Obama and the Criminal Collective Punishment of the Iranian People

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they can not be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.”

The Guardian reports that “Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.”

The key word there is “unintended.” The problem with describing it this way is that it isn’t accurate. Washington understands the consequences of the sanctions, and the same Guardian report acknowledges that the Obama administration has been made aware that hundreds of thousands of sick people in Iran have had their access to medicine restricted because of the sanctions. And they haven’t done anything about it.

“The west lies when it says it hasn’t imposed sanctions on our medical sector. Many medical firms have sanctioned us,” Naser Naghdi, the director general of Iran’s biggest pharmaceutical company, told the Guardian.

But sanctions aren’t just blocking much needed medical supplies; unemployment is rising and inflation is spiraling out of control. “Prices of fruit and sugar, among other staples, have soared – in some cases showing threefold and fourfold increases,” Saeed Kamali Dehghan wrote in the Guardian last summer. “The price of meat, an essential ingredient of Iranian food, has gone up to such an extent that many now eat it only on special occasions.”

“What is most concerning,” according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, “is that it is now increasingly clear that the people are the target.” Parsi added that “in a non-democracy, such as Iran, the ability for people to pressure their government is limited,” and that “Many in Washington acknowledge that we are conducting economic warfare. That means the entire Iranian economy is the battlefield – and ordinary Iranians are [seen as] enemy combatants.”

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has admitted sanctions aren’t demonstrably changing the policies of the regime, but has insisted on their continuance nevertheless. As one of the top congressional supporters of sanctions, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), said, “Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people.  Quite frankly, we need to do just that.” Or take Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): “The goal … is to inflict crippling, unendurable economic pain over there. Iran’s banking sector — especially its central bank — needs to become the financial equivalent of Chernobyl: radioactive, dangerous and most of all, empty.”

One of the major atrocities of all of post-WWII US foreign policy was the American-led sanctions on Iraq, which ended up killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. We heard the same odious rationales for the sanctions on Iraq as we are now hearing for the sanctions on Iran. Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, insisted the effect of the Iraq sanctions “fit the definition of genocide.”

We may be seeing this repeat in Iran. And for what? It can’t be punishment for a rogue nuclear weapons program: the US intelligence community has concluded it doesn’t exist. Whether the reason behind the sanctions are to placate Israeli security concerns or to block Iran’s regional influence, what matters is that this economic warfare is criminal; it violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But apparently President Obama – Nobel Peace Prize winner – doesn’t care about legally binding international treaties and conventional laws. Instead, he is busy implementing the collective punishment of Iranians for a crime they haven’t committed.

  • hatecamel

    Pretty cool being ruled by genocidal maniacs. The most hilarious part is how most people think this is a moral country. It’s really pathetic how susceptible people are to propaganda.

  • Causing suffering among a civilian population in order to coax policy change, i.e., terrorism.

  • Steve H.

    Nothing was learned about the Iraqi sanctions debacle. It didn't work then and it won't work now.

    This embargo is pure unadulterated evil perpetrated by a gang of thugs in Washington. They will do anything that advances their quest for power, and if that means millions of Iranians are impoverished in the process, that's just fine and dandy with them.

    I can only hope there's a special place in hell for these cretins. Just the sight of them makes me want to vomit.

    • Wayne B

      Steve, your words reflect my feelings exactly. They are not just words, but words which tell the
      TRUTH!! Which is someting completely alien to these thugs!!

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  • Which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.

  • Augustbrhm

    There is isnt any US "president" since 1776 not be classified as a genocidal war criminal.

  • .. "and they hate us for our freedoms" :)

    Also – those pesky Iranians are conducting secret R&D to create dragons that will one day attack U.S. mainland . We also have evidence that they have been funding "hobbits" .

    All kidding aside – aren't we sick and tired of this B.S. being done in our names ?

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  • ikramghouri2000

    Actual stage is ready like Irak in which millions of children died and the same will happen with Iran. America can,t live with nausty killings.

  • Sarah

    Obama is worse than George Bush because he was sellected for his blackness not 'leadership' to fool Americans and the world. 98% of 'African-Americans' voted for his blackness the first time and about 94% the second time. So, those who selected Obama to bring down the Middle East and Africa were successful to fool people even the phony American 'progressives" who ALL ARE BEHIND THE US GOV, like juan cole. There should be a FRONT against Washington NOW. Russia, China and India must capture this golden opportunity to mobolize the world against evil. Everyone will join to bring peace.
    However, people of the region will destroy these savages to bring peace in the region at any price. The sheeple must wake up otherwise will be the looser and will buy the hatred of the oppressed population by Obama, the baby killer, in the world. Down with Obama and his supporters, the phony 'progressives' and pseudo 'left'. DON'T TRUST THEM. ALL ARE IN THE SERVICE OF THE EMPIRE. Start with Juan Cole, Michael Moore, Daily Kos and many other who asked you to vote for this assassin. Chuck Hegal like Obama, Kerry, Clinton, Brennan is a war criminal.

  • baz

    no doubt the sanctions are illegal. unfortunately, iran has not recourse to justice. there is no court they can petition. In this world, might is right, not the rule of law. We, as everybody here would agree with, are on the side of everything we preach against..

    as I write, wahabbi terrorists are trying to take over syria and turn it into an al-qaeda state, supported with our money, weapons and intelligence

  • Eileen Kuch

    Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, when asked whether the harsh sanctions imposed on Iraq were worth the deaths of around half a million infants and children, replied: "It was well worth it". This is pure EVIL.

    The UN Charter and Geneva Conventions are quite explicit in their ban of collective punishment of a civilian population. This is a war crime and crime against humanity. Period.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Are we supposed to be surprised at this? Are we even supposed to be "outraged" at this?

    What else did you expect? This is WHAT AMERICA DOES! IT KILLS PEOPLE! And it does it for the purpose of profit, power and ego.

    You haven't seen anything yet. The US fully intends to attack and DESTROY Iran, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians – if not a million – DIRECTLY by aerial bombardment. It will do this within the next couple of years and it will KEEP doing it for at least another ten years beyond that, just as it did with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and other countries.

    And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, because the US electorate no longer controls its government – if it ever did, which is questionable.

    Someone once said that we are in that awkward phase where it's too late to fix the system and too soon to start shooting the bastards. Well, make up your mind because you might be wrong about that last.

  • But apparently President Obama – Nobel Peace Prize winner – doesn’t care about legally binding international treaties and conventional laws. Instead, he is busy implementing the collective punishment of Iranians for a crime they haven’t committed.

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