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Bull semen, bras, cigarettes, and military apparel?!

October 1, 2008

What might these items have in common?

Some of the top exports from the U.S. to Iran of course! That’s right folks, the Associated Press found that under the Bush administration, the dollar value of U.S. exports to Iran have increased by more than TENFOLD from about $8 million in 2001 to nearly $150 million in 2007. The exports were sent under agricultural, medical and humanitarian exemptions to U.S. sanctions on Iran. (I’d love to know what category each of these items was under.)

I’ve heard from several Iranian-American aid workers that they were unable to get licenses for contributing to hospitals for the growing impoverished Iranian population and have been told by U.S. officials evaluating these licenses, “why don’t you help impoverished children in the U.S.?”. (One woman I talked to told me how desperately she wanted to say back “well since you pride yourselves on being the greatest government in the world…why don’t you?”). Curiously, tobacco companies sure don’t have a problem getting the appropriate licenses…(and wild guess that the administration doesn’t argue, “well why don’t you just increase the targeting of youth in the U.S. and make your profits that way?”)

When Senator McCain was asked why the export of cigarettes has jumped dramatically under the Bush administration, he said “[m]aybe that’s a way of killing them.”

Lest one think I am being at all partisan, this kind of preference for tobacco companies over humanitarian aid to “The Enemy” has gotten wide by-in from both sides of the political aisle.

Remember perhaps the most draconian sanctions in world history against the Iraqi population that killed even more Iraqi civilians than have been killed since the 2003 invasion under the pretext of bringing down Saddam? These sanctions were imposed by the U.N. from the pressure of the U.S. and U.K. Two of the UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq resigned from their position in defiance of a policy they described as genocidal, carried out by both President Bush, President Clinton, and President GWB before he decided to drop them in favor of invading and occupying the country.

Dennis Halliday, an Irish Quaker, was one of the men of conscience who stepped down from that position saying “I had been instructed,” he said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price for economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of untreated water.”

While we didn’t let in incubators for premature infants, essential equipment for water treatment facilities, or pencils for school children (Saddam might use the lead to make WMD’s!), tobacco companies only prospered under the sanctions. The regulatory laws in the developed world have shifted the tobacco industries attention to the developing world, where 80% of the world’s eight million deaths projected by 2030 will occur. In 2008, smoking will kill more than five million worldwide–more than AIDS, TB, and malaria deaths combined.

But where medical gauze failed to penetrate, billions of cigarettes have made their way from the U.S. to Iraq, revealed by the EU when it filed a legal action against several international tobacco companies. (You can see the World Health Organization’s investigation on this practice here.)

The World Health Organization also pointed out that like Iraqis, internal documents from tobacco companies illustrate that Iranians are viewed as a prime market for their products. “Overall,” says the World Health Organization’s 2003 report on The cigarette “transit” road to the Islamic Republic of Iran, “the tobacco industry’s documents suggest that the Islamic Republic of Iran was viewed by the global cigarette companies as a battlefield where the national tobacco
monopoly could be duped, government officials could be misled, and the physical health of Iranians could be sacrificed for the financial health of the companies’ shareholders.”

Well that’s one way to win the hearts and minds of the Iranian people! (Although perhaps McCain believes a better method is to make jokes about killing them on the campaign trail. Again, not to be partisan about the affair. While McCain makes more jokes about hurting the Iranian populationthe majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the House support a bill calling for a complete embargo of all gasoline into Iran, shutting down their energy consumption by nearly half, which, if “successful”, would be undoubtedly a humanitarian catastrophe. But then folks like former Republican minority leader Tom Delay concede that that is the point since cutting off gasoline since it would mean,“[the Iranian people] would stop driving their cars. And the pressure at home would start growing by—by huge amounts.”) (I guess the cigarettes are a bit of an incentive so they stop being so lazy and overthrow their regime and install one more friendly to U.S. interests.)

Oh and while bull semen is weird enough–but understandable–everyone knows about the powerful influence of the Bull Semen Lobby ;)–anyone want to guess why we are selling military clothing to The Axis of Evil?

(I really REALLY wish I was making this up)

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