A Message from Iraq to St. Paul
As we watched the events in the streets of St Paul this past week – seeing house raids and the gassing of protestors, reading the reports of beatings and torture in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Jail. I’m sure many of us thought of the parallels with the treatment of Iraqis by our army of occupation.
Two years ago, on the 21st of November, 2006, one of the members of the team at GorillasGuides wrote of just this. Laith was a valued voice speaking out for justice in Baghdad before he was killed in one of the many attacks on pilgrims. He was also the father of Guides member Mohammed Ibn Laith who many of us know from his visits here. On that November day, Laith wrote of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a young Iraqi man, seized from his home by US and Green Zone forces – and then warned us all:
The next time you hear an American talk of "freedom," the next time you hear an American talk of "democracy," the next time you hear an American talk of how terrible the death squads are remember something. The most violent and brutal death squads of all are the ones bought, and paid for, and trained, by the Americans and when they can’t do the job they get their American buddies to help them catch their victims.
You should remember something else. A people and their army who behave like this abroad invariably bring this criminal and brutish behaviour home and turn it against their own people. It is not only revolutions that eat their own.
This is a lesson many in the streets this week understood – as Betsy Raasch-Gilman an nonviolence trainer and member of the RNC Welcome Committee noted:
There are no terrorists in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Jail. There are terrorists in the Excel center, there are terrorists in the White House. And that’s why we organized these protests. The house raids that we saw in Minneapolis and St Paul this week are very similar to the house raids that have been carried out by our Marines in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The government cannot carry on a repressive foreign policy without it coming home to roost and that is what we have seen this week.
For Iraqis – for whom house raids and air strikes and torture are horribly commonplace – the latest threat comes with the news of new cases of cholera – and fear of a major outbreak developing. Six new deaths from cholera were reported in just the last two days in Babil alone and over 200 cases are suspected in the governate.
Reports from across Iraq are frightening – in Kirkuk for example,
… health experts say that the main causes of cholera – decrepit water and sewage systems and inadequate healthcare – have not improved.
“The poor services and lack of healthcare put people’s lives at risk,” said Sabah Amin Ahmed, the director of healthcare for Kirkuk province. “Most Kirkuk residents cannot easily access clean drinking water or a good sewage system.”
According to the Iraqi health ministry and the World Health Organisation, WHO, over 30 per cent of water samples taken in Kirkuk have tested positive for bacterial contamination this year.
Today’s LA Times has more:
The problem stems from Iraq’s aging water treatment facilities, which were damaged or destroyed during the war and have yet to be replaced or repaired.
A U.S. oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, says after projects are completed, there is no guarantee they’ll be up to standards. The problems range from shoddy workmanship of some projects to mishandling of others once they are handed off to Iraqis to manage. An April report by the agency surveyed 17 projects across Iraq and said 13 had deficiencies, ranging from minor workmanship details to major construction faults.
Cholera kills – often children who are particularly vulnerable. And as surely as our bombs kill Iraqis, so too our destruction of an already vulnerable infrastructure and our neglect of the most basic needs of the people living under our occupation.
People last week were in the streets of St Paul making these connections – what do we plan to do this week to call for an end to this devastation?