Sunday, June 03, 2007

Burning the village to save the village

Imagine you are living in a country where the government is more than a little off the rails. The leader (call him a president) has grabbed absolute power, personal freedoms are severely restricted, dissent is brutally quashed, political opposition is prohibited and basic human rights are denied to select groups of people.

You still have a job, you can afford your house, you can provide food for your family and are pretty much left alone as long as you don't engage in the things the "president" deems a threat to his power.

You'd probably welcome a change, provided of course that change eliminated all those problems and made your life better.

That, in a very small nutshell, is what happened in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was more than a little unpleasant. He was a nasty sonofabitch.

When the US invaded Iraq under the deliberately false pretense of removing a direct threat to the US, a majority of the Iraqi population generally appeared relatively pleased. Saddam was gone. Things would get better.

But things haven't gotten better. The next time some wanker, including George W Bush or Dick Cheney suggests that the invasion of Iraq was to give the people of Iraq a better life, particularly the women, send them to read this:
“In about 14 percent of families in Iraq women are the main breadwinners, and often they care for a large number of children. The increase in unemployment among them just means more children without support,” said Sarah Muthulak, a spokeswoman for the Baghdad-based Women’s Rights Association (WRA).

“Discrimination against women today is unprecedented. They are being sacked because of their gender; that is unacceptable,” she added.

Women say they are being threatened for working outside their homes and in places which are mostly patronised by men.

“Insurgents and militias want us out of the work environment for many reasons: Some because they believe that women were born to stay at home - cooking and cleaning - and others because they say it is against Islam to share the same space with men who are not close relatives,“ Nuha Salim, spokeswoman for the Baghdad-based NGO, Women's Freedom, said.


“For two months now I have been in a forced marriage. He is from my own sect but I don’t like him and nor does he love me but we don’t have a choice. If I refuse I would die and so I will have to live the rest of my life with a man whom I cannot imagine sleeping with,” Nur added. Nuha from Women’s Freedom said the problem is serious and getting worse. What is happening now in Iraq is a far cry from in the days of Saddam Hussein’s regime when it was safe to marry across the sectarian divide. “There are cases of women who are being forced to sign divorce papers after being threatened by their husband’s family because they were of a different sect - even if they had been living for years in harmony or if innocent children were involved,” she added.
And the next time anyone suggest Iraqis are better off after the US invasion, send them to read this:
Adeela Harith, a 39-year-old widow and mother of three, says she misses the days when her husband was daily bringing them food and when they used to sleep in a safe house in comfort. As a recently-widowed displaced person, she has no support and is now collecting left-overs from rubbish bins to feed her children. Adeela - who is the mother of Ahmed, 14, Zaineb, 12 and Yasser, 8, - said she had tried to get a job as a housekeeper but did not succeed as most families cannot afford maids or do not trust strangers in their homes. Without an education, she was left with no choice but to look for food in rubbish bins. “I have to scrounge around rubbish bins to feed my children. They no longer attend school. The oldest two are street beggars and the youngest, Youssef, is with me looking for food in rubbish bins. “Some people told me that the best way to survive was to find a temporary husband or maybe work as a sex worker to feed my children but I prefer to eat garbage than to lose my dignity.
The next time you hear some war-banging asshole even breath that the US invasion of Iraq will create future generations of peaceful Arab allies, (therefore this is for the children), send them to read this:
Eleven-year-old Seif Abdul-Rafiz and his two brothers were left with no choice but to leave school and work so as to help their unemployed parents make ends meet.

Unable to find a job, Seif resorted to making bombs for Sunni insurgents who are fighting US troops in Iraq.

“We work about eight hours a day and are supervised by two men. They give us food and at the end of the day we get paid for our work. Sometimes we get US $7 and sometimes we get $10, depending on how many bombs we make,” Abdul-Rafiz said.

“The bombs are used to fight American soldiers. I was really afraid in the beginning but then my parents told me that it was for two good causes: the first is to help our family eat; and the second is to fight occupation forces,” he added.


According to NGO the Iraq Aid Association (IAA), reports from Anbar province and two mainly Sunni neighbourhoods of the capital show that children from poor families are helping insurgents make bombs.

“They are in direct contact with dangerous chemicals which when wrongly handled can result in their death. We have secure information that at least three children have died making bombs,” Fatah Ahmed, IAA spokesman, said. But Abdul-Rafiz said that hunger was worse than anything. “My mother cries every day we go out to make bombs but my dad prays for us and tells us to go because he cannot find a job. And the insurgents don’t let him work with them because he was injured in an attack a year ago and they consider him useless,” he said.
There are now thousands of children being forced to work to put money in the household. A large chunk of those children work for the militias cleaning weapons, making bombs, transporting explosives and cooking. The families are fully aware of what their children are doing and, while some mothers fear for the safety of their children, they need the $3 to $10 a day to buy food.

Should anybody be dumb enough to suggest that the reconstruction of Iraq improved health care in that country, send them to read this:
Recent studies by medical colleges, and statistics from local morgues and hospitals, have shown a higher than expected number of cancer-related deaths in Iraq’s southern provinces. According to specialists, the main causes are the increased use of unsafe products in agriculture and the long-term effects of war on health. Psychological stresses and strains engendered by years of conflict, violence, displacement and uncertainty have weakened people’s natural resistance to disease. This has been compounded by the lack of skilled medical staff and poor facilities and equipment. “Lack of treatment for cancer patients and outdated radiotherapy and chemotherapy techniques have led to lower survival rates of patients. The shortage of oncologists, who have fled to neighbouring countries, has worsened the situation,” said Hussein Abdel-Kareem, an oncologist and senior official in the Basra Health Secretariat. “Exposure to radiation from old cluster bombs, the high use of chemicals in agriculture as well as water contamination is having a serious impact on the health of local people, since these factors are important promoters of cancer related diseases. Many of the patients could have been treated but they died because of lack of facilities,” Abdel-Kareem added.
Oh yeah. Cancer. From the shit that gets left lying around after a combat action, from contaminated water and from desperate attempts to grow crops. There is an international legal requirement that combatants clean up the ordnance laying around after combat is suspended. Did somebody forget that little detail or is the US using the excuse that they are still fighting?

All of those reports come from IRIN, an independent service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is a picture of the country Bush, Cheney and their band of neocons have created. A disaster of such magnitude that it is probably beyond repair. A country that will probably sink into the same morass that once had a stranglehold on Afghanistan.

Whenever some wanker tells you that Iraqis are better off now that Saddam Hussein is gone, answer back. Don't waste words and don't apologize.

No. They're not. And thanks to Bush, they never will be.

No comments: