The Iraq Solidarity Campaign is renewing its call to the international anti-occupation movements to build resistance to the plans by the regime of Jalal Talabani and Nouri Al-Maliki, who plan to eliminate the food ration system by June 2008.
According to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, ending the ration system will mean that “over 5 million Iraqis will be denied assistance” and have warned that the change will lead to an increase in the levels of starvation and malnutrition, particularly among children.
The system was established by Saddam Hussein during United Nations sanctions, which were imposed during and after the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It was lauded by the world body as an effective tool to prevent hunger in the country and was also praised for being the world’s largest and most effective relief effort.
Aid agencies say the reduction in the rations will further hurt Iraqis, millions of whom are already facing a humanitarian crisis. The UN says that one in four children under the age of 5 is chronically malnourished, and at least four million Iraqis are in need of food assistance.
According to Gina Chon of the Wall Street Journal, “the rationing program cost more than $3 billion in 2007”, adding to the vast expense of maintain the occupation, along with carrying out military operations against civilians. However, Because of Iraq’s double-digit inflation and higher international food prices, the cost is expected to reach more than $7 billion this year.
“The Iraqi government says it wants to move away from expensive subsidies and adopt market mechanisms. That goal has been lauded by the World Bank and others. The government has been curbing the program for months. Starting this year, only flour, sugar, rice, oil, and infant milk were part of the rations package.”
But in June, the government plans to end the rationing program altogether for many of Iraq’s citizens. Under the current program, every family received rations, regardless of their means. After the summer, only the “needy” will be eligible for the program. The government estimates five million of Iraq’s 28 million people would be ineligible for the rations under the new system.
Whilst the international pressure to end the occupation grows, a clear message needs to be sent to both the occupying powers and the “government” they have set up: that ending the rations to the Iraqi people is nothing less than an act of collective punishment.
With imperialism having already killed 1.5 million children through the UN-imposed sanctions, coupled with the one million dead since the 2003 invasion began, the populations of those in “Coalition” countries have a moral and legal duty to the people of Iraq, to ensure that an extra five million lives are not added to the growing lists of the dead, through their own governments’ silent complicity in ending Iraq’s ration system.
Sign the petition today:
Hussein Al-Alak is Chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign.
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This post was written by Hussein Al-alak