Inside the dying rooms of Iraq : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Inside the dying rooms of Iraq

By Hala Jaber, Basra, Iraq

They look dead. The seven babies, little more than bundles of torn sheets, lie malnourished and motionless in a bare, filthy back room of Basra's main children's and maternity hospital.

The oppressive air, filled not with the usual antiseptic odour of medical facilities but the foul stench of human waste, is stirred only by the occasional entrance of the cleaner, who bustles in between mopping wards to quickly wash each infant in the basin. Otherwise, they are all but left alone. The doctors and nursing staff are already overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of seriously ill children in their care.

The hospital does all it can, but it is neither equipped as a nursery nor an orphanage. "I believe they suffer more for the lack of their mother's care and love - nothing can supplement that," one doctor, a consultant gynaecologist, said.

The babies, the victims of a regime more obsessed with building monuments than feeding its people, were abandoned on the roadsides or at the entrances of mosques by poverty-stricken families who can no longer feed them even another mouthful.

Many don't make it this far. Doctors at the hospital are horrified by the number of abandoned infants who die on the streets of Iraq's second biggest city.

"Their mothers cannot take care of them," the doctor tells me. "They have no money and no means to feed them, so they are now dumping these children. Sometimes the babies are adopted, other times, like now, nothing happens and suddenly we have a roomful of them. It is heartbreaking and we really do our best for them."

The hospital wrote to the Iraqi authorities several months ago, outlining the predicament of the infants and seeking help in having them placed in institutions. There has been no reply.

The first baby to arrive, aged 12 weeks, was named Sarah by nurses. She is six months old and recognises only the faces of the doctor, the cleaner and one of the nurses who struggles to find time for the babies.

"The nurse is torn between her duties for the patients of the hospital and the needs of the babies," the doctor said. "It is extremely tiring for a mother to look after one child under normal circumstances, so can you imagine what it is like in here when seven babies cry at the same time."

In common with the rest of the country, Basra's hospitals have suffered 10 years of shortages.

It has been claimed by opponents of the war on terrorism that the sanctions, which ban any items that could be used for military purposes, prevent the Iraqis from buying all the medicines and equipment needed by their hospitals. Even common vaccines used to inoculate children against polio are blocked because they contain tiny amounts of potassium, which can be used in explosives.

Those who argue against the claims of a 500,000 infant mortality figure point out that it is based on highly questionable statistics in a 1999 UNICEF report. Whatever the true figure, infant mortality rates have soared in the past decade, and the West is adamant that the Iraqi regime bears full responsibility.

Last year, Saddam Hussein's revenue from the oil-for-food program amounted to $US11billion ($21.39billion) - money earmarked by the UN for the relief of the human crisis. Since the beginning of the oil-for-food deal in December, 1996, a total of $38.6billion has been generated.

Western governments are adamant that the oil revenue is more than sufficient to feed the population. They charge Saddam with causing the increasingly poverty-stricken majority, many of whom are on the brink of starvation.

They cite the stark contrast between neglected cities such as Basra and parts of Baghdad, where Saddam is building monuments to his own glorification and the markets are overflowing with food.

Earlier this year, one of Saddam's personal projects, the Mother of all Battles Mosque - a beautiful white, blue and gold mosque which sits on an enormous artificial water feature designed in the shape of the Arab world map - was completed.

The mosque, in the centre of Baghdad, is estimated to have cost tens of millions of dollars and took three years to complete. Another ambitious mosque to be built on 200,000sqm nearby has just begun.

It has 37m-high Scud-shaped minarets, complete with launch platforms, and four more at 28m high that resemble machine-gun barrels.

The money poured into the capital is evident in the abundance of new boutiques and marketplaces, where only foreigners and rich Iraqis can afford the exotic wares on display. Most Baghdad residents must satisfy themselves with their monthly rations, which consist of basic staples such as rice, sugar, tea, fat, grains, flour and soap. Red meat and chicken are luxury items. The middle class has all but been wiped out and has become part of the underclass that forms the bulk of Iraqi society.

While most of Baghdad has access to electricity and parts of it shimmer like a Christmas tree, Basra languishes in darkness as a result of severe power cuts of up to 16 hours a day.

In the hospital, the protracted blackouts plunge the city's abandoned babies into darkness. It is a grim symbol of their fragile grip on life.

The Sun-Herald

-- Martin Thompson (, November 10, 2001


Martin, thank you for posting this story. It is heartbreaking, and one wonders why the mainstream media never tell us about such suffering, presumably at least partially due to the sanctions that we have imposed.

There are many, many unsung American heroes who have quietly devoted themselves to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, smuggling water purification devices (illegal under the sanctions) into the country, and even performing such menial tasks as keeping hospitals scrubbed down. These brave souls risk everything, because they know that the majority of the people suffering in Iraq are not responsible for Saddam Hussein's past aggressions as a rogue regime, yet they are being punished far more severely than Mr. Hussein has ever been, to date. Perhaps one of the most well-known Americans fighting sanctions is former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

If this story causes some of us to fast on Thanksgiving Day, instead of feasting, then so be it.

-- Lori Cabirac (, November 10, 2001.

From the sounds of it, the suffering of these babies has nothing to do with the sanctions or lack thereof, and everything to do with the self-centeredness and callous arrogance of Saddam Hussein. Why does he need fancy mosques while his people go hungry? If he really cared about his own people, there are several remedies within his power to institute. But he would rather keep them suffering so he can use them as propoganda material to tell people how awful the United States is.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, November 10, 2001.

There are many, many unsung American heroes who have quietly devoted themselves to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, smuggling water purification devices (illegal under the sanctions) into the country, and even performing such menial tasks as keeping hospitals scrubbed down. These brave souls risk everything, because they know that the majority of the people suffering in Iraq are not responsible for Saddam Hussein's past aggressions as a rogue regime, yet they are being punished far more severely than Mr. Hussein has ever been, to date.

did you even read the article???

Where do you get this stuff?? The current UN sanctions are not the same as the UN sanctions in force for the limited period of Desert Shield/Storm.

Those sanctions ended, and later sanctions of a much looser form were imposed afterwards as a consequence of Iraqi intransigence after UN inspectors found documents on the development and fabrication of nuclear weapons in the 20 K ton range.

Those later sanctions do not impose the restrictions on materials related to public health, food, and water that the necessities of war required for the limited period from the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait through the end of Desert Storm.

In particular, the current sanctions do not include water treatment supplies and equipment, medical supplies, food, or water. The UN resolutions regarding the current sanctions are all available at the UN's web site.

Take the time and read them rather than swallowing this tripe someone is feeding you.

Perhaps one of the most well-known Americans fighting sanctions is former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.


Ramsey Clark, the war criminal's best friend

The former U.S. attorney general has become the tool of left-wing cultists who defend Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Rwandan torturers as anti-imperialist heroes.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Ian Williams

June 21, 1999 --

In the most morbidly literal way, NATO forces are "sniffing out" more mass graves than alliance spokesman Jamie Shea ever suspected. Dog- eaten sticks of bone poke from putrescent pits on television screens. So it is not surprising that on July 31 New York will see the opening of a commission of inquiry for an international war crimes tribunal. What may surprise some is that its target is NATO's war crimes.

Those who know him will be less surprised that the inspiration for this circus is former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, whom one long-standing colleague described as "a good man gone ga-ga -- at least 25 years ago." Many liberals and leftists cut Clark a considerable degree of slack. For a start he is almost the only person the American left has had in high public office since World War II, even if it was a retrospective success, since his long march leftward only began afterward. His views as the former attorney general are listened to with a respect that would be accorded to few others with such eccentric opinions. As a revered spokesman of the left, he is a perfect symbol for its near-impotence in American politics today.

Everyone who has dealings with Clark uses the word "nice" to describe him. But he often sides with people whom no one with a full deck would call nice. (Clark did not respond to a Salon News interview request.) Many former friends, more in sorrow than in anger, trace his present positions to the company he keeps: the International Action Center, which proclaims him its founder but seems entirely in the thrall of an obscure Trotskyist sect, the Workers World Party. Whoever writes his scripts, there is little doubt what Ramsey Clark is against now -- any manifestation of the power of the state he once served at the height of the Vietnam War.

At the end of 1998 Clark attended a human rights conference in Baghdad, Iraq, where in his keynote speech he pointed out how "the governments of the rich nations, primarily the United States, England and France," dominated the wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which showed "little concern for economic, social and cultural rights." The social and cultural rights claimed by his Iraqi hosts include the right to hang opponents in public at the airport, or poison thousands of Kurds and torture and execute any opponent of the regime. And on the legality of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the silence is deafening.

