Iraq Today

For the past decade Iraq has faced U.N.-ordered sanctions—a trading embargo limiting oil sales—designed to squeeze it economically and force Saddam Hussein to destroy any chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction remaining in his arsenal. He insists he has done so; the Bush administration says he has not. U.N. inspectors say he has yet to document the destruction of known large quantities of nerve gas and anthrax.

The Iraqi people are caught in the middle. Oil is their only substantial natural resource. Hussein has skimmed off most of the limited revenues for himself (he has billions in secret Swiss accounts), his family and his cronies, and only a bit has trickled down to the general populace. Various human-rights groups and UNICEF charge that as many as a half-million Iraqis, mostly children, have died from a lack of medications.

Iraq has never recovered from the Gulf War and is ill prepared for another conflict. Food is rationed. Medications are in short supply. As Sand Brim, a peace activist traveling in Iraq, recently wrote in an e-mail home, "People in Iraq do not speak about the future. … They do not know if they will have a future."