For Immediate Release: August 7, 2001

Contact: Thomas J. Nagy

(240) 994-1012

cell (240) 994-2110

e-mail: Matthew Rothschild (608) 257-4626 e-mail:

Pentagon Documents Show U.S. Intentionally Used Sanctions to Destroy Iraq's Water Supply

Shocking Revelations on Sanctions' 11th Anniversary

Madison, Wisconsin -- The U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War, The Progressive magazine reports in its September issue, citing seven partially declassified Pentagon documents dating back to 1991.

Thomas J. Nagy, author of the cover story "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply," says the documents demonstrate that "the United States knew it had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality. And it was more concerned about the public relations nightmare for Washington than the actual nightmare that the sanctions created for innocent Iraqis."

Nagy cites a January 22, 1991, Defense Intelligence Agency document entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," which states: "Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water." That document adds that "it probably will take at least six months (to June 1991) before the system is fully degraded."

The documents mention possible diseases that may flow from the degradation of Iraq's water supply. These include: cholera, diarrhea, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, kwashiorkor, measles, meningitis, pertussis, and typhoid.

The article says, "The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention."

A 1979 protocol to the Geneva Convention states: "It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works."

The story is timely, as this week marks the eleventh anniversary of U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

"When the inglorious history of Iraq sanctions is written, these documents will demonstrate a level of callousness that is almost unspeakable," said Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive.

Thomas J. Nagy teaches at the School of Business and Public Management at George Washington University. The documents he cites appear on a Department of Defense web site here. His article, "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply," is available on The Progressive's website here.



Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project