Life under occupation
Iraqi-American physician, Global Exchange for Peace
I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my mother’s side—Ashkenazi Jews who fled their homeland of Austria during Hitler’s “Anschluss”. It is for them that we say “Never again.” I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my father’s side, who are not living, but dying, under the occupation of this administration’s deadly foray in Iraq. From the lack of security to the lack of basic supplies to the lack of electricity to the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of reconstruction to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are much worse off now than before we invaded. “Never again” should apply to them, too.
After WWII, the world looked at the German people and asked, “How could you let this happen?” Today, the world is looking at Americans and Israelis, and asking the same. Most of us choose to stay in our comfort zones for one reason and one reason alone: because we can. Our heads stay buried in the sand, because with knowledge of the truth comes responsibility to take action. Knowledge of the truth mandates that we break ranks with the silent majority, and put our own selves at risk to speak for those who have no voice.
There is no respite for Iraqis from the suffering inflicted by American weaponry and American racism. Destruction of Iraq’s electrical grids during the first Gulf War incapacitated the medical system—what HAD BEEN a first-class range of facilities known as the “jewel of the Arab World.” After January 1991, primary healthcare and preventative services ceased to exist, and with economic sanctions, there were critical shortages of food and life-saving drugs and equipment. Cholera became endemic in Iraq. Easily treatable diseases—such as respiratory infections and diarrhea—accounted for 70% of the deaths of children under 5 years old. THIS was the tragic state of Iraqi society when the illegal Shock and Awe invasion came—and with it, a vastly increased number of patients. (see Dahr Jamails: Images from hospitals)
In April 2004, U.S. Marines closed the bridge to the city and the
hospital road—this is a war crime. The U.S. military and its vehicles
stood at the hospital entrance—this is a war crime. And snipers were
positioned on rooftops, targeting ambulances and the clinic doors.
Between 600 and 800 civilians were killed in that siege, but we weren’t
In November 2004, the second major siege of Fallujah began. On November 6, the Nazzal Emergency Hospital was leveled to the ground. And on November 8, the Fallujah General Hospital was seized by the U.S. military. Doctors described, “We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments.” Burhan Fasa’a—a cameraman with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company—reported “There were American snipers on top of the hospital…shooting everyone in sight.” In addition, the U.S. military blocked the Iraqi Red Crescent from entering Fallujah for 7 days. Afterwards, any refugees who wished to return home were required to undergo fingerprinting and retinal scanning by occupation forces. All in all, the resulting death toll was between 6000-8000 civilians. This means that the Iraqi death toll in November 2004 ALONE—in Fallujah ALONE—surpassed the invader’s death toll for all of Operation Enduring Freedom thus far.
As of October 2006, due to the desperate conditions in Iraq of no
security, high crime, and targeted assassinations, it is estimated that
18,000 of Iraq’s 34,000 physicians have fled the country, 2000 doctors
and 164 nurses have been murdered, and another 250 kidnapped for
high-price ransoms. It is estimated that 68% of Iraqis lack access to
safe drinking water, and 81% are without proper sewerage.
And the segments of the population who suffer the most whenever there is no law and order are women and children. It is estimated that from 2003 to 2006, 270,000 newborns had NO immunizations. 800,000 Iraqi children are not in school due to the chaos, lack of security, and severe poverty. Today, 500,000 orphans are living on Iraq’s streets. According to the State of the World’s Mothers Report released in May 2007 by Save the Children, the chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990. In 2005, 1 in 8 Iraqi children died of disease or violence in the first 5 years of life.
Women have all but disappeared from their roles in the workforce. Before the invasion, women were contributors to Iraqi society as teachers, judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, traffic police, and more. Today, however, the threat of violence and kidnapping now imprisons many women in their homes. But even there, they are not safe from the terrorism of daily house raids by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police.
As millions of Iraqis suffer, and hundreds continue to die EVERY day, it does not matter if you call it “civil war,” “sectarian strife,” or “democracy;” it is—by design—an American killing field, a smokescreen for stealing oil.
There is a growing movement of Americans calling for impeachment of our war criminals, and a growing number of American soldiers with the courage to resist—individuals who are putting themselves on the line, becoming prisoners of conscience, including Andrew Hegerty and Jeffrey Gauntt. They are imprisoned in Mannheim, Germany for refusing deployment to Afghanistan.
Americans have GOT to support the troops who resist. And we need your help.
Iraq’s children have had no choice in the unmitigated misery that Western imperialism has brought upon them. Neither have the children of Afghanistan. Since WWII, 90% of the casualties of war are unarmed civilians, a third of them children. This is not collateral damage; this is the nature of modern warfare. Our victims have done nothing to us.
Every day, the United States and Israel are committing war crimes and violating the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Charter. The occupation of Iraq is an extension of the occupation of Palestine in order for Western powers to establish military bases from which to control the rich oil resources of the region.
Americans bomb ambulances. We bomb bridges. We kill children. We use chemical and biological weapons. We use depleted uranium—a weapon of radioactive waste—bringing cancer to civilians, and bringing cancer to our soldiers, who then pass the legacy of a Weapon of Mass Destruction on to their children.
From Palestine to Afghanistan to Iraq to Somalia to wherever our next target might be, this is not a “War ON Terror”; this is a “War OF Terror.” This is sending the poor of Western countries to kill the poor of those Muslim countries. This is trading blood for oil. This is genocide. To most of the world, Americans are the terrorists.
The civilians at the other end of our weapons don’t have a choice. But American soldiers have choices. And we know the truth. Iraqi society today—thanks to American “help”—is defined by chaos, house raids, death squads, checkpoints, detentions, curfews, and constant violence.
We must dare to speak out in support of the Iraqi people who resist and endure the horrific existence we brought upon them through our bloodthirsty imperial crusade. We must dare to speak out in support of those American soldiers—the real US military heroes—who uphold their oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…,”—and except for Condoleeza Rice, who’s right now visiting war criminals in Tel Aviv, they’re all domestic.
Our obligation is to accomplish the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces from Iraq, period. Whatever path we choose, we must follow our hearts and speak out, because if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?