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We are not against all sanctions. Sometimes there are good reasons to use sanctions. However, it is important to understand that sanctions have frequently led to war throughout history. They often kill more people than some wars. They can result in mass starvation and deprivation of medical supplies from civilians. Sanctions are a type of collective punishment. They should be used sparingly. They are not the magic solution to everything. They also pose a threat to the enitire world economy and can bring down credit structures.
Is it okay to kill large numbers of civilians?
The 60 Minutes interviewer, Leslie Stahl, asked Madeleine Albright (Former Secretary of State) about the U.S. sanctions on Iraq and the large death toll that followed.
"We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"
Madeleine Albright, replied: "I think this is a very hard choice. But the price–we think the price is worth it." (May, 1996)
What do the Geneva Conventions say about mass death?
The Geneva Conventions are the most important treaties to establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.
Collective punishment upon innocent people is not allowed in the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions are four treaties, and three additional protocols. The singular term "Geneva Convention" usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–1945), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties and added two new conventions.
The Geneva Convention specifically states, "Persons taking no active part in the intelligibilities in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria."
For more on what the Geneva Convention states, check out our page: The Geneva Convention and the Treatment of Civilians
Coalition Denounces US Sanctions Harming People Worldwide (Common Dreams, 4-28-22) Read Letter Here
A coalition of two dozen organizations on Thursday urged President Joe Biden to overhaul U.S. policies regarding economic sanctions and blockades so that they no longer amount to "unjust collective punishment of civilian populations around the globe."
Sanctions as a Tool of War
Therefore, as we see from the text above, the murder of innocent people by sanctions is explicitly condemned.
UN: Catastrophic failure as civilians ravaged by war violations 70 years after Geneva Conventions (Amnesty International, 5-22-19)
Sanctions Kill Twitter
Sanctions Fact Sheet/Over 40 Countries (Sanctions Kill)
The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (Amazon Book)
Opinion | Killing Them Softly With Sanctions (Common Dreams | Tom Gallagher, 6-25-20)
Pope Speaks Out Against Sanctions
Pope Calls for End to Global Sanctions
Sanctions As A Threat to Global Economy
The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (Amazon Book)
U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Could Take a Wide Toll (New York Times, 1-29-22)
US sanctions on Russia affect defense, tech, finance (Aljazeera, 2-24-22)
The Russian Sanctions
DISCLAIMER: We absolutely condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the harshest terms. Our sympathies and support goes out to the Ukrainian people. However, we believe it is important to study the widespread global effects of the sanctions against Russia.
The U.S. issuing harsher sanctions against Russia could threaten the whole world economy. Already it has caused gas prices to spike. This could also cause a global food shortage.
America is currently the world's largest debtor. Meanwhile, Europe depends on Russian gas. American economic warfare against Russia could end up devastating the U.S. economy if it creates major shifts in world credit flows. After all, why trust America with your money if America will try to seize it any time it does not like your policies?
Sanctions against Russia will affect the economy of Western countries in a variety of ways. They will have effects against the auto industry, the tech industry, and the finance sector.
Potential Effects of Sanctions on Russian People
Previous experience shows that comprehensive sanctions isolate and impoverish the general population, while elites have the resources to evade or even exploit them, said Mark Taylor, a human rights expert who focuses on the economic dimensions of armed conflicts.
“There used to be this argument that comprehensive sanctions were a way to kind of impoverish the society that would eventually rise up and overthrow their bad leaders,” Taylor told openDemocracy. “That logic is gone. It’s just been proven to not work and actually strengthens the regimes in certainly anything like the medium term (Open Democracy).”
Sanctions against Russia are already having an impact on its economy. The ruble, Russia’s currency, has lost about a quarter of its value since the Ukraine invasion began. Lines have been stretching at some Russian ATMs as people try to withdraw their money. That’s driven fears about bank runs that made Moscow double interest rates to convince people to keep their money in bank deposits.
“It’s going to be very, very hard to continue to provide the daily needs of the Russian people, and it’s going to be even harder for the Russian people to be able to afford what they need,” said Globality CEO Joel Hyatt, whose company uses artificial intelligence to source business services. Russia imports a lot of food, chemicals and machinery, Hyatt said. All that, when paired with a currency in freefall, will even affect the cost of what Russia itself produces — like wheat for bread. There could be mass starvation in Russia. This has certainly been the case in past countries sanctioned by the U.S.
