a January 1991 U.S. Defense Intelligence document titled
Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities
is essential for life. Destroying a country’s water supply
is an insidious way of delivering a deathblow. Just last
week President George W. Bush signed the $4.8 billion bioterror
bill urging increased security for the water systems of
American cities, citing the threat of possible terrorist
attacks on U.S. water.
in an effort to ultimately topple Saddam Hussein from power,
this is exactly what the United States has been doing to
the people of Iraq for the past decade, beginning with the
bombing of their infrastructure in 1991. Defense Intelligence
documents available on the Pentagon’s own Web site state
that our government was fully aware of the consequences
of destroying Iraq’s water treatment, sanitation and electrical
plants and then coldly monitored the devastating effects
on the civilian population.
phrase “particularly the children” appears repeatedly in
the calculations of probable death and disease.
estimates that 5,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 years
old die every month as a direct result of continuing economic
predicted in the intelligence reports, the greatest killer
of children in Iraq is waterborne disease. But the equipment
and supplies to repair and maintain water, sanitation and
electrical plants have been held up in the complicated maze
of U.N. sanctions and contracts, as well as holds by U.N.
Committee 661. This committee decides which items can or
cannot be sent to Iraq. At various times, essential items
such as hypodermic needles, blood bags and even pencils
have been banned because they could also be used to produce
weapons. Tun Myat, former coordinator of the U.N.
Oil for Food Program, said, “The United States is
spent two weeks in Iraq as part of a humanitarian delegation
sponsored by Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Fifteen people from all walks of life made a conscious decision
to break the U.N. economic sanctions against the people
of Iraq by carrying a token amount of medical supplies,
children’s clothing and school items, such as crayons, pencils
and paper. All delegates risk as much as $1 million in fines
and 12 years in prison. While the engineers, statisticians
and medical personnel had concrete goals to accomplish,
my job was simply to take photographs, be a witness, meet
Iraqi people and hear their stories. Expecting the rage
and hostility that a nation starved of even books and periodicals
must feel, I was stunned by their kindness, warmth and open-heartedness.
are welcome in our country,” was the constant theme. “We
love Americans, but we don’t love your government.”
people simply asked, “Why is your government doing this
have given them the rhetoric that I read and hear every
day in American media: Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator
developing and amassing weapons of mass destruction, and
we must find a way to diminish his power. But what sense
does this make to a mother weeping over a picture of her
dead child? How could I justify the bombing of a desperately
poor neighborhood, already in the death throes from previous
bombings and the effects of polluted water, to advance the
cause of regime change in Iraq?
Abdul Al-Hashimi, Iraqi president of the Organization for
Friendship, Peace and Solidarity, spoke to our group in
Baghdad. “Who told you that your way of life is better?”
he asked. “Who gave Congress the right to issue a law for
the liberation of Iraq? Who gave you the right?”
spoke passionately about the United States’ use of depleted-uranium
weapons in Iraq and elsewhere, and the resulting long-term
destruction to the environment and catastrophic increases
of cancer and birth defects. It is estimated that during
the Gulf War, over 1 million depleted uranium “bullets”
were used in the Basrah area in southern Iraq.
the grim library of snapshots taken by Dr. Janan Hassan
at the Basrah Maternity and Pediatric Hospital. They depict
congenital deformities too awful to imagine: children born
with external organs, no eyes, no orifices, and even one
with no head. Other photographs depict before-and-after
images of beautiful grade-school-aged children and the results
from being denied drugs that could have spared them excruciating
too, wonder why we don’t play by the rules that we helped
write for the rest of the world, those basic tenets of humanitarian
law and simple compassion.
Amman, the Jordanian Minister of Water, Dr. Munther J. Haddadin,
spoke to our delegation. “You wonder why there are terrorists?”
he asked. “What do you think these children will be in 10
years? Do you think they’ll join the Peace Corps?”
Haddadin, who was educated at the University of Washington
and is married to an American, continued, “The feelings
on the streets here are not only confusion, but rage at
how the greatest power on Earth is viewing the situation
here and how unfair it is. We wonder how the ‘land of the
free’ and ‘home of the brave’ can talk of regime change.
It’s outrageous. It’s not the America that we have known.
It’s not the country that educated us.”
me sentimental, but I still want to believe in the land
of the free, the home of the brave. I still want to be proud
of being American, to say the pledge of allegiance and feel
those goose bumps up my back, knowing that I live in the
greatest nation on Earth.
the images of dehydrated babies mewing like weak kittens
and the pleas of a despairing father haunt me. Instead of
pride, I feel deep sadness that my government’s political
agenda has hastened the deaths of nearly a half-million
Iraqi children who left this Earth thirsty for a little
human kindness and a clean drink of water.