Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Welcome to Liberated Iraq

/ liberty as death /
Dr. Entissar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist from Yarmook Hospital went to the US to talk about what's really happening in Iraq, three years after the invasion, from her experience as someone who works in one of the largest hospitals in Iraq. Her testimony is truly horrific and infuriating, as it points to a willful (and murderous) mismanagement for the sake of profiteering, that defies any sort of ethics, apart from the deadly toll of an already immensely murderous campaign:

After our hospitals were bombed and looted, millions of dollars were given to contractors to repair them. We suggested that this money be used to buy things that we urgently need, but the contractors refused and instead bought furniture and flowers and superficial things. Meanwhile, we suffer from a critical shortage of medicines, emergency supplies and anesthesia, and there is no sterilization in the operation rooms. As the director of the pharmacy department in my hospital, I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms.

And confirms that the health situation in the country is even worse than it was under the UN sanctions:

Diseases that were under control under the regime of Saddam Hussein, diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, polio, have now returned to haunt the population, especially the children. Death due to cancer has increased because treatment programs stopped and medicines are not available. The health of the Iraqi people is also devastated by environmental contamination due to the destruction of our water and sewage systems.

The health of women, particularly pregnant women, has deteriorated. Many pregnant women suffer from malnutrition. When it comes time to give birth, many women prefer to give birth at home because they fear being shot on their way to the hospital and they know the bad conditions in the hospitals. As a result, more women are dying in childbirth, and more babies are dying.

Before the occupation, with all the problems we had under sanctions, Iraq ranked number 80 in the worldwide list of deaths of children under 5. Today, we have jumped up to number 36. UNICEF has said that the rate of severe malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the occupation.

So it seems that when the occupation forces are not busy killing six-month-old infants and two-year-old children with their own hands, they are spreading death much more efficiently through institutionalized negligence.

Three years ago, as the US armed forces invaded Iraq, creating what was an easily predictable catastrophe in an already ravaged land, millions of people world wide demonstrated against the intervention, sensing (I suspect) directly or indirectly that this would be the opening act of a much larger campaign of recolonisation and of war. In the process the ethos of the US government was demonstrated in the killing fields of Fallujah, in Abu Ghraib and in the myriads of theatres of the most horrendous violence and repression, already far beyond what Saddam would have been able to inflict on his own country. The net result is a brewing low intensity civil war in Iraq, that threatens at any moment to erupt on a grander scale, coupled with unfathomable destruction and looting by the partners of the Bush regime - a gang of kleptocrats that would put Yeltsin to shame. The mantra that if the occupation forces leave now the situation will only become worse, is tired already and will possibly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if they are not removed now, but are rather left to watch over a civil war whose flames they can only fan. The only reasonable chance that Iraq has of avoiding a total civil war is immediate negotiated withdrawal of occupation forces now.

As we speak it seems possible that the same crew of warmongers is preparing the ground for an attack on Iran which, most rational people would agree, will create an even more deadly and dangerous world. In this event anti-war demonstrations are not enough. Any government which chooses to ride the Bush bandwagon should be brought down by demonstrations, strikes, and every imaginable sort of campaign. This is not only for the sake of the people of Iran (for whom an aerial attack on nuclear facilities will be a disaster of immense scale), but for the sake of our own lives and the lives of our children.


Litmus said...

Hmm, do you have a way in which the UN sanctions could have been lifted without the forceful removal of Saddam Hussein? Rolf Ekeus who headed UNSCOM from 91-97, argued the sanctions were critical at keeping Saddam at bay. He was in favor of invasion because the alternative was a continuation of sanctions and Saddam. Even though the war was not approved by the UN Security Council, the sanctions which by UNICEF's count killed half a million people, was (the number excludes Saddam's own sadistic whims of course)...

talos said...

The point about sanctions unforunately becomes moot if indeed, as Ariabi notes, the health situation is in fact worse now than it was under the sanctions regime.

