LOS ANGELES -- Today is Day 14 of the teddy bear hostage crisis.
Inside a warehouse at Los Angeles International Airport, more than 2,000 stuffed toy animals that had been collected for Iraqi children remain in cardboard boxes, detained by U.S. Customs. Nearly a year after the liberation of Kuwait, the fate of these teddy bears is in limbo, awaiting the outcome of a dispute that pits a Santa Barbara, Calif., nurse against the collective authority of the United States government and the United Nations.
The nurse, Dianne Judice, wants to send the second-hand toys to Iraq as part of a war relief shipment that also includes medicine, used blankets and children's clothing.
No chance, U.S. Department of the Treasury officials have told Ms. Judice. The medicine can go, they say, but under terms of economic sanctions imposed against Iraq, the other merchandise cannot.
When she launched her "Teddy Bears for Iraq" campaign, Ms. Judice said she never dreamed that the United Nations' economic sanctions applied to toy animals.
Ms. Judice, who once specialized in pediatric nursing, argues that teddy bears are therapeutic.
"They are medicinal because they provide comfort to sick and dying children . . . Who are we trying to punish? The civilians and the children or Saddam Hussein?" said Ms. Judice.
Catholic Relief Services, which has lobbied for relaxation of the embargo, has joined with Judice in appealing to U.S. and United Nations officials to make an exception allowing the shipment safe passage.