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the war against Iraqi children


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Unmasked: The War Against Iraqi Children

“Why do’ they’ hate us?” George W. Bush, September 2001.

By Ghali Hassan

08/03/04 "ICH" -- A humanitarian crisis has been looming in Iraq since the 1991 U.S. war due to shortage of drinking water and increase in waterborne diseases that kill children. Despite abundant supplies of water from the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Shatt-Al-Arab waterway formed by the confluence of the two rivers, because of the destruction to Iraq’s infrastructure and the genocidal sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.S-UN.

During the 1991 U.S. war on Iraq the country's eight multi-purpose dams had been repeatedly hit, simultaneously wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of seven major pumping stations were destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewerage facilities - 20 in Baghdad, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water purification plants were incapacitated throughout Iraq.

According to a new report by the London-based health organisation MEDACT, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), “lack of access to safe drinking water, and human waste backed up and out of drains led to infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid”. While Iraq had built one of the most advanced health systems in the developing world before the U.S. war in 1991, that war and the monstrous sanctions had a disastrous impact on Iraq’s performance. One in eight children fewer than five, died before their fifth birthday; one in four was chronically malnourished; a quarter of all newborns were underweight; while maternal mortality stood at 294 for every 100,000 births, roughly the same level as Peru and Bangladesh. The report expressed particular concern for the health of young children, babies and the weak (1).

In 2001, Professor Thomas Nagy of the School of Business and Public Management at George Washington University investigated the U.S. Government “declassified” documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) that “proving” beyond a doubt that, the malevolent intent to target sites of vital civilian importance in the first U.S. war on Iraq (2). Professor Nagy cites macabre foreknowledge of the effects of bombing water purification and sewage treatment facilities, which provide clean water to the Iraqi people.

The four “declassified” DIA documents are available on the Internet. One documents stated clearly: “Conditions are favourable for communicable disease outbreaks, particularly in major urban areas affected by coalition bombing. Infectious disease prevalence in major Iraqi urban areas targeted by coalition bombing (Baghdad, Basrah) undoubtedly has increased since the beginning of Desert Storm. Current public health problems are attributable to the reduction of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification and distribution, electricity, and the decreased ability to control disease outbreaks”(3).

This document, “Disease Outbreaks in Iraq”, lists the “most likely diseases during next 60-90 days (in descending order), Diarrhea diseases (particularly children), Acute respiratory illnesses (colds and influenza), Typhoid, Hepatitis A (particularly children), Measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children), Meningitis, including meningococcal (particularly children), Cholera (possible, but less likely). The Documents adds: “MOST LIKELY DISEASES DURING THE FOLLOWING 90-180 DAYS, Diarrheal diseases (particularly children), Acute respiratory illnesses (colds), Typhoid, Hepatitis A (particularly children), Conjunctivitis (Eye infections), Measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children), Coetaneous leishmaniasis, Meningococcal meningitis (particularly children), Malaria, Cholera (possible, but less likely)”. Why the U.S. and its allies targeted the Iraqi children in particular?

The other document, “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,” is dated January 22, 1991 and stated: “Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralised and frequently brackish to saline”. It continues: “With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent UN sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease”. As reported in The Sunday Herald on 17 September 2000 “Water-borne diseases in Iraq today are both endemic and epidemic. They include typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and polio (which had previously been eradicated), along with a litany of others”(4).

Furthermore, Professor Nagy noted: “As these documents illustrate, the United States knew sanctions had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq”. Indeed Professor Nagy wrote: “The U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country’s water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway. And it was more concerned about the public relations nightmare for Washington than the actual nightmare that the sanctions created for innocent Iraqis”.

According to Pentagon officials, that was the intention. In a June 23, 1991, Washington Post article, Pentagon officials stated that Iraq’s electrical grid had been targeted by bombing strikes in order to undermine the civilian economy. “People say, ‘You didn’t recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage,’” said one planning officer at the Pentagon. “Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions-help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions.”

Article 54 of the Geneva Convention states: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

“This is precisely what the United States government did, with malice aforethought”, Professor Nagy noted: “It destroyed, removed, or rendered useless Iraq’s drinking water installations and supplies. The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. They amount to a systematic effort to, in the DIA’s own words, “fully degrade” Iraq’s water sources”(2).