I could also argue that the sanctions themselves as far as their breadth is concerned, were unwarranted. Saddam had ceased to be a threat to any of his neighbours, the sanctions were crippling and the UN inspections, it turns out, were in fact succesful in disarming Iraq. (And the whole issue of Iraq being a danger to the US was laughable to begin with).

So you had very severe sanctions, the severity of which was dictated by the US, which led to destruction of Iraq's ability to govern itself and support its population. It is rather ironic to claim that the US invasion was justified because it removed the sanctions, because they could very well have been removed (as far as, for example, medicine and sanitation equipment was concerned), without any invasion! Indeed it seems now clear, that the whole Iraq game plan involved making sure that Iraq will never again, under any government, become a major, independent, local power outside of US control.

But as I said, the point is by now moot. Iraq is not only worse of in humanitarian terms than it was before the invasion, but it is on the verge of an, invasion induced, civil war, its civilian infrastucture damaged beyond any ability (and certainly intention) of quick repair and the torture and human rights violations occuring as we speak in the country, can credibly be considered equal or worse than those of the more murderous periods of the Hussein regime.

Litmus said...

Well, I think in order for the point to be moot not only does the death rate need to be higher but the institutionalized negligence has to be sustained and maintained as an intentional systematic policy for the proportional duration the sanctions were and would have continued to be. Richard Garfield, who had one of the most conservative numbers for the sanctions death toll, noted a death toll of 120,000 between 1998-2002. If the removal of Saddam happened internally, I have yet to see someone make a convincing argument that such a scenerio wouldn't have resulted in a similiarly bloody scenerio, where the army would fracture into different camps with Iran again trying capitalize from the ordeal. One of the questions to be answered here in general is just how long would have the sanctions continued in the alternative scenerio.

The claim is that Saddam "ceased" to be a threat as long as sanctions were in place. Rolf Ekeus, who was highly critical of the way in which the case for war was made, said that it would be hard to remove the primary preventive measure from a government in which "competition with Iran was a driving factor" for repeated violations of UN resolutions. Ekeus' main criticism about the case for war was the US not stressing just how important having "software" such as plans to reconstitute WMD programs was for a country that never gave up its goal of delivering a conclusive defeat to enemies like Iran, and instead trying to make bizarre claims about a couple of tubes.

talos said...

Litmus: you seem to believe that the sanctions were necessary, and were prolonged, for reasons other than US strategic ambitions in the area. I respectfully disagree. It was the US government that insisted on the wide range and crippling effect of sanctions, and it was US policy to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq. The US government was well aware from the start of the impending diseases and health problems that the sanctions would bring on Iraq.

As for Ekeus, I have little confidence in his wisdom. He insisted three months after the invasion that as soon as they get Hussein and his sons they'll find the missing WMDs. Anyway, the point about Iraq needing WMDs to confront Iran makes the whole justification surreal. Pakistan also needs its nukes as a counterweight to India's. Should we have a superpower (China?) invade Pakistan as well? And of course there is the case of the other Middle Eastern country, which occupies militarily large parts of foreign territory, is guilty of large scale abuses of the occupied population and of international law and has invaded a neighbouring country on pretexts even less convincing than Saddam's claims about Kuwait (jailing and then placing under house arrest its pre-eminent WMD whistleblower BTW). Nothing is being said about it.

Of course there's the larger issue of who exactly elected the US military as global police officer, and based on what prior history of global benevolence? What does the horrendous occupation with its daily atrocities say about the motives of the occupiers? What do the sadistic sanctions (which I remind you, the US goverment was arguing until 2002, were not at all to blame for the exploding death toll)?

Anyway, if Iran should have been worried they showed no sign of it. There was no one in the region seriously worried about Iraq's military power after the First Gulf War. The sanctions were imposed to weaken Saddam internally (in which they failed) and make sure that no viable independent Iraq arises again under any leadership not OKed by the US. Their effectiveness or not as instruments of disarmament is highly questionable and morally unsupportable in light of their results. The same - in spades - goes for the invasion.