What About Humanity?
by Rania Masri
March 20, 2003
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has begun. Although Iraq threatened no country with aggression, and its violations of UN Security Council resolutions have been technical, mostly consisting of providing incomplete documentation about weapons that may or may not exist, and the use of which there are no apparent plans even, nevertheless, the bombing has begun.
Surely, this is unprecedented in world history that a country is under escalating attack; told repeatedly that it will be subjected to a full-scale war; required to disarm itself before that war; castigated for significant but partial compliance; told that the end goal has changed from disarmament to regime change; and then forced to endure the wrath of the world’s most powerful military.
Have we forgotten what is most important? Human life.
I think of Rasha, an 18-year-old Iraqi high-school student in Baghdad. In an exchange with American students coordinated by the Iraq Peace Team, Rasha wrote, “I want to say that I love the world and I love peace. I don’t want war. Why do you want to kill the smiles on our faces? We want to learn and live in peace. I want to be [a] dentist, so how could I make that if the war happened?”
Rasha wrote that letter on March 3rd. How is she now?
The media and the administration and all the pro-war hawks talk solely of one man. Are there no others living in Iraq? You who are reading this – do you envision other people living in Iraq other than Saddam Hussein, his regime, and the military guard? Do you know that half of Iraq’s population are children under 15?
When Pentagon officials were still contemplating launching 300 to 400 cruise missiles a day against Iraqi cities, one Pentagon official said, “there will be no safe place in Baghdad” (CBS News, January 24, 2003). Weeks later, the war plan became more devastating, increasing the tonnage to 3,000 bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours alone. (New York Times, February 2, 2003). “Shock and Awe” they call it. On top of the cluster bombs laced with radioactive waste, and the depleted uranium “bunker busters” that can penetrate 150 feet below the desert floor, the Pentagon has recently stated that it will use thousands of landmines in Iraq. And just this week, Rear Adm. Costello said the bombing will be “devastating, it will be lethal, it will be persistent.” (USA Today, March 12, 2003).
Lethal. Against whom? Who will be killed? Who has already been killed?
The military bombardment now is 10 times the intensity of the 1991 Gulf War; 150,000 – 300,000 Iraqis were killed, directly and indirectly, then. How many are being killed now?
The UN estimates that 500,000 people could be injured. Another 900,000 Iraqis could become refugees and would need assistance. Thirteen-years of suffocating sanctions have already left 16 million Iraqis – 60% of the population – completely dependent on monthly government food rations. The UN World Food Program’s representative in Iraq has stated that “it is impossible to establish an alternative to the current Iraqi government distribution system. [We cannot] replace it.” (Reuters, February 25, 2003)
How will they live, then?
Another UN document estimates that 30 % of Iraq’s children under five – 1.26 million children – “would be at risk of death from malnutrition” in the event of a war. That is more than a million toddlers and infants.
The further destruction of civilian infrastructure -- water and sewage treatment, electrical power generation, transportation and communication – by the intense US bombardments means that people will continue to die even when the missiles and bombs stops.
Some have said that the deaths are for a greater goal: “liberation”. Easy to make those statements when it is not our children who are facing one bomb every 50 seconds.
And, liberation for whom and by whom?
War is not liberation. War is the most bloody, undemocratic, and violently repressive of all human institutions. How is it liberation to launch 1,500 bombs and missiles a day against cities? To risk the lives of millions, including more than one million malnourished children? To leave “no safe place in Baghdad”?
If this is liberty, what have we left for oppression?
Democracy is about the inherent right of all human beings to participate in and create their own history. The most basic of these human rights, and of all freedoms, is the right to live. Thuraya, a brilliant, young Iraqi girl, recently wrote in her diary: “We don’t know what is going to happen. We might die, and maybe we are living our last days in life. I hope that everyone who reads my diary remembers me and know that there was an Iraqi girl who had many dreams in her life...”
How is Thuraya today? How is Rasha?
Rania Masri, Ph.D. is director of the Southern Peace Research and Education Center at the Institute for Southern Studies (Durham), and a regular contributor to Electronic Iraq (http://electroniciraq.net/), where this article first appeared. Rania can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org