IMAGES OF IRAQ
                      William Thomson
                      October 7, 1999
 
 
    I  recently  returned from two weeks in Iraq  as  part  of  a
humanitarian delegation whose purpose was to directly observe the
effects  of  the economic sanctions on the people  of  Iraq.   We
visited  hospitals,  medical  schools,  universities,  elementary
schools,  mosques  and  churches, and in  addition  we  met  with
numerous  government  and  United  Nations  officials,  religious
leaders  and ordinary people.  Perhaps the appellation  "ordinary
people"  is  incorrect, since the people of Iraq  were  the  most
friendly and hospitable individuals I have encountered in travels
on   five   continents  over  the  past  50  years.   As  obvious
foreigners,  we  were consistently approached, both  individually
and  as  a  group, by people wanting to meet us and extend  their
unexcelled  Arab hospitality.  Even after it was discovered  that
we  were  Americans, our hosts were quick to point out (typically
in English) the distinction they made between the American people
and  the policies of our government.  On only four occasions  did
we  discover any anti-American hostility; two "Down with America"
graffiti, and two events in hospitals where we were confronted by
relatives  of  children  suffering  because  of  the  absence  of
sanctioned medications.
 
    One  of  these  situations  was particularly  memorable.   In
Mosul's  Children  and Maternity Hospital, we were  energetically
lectured  by  Bushra Radhi, a pharmacy assistant, on  the  hourly
tragedies caused by the absence of routine medications because of
the   US/UN  sanctions.   She  pointed  out  that  children  were
regularly  dying  of diarrhea, minor infections, dehydration  and
other  easily preventable diseases.  She asked us why we  brought
cameras  instead  of  medicine,  and  pointed  out  that  several
delegations had come to visit, but "nothing changes".
 
    Unknown  to  us, Ms. Radhi's sister was giving birth  in  the
next  room,  and  we  were  soon  presented  with  a  minutes-old
beautiful baby girl.  Sterile conditions long ago disappeared  in
Iraqi  hospitals due to the absence of cleaning chemicals,  spare
parts, and other difficulties, so we each held the baby in  turn.
Coincidentally, it was my birthday, and as I mentioned that fact,
I was honored by being asked to name the baby, by none other that
the  aforementioned  Ms. Radhi, the infant's  aunt.   It  was  an
emotional moment for us all, and it reflects, I believe, the true
character  of the Iraqi people, a people we have been taught  for
many years to fear and demonize.
 
    Later  that  day  we traveled outside of Mosul  to  Baasheeqa
village, where on August 23 of this year, Mufawak Attoo (23)  and
Shakri   Khadher  (24)  were  killed  by  cluster   bombs   while
constructing a simple concrete block structure in the  middle  of
the desert.  About a quarter of a mile distant we visited an open
area  in  which  on April 30, shepherd Ahmad Jirgis  Ayyoub,  his
father  Jirgis  Ayyoub Sultan, and four of his  sons  (Lukman-15,
Mohamad-12,  Sultan-7,  and Murtahdi-3) were  killed.   Witnesses
described  an aircraft that made a reconnaissance pass,  followed
by  repeated  bombing passes, resulting in the  death  of  the  6
people, some 40 sheep, and the sheep dog.  Not a living being was
spared.  We found remains of the animals, as well as a sandal and
a  child's  slipper,  plus  hundreds of cluster  bomb  fragments.
While  I  am  not a military person, the official explanation  of
"military  retaliation" rings hollow when standing among  remains
in  the middle of an empty desert.  Simple target practice  seems
more likely.
 
    Overall  what we observed was appalling--hunger,  trauma  and
needless deaths.  Our visit confirmed the basic facts as reported
by  the  United  Nations:  one of every four  Iraqi  children  is
seriously malnourished, more than 4,500 children under the age of
5  are  dying each month from hunger and disease; over one and  a
half million people (out of a population of 23 million) have died
as  a  result of medical shortages and malnutrition  due  to  the
US/UN sanctions.
 
