U.S. fines group for giving medicine to Iraq

On November 6 the U.S. Treasury Department imposed $20,000 in fines on Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness (VitW), for delivering medicine to combat diseases that have killed half a million children since the U.S. imposed an embargo.

Leaders of the group affirm that they have traveled to Iraq in nonviolent defiance of U.S./UN sanctions and announce that they intend to raise thousands of dollars to continue breaking the embargo.

Sue Mackley, Nathan Mauger and others who have returned from Iraq in the past few weeks will be joined by delegates scheduled to travel to Iraq before the end of the year.

These fines are for delivering medicine to Iraq without a permit in 1998. They are directed against VitW co-founder and double Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly of Chicago. Dan Handleman, of Portland, Oregon, was simultaneously fined $10,000 for alleged travel-related expenses incurred during a 1997 VitW delegation to Iraq.

Earlier this year, Bert Sacks and Rev. Randall Mullins, both of Seattle, were fined $10,000 each for taking part in the same 1997 delegation. They refused to pay, and instead raised over $10,000 to buy more medicine to bring to Iraq. This medicine was delivered by Sacks last September.

The fines come as VitW is sending Americans and other internationals to Iraq almost every week to take part in its Iraq Peace Team. Currently there are 16 volunteers in Baghdad with Iraq Peace Team. In the event of another U.S. military assault on Iraq, they intend to help coordinate humanitarian efforts, offer independent reporting, and stand in solidarity with Iraqi civilians.

“We will not consent to pay any fine,” said Kathy Kelly, currently in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team. “We simply reject the government’s contention that we cannot carry medicine to the sick, and assert that it is a greater evil to let the children die.”

Since January, 1996, VitW has sent over fifty delegations to Iraq. In addition to medicine, they have illegally brought to Iraq toys, medical books and journals, blood bags, pens and pencils for schools. Voices in the Wilderness representatives will be available to speak publicly and with the media. VitW has sent hundreds of delegates from over 40 states – for local representatives, please contact them directly at 773-784-8065.