Who Is Responsible for the Plight of the Iraqi People?

In the Opinion page article Why Are You Doing This to Us? Feb. 10, the author makes some compassionate and compelling points about the actual effectiveness of the United Nations sanctions being imposed on Iraq. However, she should be cautioned against applying the findings from her visit to all the people of Iraq when discussing the current situation there.

I recently returned from a two-week trip to northern Iraq where I toured refugee shelters, tent cities, and cities such as Sulaymania and Halabja. The Kurdish people would not agree with the author's comment that "Saddam Hussein is not their 'Hitler. And, unlike those the author spoke with, the Kurdish would not dispute that Saddam is to blame for "their current tragic plight."

The conditions in the north were in some cases heartbreaking to see. And yet, as the author said, "they are hungry with dignity."

My impression after talking to the Kurdish people in the north was that they felt that sanctions were difficult but they want Saddam out. They are also suffering from an internal embargo in which Saddam has completely cut the north off from any materials or food. The UN is trying to keep up with the demand, but the needs are great.

There are no easy answers to ending the pain and suffering in Iraq. One way or another, Saddam Hussein has got to be taken out of power. Let's just hope that it happens soon and that all of the Iraqi people will be given the freedom to live as they choose. Suzanne Hickman, Minneapolis The Kurdish Relief Fund Effects of inmate labor

The article "New York Enforces Inmate Labor," Feb. 4, cites three reasons for prisons to have mandatory work policies - none with which I take issue.However, because of unaddressed facts, I do take issue with unbridled mandated work policies.

First, work performed by prisoners often is used by states and municipalities, in these times of budget crises and cuts, to replace payroll employees who historically and customarily perform such tasks. When this occurs, working people lose gainful employment and, as unemployment levels are at one of the highest points in our history, are frequently unable to regain employment - thus adding to the bulging unemployment and welfare statistics.

Second, forced labor is counter to provisions of Convention No. 105 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a treaty the Congress of the United States ratified and to which the US became a signatory in 1991.

In light of the above facts, articles on mandatory work policies in the US corrections system should be mindful of necessary limitations for the well-being of the working people. John H. Dunne, Silver Spring, Md. International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Indonesia's leader speaks

Regarding the Reuters article "Indonesia Chides Critics of East Timor Massacre," Feb. 14: An Olympic cheer to President Suharto for capturing Indonesia's first medal of the year - a bronze for ignorance. In response to world outrage at the recent massacre in East Timor, Mr. Suharto protested that "no country should impose its values" on another country.

This total lack of respect for such worldwide notions as basic human rights and the rights of ethnic groups places Indonesia a distant third behind such stiff competition as Hitler's Germany and Communist China. Andrew Marble, Somerville, Mass.

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