FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toledo Sips of Life in Iraq

by

Toledo, Ohio.

Ironically, although this city is affixed to the shore of a Great Lake, we’ve given a new meaning to what a “dry” town is.  We learned it’s one thing to go without beer; quite another to go without water.

For three days, some 500,000 people in northwest Ohio avoided almost all bodily contact with water coming out of a faucet.  No drinking, cooking, dish-washing, teeth-brushing.  Boiling made it worse.  Bathing was OK except for small children, pets and those with compromised immune systems.

Algae blooms in Lake Erie caused by excessive phosphorus and nitrogen from municipal sewage systems, animal feedlots and intensive farming are not new.  For years, thick mats of dying algae have leached microcystin toxin into large portions of the world’s tenth-largest lake, the water source for 11,000,000 people.  But literally overnight on August 2, Erie’s health and a long-delayed overhaul of Toledo’s aging water treatment plant became top priority…for now.

We’ve talked about cleaning up Lake Erie for decades and sometimes did something about it.  We’ve talked about upgrading the water plant since…well, at least since we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan over 10 years ago.  And lest you think our water plant and the two wars are unrelated, consider this: taxpayers here in Lucas County have pissed over 1.6 billion dollars down war’s sandy rat holes – five times what it would cost to provide reliable, safe drinking water to people who now wonder when this will happen again.

Fortunately, truckloads of bottled water soon started streaming into town and onto store shelves emptied by anxious residents.  Not always – as in the case of Hurricane Katrina – but often, that’s how emergencies turn out for Americans.  “Out there” where help comes from is never far away.  Restoring Lake Erie to health is clearly the real issue, but for now a three-day crisis has ebbed.

That’s not the case in Iraq, though.  “Out there” is empty.  The three decade-long calamity crushing the people of Iraq is everywhere, all the time.  It’s the latest in a long line of mega-tragedies the Empire creates and walks away from, but which the rest of the world never forgets.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with tacit U.S. approval in late 1990, his country was quickly hit with U.N. sanctions viciously administered by U.S. fiat for a dozen years.  Within months of that invasion, George Bush the Elder organized Desert Storm, a military assault that drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and the Iraqi people back to the early Industrial Age.

Since sanctions were already in effect before the Desert Storm blitz, Pentagon planners knew how stressed Iraq’s water and sewer systems had become.  A detailed report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, issued just days after the blitz began on January 16, 1991, describes the vulnerabilities in Iraq’s ability to provide safe drinking water, concluding that “Full degradation of the water treatment system probably will take at least another six months.”

That brief war destroyed 31 water and sewer facilities in Iraq, 20 of them in Baghdad.  This, together with a post-war tightening of sanctions, killed up to 500,000 children under the age of five, according to a 1999 UNICEF study – double all the dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The sadism and hubris go unbelievably deeper, according to this statement attributed to a Pentagon planner in a November, 2002 Harper’s article by Joy Gordon: “What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions.”

I won’t further depress/bore/incite you with the statistics since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.  Start with this essential summary by author David Swanson and with little effort you can create your own house of horrors.  The point is, our taxes haven’t bought adequate clean water or education or health care, but the death and misery of whomever the Empire decides is in the way.

A word for those moved to outrage and action instead of immobilized cynicism: for decades movements for peace, environmental sustainability and justice have opposed war after war, environmental outrage after outrage and injustice piled atop injustice.  Surely we cannot ignore such crimes, but we must shift our thinking from reaction to prevention via a movement for democracy that will abolish rule by corporations.

The best way I know of to do that is with the nationwide, grassroots effort to abolish the doubly bizarre practice of corporations having the same rights as people and allowing pallets of cash to buy our elections.  Those folks can be found at MoveToAmend.org.  Time and water are running out.

Mike Ferner is a writer and activist from Toledo .  Contact him at mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net

Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio and former president of Veterans For Peace.  You can reach him at mike.ferner@sbcglobal.net

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail