Caitlin Johnstone

Trump’s starvation sanctions are worse than overt warfare

Donald Trump may have called back military action against Iran, but the trade sanctions he’s put in place are far more damaging.

 

 

“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” President Trump tweeted on Saturday. “I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again — The sooner the better!”

Iran’s economy is already floundering due to the steadily mounting sanctions that the Trump administration has been heaping upon it since its withdrawal from the JCPOA last year. Crucial goods are four times the price they used to be, sick Iranians are having difficulty obtaining life-saving medicine, and life, in general, has been getting much more difficult for the poorest and frailest Iranian civilians.

For this reason, it is a very safe bet that there have been Iranians who have died because of the sanctions. Being unable to obtain enough life-saving medicine will inevitably increase mortality rates, as will inadequate nutrition and care for those whose health is at risk. There’s not really any way around that, and it’s only going to get worse.

And that’s exactly what was supposed to happen. As far as their intended purpose is concerned, the sanctions are working. They’re doing exactly what they were intended to do: hurt Iranian civilians.

How do I know this? Well, for one thing, America’s Secretary of State has said it openly. The New York Times reports the following:

Last week, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged to Michael J. Morrell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., that the administration’s strategy would not persuade Iranian leaders to change their behavior.

“I think what can change is the people can change the government,” he said on a podcast hosted by Mr. Morrell, in what appeared to be an endorsement of regime change.

The Trump administration isn’t levelling these sanctions because it believes they’ll cause Tehran to capitulate to Washington’s impossible list of demands; they know full well that that will never happen. What they claim, based on no evidence or historical precedent whatsoever, is that by making life so painful for the hungry and malnourished Iranian people they’ll be forced to rise up against their government to effect regime change themselves.

Can you think of anything more sociopathic than this? Off the top of my head, I personally cannot.

Starvation sanctions kill people. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have reportedly already died as a result of this administration’s relentless assault on their economy; those human beings are no less dead than they would have been if the US had killed them by dropping cluster bombs on Caracas. Yet these deaths have received virtually no mainstream media coverage, and Americans, while they strongly oppose attacking Iran militarily, have had very little to say about Trump’s attacks on the nation’s economy. The economy which people use to feed their children, to care for their elderly and their sick.

I’m titling this essay “Starvation Sanctions Are Worse Than Overt Warfare”, and I mean it. I am not saying that starvation sanctions are more destructive or deadly than overt military force in and of themselves; what I am saying is that the overall effect is worse, because there’s no public accountability for them and because they deliberately target civilians.

If the US were to launch a barrage of Tomahawk missiles into an Iranian suburb with the goal of killing civilians, there’d be international outrage and the cohesion of the US-centralised power alliance would take a major hit. Virtually everyone would recognise this as an unforgivable war crime. Yet America will be able to kill the same number of civilians with the same deliberate intention of inflicting deadly force, and it would suffer essentially no consequences at all. There’s no public or international pressure holding that form of violence at bay, because it’s invisible and poorly understood.


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It reminds me of the way financial abuse gets overlooked and under-appreciated in our society. Financial abuse can be more painful and imprisoning than physical or psychological abuse (and I speak from experience), especially if you have children, yet you don’t generally see movies and TV shows getting made about it. In a society where people have been made to depend on money for survival, limiting or cutting off their access to it is the same as any other violent attack upon their personal sovereignty, and can easily be just as destructive. But as a society we haven’t yet learned to see and understand this violence, so it doesn’t attract interest and attention. That lack of interest and attention enables the empire to launch deadly campaigns targeting civilian populations unnoticed, without any public accountability.

It’s great that more people are starting to understand the cost of war, to the extent that we’re even seeing US presidential candidates make opposing it central to their platforms, but this is happening at a time when overt warfare is becoming more obsolete and replaced with something subtler and more sinister. We must as a society evolve our understanding of what starvation sanctions are and what they do, and stop seeing them as in any way superior or preferable to overt warfare.

The fact that people generally oppose senseless military violence but are unable to see and comprehend a slow, boa constrictor-like act of slaughter via economic strangulation is why these siege warfare tactics have become the weapon of choice for the US-centralised empire. It is a more gradual way of murdering people than overt warfare, but when you control all the resources and have an underlying power structure which maintains itself amid the comings and goings of your officially elected government, you’re in no hurry. The absence of any public accountability makes the need for patience a very worthwhile trade-off.

So you see this siege warfare strategy employed everywhere by the US-centralised empire:

In 1990, when Yemen voted against a UN Security Council Resolution authorising the attack against Iran, a senior US diplomat was caught on a hot mic telling the Yemeni ambassador, “That will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” According to German author Thomas Pogge, “The US halted $70 million in aid to Yemen; other Western countries, the IMF, and World Bank followed suit. Saudi Arabia expelled some 800,000 Yemeni workers, many of whom had lived there for years and were sending urgently needed money to their families.”

That’s real power. Not the ability to destroy a nation with bombs and missiles, but the ability to destroy it without firing a shot.

 

Caitlin Johnstone

Caitlin Johnstone is a Melbourne-based journalist who specialises in American politics, finance and foreign affairs. You can find her on Twitter at @caitoz Her website at https://caitlinjohnstone.com/ Or on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/caitlinjohnstone Her new book ' Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers' is now available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Woke-Field-Guide-Utopia-Preppers/dp/064823455X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

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