    Along  the  way we met many of the principal players  in  the
situation, such as Nizer Hamdoon, former Iraqi ambassador to  the
US  and  the UN, Abd El Baqi Sadoon, the governor of the Southern
Region of Iraq, Ahmad Ibrihim Hammas, the mayor of Basrah, Deputy
Ministers of Health Khalid Jameel and Ali Sindhi, Deputy Minister
of  Agriculture  Rafed Hussein, H. C. Graf Sponeck,  the  current
head  of  the  United Nations Oil-for-Food Program, and  numerous
other  officials, professors, and physicians.  All confirmed  the
story  of malnutrition and lack of basic life support, especially
in the area of medical treatment.
 
    And  we  were  privileged to met with the children  as  well,
with  Shakawan  Rashid, 2 years old, malnourished, and  afflicted
with  respiratory infection and diarrhea.  Shakawan looked me  in
the  eye  and  tried  to  grasp my finger, but  had  insufficient
strength.   This was on September 1st; Shakawan is no doubt  dead
by  now.   In  Baghdad  we  met Yasheia, dying  of  leukemia  and
bleeding  to  death because of the absence of drugs to  stop  his
hemorrhaging.  He has certainly joined Shakawan in death by  now.
In  the  "terminal room" we encountered beautiful Fatima Abdulla,
dressed  in  her finery and cared for by her mother.  Fatima  had
dancing  eyes  and an engaging smile, but she most certainly  has
died  by now from renal distress.  In Mosul we met Hiyam Fadheed,
14  years  old.  Her father blind, her twin brother  assists  her
mother in making a living by selling gasoline out of open plastic
containers,   a   profession  with  an  expectedly   short   life
expectancy.   Though Hiyam speaks English quite proficiently  and
is  obviously  very  intelligent, she is unable  to  continue  in
school  because  she  is  needed to care  for  her  four  younger
siblings.  In Basrah we met Mustafa Saleh, age 5, the victim of a
"smart  bomb"  dropped  in his poverty-stricken  neighborhood,  a
neighborhood with raw sewage flowing through the streets  because
we  refuse  to  allow sewage pipes to be imported.   Mustafa  was
lucky; though he still carries shrapnel in his small body and  is
missing  two  fingers from his left hand, his 6 year-old  brother
Heider was killed.  At least I think Mustafa was lucky.
 
    We  also  met countless other children, ravaged  by  war  and
sanctions,  who were nonetheless filled with a contagious  spirit
of  optimism and stamina.  If they can avoid infection and normal
childhood  disease; if they can sufficiently process contaminated
water   and  inadequate  nutrition,  they  may  reach  adulthood.
Currently  adulthood in Iraq means inability to  find  meaningful
work, and thus inability to marry and support a family.  It means
trying  to  pull together $400 for an exit visa to a  neighboring
country  where  wages  are  more than the  $3-4  per  month  that
teachers,  nurses and other professionals can earn in  Iraq.   It
means trying to raise a family in which a child can often beg  as
much  in  a  day  as  a  parent can earn in  a  week.   It  means
considering  prostitution  as  a  viable  option  to  support  an
extended family.
 
    These are the conditions that the sanctions have created  for
the  citizens  of  Iraq.   We are destroying  children.   We  are
destroying  adults.   We  are destroying  the  elderly.   We  are
destroying  an entire culture, one of earth's original  cultures,
located in the Cradle of Civilization.
 
    If  you  would like to assist in ending this tragedy, attend
the National Organizing Conference on  Iraq  to be held in Ann
Arbor, MI at the University of Michigan Law Quad October 15-17.
Arrange  for  a speaker at your local synagogue, mosque,  church,
service club or place of business.  Mohandas Gandhi reminds us to
"recall the face of the poorest and most helpless person you have
seen  and ask yourself if the next step you contemplate is  going
to be of any use to that person."
 
    As  James  Douglass put it after his 1995 trip to Iraq,  "How
many  Iraqi  children should we kill in order  to  depose  Saddam
Hussein?   10,000?  50,000?  100,000?   How  many?   You  decide.
Because  the  United  States government has  been  deciding  this
question  on  our  behalf,  with  increasing  numbers   of   dead
children."
 
*************************************
 
    William Thomson is a clinical psychologist, a faculty member
at the University of Michigan/Dearborn, and a coordinator for the
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (MI) Campaign to End the Sanctions in Iraq.  He
may be reached by email at wthomson@umich.edu or by phone at
(734) 662-2216.