Skip to main content

MADRE, Sanctions Are an Act of War, A Q & A about economic sanctions

Before the 20th century, the United States empire took little interest in imposing economic sanctions and embargoes on other countries. But during the 20th century, the U.S. developed an obsession with these acts. The Cold War was a major factor, with U.S. leaders trying to stop the spread of “communism.” More to the point, it was really to impose regime change in other countries, whether or not a country was socialist.

There have been various acts used by the U.S. involving sanctions and embargoes:

There are laws used by the president of the U.S. for imposing embargoes such as Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917; Foreign Assistance Act of 1961; International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977; and Export Administration Act of 1979.

Trade is prohibited with other countries which include the following examples: Cuban Assets Control Regulations of 1963; Cuban Democracy Act of 1992; Helms -Burton Act of 1996 against Cuba; Iran and Libya Sanctions of 1996; Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 against Cuba; Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2006; and Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.

The U.S. empire has had sanctions and embargoes on several nations including:

Afghanistan, Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Crimea, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, North Korea, Palestine, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

The president’s Export Council stated that the U.S. imposed about 40 economic sanctions on 36 nations since 1993. After the Soviet Union dissolved, U.S. leaders have had the opportunity to further flex the U.S.’s geopolitical muscles worldwide. But the sanctions and embargoes have largely failed, producing about 20% of successful cases.

Two examples of failure are Cuba and Iraq. There has been a 60-year-old embargo against Cuba; most Cubans call it El Bloqueo, “The Blockade.” To have this embargo go on for decades is not only a violation of international law but also sadistic. Economic hardship is a major factor in Cuba, mainly because of the embargo. The United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned the embargo, overwhelmingly voting to scrap it. The only two nations to consistently vote for the embargo have been the United States and Israel. After the breakup of the USSR, the embargo was tightened three times. Losing its trade relations with the former socialist nations, Cuba entered what was called the “Special Period.”

For Iraq, it went through major hardship with over 10 years of sanctions. It is said that 500,000 people died in Iraq because of the sanctions. And Iraq wound up with the weakest economy and military in the region. Saddam Hussein was a client of the U.S., being called a “moderate” in the 1980s during the Reagan administration. Even with Hussein committing atrocities, the U.S. still supported him. In an interview, Madelaine Albright, a member of the Clinton administration, was asked if it was worth imposing sanctions on Iraq with the killing of 500,000 people. She replied, yes, it was.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

For the U.S. empire to continue these largely failed sanctions against various nations is the definition of stubbornness, and insanity. And ego is involved as well. U.S. leaders and their supporters have been vainglorious in their emphasis on exceptionalism. It goes to show that they are not learning from history, but dwelling in it. The world is becoming more multi-polar, contradicting the unilateral position the U.S. has been taking.

In a piece by Alfred de Zayas published in CounterPunch (03/18/2022), de Zayas emphasized the role the United Nations should be playing, which is the prioritization of international peace and development: “In order to achieve these goals strategies should be developed, so that a democratic and equitable international order can emerge that brings prosperity and stability while respecting the sovereignty of states, their right to choose their socio-economic systems, and the right of self-determination of peoples.”

The United Nations Charter, de Zayas wrote, is a “world constitution.” Therefore, the idea is to emphasize multilateralism where the Charter is prioritized over domestic laws. Unilateralism is a threat to nations when one nation or a few take matters into their own hands and try to impose an agenda that largely expands their own ideological interests. Ideally, multilateralism should be a part of implementing international peace and a mutual respect among nations. But there is a long way to go in achieving this. Humankind is still in what Albert Einstein called a predatory stage.

Regime change was brought up by de Zayas. He wrote that this is a “threat to peace and stability” and should be stopped by the UN Security Council under article 39 of the Charter. But the UN General Assembly should be the body to take this up since it truly represents the nations of the world. Binding votes should be allowed in the Assembly.

The main excuse used by the U.S. for imposing sanctions is outweighed by the consequences and ulterior motives. Repeatedly, sanctions are to discourage rights abuses by “punishing” a particular government. But rather than give up, the targeted government resists further. Sometimes the people side with the government not only because of the consequences on the general population, but to protect benefits inherent within the system they live under. It is also to resist the imposition of the U.S.’s motives, i.e., using neoliberalism to turn a nation into a market satellite.

Nicholas Mulder, writing in The Nation (11/20/2018), revealed that “Washington’s control of the economic weapon is unrivaled: Because it can seize assets that pass through domestic banks and institutions, the U.S. government can withhold access to Wall Street and dollar financing, effectively blackmailing foreign firms into stopping trade with the country under the embargo. This makes many sanctions regimes extraterritorial in reach.” The U.S. empire has its tentacles all over the world.

Mulder brought up an idea that among the establishment there’s an assumption that sanctions promote peace. The reality is quite different, where sanctions exacerbate economic inequality. Mulder cited a 2016 study where 68 sanctions regimes between 1960 and 2008 resulted in a major increase in poverty. Above all, they harm the working class and the poor. And when things get desperate, people do desperate things.

A solution that Mulder brought up is for the U.S. to have a Leftist foreign policy, which should focus on political solutions for conflicts between the U.S. and nations like Cuba, Russia and North Korea, rather than imposing forms of economic terrorism like the current policy does. The targeted nation should not have to deal with foreign interference causing major hardships, a significant number of deaths and the threat of starvation. Unfortunately, the goal of a Leftist foreign policy in the United States would be very difficult to implement now given the political climate.

The U.S. empire continues its sanctions and embargoes against “enemies.” It thus continues in its aggression, and regression, contradicting the increasing emergence of a multipolar world.

Crossposted from StarrNarrative