May 12, 2003
War hasn't ended for everyone in the Iraq that Bush prides himself on having "liberated." The U.S. has imposed not only a curfew, but a permanent presence of troops who daily kill or harm Iraqi civilians. For the Iraqi population, the list of its dead grows longer.
Today U.S. missiles are no longer raining down on cities. But the unexploded remains from thousands of cluster bombs have been transformed into anti-personnel mines, which continue to cause grave harm and often death, particularly for children. The occupation troops have also exploded huge inventories of weapons without bothering to pay attention to disastrous results on neighboring communities. U.S. troops have also shot into crowds at anti-U.S. demonstrations in Mosul, Falluja and Baghdad.
The destruction from this war now threatens to bring about a health catastrophe in the cities. Four weeks after the fall of Baghdad, there still is no electric power and running water – in any case not in working class neighborhoods where most of the population of the capital lives. In the cities of Baghdad, Nassiriya and Najaf the population has been reduced to breaking into water mains to get at what remains of the stagnant water. At the same time, sewer lines damaged by bombs continue to spew their filthy contents into the ground water. In Basra, those who can't afford to buy the bottled water which has started to come in from Kuwait (costing $2.50 for 12 ounces, the equivalent to a week's wage for a construction laborer or three days pay for a teacher) are taking muddy water from the Shatt al-Arab, the waterway which crosses the city.
The sanitary situation is so bad that doctors in Baghdad have warned of increases of all kinds of diseases, including cholera. The doctors have also warned that if epidemics break out, they have few tools to fight them. They have no medicine due to both a decade of sanctions that kept medicine out of hospitals, and then the looting at the end of April that the U.S. army didn't bother to stop. And the medicines have not been replenished. In the rest of the country, where the sanitary system and hospitals are still more limited, the situation is even worse.
The development of such a catastrophe, even after such a war, isn't inevitable. During the war, the U.S. flew over a thousand bombing sorties every day. The same number could be flown to bring in food, medicine and water. Today the flight of one big super-cargo jet could bring enough medicine for the immediate needs of all the hospitals in Baghdad. But the U.S. hasn't organized relief flights because there is simply no profit in it. The gigantic aircraft carriers in the Gulf are true floating factories equipped with all kinds of equipment and specialized manpower which could be used to repair the power, water-pumping and sewage plants damaged by bombing. But in Basra it was only the Red Cross that took responsibility for repairing a power plant by bringing in European technicians. The British occupation forces haven't yet authorized technicians to bring in any equipment!
It's not a question of resources, only of priorities – priorities based on profit. U.S. and British military engineers have been working overtime to get oil pumping, and refining up and running near the port of Umm Qasr! U.S. soldiers in Baghdad have expressed dismay at the situation. The Washington Post recently interviewed Army Sergeant Keith Hudson, whose Third Infantry Division unit patrols Baghdad. Said Hudson, "From a soldier's point of view, the destruction is over. The rebuilding should start. Now's not the time to start small and get bigger. You need to stack aircraft end to end. They could be flying crap in from everywhere. Everyone needs to jump on board on this. It's pathetic... I have no answers for the people. I feel like a paid liar. To look people in the eye and say, 'Tomorrow, you'll have electricity.' And then, tomorrow, they look you in the eye and say, 'When?"'
Unfortunately, the total lack of concern by the U.S. about the population's desperate situation is no surprise. To think that an administration that carried out this kind of military attack on Iraq, with all the consequences for civilians during the bombing, would suddenly become concerned about the well-being of the ordinary Iraqis is nonsense.