What are the Sanctions on Russia Trying to Achieve? (Peter Beinart, 3-14-22)
Economic Consequences of War (Counterpunch, 3-1-22)
What would Western sanctions mean for Russia? (Open Democracy, 2-8-22)
How sanctions could make life harder for Russian citizens (Marketplace, 2-28-22)
Mexico won't impose sanctions on Russia, López Obrador says (The Hill, 3-1-22)
U.S. Sanctions Killed Over 500,000 Children in Iraq
Sanctions against Iraq began in 1990, four days after Iraq's invasion in Kuwait, and stayed largely in force until 2003.
The sanctions were not limited to military supplies. There were heavy sanctions on food and basic medical supplies for the Iraqi population.
Due to these sanctions, there were high rates of malnutrition and the spread of diseases. On May 2000, a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) survey noted that almost half of the children under 5 years of age suffered from diarrhea.
576,000 children were killed by these sanctions. (The New York Times, 12-1-95)
Former Humanitarian Coordinator of UN Says Sanctions Against Iraq Amounted to Genocide
Years of United Nations economic sanctions against Iraq have created genocidal conditions and should be eliminated, Denis Halliday, former Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN, told a Cornell audience.
"We are now in there responsible for killing people, destroying their families, their children, allowing their older parents to die for lack of basic medicines," Halliday said during a lecture titled "Sanctions Against Iraq: Consequences and Alternatives," Sept. 24, in Goldwin Smith Hall's Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium. "We're in there allowing children to die who were not born yet when Saddam Hussein made the mistake of invading Kuwait." (Cornell, 10-1-1999)
Iraq Sanctions Kill 576,000 Children, U.N. Reports (The New York Times, 12-1-95)
Effects of Iraq Sanctions (Global Issues 2005)
Mistakes, Madeleine Albright and Dead Iraqi Children (FAIR, 2011)
Democracy Now Confronts Madeline Albright on the Iraq Sanctions: Was It Worth The Price? (Democracy Now, 2004)
Albright: 'special place in hell' for women who don't support Clinton (The Guardian, 2-6-16)
Afghanistan's Humanitarian Disaster
Millions are facing hunger and disease.
After 20 years and trillions of dollars spent in Afghanistan, in 2021, the U.S. withdrew support from the Afghan government created by America. The end result was that the Afghan government totally and completely fell apart. When the Taliban swept into power back in August 2021, world governments cut off Afghanistan’s access to international funding. The U.S. government, along with the Federal Reserve and global allied partners also froze the Afghan central bank’s roughly $10 billion in assets held abroad in a bid to stop the Taliban from accessing that money. This has led to the Afghan economy's collapse.
U.N. officials said the situation is intensifying at an unprecedented rate. The combined shocks of having their assets frozen along with drought, conflict and COVID-19 have left more than half the population of Afghanistan facing a record level of acute hunger, according to a new UN assessment published on October 25th, 2021.
Over 22 million people, more than half the country’s population, are facing crisis-levels of hunger, the majority of them unable to guarantee when their next meal is going to be, according to the U.N. World Food Program. This marks a dramatic increase since September, when more than 14 million people were at risk of going hungry. The organization also estimated that in December, 95 percent of the population had insufficient food consumption, adopting measures to cope with their situation by skipping a meal, for example. Since October 2020, when drought struck Afghanistan, the situation has continued to get worse. (Washington Post, 1-24-22)
$3.5 Billion of Afghanistan's Money Distributed to Some American Citizens
One controversial plan announced by the Biden Administration is the plan to permanently seize Afghanistan's assets and use $3.5 billion of it on 9/11 victims. "Critics were quick to denounce the move as cruel, given that the Afghan people themselves had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks that took place over two decades ago—and that those living in one of the poorest nations in the world should not be punished for the criminal acts of a small group of individuals, most of them from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. With the nation on the verge of collapse, economists have warned permanent seizure of these funds that otherwise could stabilize the Afghan central bank would further spell disaster for the nation's economy (Common Dreams, 2-11-22).
Another point is that the other $3.5 billion may be tied up in legal bureaucracy as a result of this, taking too long to get to the Afghan people. Or maybe not even getting to them at all. The Afghan people are facing starvation and need access to their own money now.
Time to Stop Mass Murder in Afghanistan (Earth Future Action)
Afghanistan Facing Historic Humanitarian Disaster - A Call to Action (Earth Future Action)
US Sanctions Caused Mass Civilian Deaths in Iraq. Afghan Civilians Are Up Next (Truth-Out, 2-8-22)
U.S. Economic War on the People of Syria
UN Human Rights Council Condemns US Sanctions - March 23, 2021 (Earth Future Action)
UN Official Condemns US Syria Sanctions - Warns of Humanitarian Disaster (Earth Future Action)