|/* Written 9:51 PM Aug 16, 1998 by firstname.lastname@example.org in igc:labr.all */
/* ---------- "A Lost Generation" ---------- */
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 16 Aug 1998 18:05:07 -0600 (MDT)
From: ANDERSON DAVID
This message is from: Kathy Kelly
Below is a lengthy report from Rick McDowell which he wrote following a
July, 1998 visit to Iraq with the 13th Voices in the Wilderness delegation.
The observations about civilian suffering in Iraq are sadly absent from most
main stream news reports concerning Iraq. Please feel free to copy, print
or circulate all or any part of this article. Kathy Kelly
A Lost Generation by Richard McDowell
"If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the
indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future."
Secretary of State Madeline Albright, in an appearance in February, 1998, on
NBC's "Today" show.
In July, sailing by moonlight along Basrah's Shatt AL-Arab, the confluence of
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, I saw the eerie hulks of rusting ships bombed
by the US and its allies in 1991. Each piece of wreckage sadly symbolizes
obstacles to a normal future for Iraqis. The ships were sunk amid Iraq's only
waterway to the ocean. Looking at the floating graveyard, I recalled Ms.
Albright's description of America's vision. "The indispensable nation"
stands like a towering bully over twenty-two million people who've been
battered and crippled by a state of
siege. After several days of visits to hospitals and internal refugee camps
where people suffer under unimaginable conditions, I was overwhelmed by the
waste of an entire generation of Iraqi children, the destruction of hundreds
of thousands of human lives.
Earlier this year, as the US prepared to unleash another bombardment on the
people of Iraq, I and other Voices in the Wilderness delegation members stood
before a mother and her dying child. In a pediatric unit of Baghdad's Al
Monsour Hospital, we watched helplessly as Ferial breathed her last breath.
Suddenly, other mothers, cradling their children, joined her in an anguished
choir of despair. Later, in the oncology unit, I recognized a young
boy -- the lone survivor of a crowded unit I had visited several months
earlier. When asked about Imad's progress, the doctor grimly stated he would
soon be dead.
Days earlier, at the Maternity and Pediatrics Hospital in Basrah, I saw a
young man writhe in pain while waiting with his father for non-existent cancer
medicine and/or the unavailable pain-killing drugs to ease his suffering. I
turned the corner to evade the painful sight only to encounter another man
collapsed on the floor, crying for his daughter who was dying for lack of
medicine. You cannot escape the suffering and death that defines Iraq today.
Sanctions, as President Woodrow Wilson explained, are "a quiet but most lethal
weapon that exerts a pressure no nation can withstand." It is clear that Iraq
is hemorrhaging under the strain of the most comprehensive sanctions ever
imposed in modern history. Sanctions have become the weapon of mass
destruction which apparently eludes United Nations (UN) weapons inspectors.
Denis Halliday, UN assistant secretary general and humanitarian coordinator
for Iraq, says that sanctions are "undermining the moral credibility of the
UN" and their continuation is "in contradiction to the human rights provisions
in the UN's own Charter." Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights has asked: "How can you expect me to condemn human rights abuses in
Algeria and China and elsewhere when the United Nations themselves are
responsible for the worst situation in Iraq. It's part of my job to bring to
public consciousness the incredible suffering of Iraqi society."
Eight years of economic warfare have resulted in the deaths of over half a
million children. UNICEF reports that 4,500 children under the age of five
are dying each month from hunger and disease. An October, 1997 nutritional
survey indicates that in Central/Southern Iraq, 27.5% --960,000 children-- are
at risk of acute malnutrition. The report concludes: "It would appear that
there has been no consistent evidence for improvement in nutritional status in
infants since the start of SCR986/111 (UN Security Council Resolution 986--oil
for food) implementation. The same situation is also likely for children
under five." In 1997, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and
World Food Program (WFP) reported that among those under 26 years of age, 25%
of men and 16% of women were undernourished.
By 1995, falling incomes and rising prices were estimated to have reduced
earnings to only 5% of their pre-sanctions value in food purchasing terms --
the price of wheat flour has risen 11,667 times compared with July, 1990.
Salaries average between $2 and $7 per month. The UN estimates that four
million Iraqis -- about 20 percent of the population -- live in extreme
poverty, on a par with the poorest countries in the world.
SCR986/111 (986) provides for a food basket of 2,030 kcal and 47 grams of
protein per person per day, while minimum Iraqi needs are estimated at 2,600
kcal per person per day. The food basket does not contain fruit, vegetables
or animal protein. (Iraq cannot purchase its own commodities under 986, which
has led to a further decline in local food production) The FAO/WFP calls the
food basket inadequate and unbalanced.
