Friends considered the Peace & Social Concerns Committee minute entitled
Regarding the Lifting of Sanctions Against Iraq and Endorsing the Campaign of Conscience for the Iraqi People.
Background—Ten years ago, partly at the behest of forces in consonance with many Friends’ expectations that economic sanctions would be preferable to war, and perhaps more effective, as a instrument of encouraging Iraq to be a good citizen in the community of nations, the United Nations, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, imposed the economic sanctions now in force against Iraq. Through no malevolent intention of any outside of Iraq, these sanctions have contributed heavily to the deaths of over a million Iraqis. The United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization estimates that over half of these deaths were children under the age of five, a death toll in that age group greater than from the two atomic bombs on Japan and all of the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia.
Whatever their original good humanitarian intentions and laudable political goals, the economic sanctions against the Iraqi people have resulted in massive suffering and death among the Iraqi people, and they have not changed the position of the Iraqi leadership. It would fit with our spirituality and morality to join in the amelioration of this situation.
The Campaign of Conscience for the Iraqi People seeks to “awaken the soul of the American people” to the plight of the people of Iraq. It plans to send humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, including equipment. The Campaign applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for licenses to send this material, but as yet, no licenses have been received. Consequently, four chlorinators were shipped without licenses and are being installed near Baghdad. The Campaign hopes to ship others later this year. We are aware that these actions by the Campaign violate the U.S. sanctions and may be interpreted by the U.S. government as violations of U.S. law, which provides for civil fines up to $275,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $1,000,000 and/or up to twelve years in prison.
Friends prayerfully considered the minute before us. Were worldly concerns keeping us from approval? Did this minute ask enough of us? Is this effort naïve?
After numerous messages were heard, and several attempts were made to discern the sense of the meeting, our Clerk shared her own thoughts. She has prayed over the possible consequences that might result if she signed this minute. She concluded, “If this body is ready to go forward, I will sign it.” A deep silence fell, as Friends felt the presence of God amongst us. Recognizing that some of us were standing aside, we united with the following minute:
We believe that life is sacred, and that to stand by while others suffer is morally indefensible.
We will work with our Congress and President to end the current economic sanctions. We will search out and work with any who share our concerns in this matter and find ways to work together to bring a supportive set of conditions in Iraq that will improve life for the Iraqi people.
New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) feels led to join the Campaign of Conscience for the Iraqi People, a non-violent initiative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). We believe that the Campaign is consistent with Friends peace testimony and practice.
In the event that any penalties for actions resulting from this minute are incurred by NEYM, we, as a faith community, and as a matter of conscience, are willing to accept the legal consequences of our actions.
We endorse and plan to assist the Campaign in as many ways as we can, including through contribution of money ($100.00 initially out of the Fiscal 2001 Peace & Social Concerns Committee budget) from the New England Yearly Meeting.
We encourage individual Friends and others to seek Light on this matter and to act as they are led.