by Douglas Johnson

Below is a letter to Judge Mordue that was sent after Dr. Dhafir’s arrest.

This complete piece was published on:Commondreams on September 13, 2004

On September 27, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist and naturalized US citizen of Iraqi decent living in Syracuse NY goes on trial in federal court. As founder of the organization Help the Needy which violated UN sanctions by sending humanitarian aid to Iraq to help sick children, Dr. Dahfir now faces 265 years in prison if convicted. He’s been held since February 26, 2003 and denied bail four times. You can learn more about his case online at: FreeDhafir The following is a letter I sent to Judge Mordue who will preside in the trial:

Dear Judge Mordue,

From February to April, 2003 I traveled to Iraq to join Voices in the Wilderness, an organization founded by three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly. Like Dr. Dhafir’s organization, Voices has sent over 70 delegations to Iraq since 1996, each delivering medicine to sick Iraqi children – in open violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (US/UN sanctions). I personally delivered as much medicine across the Iraqi border as I could carry – about 10 large duffle bags, fully aware that I was breaking the law.

I have never met Dr. Dhafir and I cannot read his mind. But I suspect his reasons for civil disobedience were similar to mine. During the 90’s the United States waged an intentional, genocidal assault against the 25 million innocent Iraqi civilians, especially targeting the most vulnerable of their society – the infants and the elderly.

In 1990, prior to the sanctions, the Defense Intelligence Agency did a study (DIA filename: 511rept.91), declassified in 1995, in which they determined that within six months of imposing sanctions, Iraq’s water-treatment facilities would be degraded to the point where there would be outbreaks, “if not epidemics,” of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhus, and dysentery.

Instead of waiting six months however for the sanctions to take hold, the US military waited only two and then hastened the process by bombing nearly every water-treatment facility in Iraq.

The US military views targets such as water systems, roads, or hospitals, as “COG’s” – Centers of Gravity (Air Force Doctrine Document 2-1.2). By striking the most crucial civilian infrastructure, they reason, you quickly destroy civil society. (Never mind that the civilians targeted in Iraq had no say in their government, or that when the Iraqi people revolted against Saddam Hussein in 1991 we turned the other way.)

The intentional poisoning of Iraq’s drinking water followed by 13 years of sanctions, which prohibited the importation of even simple diarrhea medicines, fulfilled the DIA’s prediction. According to Unicef, more than 500,000 children under the age of 5 – (over 1,000,000 Iraqis total) died as a direct result of the sanctions, as planned.

The sanctions have been called a WMD by some, germ warfare by others. As a judge you must know that to militarily target civilian infrastructure violates Geneva Convention Article 54 and is therefore a war crime. To pass laws that prohibit sick children from receiving medicine is likewise unconscionable. I can only assume that as a doctor who’s taken the Hippocratic Oath and a man of Iraqi decent, Dr. Dhafir, when confronted with the agonizing deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi babies, obeyed a higher law than that of the US’.

Given that at least thirteen humanitarian organizations openly violated the sanctions in Iraq, and given that 57 corporations, including Halliburton and Exxonmobil, violated sanctions in other countries – for profit rather than humanitarian reasons, why is Dr. Rafil Dhafir the only person ever to be criminally charged? Is it because he’s Arab and Muslim?

Why aren’t we trying the real criminals in this case? Why are so many others, myself included, allowed to walk free while Dr. Dhafir faces over 250 years in prison? Please, Judge Mordue, throw this case out.

Douglas Johnson

The author is a copywriter living in Louisville Kentucky who spent nearly 6 weeks in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness before and during the bombing – in February and March of 2003