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What War Means to the Iraqi People

I woke up early to the news today and wish sleep carried me a little longer. In much poetry, dawn represents the breaking of the methaphorical night of loneliness, a respite from pain. But for the Iraqi people, this is not that dawn.

In an early morning vote, the Senate voted to approve Bush’s Iraq resolutions with a stunning 77-23 majority. Yesterday, the House voted more than two-to-one in favor of the resolution.

The way is now paved for a military attack on the impoverished Iraqi people. The mightiest power in the world will soon attack a reeling, poor country of 22 million people. For us in the U.S., we can only imagine what devastation will be wroght, but in the sewer filled streets of Basra, in the filthy, decaying hospitals of Baghdad, in the shanties of Karbala, the Iraqi people know all too well what awaits them.

Theirs has not been an easy life. For 22 years they have been subject to wars not of their making.

22 years ago, in 1980, Saddam Hussein attacked Iran. The ensuing war lasted 8 long years and cost each side over half a million lives. Then, Iran was a vilified enemy of Washington and thus the U.S. looked at the war favorably. Of course, the U.S. wasn’t simply a dispassionate observer, it actively abetted: it provided arms, support, and credit to Iraq, provided Saddam Hussein seed stock for chemical weapons, allowed Iraqi tankers to sail the gulf under the U.S. flag, and even shot down a commercial Iranian airliner. Later it was revealed that the U.S. also sold arms to Iran during this time, supporting its policy of “dual containment,” one dedicated to the notion that if aspiring brown countries expend their energies and resources fighting each other, they won’t be able to develop independently.

8 years of war, hundreds of thousands of dead youth, and a hundred billion dollars later, Iraq emerged the “victor,” albeit one in heavy debt and in which hardly a family existed who did not lose a loved one in the war.

The next two years saw Saddam and his forces brutally attack the Kurdish population of the North– under the watchful eyes of the U.S — killing tens of thousands of civilians. And as Iraq reeled under a heavy burden of deebt, it called upon other Arab nations to pay for their “share” of the Iran-Iraq war and was turned away. Tensions mounted and wars of words ensued.

Meanwhile, the entire political world was changing. The Soviet Union was disintegrating and the U.S. was emerging as the sole superpower, one that needed a proving ground for the “New World Order” it was developing in its own image.

With incredible political legerdemain coupled with the gift of insanity that the despots it has always supported have inevitably bestowed upon it, the U.S. got what it wanted: Iraq in the crosshairs.

On August 2, 1990 Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait.

On August 6, 1990 – Hiroshima Day – the U.S., under the formal auspices of the U.N., put Iraq under the most onerous sanctions regime in modern History.

And between January and April 1991, the sole superpower, with a fawning coalition of countries, bombed Iraq mercilessly, destroying not only military but also civilian infrastructure. Water treatment plants, drug factories, and electrical plants were destroyed.

The sanctions war took over where the bombing war ended. For 12 long years, the Iraqi people have been under an incredibly onerous sanctions regime. Clean water, medicines, and food are all in short supply in Iraq. The education system is in ruins, the economy is in shambles, and the children of Iraq have been stripped bare of hope.

Also, over the last 12 years, Iraq has been under the direct attack of the US: a deadly set of missile attacks in 1993, operation Desert Storm in 1998, and ongoing bomb runs by coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones.

The Iraqi people have suffered for 22 years. Generations have grown up under war and sanctions.

Children suffer the most. The sanctions themselves have directly led to the death of over 1 million Iraqi children.

Now, Iraqi parents must prepare to lose more.

Many Western journalists report that in Iraq, people seem non-chalant about war, indifferent. It’s curious to me how this can possibly be true. I wonder how many of these journalists understand that while one can bomb and starve a people, their dignity will force them to put up a brave front to those from the very countries that plague them.

The argument is that after 22 years of conflict, the people are inured to suffering.

No parent can be inured to the suffering and death of her children.

The argument is that after 22 years of conflict, war is no big deal.

That’s like saying that since they suffer anyway and have suffered long, let’s make them suffer more.

No, folks, there is no way around it. War will kill Iraqi people.

And they will sob for their children with severed limbs, long for their lost mothers, and wait for their dead brothers and sisters to come home.

ROMI MAHAJAN can be reached at: romimahajan2000@yahoo.com

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