The recent wave of Desert Storm euphoria that swept through victory parades around the country succeeded in diverting our attention away from the messy business of post-war Iraq -- at least temporarily. But to Iraqis still digging out, the war has only taken on a different form -- the continuation of economic sanctions which may ultimately be more devastating than the massive allied bombings.
"Again and again, the Iraqi people ask, 'If you won the war, why do you continue to fight us? Why can't you leave us alone to pick up the pieces?' " relates Anne Grace, Middle East representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), who recently visited Baghdad.
The Bush administration hopes the sanctions will eventually lead those loyal to Saddam Hussein to try out of desperation to oust the dictator. But foreign reporters in Iraq are told that the Iraqi elite -- especially the president -- are largely immune to the sanctions.
"The sanctions don't affect the regime," said one government insider. "They have money, cars. They can buy their way out. The poor cannot."
Most Iraqis are not able to buy high-priced foodstuffs on the open market and must depend on inadequate rations of staples such as flour, rice, and cooking oil. Clean drinking water is at a premium.
Iraqi trade for food and medicines was officially lifted from the sanctions as part of the cease-fire agreement, yet the U.N. sanctions monitoring committee denied an Iraqi request in late May to export $1 billion worth of oil to purchase those essentials. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has protested U.N. suggestions that it pay 30 percent of its oil revenues to Kuwait as war reparations.