Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cherishing children is the mark of a civilized society.

By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 22 May 2006

/- Joan Ganz Cooney/

If, as I would like to believe, the above quote suggests all children
and not merely those born in Western democracies, I am no longer certain
that we live in a civilized society.

That women and children suffer the most during times of war is not a new
phenomenon. It is a reality as old as war itself. What Rumsfeld, Rice
and other war criminals of the Cheney administration prefer to call
"collateral damage" translates in English as the inexcusable murder of
and other irreparable harm done to women, children and the elderly
during any military offensive.

US foreign policy in the Middle East manifests itself most starkly in
its impact on the children of Iraq. It is they who continue to pay with
their lives and futures for the brutal follies of our administration.
Starvation under sanctions, and death and suffering during war and
occupation are their lot. Since the beginning of the occupation, Iraqi
children have been affected worst by the violence generated by the
occupying forces and the freedom fighters.

While I had witnessed several instances of this from the time of my
first trip to Iraq in November 2003, I was shaken by a close encounter
with it, a year later, in November 2004.

In a major Baghdad hospital, 12-year-old Fatima Harouz lay in her bed
dazed, amidst a crowded hospital room. She limply waved her bruised arm
at the flies that buzzed over the bed. Her shins, shattered by bullets
when American soldiers fired through the front door of her house, were
both covered in casts. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red fluid
sat upon her abdomen, where she had taken shrapnel from another bullet.

She was from Latifiya, a city just south of Baghdad. Three days before I
saw her, soldiers had attacked her home. Her mother, standing with us in
the hospital, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even any
resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and killed,
his wife wounded, and their home ransacked by soldiers. "Before they
left, they killed all of our chickens," added Fatima's mother, her eyes
a mixture of fear, shock and rage. A doctor who was with us as Fatima's
mother narrated the story looked at me and sternly asked, "This is the
freedom … in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"

The doctors' anger was mild if we consider the magnitude of suffering
that has been inflicted upon the children of Iraq as a direct result of
first the US-backed sanctions and then the failed US occupation.

In a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on
May 2nd of this year, one out of three Iraqi children is malnourished
and underweight.

The report states
that 25% of Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years
old suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition. In addition, the
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) press release on the
matter added, "A 2004 Living Conditions Survey indicated a decrease in
mortality rates among children under five years old since 1999. However,
the results of a September 2005 Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis
- commissioned by Iraq's Central Organization for Statistics and
Information Technology, the World Food Program and UNICEF - showed
worsening conditions since the April 2003 US-led invasion of the country."

Also this month, on May 15th , a news story
<> about the same
UN-backed government survey highlighted that "people are struggling to
cope three years after US-forces overthrew Saddam Hussein." The report
added that "Children are ... major victims of food insecurity," and
described the situation as "alarming." The story continued, "A total of
four million Iraqis, roughly 15 percent of the population, were in dire
need of humanitarian aid including food, up from 11 percent in a 2003
report, the survey of more than 20,000 Iraqi households found.… Decades
of conflict and economic sanctions have had serious effects on Iraqis.
Their consequences have been rising unemployment, illiteracy and, for
some families, the loss of wage earners."

/*But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel
beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.*/
/ - Carson McCullers/

Iraq's ministries of Health and Planning carried out the survey with
support from the UN World Food Program and UNICEF. A spokesman for
UNICEF's Iraq Support Center in Amman, Jordan, David Singh, told Reuters
that the number of acutely malnourished children in Iraq had more than
doubled, from 4% during the last year of Saddam's rule to at least 9% in
2005. He also said, "Until there is a period of relative stability in
Iraq we are going to continue to face these kinds of problems." UNICEF's
special representative for Iraq, Roger Wright, commenting on the dire
effects of the situation, said, "This can irreversibly hamper the young
child's optimal mental/cognitive development, not just their physical

This past March, an article titled "Garbage Dump Second Home for Iraqi
Children <>"
addressed the appalling situation in the northern, Kurdish-controlled
Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah where young children assist their families in
searching the city garbage dumps. It said that children as young as
seven often accompany their parents to the dumps before school, in order
to look for reusable items such as shoes, clothing and electrical
equipment which is then resold in order to augment the family income.

This disturbing news is not really news in Baghdad. Back in December
2004 I saw children living with their families
in the main dump of the capital city.

Poverty in Iraq has plummeted acutely during the invasion and
occupation. Those who were already surviving on the margins due to years
of deprivation have sunk further, and the children of such families have
recourse to no nutrition, no health care, no education, no present and
no future. Those from less unfortunate backgrounds are now suffering
because the family wage earner has been killed, detained, or lost
employment. Or the source of the family's income, a shop, factory or
farm have been destroyed, or simply because it is impossible to feed a
family under the existing economic conditions of high costs and low to
nil income in Iraq.

As execrable as the current situation is for Iraqi children, most of the
world media, appallingly, does not see it as a story to be covered. Even
back in November 2004, surveys conducted by the UN, aid agencies and the
interim Iraqi government showed that acute malnutrition among young
children had nearly doubled since the US-led invasion took place in the
spring of 2004.

A Washington Post story
"Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos," read, "After the rate of acute
malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4
percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to
a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's
Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development
Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children
suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea
and dangerous deficiencies of protein."

Not only is the US occupation starving Iraq's children, but occupation
forces regularly detain them as well. It is common knowledge in Iraq
that there have been child prisoners in the most odious prisons, such as
Abu Ghraib, since early on in the occupation. While most, if not all,
corporate media outlets in the US have been loath to visit the subject,
the Sunday Herald in Scotland reported
<> back in August 2004 that "coalition
forces are holding more than 100 children in jails such as Abu Ghraib.
Witnesses claim that the detainees - some as young as 10 - are also
being subjected to rape and torture."