In a recent report, the FAO noted serious problems with the implementation of
986. The approval of contracts has been slow and the amounts permitted
insufficient. Even if fully implemented, 986 would fall short of meeting the
nutritional and health needs in Iraq. The report concluded that, with "the
continuation of the economic embargo, even allowing for the amelioration that
will occur with 986, the situation will progressively deteriorate with grave
consequences to the health and life of the Iraqi people..."
In July, 1998, our delegation went to Amarah's's sewage treatment plant and
learned that the breakdown of equipment and lack of spare parts has forced the
facility to operate at 25% of capacity -- when electricity is available --
forcing operators to continually dump raw sewage into the Tigris River, the
main source of drinking water for the communities southward.
It's estimated that 25% of babies are born with low birth weights. This may
be due to maternal malnutrition or attributable to the fact that 70% of Iraqi
women suffer from anemia. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that
many of these children will not catch up to their physical or mental
development, laying the foundation for continued long-term health problems
in the country and leading to a lost generation.
Officials at UNOCHI (UN Humanitarian Mission) stated in July, 1998, that UN
agencies have led over 1/2 million inspections of Iraq's 52,000 food
distribution centers. They were "amazed" by the Iraqi government's rationing
system which runs like a "Swiss watch." But, according to the 1998 World
Disasters Report by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Oxford Press),
the complete monthly ration had only been achieved 3 times since the
introduction of 986. Rations typically last an average of 20 days, forcing
Iraqis to survive by selling their personal possessions, household goods,
furniture and clothes while others who have nothing left to sell may be forced
to beg or enter into prostitution.
Serious delays in the importation of medical supplies under 986 have led to
widespread shortages of antibiotics, analgesics, anesthetics and laboratory
test materials. This in turn leads to the reemergence of many diseases,
especially those linked to the damaged water and sanitation systems, such as
cholera, dysentery, malaria and typhoid fever. The WHO Coordinator for Iraq
stated in February, 1998, "This (Iraq) is probably a timebomb in terms of
public health. For at least five to six years, the needs in terms of drugs
were met let's say 10% to 20% of the time according to health facilities.
Partial treatment has become the practice. When an infection is not well
treated then bacterial resistance develops....you increase the chances of drug
resistance." Asked if supplies to the more than 400 medical facilities were
being diverted or hoarded, he responded, "I would say they (medical supplies)
are received 100% of the time...I don't know of any system where the control
of drugs is so tight."
Possessing the world's second largest oil reserves, Iraq's 1990 oil exports
accounted for 75 percent of Iraqi GDP and well over 90% of its foreign
exchange. Although dissent was not tolerated, Iraqis enjoyed a good standard
of living, including free access to the best health care, education, social
security and social welfare in the region.
Under an expanded program of 986, Iraq is allowed to sell up to $5.2 billion
worth of oil every six months from the previous $2 billion, but because its
oil equipment is in disrepair, Iraq is only capable of pumping an estimated $4
billion every six months These estimates were based on higher oil prices --
the price of oil has dropped from $20 per barrel in January 1997 to around
$10 a barrel today.
The immediate afflictions faced by Iraq's 22 million people obscure the long-
term erosion of their social structures. For example, they once boasted an
education system that produced the Middle East's highest literacy rate.
Teachers now moonlight as taxi drivers to supplement their $3 a month salary.
By day, they attempt to cope with a severe lack of books and pencils,
overcrowded classrooms, broken desks and deteriorating buildings. Education
is no longer compulsory -- formerly high primary school rates have fallen to
75% or less. Low birth weights, hunger and disease adversely affect
children's ability to concentrate and learn, contributing to the lost
The most tragic and enduring legacy of the Gulf War may be the more than 315
tones of depleted uranium (DU) released by US tanks and aircraft during the
war. DU is the byproduct of enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel, and has a
half-life of 4.5 billion years. One of the densest metals known to man, DU
was made into kinetic energy penetrators or armor piercing penetrators (solid
rods) and fired into tanks and armored vehicles. When a DU shell hits a
target, radioactive and chemically toxic dust is produced which may be
inhaled, ingested, injected or contaminate an existing wound. The toxic dust
can also be transported by wind or water to another location.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission treats DU as a hazardous material. A July,
1990 report, "Kinetic Energy Penetrator Environment and Health Consequences",
prepared for the US Army by the Science Application International Corporation
(SAIC), predicted that DU shells would generate a large amount of radioactive
dust and that if the dust were ingested or inhaled it would endanger a
person's health. The report stated, "Short-term effects of high doses can
result in deaths, while long-term effects of low doses have been implicated in
cancers, kidney problems and birth defects...the long-term health effects to
natives and combat veterans may become issues in the acceptability of....DU
A 1991 report by the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned that DU debris would
cause deaths among both soldiers and civilians.
