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IRAQ HAS ONLY ITSELF TO BLAME FOR PROBLEMS

Surely, among the most prevalent reactions about war is the heart-wrenching realization that it is the innocent non-combatants who most suffer.

This sense of shared empathy is reinforced by firsthand reports by individuals who often, at great personal risk, bring back moving accounts of the conflicts' awesome consequences.

The objective of most of these reports is to marshal collective efforts to bring aid and relief to the victims of the war. These brave and dedicated individuals deserve praise.

Some who share the experience bring back reports primarily to promote their private agenda and/or personal ideology.

But there are a few whose obvious goal is to flaunt their hostility toward one of the war participants and hence negate their accounts' credibility.

Such a report appeared on the Nov. 20 op-ed page of The News, the very title of which -- "Sanctions are devastating Iraqi society" -- is not merely misleading but demonstrably false.

The sanctions were applied by the victorious allies as part of the cease-fire agreement that ended the gulf war. The purpose of the sanctions was to compel the Iraqi government to destroy the remaining weapons of mass destruction and assure that none would be built in the future. But the Iraqi government has refused to fulfill those provisions.

Consequently, the destruction and suffering George Capaccio witnessed was not caused by the United States and the United Nations but by the devastation caused by the war, which occurred after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

I use the term Iraqi government rather than Saddam Hussein to dispel the myth that one man can plan and execute elaborate policies by which millions of people were exterminated in concentration camps in Germany in the 1930s and '40s and even larger numbers in the gulags of the now defunct USSR, or the current policies of a brutal regime in Iraq that has killed thousands of its own people.

The article goes on to "document" the writer's thesis with a series of specific falsehoods:

That there have never been accounts of Iraqi hospitals on our evening news.

That the sanctions have claimed the lives of more than 1 million Iraqis.

That it is the United States and United Nations that are wielding weapons of mass destruction.

Capaccio had the opportunity to bring a measure of saving grace to his flawed report each time he was asked those two key questions by Iraqis: "Why is your government doing this to us?" and "When will it stop?"

How unfortunate that he chose to respond with such unbelievable naivete and total disregard for the truth.

EUGENE J. COVELLI Lackawanna

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