Iraq cannot legally import or export any goods outside the UN sanctions system. Chlorine and essential equipment parts needed to repair and clear the water system have been banned from entering the country under the UN “hold” system, which was imposed by the U.S-UK members of the Security Council.

Ohio Democrat Representative Tony Hall has written to American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, saying he shares concerns expressed by UNICEF about the “profound effects the deterioration of Iraq's water supply and sanitation systems on children's health”. Diarrhoeal diseases he says are of “epidemic proportions” and are “the prime killer of children under five”. “Holds on contracts for water and sanitation are a prime reason for the increase in sickness and death”. Of 18 contracts, wrote Hall, all but one on hold were placed by the government in the US. However, Madeleine Albright was one of the architects of this genocidal policy on Iraq. She thought, “the price is worth it”. That was exactly what the Nazis thought of Jewish children.

Professor Joy Gordon of Fairfield University who analysed large amount of UN data on the effect of the sanctions, wrote in November 2002 Harper’s Magazine: “In early 2001, the United States had placed holds on $280 million in medical supplies, including vaccines to treat infant hepatitis, tetanus, and diphtheria, as well as incubators and cardiac equipment. The rationale was that the vaccines contained live cultures, albeit highly weakened ones. The Iraqi government, it was argued, could conceivably extract these, and eventually grow a virulent fatal strain, then develop a missile or other delivery system that could effectively disseminate it. UNICEF and U.N. health agencies, along with other Security Council members, objected strenuously. European biological-weapons experts maintained that such a feat was in fact flatly impossible. At the same time, with massive epidemics ravaging the country, and skyrocketing child mortality, it was quite certain that preventing child vaccines from entering Iraq would result in large numbers of child and infant deaths”(5).

The UN has estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions, and that 5,000 Iraqi children continue to die every month for this reason. No one can say that the United States didn’t know what it was doing. The deliberate killing of Iraqi children is an act of war crimes and those Western perpetrators should be indicted for war crimes.

The humanitarian crises in Iraq are increasing as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces. In March 2004, a fact-finding mission by the Belgian NGO Medical Aid for the Third World found that even the devastating effects of the US-UK sanctions have not been overcome, including their veto of medicines, and that infant mortality is apparently increasing and general health declining because of deteriorating living conditions: lack of access to food, potable water, or medical aid and hospitals, and a sharp decline in purchasing power - largely the result of the remarkable failures of what should have been one of the easiest military occupations ever against a defenseless nation.

An Iraqi political group, the Struggle Against Hegemony Movement, published its finding on Monday, says more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and October 2003. The finding is consistent with earlier findings by Western groups.

A high UN official has raised the specter of a serious humanitarian crisis (i.e. lots of people dying) in Basra this summer due to lack of drinking water as people need for a population of 1.3 million, and the temperature has soared to 50 C / 122 F: “We are confronting a potential serious humanitarian crisis,” Ross Mountain, acting special representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Iraq, told Reuters in Amman on 30 July 2004.

Still not satisfied with the destruction of Iraq’s water, the U.S. handed Iraq water systems to Bechtel, an American firm with a controversial history of water privatisation in the Developing World. Bechtel is attempting to control not only the process of rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, but also control over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers themselves. Bechtel has been embroiled in a lawsuit with Bolivia for their plan to privatise the water there, which would drastically raise the cost of clean water for the poorest people in the country. Bechtel presence in Iraq is a recipe for disaster

For thousands of years, the Tigris and the Euphrates has been the lifeline of the Iraqi people. It was here, in the Tigris and Euphrates River basin that the world’s first cities, with perhaps as many as 50,000 inhabitants appeared. The cradle of ancient civilisations. Along with monumental architecture and the beginnings of writing. Epic literature codes of laws, and contributions to astronomy and mathematics all followed in succeeding millennium. What rights do Americans have to commit such heinous crimes against the history of humanity and the Iraqi people?

Furthermore, Western contractors are cutting into billions of dollars set aside for 90 planned water projects, allowing them to supply only half of the potable water originally expected, Nasreen Berwari, the “minister” of municipalities and public work in the appointed Iraqi government told The New York Times on 26 July 2004. So far, the US have only spent a total of $366 million of the $18.4 billion Iraq “reconstruction” package that have been handed to US corporations.

