentioned reasons are: to assure the "rogue country "doesn't acquire tourist dollars that might enable it to survive, make certain that travelers don't learn that all they have read and heard from their government is propaganda and prevent rogueidization in which a happy citizen suddenly sympathizes with the rogue and acquires rogue traits.

In the final stage, the "rogue state" is isolated from international agencies, relief efforts, finances and communications. After the "rogue state" is forced into an isolation it doesn't desire, it might achieve the adjective "hermit kingdom." That denomination signifies it is ready for the great strike, economic warfare. The economic warfare punch has many shapes. Sanctions that are not used against favored countries, although these nations might arouse the wrath of the world community, are used with impunity against the disfavored country. If the preferred sanctions cannot be implemented then an illegal embargo is enforced by warships that arrive close to the beaches and dwarf the rowboats of the "rogue country," or by airplanes that guard against infiltration of military weapons, such as water pumps, medicines and construction materials. Sometimes explosive mines and cluster bombs are dropped on the rogue's territory to complete the embargo. If the embargo proves insufficient for the cleansing task, then the "grieved" country might arm surrogate warriors inside or close to the "rogue country" and have them add human catastrophes to the natural catastrophes that inflict the "rogue country." Although the laws of the "grieved"country might prohibit this rash action, the laws are conviently circumvented.

Rogues that have special qualifications earn the title of terrorists. This title sticks to their names like velcro. It appears in all articles, headlines, dispatches, reports and news, as if the word terrorist followed by the country name is one word. The "terrorist nation" earns this title by committing an evil deed that is usually in response to the tens of evil deeds committed against it. No matter! Economic warfare leads to the final step in whipping a "terrorist nation "back into shape - borderline starvation. If the food supply dwindles then certainly the poor unfortunate citizens of the "terrorist nation" will act as those who proclaimed "Liberte," "Egalitie" and "Fraternitie" in the French revolution. They will storm the gates of their oppressors, take away their cake and demand bread. The United States has implemented political policies that have harmed diets in several countries. Despite the punitive measures, the leaders of the "terrorist" nations still eat cake while the populations suffer greatly from economic deprivation and, in some cases, operating at a subsitence level.

Since WWII, the United States participated in sanctions against approximately 35 countries.

"Of 104 sanctions episodes from World War II until 1990, when the United States was the undisputed Western superpower, Washington was a key player two-thirds of the time. In 80 percent of U.S.-imposed sanctions,the policy was pursued with no more than minor cooperation from its allies or international organizations, i.e., unilaterally. The enormous growth in U.S. power after the collapse of the Soviet Union becomes evident when we consider that during the four years of President Bill Clinton’s first term alone, U.S. laws and executive actions imposed new unilateral economic sanctions sixty-one times on a total of thirty-five countries. These countries were home to 2.3 billion people, or 42 percent of the world’s population, and they purchased exports of $790 billion, or 19 percent of the global export market." - Contemporary Conflicts

First think South Africa; then think Libya, Nicaragua, Burma, Sudan, Iran, Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Yugoslavia and expect others. Intentional interferences and disruptions to a nation's economy and business operations occur often from many sources, and are part of the "white collar" crime that affects the world. Economic warfare, of which sanctions are one part, is certainly more serious than "white collar" crime, and people suffer greatly from this warfare. Intentional severe reduction of living standards of people, due to interference by a foreign source, is the most serious aspect of economic warfare. It is a major crime and another form of terrorism.

The most punishing sanctions by the United States, until sanctions against Iran, have been against Cuba, North Korea and Iraq.

The United States imposed an embargo against Cuba almost immediately after the 1960 Cuban revolution. Forty plus years of embargo have not succeeded in accomplishing the policies for which the United States claims it instituted the embargo - compensation to U.S. firms nationalized by Cuba and the overthrow of the Castro regime. The only result of the embargo has been deprivation of the unfortunate Cuban people.

Cuban expropriation of American property and its land reform policies motivated the United States into decreasing Cuba's sugar subsidy and implementing an embargo that intended to deny Cuba of spare parts for the U.S. machinery that powered the Cuban economy. The Soviet Union aided Cuba in these unfortunate years by purchasing sugar at inflated market prices and forwarding strategic materials to the island. Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union strengthened Uncle Sam's determination to cripple Cuba by the use of embargo. Although the reasons for the embargo faded with the years and became totally unnecessary after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States' determination to overthrow the Castro government increased its economic warfare. In 1992, congress passed The Cuba Democracy Act, which forbade United States subsidiaries to trade with Cuba and deprived the island of $700 million in trade, 70% of which had been in food and medicine. The Act also prohibited U.S. citizens to spend money in Cuba, but allowed private groups to deliver food and medicine. Although the United Nations General Assembly on November 2, 1995, voted 117 to 3 to recommend an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba, President Clinton on March 12, 1996 signed into law The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, otherwise known as The Helms-Burton Act. This Act imposed penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, permitted U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who make use of American-owned property seized by the Cuban government and denied investors in Cuba all entry into the U.S.

A tightened embargo reinforced Cuba's suffering after Russia withdrew subsidies. The pre-90's Cuba has been credited with eliminating hunger and malnutrition and wiping out infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) complimented Cuba for its public health system. Cuba of the mid-90's portrayed another image. The American Association for World Health and the American Public Health Association determined that the embargo caused significant deterioration in Cuba's food production and health care:

New Jersey Congressman Torricelli predicted that his Cuban Democracy Act would bring Castro's downfall within one year. That did not happen. Humanitarians, such as Congressman Torricelli, have been eager to take advantage of the sufferings of the Cuban people for political purposes rather than affording the people a means to recover from their tragedy.

