Flouting a U.S. travel ban to Iraq, five Americans took medicine to a children’s hospital Sunday and challenged the U.S. government to prosecute them.
The Americans, from the group Voices in the Wilderness, delivered four sacks and three boxes of medicine, plus candy for children at al-Qadissiya Children’s Hospital.
The supplies ranged from antibiotics to aspirin to vitamins, all in short supply since comprehensive United Nations sanctions were imposed in response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
“We are doing this in defiance of United States law,” said the Rev. Bob Bossie, a Catholic priest and spokesman for the Chicago-based group.
The organization called for the lifting of “the immoral sanctions against the children and families of Iraq.”
Food and medicine may be imported to Iraq under the U.N. sanctions, but Iraq lacks the money to pay for all it needs.
This year, President Saddam Hussein agreed to negotiate on a U.N. offer for Iraq to sell $1 billion in oil every three months to buy humanitarian supplies. Despite its pressing need for medicine, Iraq previously rejected the offer as a violation of its sovereignty.
Each month in Iraq, about 4,500 children die from a variety of diseases, compared to 600 a month before the war.
“The children need medical relief supplies and we do not have what they need,” said Shema Waleed, one of the nurses at al-Qadissiya.
The United States imposed a travel ban on Americans going to Iraq following the Iraqi invasion that led to the 1991 Gulf War.
The U.S. Treasury Department warned the visiting Americans they could face fines of up to $1 million and 12 years in prison when they return.
However, travel penalties are rarely enforced, and U.S. courts have ruled previously that American citizens are free to travel to any country.