People in the West, particularly Americans, have been carefully screened (by Fox News, NBC and the likes) from seeing any sign of vast devastation, suffering and genocides caused by their government wars of aggression and committed in their names. How many more thousands of Iraqi children have to die in order to awake the consciences of Westerners liberals? The liberal and mainstream media of the West, whose main concerns are “morality” and “human rights”, live in silence when the genocide of Iraqi children perpetrated by Western leaders.

The media attention is now devoted to Sudan, “[w]e are shown starving babies now, but no TV station will show the limbless or the dead that we cause if we attack Sudan. Humanitarian aid should be what the Red Cross always said it must be - politically neutral. Anything else is just an old-fashioned colonial war - the reality of killing, and the escalation of violence, disguised with the hypocritical mask of altruism”, writes John Laughland of Sanders Research Associates in the UK.

For Iraq to recover ‘liberation’ is urgently needed- in Iraq, in Palestine and in every country where colonial powers are becoming entrenched.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He can be contacted on: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au.


(1) MEDACT (2003). Continuing Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq. http://www.medact.org/tbx/pages/sub.cfm?id=775.

(2) Thomas J. Nagy (2001). The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply. The Progressive, September.

(3) http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/declassdocs/di...pgv072_90p.html.


(4) Felicity Arbuthnot (2000). Allies deliberately poisoned Iraq public water supply in Gulf War. http://www.sundayherald.com/print10837.

(5) Joy Gordon (2002). Cool War, Harper’s Magazine, November.


Edited by nightbird
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It is extremely unfortunate and very true that children are always the ones who suffer most at the hands of the brutal. Now that Saddam is gone the children are going to school, have more to eat and are much safer than ever they were before.

While Bagdad is still very violent, the childrens parents are not being kidnapped and killed by the thousands anymore....overall the plite of the children in Iraq is greatly improved with the war effort.

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overall the plite of the children in Iraq is greatly improved with the war effort.

Are you sure about that joc?

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Have you two? I know a friend who's brother is in Baghdad and says that the majority of the population is now better off thx to the US.

Oh and blaming the US imposed sanctions is low... real low. Its also BS. The sanctions were there to keep money from going into the military. Iraq had all the money they needed to help their population, but SH funnelled it away from the population. Its not the USs fault that people died under the sanctions, its Iraqs.

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Have you two? I know a friend who's brother is in Baghdad and says that the majority of the population is now better off thx to the US.

Yes I have been there. Have you Stellar?

I have very good friends that I served with that I am always in contact with who are in the Army, serving there currently. jocs post implies that just Baghdad is still violent, and that is not the case as fighting is still widespread throughout many areas of Iraq. Chaos is an understatement. Are the lives of the children better than pre-war Saddam regime iraq? I don't know.

Should the US plan to install a democracy work, then someday the kids will be better off. That hasn't happened yet, and there is still a great deal of fighting going on daily in several cities throughout iraq. It will be years and years of fighting like we are seeing now before democracy could stand a chance, so I don't know if the plite of the children is any better off now or not.

Having the US in the country does not magically make it better for anyone. It will be a very long time before we know if our efforts are successful.

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jocs post implies that just Baghdad is still violent, and that is not the case as fighting is still widespread throughout many areas of Iraq.

There was no implication meant that the rest of Iraq is a peaceful day dream. My only point was that obviously the children are better off and not years from now, but right now....the key word here is obviously. While it may not be obvious to you and others, it is none the less obvious. The obvious logic goes something like this: Saddam routinely kidnapped and killed the parents of children. He also routinely kidnapped and raped the children of parents. Iraq is not a more violent country than before the US and coalition allies toppled Saddam.

It seems that way but it isn't. Children are going to school and parents are going to work, and while it isn't a peaceful daydream, the children are better off.

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joc, I am glad that you can be so confident in your assumptions.

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obviously joc and stellar didnt bother to read this article i posted.

so here it is again. written by a man IN baghdad

and as for it being low to speak of us sanctions and blame them for the water problem in iraq. I dont think it is low at all. low is imposing sanctions with the knowledge that what you are doing will affect innocent children and people , but doing it anyway becuase it will heighten you chances in this war.

the article......please read it.

'Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?'

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

01 August 2004 "The Independent" -- The war is a fraud. I’m not talking about the weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa’ida which didn’t exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I’m talking about the new lies.

For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America’s puppet government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month’s death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we are not told.