The story read, "It was early last October that Kasim Mehaddi Hilas says
he witnessed the rape of a boy prisoner aged about 15 in the notorious
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. 'The kid was hurting very bad and they
covered all the doors with sheets,' he said in a statement given to
investigators probing prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. 'Then, when I heard
the screaming I climbed the door … and I saw [the soldier's name is
deleted] who was wearing a military uniform." Hilas, who was himself
threatened with being sexually assaulted in Abu Ghraib, then described
in horrific detail how the soldier raped 'the little kid.'"

The newspaper's investigation at that time concluded that there were as
many as 107 children being held by occupation forces, although their
names were not known, nor their location or the length of their detention.

In June 2004 an internal UNICEF report, which was not made public, noted
widespread arrest and detention of Iraqi children by US and UK forces. A
section of the report titled "Children in Conflict with the Law or with
Coalition Forces," stated, "In July and August 2003, several meetings
were conducted with CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) … and Ministry
of Justice to address issues related to juvenile justice and the
situation of children detained by the coalition forces … UNICEF is
working through a variety of channels to try and learn more about
conditions for children who are imprisoned or detained, and to ensure
that their rights are respected."

Another section of the report added, "Information on the number, age,
gender and conditions of incarceration is limited. In Basra and Karbala
children arrested for alleged activities targeting the occupying forces
are reported to be routinely transferred to an internee facility in Um
Qasr. The categorization of these children as 'internees' is worrying
since it implies indefinite holding without contact with family,
expectation of trial or due process." The report went on to add, "A
detention centre for children was established in Baghdad, where
according to ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) a
significant number of children were detained. UNICEF was informed that
the coalition forces were planning to transfer all children in adult
facilities to this 'specialized' child detention centre. In July 2003,
UNICEF requested a visit to the centre but access was denied. Poor
security in the area of the detention centre has prevented visits by
independent observers like the ICRC since last December [2003]."

A section of the report which I found very pertinent, as I'd already
witnessed this occurring in Iraq, stated, "The perceived unjust
detention of Iraqi males, including youths, for suspected activities
against the occupying forces has become one of the leading causes for
the mounting frustration among Iraqi youth and the potential for
radicalization of this population group."

On December 17, 2003, at the al-Shahid Adnan Kherala secondary school in
Baghdad, I witnessed US forces detain 16 children who had held a mock,
non-violent, pro-Saddam Hussein the previous day. While forces from the
First Armored Division sealed the school with two large tanks,
helicopters, several Bradley fighting vehicles and at least 10 Humvees,
soldiers loaded the children into a covered truck and drove them to
their base. Meanwhile, the rest of the students remained locked inside
the school until the US military began to exit the area.

Shortly thereafter the doors were unlocked, releasing the frightened
students who flocked out the doors. The youngest were 12 years old, and
none of the students were older than 18. They ran out, many in tears,
while others were enraged as they kicked and shook the front gate. My
interpreter and I were surrounded by frenzied students who yelled, "This
is the democracy? This is the freedom? You see what the Americans are
doing to us here?"

Another student cried out to us, "They took several of my friends! Why
are they taking them to prison? For throwing rocks?" A few blocks away
we spoke with a smaller group of students who had run from the school
(in panic). One student who was crying yelled to me, "Why are they doing
this to us? We are only kids!"

The tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that were guarding the perimeter
of the school began to rumble down the street beside us, on their
passage out. Several young boys with tears streaming down their faces
picked up stones and hurled them at the tanks as they drove by. Imagine
my horror when I saw the US soldiers on top of the Bradleys begin firing
their M-16's above our heads as we ducked inside a taxi. A soldier on
another Bradley, behind the first, passed and fired randomly above our
heads as well. Kids and pedestrians ran for cover into the shops and
wherever possible.

I remember a little boy, not more than 13 years old, holding a stone and
standing at the edge of the street glaring at the Bradleys as they
rumbled past. Another soldier riding atop another passing Bradley pulled
out his pistol and aimed it at the boy's head and kept him in his sights
until the vehicle rolled out of sight.

One of the students hiding behind our taxi screamed to me, "Who are the
terrorists here now? You have seen this yourself! We are school kids!"

The very next month, in January 2004, I was in an area on the outskirts
of Baghdad that had been pulverized by "Operation Iron Grip." I spoke
with a man at his small farm house. His three year old boy, Halaf Ziad
Halaf, walked up to me and with a worried look
on his face said, "I have seen the Americans here with their tanks. They
want to attack us."

His uncle, who had joined us for tea, leaned over to me and said, "The
Americans are creating the terrorists here by hurting people and causing
their relatives to fight against them. Even this little boy will grow up
hating the Americans because of their policy here."

The slaughter, starvation, detention, torture and sexual assault of
Iraq's children at the hands of US soldiers or by proxy via US foreign
policy, is not a recent phenomenon. It is true that the present US
administration has been brazen and blatant in its crimes in Iraq, but
those willing to bear witness must not forget that Bill Clinton and his
minions played an equally, if not even more devastating role in the
assault on the children of Iraq.

On May 12, 1996, Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was
asked by Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" about the effects of US sanctions
against Iraq, "We have heard that a half million children have died. I
mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the
price worth it?"

In a response which has now become notorious, Albright replied, "I think
this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."

/*We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is
abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the
things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his
bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are
being developed. To him we cannot answer "Tomorrow." His name is "Today."*/
/- Gabriela Mistral/

To all Americans who, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary,
continue to believe that they are supporting a war for democracy in
Iraq, I would like to say, the way Iraq is headed it will have little
use for democracy and freedom. We must find ways to stop the immoral,
soulless, repugnant occupation if we want the children of Iraq to see
any future at all.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.


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