Monday, January 07, 2008


Children As

“Collateral Damage”


By Dan Jakopovich

Great is the hypocrisy of capitalist “civilization”. On the one hand, big business and its media boast of their “democracy” and “freedom,” while at the same time in today’s world they commit the greatest crimes. They spread rhetoric about human rights while stifling human dignity in a myriad of ways. Although several tens of billions of dollars would be enough to eliminate extreme hunger in the world, the USA annually spends approximately 600 billion dollars on its military budget, while approximately 15 million children are dying from starvation every year. It appears that it is still not in the interest of the system to eliminate poverty. War is profitable, and the profits coming from the war in Iraq are evidently more valuable than human lives. Naturally, we are all the same under the skin, and the suffering of men and women is not intrinsically less terrible than the suffering of children. Nonetheless, there is something particularly grotesque in the soulless manner in wich the world powers behave towards the must vulnerable and least culpable generation. Perhaps it is precisely the hypocritical attitude towards them that best reflects the conscience of today's world society.

The First Gulf War, equally absurd as other wars before and after it, started at the beginning of the final decade of the last century. Approximately 90,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Iraq and Kuwait. Nonetheless, Saddam was not deposed. As Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi dissident and professor at the London Metropolitan University, points out, the United States even helped Saddam quell a military rebellion against his authority.

CRIMINAL SANCTIONS
“We Think The Price Is Worth It”
The sanctions that were later imposed against defeated Iraq did not undermine the power of the autocrats but severely afflicted the lives of ordinary people. The sanctions were all-encompassing, perhaps the most restrictive and broadest in history – applying also to food, medicines and other humanitarian necessities. Even chlorine, needed for disinfecting water, was prohibited due to its alleged “dual function“ in the potential manufacture of weapons. UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm) estimated the number of children under five years of age who died as a consequence of the sanctions at 500,000 (five hundred thousand). In 1996, that great liberal, the tastefully attired lady Madeleine Albright (secretary of state under Bill Clinton, whom the stupid, hypocritically moralistic public pilloried for oral sex with Monica Lewinsky and not for aggression waged against numerous countries), responded to a question asked on 60 Minutes as to whether the price of the lives of 500,000 children was worth it as follows: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
Denis Halliday, the former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq (appointed in 1997 as an assistant to the secretary-general of the UN), estimated the total number of deaths due to sanctions at 1 million (an inconceivable number of human lives destroyed). In October 1998, after a 34-year career at the UN, he resigned in order to be able to criticize these cannibalistic sanctions freely and stated: “I don't want to administer a program that satisfies the definition of genocide.” Halliday’s successor, Hans von Sponeck, also submitted his resignation after two years in protest (i.e. revulsion) as did Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Program for Iraq. The corporate mass media ignored these events as much as they could. The corrupt Oil for Food program has only somewhat alleviated the suffering of the population. In addition to sanctions, this exploitative program is one more stain on the history of modern UN.

THE CURRENT BESTIAL WAR
Although periodical limited bombardment of Iraqi targets continued throughout the 1990s (without any great interest from the corporate mass media), the US and its allies announced a new war on Iraq in 2003. The leading British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated through scientific methods in October 2006 that 655,000 (six hundred fifty-five thousand) people had perished in the war by July 2006, as also confirmed by the elite Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.

Dan Toole, director of the Office of Emergency Operations of the United Nations Children's Fund, recently stated: “Children today are much worse off than they were a year ago, and they certainly are worse off than they were three years ago.” He added that Iraqis no longer have safe access to the basic food basket established under Saddam's regime in order to survive international sanctions. At UNICEF there are concerns regarding a potential cholera epidemic because two thirds of the Iraqis do not have access to clean water. The prominent sociologist and professor at the Sorbonne Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, stated in 2005 that the rate of malnutrition among Iraqi children had doubled since the beginning of the war in 2003. Nutritional and health indicators have significantly worsened since the beginning of the occupation. According to a study commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, the ARD of Germany and USA Today, 64% of interviewed Iraqis described their family situation as somewhat poor or very poor, which represents an increase in comparison to 30% in 2005. Access to electricity is described by 88% as somewhat poor or very poor, while 65% thought so in 2004. Although 48% described their access to clean water as poor or very poor in 2004, 69% feel this way now.

According to UNICEF, half of the 4 million Iraqis who have fled their homes since the beginning of the war were children. Tens of thousands of children have lost one or both parents. Deprived of many of their rights, frequently exposed to psychological, physical and sexual violence and potentially harmful forms of labor, the future of these children does not appear overly promising.

THE STRATEGY OF TENSION
Viewed politically, the American occupation of Iraq has generated what had been formerly largely nonexistent enmity and sectarian-based conflicts among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. According to the tried and tested “divide and conquer’’ model, the US is actively promoting these divisions in the Iraqi society. The occupying army has divided the representative bodies, political parties and cities according to these lines. Furthermore, Amnesty International has expressed concern due to the shady trafficking of arms from Bosnia to Iraq, and it appears that the US has imported large shipments of weapons for arming the Sunni militias. Occupying troops have been implicated in cases of terrorist bombings of civilian territories and some of the members of the military forces have been arrested wearing improvised explosive devices that are used for terrorist purposes. For anyone even partly cognizant of the history of the American secret services, for example, this is not a great surprise. In any case, the continuation of foreign occupation has led to further escalation of the conflict, fundamentalism and a civil war that is already raging for its fifth year.

Despair and desire for vengeance have pushed many young people into fundamentalism, which under normal circumstances would be foreign to them. Monstrous violence and fear, isolation, roadblocks, electricity shortages, the destruction of communications links and the general struggle for sheer survival have seriously hindered any serious or realistic dialogue among Iraqis about their common future. The puppet Iraqi government under the control of the US has prohibited strikes, reintroduced the death penalty and imprisoned tens of thousands of people (many without trials). The secular democratic Iraq Freedom Congress has been repressed both by extreme Islamists and the US forces. Under such restrictive conditions, the struggle for the country’s democratization is exceptionally difficult. Meanwhile, the object of this necessary democratization – the Iraqi people – is being subjugated and politically, economically, culturally, physically and psychologically crippled.

WOUNDS BELOW THE SURFACE
Professor Kholoud Nasser Muhssin of the University of Baghdad points out that approximately 60–70% of all Iraqi children suffer from psychological problems. Many of them have also survived traumatic experiences. Psychological wounds are difficult to heal and post-traumatic stress disorder is very common. “New generations, especially this one, will be aggressive,” points out the Baghdad psychiatrist Bilal Youssif Hamid. Many children whom Hamid has tried to treat have witnessed or participated in murders and death. Although parents are frequently too afraid to take their children to a clinic for a medical check-up, much less to school, even the children who go to school have great learning difficulties, as well as anxiety, depression, aggressiveness, nightmares, bedwetting etc. War is always catastrophic for the human psyche.

How can new generations acquire an awareness of the preciousness of each individual when human life is so cheap, the dignity of all people so blatantly ignored and human potentials so suppressed? How can a country be democratized when the most basic rights, such as the right to strike, are prohibited, and the call for vengeance and voice of despair drown out more rational alternatives to imperialism? How to popularize the philosophy of nonviolence?

Dan Jakopovich is the main editor of the left-wing magazine on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia Novi Plamen (www.noviplamen.org).


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