The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident at Saddam Hussein’s "trial". Not only did the US military censor the tapes of the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of the 11 other defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to believe - until he reached the courtroom - that he was on his way to his execution. Indeed, when he entered the room he believed that the judge was there to condemn him to death. This, after all, was the way Saddam ran his own state security courts. No wonder he initially looked "disorientated" - CNN’s helpful description - because, of course, he was meant to look that way. We had made sure of that. Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: "Are you a lawyer? ... Is this a trial?" And swiftly, as he realised that this really was an initial court hearing - not a preliminary to his own hanging - he quickly adopted an attitude of belligerence.

But don’t think we’re going to learn much more about Saddam’s future court appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster Ahmad and the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told the Iraqi press two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from future court hearings. And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a Milosevic, he’ll want to talk about the real intelligence and military connections of his regime - which were primarily with the United States.

Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.

Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn’t Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn’t Bush realise this? The American-appointed "government" controls only parts of Baghdad - and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the "Prime Minister", is little more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn’t get it. The disaster exists now.

When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next January? Even the National Conference to appoint those who will arrange elections has been twice postponed. And looking back through my notebooks over the past five weeks, I find that not a single Iraqi, not a single American soldier I have spoken to, not a single mercenary - be he American, British or South African - believes that there will be elections in January. All said that Iraq is deteriorating by the day. And most asked why we journalists weren’t saying so.

But in Baghdad, I turn on my television and watch Bush telling his Republican supporters that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the "coalition", that they support their new US-manufactured government, that the "war on terror" is being won, that Americans are safer. Then I go to an internet site and watch two hooded men hacking off the head of an American in Riyadh, tearing at the vertebrae of an American in Iraq with a knife. Each day, the papers here list another construction company pulling out of the country. And I go down to visit the friendly, tragically sad staff of the Baghdad mortuary and there, each day, are dozens of those Iraqis we supposedly came to liberate, screaming and weeping and cursing as they carry their loved ones on their shoulders in cheap coffins.

I keep re-reading Tony Blair’s statement. "I remain convinced it was right to go to war. It was the most difficult decision of my life." And I cannot understand it. It may be a terrible decision to go to war. Even Chamberlain thought that; but he didn’t find it a difficult decision - because, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, it was the right thing to do. And driving the streets of Baghdad now, watching the terrified American patrols, hearing yet another thunderous explosion shaking my windows and doors after dawn, I realise what all this means. Going to war in Iraq, invading Iraq last year, was the most difficult decision Blair had to take because he thought - correctly - that it might be the wrong decision. I will always remember his remark to British troops in Basra, that the sacrifice of British soldiers was not Hollywood but "real flesh and blood". Yes, it was real flesh and blood that was shed - but for weapons of mass destruction that weren’t real at all.

"Deadly force is authorised," it says on checkpoints all over Baghdad. Authorised by whom? There is no accountability. Repeatedly, on the great highways out of the city US soldiers shriek at motorists and open fire at the least suspicion. "We had some Navy Seals down at our checkpoint the other day," a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to me. "They asked if we were having any trouble. I said, yes, they’ve been shooting at us from a house over there. One of them asked: ’That house?’ We said yes. So they have these three SUVs and a lot of weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards the house. And later they come back and say ’We’ve taken care of that’. And we didn’t get shot at any more."

What does this mean? The Americans are now bragging about their siege of Najaf. Lieutenant Colonel Garry Bishop of the 37th Armoured Division’s 1st Battalion believes it was an "ideal" battle (even though he failed to kill or capture Muqtada Sadr whose "Mehdi army" were fighting the US forces). It was "ideal", Bishop explained, because the Americans avoided damaging the holy shrines of the Imams Ali and Hussein. What are Iraqis to make of this? What if a Muslim army occupied Kent and bombarded Canterbury and then bragged that they hadn’t damaged Canterbury Cathedral? Would we be grateful?

What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that hostage-taking is having an "effect" on reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don’t clear the way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq which Mr Blair was boasting of the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?

Take the Saddam trial. The entire Arab press - including the Baghdad papers - prints the judge’s name. Indeed, the same judge has given interviews about his charges of murder against Muqtada Sadr. He has posed for newspaper pictures. But when I mention his name in The Independent, I was solemnly censured by the British Government’s spokesman. Salem Chalabi threatened to prosecute me. So let me get this right. We illegally invade Iraq. We kill up to 11,000 Iraqis. And Mr Chalabi, appointed by the Americans, says I’m guilty of "incitement to murder". That just about says it all.

Copyright: The Independent

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