When he flew to Belgrade to support Slobodan Milosevic during NATO's campaign, there was no word about the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre at Srebrenica or the million homeless refugees from Kosovo -- and even less of those olfactorily eloquent mass graves that NATO is now uncovering. But then, urging Belgrade to resist NATO, while he was there picking up an honorary degree, he told his hosts, "It will be a great struggle, but a glorious victory. You can be victorious."

In Grenada he went to advise Bernard Coard, the murderer of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Other clients include Radovan Karadzic, the indicted Bosnian Serbian war criminal whom he defended in a New York civil suit brought by Bosnian rape victims, and the Rwandan pastor who is accused of telling Tutsis to hide in his church and then summoning Hutus to massacre them, and then leading killing squads.

His willingness to accept dubious clients is defended by some attorneys. After all, everyone needs a defense. Others say he has crossed a moral line by defending Karadzic and overlooking events in Kosovo. But looking at his legal arguments, one must question the wisdom of his legal counsel, not just his morals. A prominent international lawyer explains, "He's not really very well up on international law -- I remember he was asking for help in some of his early cases."

-- Seth (, November 10, 2001.

there are LOTS of regimes that spend their wealth on "edifice complexes" while people go hungry

much of the "third world debt" went for weapons and showy demonstrations of power Cheney's oil deals w/ Iraq

Here's a whopper of a story you may have missed amid the cacophony of campaign ads and stump speeches in the run-up to the elections. During former defense secretary Richard Cheney's five-year tenure as chief executive of Halliburton, Inc., his oil services firm raked in big bucks from dubious commercial dealings with Iraq. Cheney left Halliburton with a $34 million retirement package last July when he became the GOP's vice-presidential candidate.

Of course, U.S. firms aren't generally supposed to do business with Saddam Hussein. But thanks to legal loopholes large enough to steer an oil tanker through, Halliburton profited big-time from deals with the Iraqi dictatorship. Conducted discreetly through several Halliburton subsidiaries in Europe, these greasy transactions helped Saddam Hussein retain his grip on power while lining the pockets of Cheney and company.

According to the Financial Times of London, between September 1988 and last winter, Cheney, as CEO of Halliburton, oversaw $23.8 million of business contracts for the sale of oil-industry equipment and services to Iraq through two of its subsidiaries, Dresser Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump, which helped rebuild Iraq's war-damaged petroleum-production infrastructure. The combined value of these contracts exceeded those of any other U.S. company doing business with Baghdad.

Halliburton was among more than a dozen American firms that supplied Iraq's petroleum industry with spare parts and retooled its oil rigs when U.N. sanctions were eased in 1998. Cheney's company utilized subsidiaries in France, Italy, Germany, and Austria so as not to draw undue attention to controversial business arrangements that might embarrass Washington and jeopardize lucrative ties to Iraq, which will pump $24 billion of petrol under the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program this year. Assisted by Halliburton, Hussein's government will earn another $1 billion by illegally exporting oil through black-market channels.

With Cheney at the helm since 1995, Halliburton quickly grew into America's number-one oil-services company, the fifth-largest military contractor, and the biggest nonunion employer in the nation. Although Cheney claimed that the U.S. government "had absolutely nothing to do" with his firm's meteoric financial success, State Department documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicate that U.S. officials helped Halliburton secure major contracts in Asia and Africa. Halliburton now does business in 130 countries and employs more than 100,000 workers worldwide. Its 1999 income was a cool $15 billion.

In addition to Iraq, Halliburton counts among its business partners several brutal dictatorships that have committed egregious human rights abuses, including the hated military regime in Burma (Myanmar). EarthRights, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights watchdog, condemned Halliburton for two energy-pipeline projects in Burma that led to the forced relocation of villages, rape, murder, indentured labor, and other crimes against humanity. A full report (this is a 45 page pdf file - there is also a brief summary) on the Burma connection, "Halliburton's Destructive Engagement," can be accessed on EarthRights' Web site,

Human rights activists have also criticized Cheney's company for its questionable role in Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Indonesia, and other volatile trouble spots. In Russia, Halliburton's partner, Tyumen Oil, has been accused of committing massive fraud to gain control of a Siberian oil field. And in oil-rich Nigeria, Halliburton worked with Shell and Chevron, which were implicated in gross human rights violations and environmental calamities in that country. Indeed, Cheney's firm increased its involvement in the Niger Delta after the military government executed several ecology activists and crushed popular protests against the oil industry.

