IWP good drinking water May 26, 2014

The Iraqi Genocide
and the
Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project

Remarks at the 2014 Peace Memorial of
the Charlie Atkins Chapter of Veterans for Peace

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I look forward every year to attending the annual Peace Memorial of the Charlie Atkins chapter of Veterans for Peace. My topic is The Iraqi Genocide and the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project.

In 1939, before invading Poland with the intent to commit Genocide, Adolph Hitler remarked, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” — referring to the Armenian Genocide of the World War I era.

History is studded with holocausts: some remembered, some forgotten, and many which simply go unreported. Holocausts are quickly forgotten, particularly when the memory is inconvenient. Today, we might ask, “Who, after all, speaks of the Iraqi Genocide?”

Iraq was the first casualty of the post Cold War period. After the self-destruction of the former Soviet Union, the United States, the lone remaining superpower, needed an enemy. It needed one bad and it needed one fast. With the cold war over, people were expecting a “peace dividend;” but the military-industrial complex was determined that they should not have one. Why was Iraq, a country of some 25 million people with a pliant dictator chosen as Public Enemy Number One? I'll leave that one to the historians. Suffice it to say, Iraq was set up.

When Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, suggested to US Ambassador, April Glaspie, and I quote, “We will ... defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. What is the United States' opinion on this?” Glaspie responded, and again I quote, “We have no opinion on your Arab — Arab conflicts, ... the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.” This invitation from the US ambassador to invade, occupy and annex Kuwait was heartily accepted.

But when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait, the United States launched a public relations campaign. Iraqi troops were accused of ripping babies out of incubators and throwing them on the floor. This oft-repeated lie, started by a Kuwaiti princess, and never confirmed, became justification for the most brutal and complete sanctions ever imposed on a nation, followed in due course by military action. In the subsequent bombing of Iraq, in violation of International Law, civilian infrastructure, particularly water treatment plants, sewage treatment plants, and electricity generating plants were targeted. The sanctions, kept in place for 13 years accomplished what targeted bombing did not. Iraq was unable to rebuild its infrastructure. Iraq was unable to even import enough chlorine to sterilize its drinking water. Soon children under five were dying at a rate of 5,000 per month above what would have been expected, mostly of diarrheal disease. They continued to die for 13 years.

Etched in my mind is a scene from an Iraqi hospital — an emaciated infant lying on a cot, his eyes closed, a needle in his wrist; but receiving no fluids. As I watched, he opened his eyes and screwed up his face as if to cry; but no sound came out. He was too dehydrated and too weak to cry. He was dying before my eyes.

I interrupted the doctor. “Why is this boy not receiving intravenous fluids? Without them, he will die.”

“We gave him fluids this morning,” replied the doctor. “He did not respond.” The doctor resumed his talk. Due to the sanctions, intravenous fluids were in very short supply. This child had received his share. There would be no more for him, and he would die. I watched helplessly as the boy tried again to cry; and failed. This was not a statistic, not a story retold; this was a real live infant dying before my eyes.

Those responsible for the bombings and sanctions had full knowledge of what the results would be. When confronted by a reporter, then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright remarked, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price [the deaths of 1/2 million Iraqi children] — we think the price is worth it.” Think about this — the price is 1/2 million dead children — and the price is worth it. What could possibly be worth 1/2 million dead children?

When 12 years of brutal sanctions failed to bring Iraq to its knees, the United States invaded, again on the basis of lies, particularly, the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction including mobile biological weapon laboratories. The eight year occupation was marked by numerous atrocities and violations of International Law. The City of Fallujah was destroyed twice within one year. Hospitals and ambulances were targeted. The city was surrounded. Civilians were not permitted to leave before the onslaught.

Even though US troops have left Iraq, US involvement in the Iraqi Genocide continues. The US is supplying hellfire missiles and other heavy armaments to the government which they installed in power. These missiles are again being used to attack civilians, including repeated attacks on Fallujah General Hospital and many other atrocities.

Francis Boyle estimates the cost of our 20 year long War Against Iraq: out of a population of some 25 million, 3.3 million Iraqis died because of our War Against Iraq. That's 13% of the population. 13% of the population of the United States would be 40 million.

Of the 3.3 million Iraqi dead, over half died because of the sanctions. Don't ever let anyone tell you that sanctions are more humane than war. Sanctions ARE war. Not included in the 3.3 million dead, are the millions sickened, injured and made homeless; the pollution, the poverty, the torture, and the millions and millions of broken lives. This is Genocide. Yet, no one has stood trial for this atrocity. The perpetrators remain free.

The Iraqi Genocide has affected us deeply in Central Missouri. Our good friend Shakir Hamoodi has been in prison for almost two years for sending money to his family and others in Iraq suffering under genocidal sanctions. Shakir will be home in December, God willing. Meanwhile the perpetrators of the Iraqi Genocide remain free.

Veterans for Peace was been working hard opposing sanctions and the War Against Iraq, while trying to bring clean water to the Iraqi people. 15 years ago two members of Veterans for Peace: Fredy Champagne and the late Edilith Eckart started the Iraq Water Project. The project began with the rebuilding of four water treatment plants in the Basrah area. Veterans for Peace rebuilt two more plants before the invasion.

Since the invasion, under the leadership of Art Dorland of the Cleveland chapter, we switched to providing schools, healthcare facilities and other institutions with small water purification units. This was a necessary change because of the chaos that engulfed Iraq during and since the occupation. We have provided 145 such units since the invasion.

All this has been done at a cost of around $415,000: about half was spent before the invasion on rebuilding six existing water treatment plants; and the other half since the invasion on providing small water purification units. Compare this to our government which spent $2.2 million building the useless Potemkin Chicken Factory of which Peter van Buren writes, “Hey, we wasted some money, but $2.2 million was a small amount in a war whose costs will someday be toted up in the trillions.” If our government had any sense they would contract with Veterans for Peace to rebuild Iraq — but they have none.

We will never forget the Iraqi Genocide. We look at the Iraq Water Project as a down payment on the trillions of dollars that our government owes the Iraqi people, a debt that is unlikely to ever be paid. How do you put a price tag on a Genocide? What are 3.3 million dead and a country destroyed worth?

The Iraq Water Project is still going strong. We will continue to provide the Iraqi people with clean water to the extent of our abilities. Your continued help is very much appreciated. Checks can be made out to Veterans for Peace with Iraq Water Project in the memo line. Helen will pass around a donations can. Donations to Veterans for Peace are of course tax deductible.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about the Iraqi Genocide and the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project.