National outrage over President Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents as a way to deter illegal immigration into the United States has forced the president to abandon the policy. The outrage came from all sides of the political spectrum, especially from the left, and from the mainstream media.
Trump’s policy is obviously cruel and brutal, given that it uses children as pawns to achieve a political end. No matter how much psychological damage is inflicted on children owing to the fear that comes with forced separation, the idea is that such emotional damage is worth it given the aim of preventing or discouraging illegal immigration to the United States.
What’s strange, however, is that while there has been mass outrage over Trump’s separation policy, there is virtually no outrage over the U.S. government’s policy of killing children as a way to achieve the political goal of regime change in foreign countries.
Consider, for example, the brutal system of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, which the Clinton administration enforced during the 1990s. Year after year, it contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi children, especially since the sanctions prevented Iraq from repairing the water-and-sewage treatment plants that the Pentagon had intentionally bombed during the Persian Gulf War.
What was the attitude of liberals and Democrats back then? They couldn’t care less. In fact, the position of the Clinton administration was summed up by the official U.S. government spokesperson to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, who was serving as U.S. Ambassador to the UN. When Sixty Minutes asked Albright whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it, she responded that while the issue was a difficult one, yes, the deaths of those children were worth it.
What was “it”? Regime change, a political goal by the U.S. government wished to oust the Saddam Hussein regime from power and replace it with another pro-U.S. regime. (The Saddam Hussein regime and the U.S. government had been partners and allies during the 1980s when the U.S. government was helping Iraq wage war against Iran.) By killing children and others, the hope was that Saddam would abdicate, or that he would fall into line and comply with U.S. orders, or that there would be a violent revolution entailing massive death and destruction, or that there would be a military coup that would bring a pro-U.S. military dictator into power.
What was the response of the liberal-Democratic segment of society and of the U.S. mainstream media to the mass killing of those Iraqi children? Silence or, even worse, support! There was certainly nothing like the outrage being expressed against Trump’s separation policy, which causes one to wonder whether the reaction against Trump might be motivated by politics rather than by moral values. In other words, if it were Obama or Clinton doing what Trump is doing, would the response be different among progressives and the mainstream media?
Even when three high UN officials, Hans von Sponeck, Jutta Purghart, and Denis Haliday, resigned their posts out of a crisis of conscience over the deaths of Iraqi children that the Clinton administration was inflicting with its system of sanctions, that didn’t provoke any sympathetic reaction among liberals, progressives, or the U.S. mainstream press. When U.S. officials mocked and ridiculed the three of them, the American left and the U.S. mainstream press remained nonplussed.
A real-life hero in the Iraq sanctions saga was an American man named Bert Sacks. He decided to violate the sanctions by taking medicines into Iraq. U.S. officials went after him with a vengeance that bordered on the pathological and that gave new meaning to the term “banality of evil.” With the exception of newspapers in Seattle, where Sacks was from, most leftists and most mainstream newspapers failed to come to Sacks’ defense. To Sacks’s everlasting credit, he fought the Treasury Department’s $10,000 fine (plus another $6,000 in penalties) for around a decade, refusing to pay it and finally winning.
For that matter, consider the current brutal U.S. sanctions against North Korea, one of the most impoverished Third World countries in the world, one in which hundreds of thousands of people have died of starvation as a result of North Korea’s socialist economic system.
The U.S. sanctions are intended to make the starvation even worse. The U.S. government’s hope is that the sanctions will kill even more people and thereby accelerate the chances of regime change or a change in behavior among North Korea’s communist regime.
Ordinarily, the most vulnerable people in an impoverished society are the very young and the very old. Thus, they run the risk of bearing the brunt of sanctions, either from malnutrition or illness.
What is the reaction of the American left, the right, and the mainstream media when U.S. sanctions kill more North Koreans, including children and seniors? They love it! That exult that the sanctions are starting to “bite” and call for even more stringent sanctions to increase the killing even more. In the minds, the bigger the “bite,” the better the chances of causing North Korea to fall into line or of bringing regime change to the country.
Same for Cuba, where U.S. officials have brought untold economic suffering to the Cuban people, on top of the economic suffering that already experience of Cuba’s socialist economic system. Again, the aim is either regime change or regime conformance with U.S. directives. While there is a smattering of support for lifting the decades-old, Cold War-era embargo among the left, there is certainly no moral outrage within the left and the mainstream media, as there is with Trump’s separation policy.
It’s refreshing to see moral outrage over Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. If only there was similar outage over the U.S. government’s policy of killing children and others with sanctions.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics.