Nicaragua is Holding Countries Accountable Without War or Sanctions

I was 13 years old the day I got braces on my teeth and the United States bombed Baghdad, launching the “first” Iraq war.

“Today, Wednesday the 16th of January 1991, we had just gotten out of the dentist’s office and Mom told me the news,” I wrote in my journal. “She started saying, ‘Oh my God!’ and I was silent, wanting to cry and throw up.”

My 8th grade class organized a “speak out” in the school library. The students sat cross-legged on the carpet and took turns struggling to express our feelings through the tangle of meaningless phrases we’d heard adults around us using. One of my classmates stood up to say she was worried about her dad; he was a soldier and had been deployed. “I support our troops,” she declared.

I remember how scared we all were, just kids together confronting the illogical concept of war. I stood up and nervously spoke around my newly-installed braces to say that I supported soldiers as people, but didn’t support the war that sent them into danger.

The kids around me asked, “But how else can we protect the defenseless Kuwaitis?” We had heard about Iraqi human rights abuses when a Kuwaiti nurse gave emotional testimony before Congress telling how she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave the newborn babies to die.

“If we don’t use force, then how else can we stop a monster like Sadaam Hussein?”

The only possible alternative to war that we heard mentioned was “sanctions.”

Of course, I didn’t know then what I know now: Firstly, that the “nurse” was actually the 15-year old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., and her “testimony” was organized by a public relations firm hired by the Kuwaiti government to manipulate the U.S. public into supporting armed conflict.

Secondly, unilateral coercive measures, or “sanctions,” are rejected by more than two-thirds of the international community and actually hurt the most vulnerable people by restricting their access to food, water, sanitation, medicines, health services and employment.

Today, when not actively bombing other countries, the U.S. continues to use unilateral coercive measures – currently imposed on 30 countries – harming the civilian populations of sovereign nations in order to further its own geopolitical agenda.

Right now the U.S. is seeking further unilateral coercive measures against Nicaragua through Senate Bill 1881, “Restoring Sovereignty and Human Rights in Nicaragua Act.” The proposed bill includes blanket sanctions on broad sectors such as gold and beef, and proposes to eject Nicaragua from regional agreements which could only be implemented by violating those agreements, impinging on the sovereignty not only of Nicaragua but also its neighbors.

The U.S. is trying to destabilize Nicaragua’s democratically elected government using “human rights” as an excuse with no evidence of actual human rights violations by Nicaragua. At the same time, the U.S. not only ignores real human rights violations by Israel in Gaza, but is actively participating in the genocide of the Palestinian people by arming Israel.

Nicaragua, in contrast, is showing the world how to defend human rights without resorting to the destruction of war or sanctions. Nicaragua doesn’t just talk about the international rule of law, it makes use of the structures that exist for the purpose of holding countries accountable for their actions. Nicaragua won a case against the U.S. in the ICJ in 1986, and is now the first country to join South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice in support of holding the government of Israel to account for its violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

On February 1st, Nicaragua went further and also called on the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada to stop arming U.S.-Israeli genocide. Informing that “it will hold the four countries responsible under international law for gross and systematic violations” to the Genocide Convention.

Nicaragua is not afraid of being David against Goliath. Nicaragua has a long history of Davids who have bested Goliath: Andrés Castro, who in 1856 literally threw a stone and killed a U.S. mercenary in battle who was part of an attempt to annex Nicaragua as a slave state; Augusto C. Sandino and his army of 30 against the U.S. Marines; Sandinista revolutionaries against the well-armed U.S.-backed dictator Somoza.

A few nights ago I went to the inauguration of Palestine Park in Managua. There were children playing in the soft glow of giant flower-like lamps around a beautiful fairy statue. It made me feel like a child, small and cherished and protected, as all children should feel. It is a poignant symbol of Nicaragua’s solidarity with Palestine, located near the newly inaugurated Gaza Street.

These lovely symbols would lose their meaning, however, if they were merely symbolic. But Nicaragua has moved beyond the symbolic to act in solidarity with Palestine, using international rule of law to attempt to stop the genocide as the death toll in Gaza approaches 30,000. Nicaragua is leading the way toward future of options beyond war; hopefully other countries will soon have the courage to follow its example.

Support Nicaragua and oppose sanctions here.

Becca Renk has lived and worked in sustainable community development in Nicaragua since 2001 with the Jubilee House Community and its project, the Center for Development in Central America. The JHC-CDCA also works to educate visitors to Nicaragua, including through their hospitality and solidarity cultural center at Casa Benjamin Linder.