In 2000, the Clinton administration finally allowed Cuba to have some relief from an aggressive economic warfare. The administration passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which allowed the sale of agriculture and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian purposes. According to the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba reached $380 million in 2004. The U.S.-Cuba Trade Association estimates the total amount exported to Cuba since 2000 at nearly $2 billion.

In 2005, China and Venezuela made mutual trade deals beneficial to Cuba. During September 2006, Russia agreed to grant Cuba credit worth $355 million, as well as to restructure some of its recent debt. The intergovernmental agreement identified seven areas in which the credit will be used: investment cooperation projects, modernization of Cuba’s energy sector, reconstruction of water conservation facilities and railroads, the design and delivery of air navigation systems, and the modernization of the transportation system.

In contrast. U.S. President Bush in 2003 reinforced the embargo by prosecuting individuals known to have traveled to Cuba without a Treasury Department license and denying licenses to certain kinds of travelers, notably students, who had previously been permitted to go.

After Castro leaves his office, Cuba will probably invite more private investment. U.S. financial institutions will be eager to invest but might be too late to the party.

If Iraq were Pompeii, then the US would be Mt. Vesuvius.

The US, after destroying much of Iraq in a declared war, continued to destroy it in first an undeclared war and later in another declared total war. The undeclared war contained every imaginable form of warfare: direct military, economic, incitement to revolt, aid to insurgency, blockade, spying, and propaganda.

This suffering has been outlined in a UN Report on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, submitted to the Security Council, March 1999.
Due to the length of the report, only significant features are mentioned.

Before the Gulf War:

After the Gulf War

Observations and recommendations
Data during the 1990's pointed to a continuing degradation of the Iraqi economy with acute deterioration in the living conditions of the Iraqi population and severe strains on its social fabric. As summarized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) field office, ""the country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty". In marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the infant mortality rates in Iraq reached the highest in the world, low infant birth weight affected at least 23% of all births, chronic malnutrition affected every fourth child under five years of age, only 41% of the population had regular access to clean water, 83% of all schools need substantial repairs."

The International Study Team noted, "Most of the babies who lost their lives during the war period must have died from diseases related to poor nutrition, lack of clean water, and related deprivations."

The 2003 invasion of Iraq continued the destruction of Iraq.
Iraq is a war torn nation, with sectarian strife bordering on civil war. As of July, 2007, post-invasion deaths of Iraqi civilians are estimated at about

A London Guardian report provided additional information on the effects of the war on Iraqi civilians.

Rory Carroll in Baghdad: March 31, 2005, The Guardian

Acute malnutrition among Iraqi children aged under five nearly doubled last year because of chaos caused by the US-led occupation, a United Nations expert said yesterday.
Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food, said more than a quarter of Iraqi children do not have enough to eat and 7.7% are acutely malnourished - a jump from 4% recorded in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion.
Reporting to the commission's headquarters in Geneva, the Swiss professor claimed the situation was "a result of the war led by coalition forces.

By July 2007, child malnutrition had diminished. This has been replaced by severe psychological damage to children of the war-weary nation.

The humanitarian organization Save the Children, in a 2006 report that concerned children in conflict zones, estimated that 818,000 Iraqi children, ranging in age from 6 to 11, were not in school, roughly one in every five children in that age group. One of the studies on primary-school-age children in Baghdad found that nearly half of the 600 children surveyed had experienced a major traumatic event since the war began. Just over one in every 10 suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the study found.

The exodus of almost 2 million Iraqis to adjacent nations completes this tale of economic and social destruction to a nation that angered a world power.

North Korea
The proud and impoverished nation of North Korea has been continually subjected to sanctions, threats of economic sanctions and hastily withdrawn sanctions. The media is peppered with the words: "U.S. Lifts sanctions," "U.S. recommends sanctions," :South Korea wary of sanctions." It's difficult to know if North Korea is being sanctioned or being forced into being sanctioned. After its 2006 claim of conducting a nuclear test, the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic Korea) leaders responded to intended sanctions by labeling them as "a declaration of war."

The DPRK has, from time to time suffered from economic warfare, which includes restrictions on trade and financial transactions. Export of sensitive dual-use items (i.e., items that have both military and non-military uses) have, at times, been prohibited. Some of the sanctions:

A meager $25 million dollars of DPRK funds had been frozen in a Macao bank with charges of money laundering and counterfeiting, none of which has been proven.

June 25 — "North Korea said Monday that its dispute with the United States over $25 million frozen in a bank in Macao had been resolved, and that it would begin to carry out its much-delayed promise to shut down its main nuclear plant."

Sanctions intended to collapse the North Korea regime have only collapsed the North Korean people. Starvation during droughts have occurred. Although some international assistance has been provided to North Korea, the intensive economic warfare waged against the "hermit kingdom" has exacerbated its problems without any apparent benefit to its principal antagonist, the United States.

Warfare is visualized in terms of dead soldiers, battlefield blood, eerie noises and bombed-out structures. We can't easily comprehend that warfare can be silent and still be deadly. Economic warfare has equivalents to military war. The country that takes the offense becomes the aggressor, as in any war, and the destruction to the defending state is equally brutal. In most cases, the economic war has worse results: In a one sided manner, the civilian population of the defending nation suffers greatly and the aggressor country suffers few losses. The war rarely achieves the results that the offended party desired and no peace treaty is signed. The struggle remains an open issue.

A limited form of economic warfare may, at times, have a legitimate purpose. A complete economic war, that invades all aspects of a country's life and continues until it debilitates the population, cannot be accepted. In a military campaign, atrocities and human rights violations are often committed. Although no shots are fired and battlefields are not identifiable, economic warfare cannot camouflage its atrocities and disguise its severe human rights violations.

july 2007