Cancer, birth defects and spontaneous abortions are on the rise throughout the
Gulf War battle zone. A recently leaked UN document confirmed a 55%
nationwide increase in cancer between 1989 and 1994. Iraqi officials and a
growing number of international scientists are convinced that the increases
are the result of DU - its residue found in the soil, air, water and food
chain. In one Iraqi village, former soldiers have refused to marry because
they have seen that children of fellow soldiers were born with congenital
deformities. Officials at the FAO stated, in January, 1998, that some sheep
populations in Southern Iraq have been genetically altered. In commenting on
the crisis, an Iraqi journalist referred to the people of the south as the
Tens of thousands of US service men and woman, who served in the war, have
complained of Gulf War Syndrome, while millions of Iraqis continue to live,
work and play in the contaminated areas. Tragically, the US military was
aware of the health risks associated with this new weapons system and failed
to alert US and Allied forces or Kuwaiti and Iraqi forces.
After years of economic sanctions, and with no end in sight, Iraqis are
beginning to lose hope. The heart and soul of the people -- the social
fabric of the nation -- is being destroyed. A UN official was asked in
February, 1998 what gave him hope. He replied, "Two weeks ago I would have
answered your question. Today I have no hope." He stated that oil for food
was not enough to stop malnourishment and that the only way to meet food needs
was to lift economic sanctions. He further stated that conditions are worse
than they were when he worked in Somalia and that two generations of Iraqis
have been lost.
Many countries of the world, including France, China, Russia and several of
Iraq's neighbors have urged the lifting of sanctions, while the US seems
committed to relentless maintenance of the embargo. It has become clear
there is little the government of Iraq can do to end this siege. The US has
publicly stated that sanctions will remain in place and largely unaltered
while Saddam Hussein remains in power. Congress recently approved millions of
dollars to destabilize the government of Iraq, while the Administration and
Congressional leaders have called for covert and overt measures to overthrow
Hussein, in clear violation of international laws and treaties.
The United Nations has estimated $10 billion was needed just to restore Iraq's
electricity network. Halliday, recently said, ``There are huge sums of money
needed in water and sanitation, rehabilitation of hospitals and clinics. There
is a massive amount of money required for education. Infrastructure alone
requires a huge investment. Teaching, housing and job opportunities would
all need major funding. I think they are going to find that this is going to
be a very challenging problem." Halliday added the UN was ready to assist
Iraq after sanctions were lifted, but said investment would be the key to
Iraq's recovery. ``There is going to be a question of finance. You could
argue that Iraq could well use something like the Marshall Plan,'' he said,
referring to US reparations for Western Europe after World War II.
To date, after eight years of genocidal sanctions, not a single Member of
Congress has visited Iraq to see, first hand, how billions of taxpayer dollars
are being spent or the effects of the Administration's policies on the people
Consumed by the challenge of raising and educating children, maintaining a
comparatively comfortable standard of living and preparing for retirement,
Americans pay little attention to foreign policy or what is being done in
their name. What happens to the lives of Iraq's children and families may
seem of little consequence -- but if we care about the lives of our own
children, we must concern ourselves with the world we are creating, a world
where the US remains, in the words of Martin Luther King, "the greatest
purveyor of violence in the world today."
US objectives in Iraq, including control of the country's oil resources, may
be summed up in George Kennan's observations fifty years earlier. (Policy
Planning Study 23, written for the State Department planning staff in 1948)
"...we have 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population...Our
real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which
permit us to maintain this position of disparity...To do so, we will have to
dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have
to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives....We
should cease to talk about vague and...unreal objectives such as human rights,
the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off
when we are going to have to deal straight power concepts. The less we are
hampered by idealistic slogans the better."
If the lives of Iraq's children and families were being decimated by bullets
and bombs, displays of our weapons prowess would be featured daily in
newspaper and television coverage. But in this Orwellian world, death by
internationally sanctioned starvation and disease is somehow palatable; the
myth persists that sanctions are merely a 'kinder and gentler' way to insure
another government's capitulation.
Many Iraqis have asked us to carry back to our country a simple message:
"Have mercy on us."
Richard McDowell, who helped initiate the Voices in the Wilderness campaign
has been a co-coordinator since August, 1996 and has led six delegations to
Iraq. He can be reached at email@example.com
Voices in the Wilderness campaigns to end the UN/US sanctions against Iraq.
The campaign opposes the development, storage, sale and use of any weapons,
be they conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear, in any locale, at
any time. Campaign members regard economic sanctions imposed on innocent
civilians as a weapon of mass destruction. They advocate active nonviolence
as a potentially effective means to resist injustice.
Voices in the Wilderness
A Campaign to End the US/UN Economic Sanctions Against the People of Iraq
1460 West Carmen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
ph:773-784-8065; f: 773-784-8837