Halliburton also had business dealings in Iran and Libya, which remain on the State Department's list of terrorist states. Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, was fined $3.8 million for reexporting U.S. goods to Libya in violation of U.S. sanctions.

But in terms of sheer hypocrisy, Halliburton's relationship with Saddam Hussein is hard to top. What's more, Cheney lied about his company's activities in Iraq when journalists fleetingly raised the issue during the campaign.

Questioned by Sam Donaldson on ABC's This Week program in August, Cheney bluntly asserted that Halliburton had no dealings with the Iraqi regime while he was on board.

Donaldson: I'm told, and correct me if I'm wrong, that Halliburton, through subsidiaries, was actually trying to do business in Iraq?

Cheney: No. No. I had a firm policy that I wouldn't do anything in Iraq – even arrangements that were supposedly legal.

And that was it! ABC News and the other U.S. networks dropped the issue like a hot potato. As damning information about Halliburton surfaced in the European press, American reporters stuck to old routines and took their cues on how to cover the campaign from the two main political parties, both of which had very little to say about official U.S. support for abusive corporate policies at home and abroad.

But why, in this instance, didn't the Democrats stomp and scream about Cheney's Iraq connection? The Gore campaign undoubtedly knew of Halliburton's smarmy business dealings from the get-go. Gore and Lieberman could have made hay about how the wannabe GOP veep had been in cahoots with Saddam. Such explosive revelations may well have swayed voters and boosted Gore's chances in what was shaping up to be a close electoral contest.

The Democratic standard-bearers dropped the ball in part because Halliburton's conduct was generally in accordance with the foreign policy of the Clinton administration. Cheney is certainly not the only Washington mover and shaker to have been affiliated with a company trading in Iraq. Former CIA Director John Deutsch, who served in a Democratic administration, is a member of the board of directors of Schlumberger, the second-largest U.S. oil-services company, which also does business through subsidiaries in Iraq. Despite occasional rhetorical skirmishes, a bipartisan foreign-policy consensus prevails on Capital Hill, where the commitment to human rights, with a few notable exceptions, is about as deep as an oil slick.

Truth be told, trading with the enemy is a time-honored American corporate practice – or perhaps "malpractice" would be a more appropriate description of big-business ties to repressive regimes. Given that Saddam Hussein, the pariah du jour, has often been compared to Hitler, it's worth pointing out that several blue-chip U.S. firms profited from extensive commercial dealings with Nazi Germany. Shockingly, some American companies – including Standard Oil, Ford, ITT, GM, and General Electric – secretly kept trading with the Nazi enemy while American soldiers fought and died during World War II.

Today General Electric is among the companies that are back in business with Saddam Hussein, even as American jets and battleships attack Iraq on a weekly basis using weapons made by G.E. But the United Nations sanctions committee, dominated by U.S. officials, has routinely blocked medicines and other essential items from being delivered to Iraq through the oil-for-food program, claiming they have a potential military "dual use." These sanctions have taken a terrible toll on ordinary Iraqis, and on children in particular, while the likes of Halliburton and G.E. continue to lubricate their coffers.

Martin A. Lee is author of The Beast Reawakens, a book about resurgent fascism.

His column, Reality Bites, appears every Monday on

-- mark (, November 11, 2001.

The bottom line of this heated debate is that there is more than enough blame to go around for all: The Governments and institutions of both Iraq, the U.S.A., and third countries; all share the blame.

(Like the imminent humanitarian disaster now looming in Afghanistan,) victory or defeat, in the War on Terrorism, will turn not on the reality, but the PERCEPTION by the masses and governments of the world, as to whom to assign the lion's share of the blame.

-- Robert Riggs (, November 11, 2001.

Martin, FYI: chlorine falls under the "dual use" chemical sanctions. Unfortunately, chlorine is the only cheap, practical means of sterilizing large quantities of water in areas that do not have dependable electricity.

American medical workers in Iraq are reporting back to the states via Christian publications that the lack of chlorinated drinking water is causing death by dysentery of 5,000 children/month. The death toll to-date reportedly exceeds 75,000 children under the age of 5. The relief workers are there witnessing this on a first-hand basis. Does their testimony amount to tripe? Do you have more reliable information by first-hand witnesses that refutes this testimony?

You may regard Ramsey Clark as a sleezeball, but surely you will think carefully before slinging such mud at the many denominations of Christians represented among relief workers. Even an athiest can admire a person of faith who puts aside all of his own personal comforts to practice what he preaches.

