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UPDATE:  Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project                                                                                       

PROJECT UPDATE  18 January 2009



Welcome to wonderful AD 2009.  As the year opens, the gates of Janus, god of beginnings and of our first calendar month, are flung wide open.  In Roman times officials closed the temple doors of Janus during rare times of peace. 

Not only do we have our own wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan, but our apparently irreplaceable ally Israel attempts to get at Hamas by collaterally bombing the bejeezus out of the people of Gaza.  Wrecking their only power plant and blockading import of essential life sustaining goods for eighteen months evidently didn’t do the trick.  Therefore a defenseless city is put under bomb and missile assault.  If you liked Rotterdam, you’ll love this one.

But wait!  The Voice of local AM Talk Radio penetrates the gloom:  “Shall we not be grateful that gallant Israel is defending for all of us the principals of peace and modern democracy against evil Palestine?  The heroics of Israel’s military in this exemplary operation are beyond measure.  They have humbled the proud might of those who perversely stand in the way of peace.  Their fighter-bomber pilots have driven the Palestinian air forces from the skies, and we hear of them no more.  No medal, no ceremony can sufficiently honor the brave airmen dropping their lethal cargoes as true and trained professionals, cavalierly disregarding the dangers of the enemy’s formidable air defenses.  Israel’s tiny but stalwart forces at sea pour fire into the enemy shore, and the Palestinian navy shamefully does not even appear.  Israel assembles its heroic tanks at the border and the famed Gaza tank force refuses to confront them.  It makes your flesh creep with admiration.  It makes you glad to be an American and realize you helped all this happen.”  Break to Viagra knock-off commercial.

But there’s another view, and these people are probably not calling in to the above radio station. There’s a good chance, on this read, that Israel is in fact compromising its own long term interests and even endangering its ultimate survival, as an indiscriminate sword draws blood with both edges. That the rest of the world, possibly including significant numbers of Americans, will look upon the utter destruction of Palestine and discover cause to support the Palestinians, imagine.  Israel will find itself ultimately alone upon earth surrounded by enemies it helped create.  Have a close look through this lens, and the present military operation becomes quite another beast, tricked out in very different feathers.  Israel now wears the shape of the world’s foremost suicide bomber.

My apologies for the long digression; this report is supposed to be about Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project.  But the situation of helpless victims dying for want of water and food or buried alive in the rubble of their homes just can’t pass without comment, especially on a website such as this one.  There is every day a long line of grim news items competing for our attention, but for the present at least, this one carries away the prize. 

And now to the actual subject of this report, sorry for the delay.  The news here, though set against a backdrop of another continuing war and occupation, is faintly more hopeful.  Iraq Water Project, now entering its tenth year, continues to make its tiny---on the scale of things---but sincere payments to the people of Iraq for the damage to them that our US government will never acknowledge.  Please see previous updates for background.

Since last report (September 2008) Sterilight units have been sent to a number of hospitals and clinics in Iraq, another to an old mosque sheltering refugees, and even for the first time to a prison.  Sterilight is an ultraviolet water purifier capable of producing 8 gallons clean water a minute under ideal conditions.  I scarcely need mention that conditions are ideal nowhere in occupied Iraq, so output is generally abated, but still very helpful to the institutions and populations served.

In October we sent a second unit to a hospital in alQaim.  This particular institution was the very first experimental recipient of an Iraq Water Project Sterilight back in November 2006, when we changed the project modus operandi in this new direction.  The hospital had been heavily damaged by US ordnance in Operation River’s Gate of November 2005, a particular incentive for us to choose it as our first recipient.  AlQaim is on the Euphrates and the water pumped to the city is very dirty, as evidenced by the condition of the Sterilight particulate filter after only a few days use.  Together with the alQaim unit a second one was sent to alMansour Pediatric Hospital in Baghdad  (now called Children’s Teaching Hospital) for installation in their bone marrow transplant department. (Yes, this is for real.  It is gratifying that at least some advanced medical services are available to at least some Iraqis.)

In November three units were forwarded, two to our cooperating Iraqi NGO in Samawa who installed them in hospitals at Najaf and Karbala.  The other one went to a very poor clinic in Falluja, so poor indeed that it does not have internet, so all the arrangements had to be made by phone. 

Next, this same NGO installed an IWP Sterilight at the General Hospital in Samawa, and then another one at the Central Prison in the same city.  This is new territory for us, we have never been asked to help a prison before.  As our friend Faiza, the Iraqi water engineer in Amman, pointed out, who can possibly be more forgotten in all of Iraq’s chaos than people languishing in its prisons?  We were gratified to do this.  Additionally, using personal connections, Faiza dispatched a unit to an old mosque in Baqouba that is sheltering refugees from local violence.  The technician sent to set it up reported that these luckless people don’t even have enough blankets, so with a little left over money we sent those as well.  Faiza and her friend chipped in their own money to purchase space heaters to help these people.

Thanks or no thanks to the Surge, Faiza has decided to return to Baghdad.  We will be very apprehensive about her safety, but it is her decision and her choice.  Very few Iraqis who have choice in the matter at are willing to go back, but Faiza feels she can sit it out in Amman no longer.  Iraq Water Project will have to change its procedures.  It is probable that Faiza, who has been backbone and brainstem of this whole operation, will continue to assist from Baghdad, but if that is not practicable, we can continue the project in cooperation with our partner organization Life for Relief and Development.  There should be no diminishment of capability, provided donations keep coming through. 

We thank all our donors and supporters once again for your steadfast support and trust in us.  Let us hope that in spite of the dismal start to AD 2009, this year may bring improvements.  God knows we can use a few.

Respectfully and gratefully submitted---Art Dorland, IWP Chair


National VFP Statement on Crisis in Gaza  

VFP does not take the side of any government, but rather takes the side of all people in the region who are victims of the most recent outbreak of violence raging between Palestine and Israel . 

As U.S. military veterans all too familiar with the horrors of war, Veterans For Peace must shout "HALT" to the violence, restating our position that attacks on civilians are never warranted.  Neither Israel nor Hamas is justified in attacking the civilian population of the other.  Bombings, rocket attacks, blockading medical supplies and military invasions will not lead to peace and security but will perpetuate the cycle of death, destruction, fear and insecurity among the people of all countries, including the U.S.

As citizens of the United States, VFP also recognizes that tens of billions of our tax dollars provide Israel the military means to wage a vastly disproportionate attack on Gaza , a district with particularly dense population.  That attack, plainly condemned by nearly all of the world's nations, has killed many hundreds of civilians, injured hundreds more and set off a humanitarian crisis where the wounded are dying from lack of transport to aid centers and many more face death from lack of water. 

We note with great sadness the unspeakable suffering which builds by the hour in Gaza .  We support the call for an end to the violence while noting that the Security Council's inability to take effective actions to uphold the UN Charter, its own previously adopted resolutions and international law is due in great part due to the objections of the U.S.

Therefore we call upon our 7,000 members in over 100 chapters across the United States to join the millions of our brothers and sisters across the Earth who have taken to the streets to protest, to stand in the way of business as usual, until this violence is stopped.

January 7, 2009