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I have been reading about the U.N.-ordered sanctions against Iraq since the end of the Persian Gulf war in 1991. But until recently, I had not realized the effect they have had on the citizens of Iraq.

Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq can export about $2 billion worth of oil every six months to buy food and medicine. But according to one U.N. official, only 43 percent of the medicine is arriving.

Since 1990, when the sanctions were imposed, an estimated 567,000 children have died because of starvation.

On Dec. 2, the Iraqi government held its second mass funeral in days in Baghdad. This funeral procession was long enough to hold about 100 coffins -- most of them carrying children who had died from starvation. The children who were paraded through the streets of Baghdad for the world to see are asking for our help. Not the kind of help they are getting now, but help that won't let them starve to death.

I think the United States and the United Nations are missing the fact that Saddam Hussein is a military dictator. Are a few children really going to matter to him? He used force to gain his power, and he's not going to give it up because other countries place sanctions on Iraq. He could care less about his people.

We are letting innocent people suffer because we feel we have a right to punish a man for his actions by punishing his whole country. That's not right.

These sanctions aren't working. We need to increase the amount of food and medicine going into Iraq. If we don't increase it, then we should at least make sure that all of it gets to the people who need it. We shouldn't have 57 percent of the medical supplies getting lost en route to Iraq.

Sara Strickland

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