Also, on a separate note: I find it ironic that people who support the historic American doctrine of military isolationism are being labelled "leftists," when isloationism is actually an extremely conservative doctrine.

-- Lori Cabirac (, November 12, 2001.

Whoa there,

Where did I say anything one way or another about Ramsey Clark. Please point your reply to the person that said it, not me

-- Martin Thompson (, November 12, 2001.

"but surely you will think carefully before slinging such mud at the many denominations of Christians represented among relief workers."

Lori, Martin probably would not, but I will take up that challenge. The vast majority of these missionaries are just trying to substitute their own righteousness for the righteousness of Jesus. Therefore it begs the question, are an agenda driven people a credible source of information? In plain language these missionaries are trying to work their way to heaven, which Jesus passionately explained to the Pharisees could never happen. Jesus then cautioned His followers to beware of anything they had to say.

You should read and understand Yeshua HaMashiach's letter to the church at Laodicea, then you would never again presuppose the motivation of a group of religious people, or attempt to use that presupposition in a persuasive argument.

A follower of the Way.

-- Phil Maley (, November 12, 2001.

You're absolutely right Phil! Matthew 25:31-46 must have been inserted by someone with an agenda to work their way to heaven, instead of resting righteously upon their laurels while allowing Jesus to follow his own commission all by himself.

Let's not feed the hungry, heal the sick, give a cup of cold water to a thirsty child, visit those in prison, or tend to widows and orphans, because then we might jeopardize our own salvation by committing the most unthinkable arrogance: doing works. Never mind that the real motivation might be that we hurt inside to see others hurting inside, and that sharing with others is the secret to real joy.

Instead, let's listen to this lazy grace theology and sit on our rears and enjoy a nice fattening Thanksgiving dinner with no pangs of conscience this year.

-- Lori Cabirac (, November 13, 2001.


You are pulling those verses out of context! The very first verse (31) says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” Has that happened, did I miss something? I do not see Yeshua sitting on His throne of glory in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the throne of David.

Matthew 24 starts this discourse with three Jewish men asking Jesus about the end event (man’s supreme attempt to bring in utopia). His answer is framed from perspective of a Jewish person in the land of Israel. Fast forward to Matthew 25:31-46, and what is in view here is the judgment of the Gentiles at the very end. The basis of that judgment is how did the individual surviving Gentile treat the Jews (Jews are seen in verse 40…one of the least of these My brethren). If you see yourself in this period you are to be, “most pitied.”

In regards to helping fellow humans, you would do well to understand the term dulas, a slave, which the apostle Paul described himself and the followers of the Way. A slave was always obedient to the Master, but it was unthinkable for slaves to strike out on their own efforts. There are now many professing slaves striking out under their own power.

Always be obedient, but nowhere in the Holy Scriptures does it say to have, “pangs of conscience (guilt).” Remember His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

-- Phil Maley (, November 13, 2001.

Phil, you miss the main point of the very verse (31) that you point out: the return of the judge is not the time to begin thinking about caring for others; it is obviously too late by then, because the judgment of men's past actions up to that point ensues. This means that the judge expects the works to take place during each man's lifetime, or there wouldn't be anything to judge in the first place. Our lifetime is now, Phil, not later. We are not guaranteed tomorrow will even exist for us in the flesh.

Does your sect preach that only the members of your sect are eligible to obey the Bible's clear edicts to care for others? How can you make a sweeping generality to the effect that humanitarian workers who are not sitting on their rear-ends right now typing with us are not led by the Spirit?

Furthermore, the time to act is when we are moved with compassion to do so. No one needs the blessing of mortal men to be so moved with compassion, and if every relief worker checked in with your sect for permission first, nothing would be getting done to relieve the suffering of others. What are the members of your sect being led to do to relieve suffering in the world? Absolutely zip, on the grounds that you might be doing it on your own power? What is the purpose of a church that is terrified of getting its hands dirty with work on the grounds that it might displease God? And who would want to worship a deity that would frown upon service to one's fellow man?

Your sect sounds heavy into judgment of others, and light on outgoing love, to me. I hope that I am wrong about that.

-- Lori Cabirac (, November 13, 2001.

P.S. Out of fairness to the secular nature of this board, why don't we take this theological discussion to e-mail?

-- Lori (, November 13, 2001.

Lori, Good idea, I have done that

-- Phil Maley (, November 14, 2001.

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