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UPDATE:  Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project

February 28, 2011                                                                                       

Much of the work accomplished by VFP Iraq Water Project over the past ten years  symbolizes for us a personal acknowledgement of the damage, direct and indirect, done by our US government to the people of Iraq throughout the decades of our complicated mutual involvement. Not all this damage was inflicted by direct attack: economic pressure, in the form of US/UN sanctions designed to create conditions for regime change, also struck a crippling blow to civil life and health in Iraq, a policy, once thought acceptable, for which everyone is still paying a heavy price. Especially them.

Now here’s a new element for IWP: we have gotten a water unit installed at a site destroyed by somebody else! In the last days of the Iran/Iraq War, “Bloody Friday” March 16, 1988 to be precise—Islam’s day consecrated to prayer---, the Kurdish city of Halabja was massively assaulted with chemical weapons by the army of Saddam Hussein. Three to five thousand civilians were killed outright, with many more dying later. While it is true that enemy forces were operating in the area, nevertheless this direct attack upon his own civilians was consistent with the tactics of Saddam’s parallel Anfal campaign---to terrify, kill and drive out Kurdish populations throughout the north of the country. The epithet “brutal dictator”, settled upon Saddam by three US presidents, is not, we have to admit, entirely groundless.

Nor were we honking into our handkerchiefs when informed of the recent death by hanging of Ali Hassan al Majid, “Chemical Ali”, Saddam’s cousin and jolly military commander of the Anfal operation.

It is interesting to note the reaction of western countries at the time to this acknowledged atrocity. There was no reaction. Not only was Iran the greater threat, capable of closing down Persian Gulf shipping and exporting Islamic revolution, but Iraq had plentiful oil of its own and the prospect of massive reconstruction contracts for western firms. Shit happens, to paraphrase a former defense secretary.

So our Baghdad team has traveled to Halabja and placed a reverse osmosis water purifier in a local primary school. You can check the pictures for a look. The school serves both Kurdish and Turkoman students. Many of these children will be descendents of the more fortunate Halabja civilians who were not poisoned on Bloody Friday.

Additionally, since last report IWP has placed 16 water units, both reverse osmosis and ultraviolet, in various parts of Iraq, principally in schools and clinics, but also at a prison at Karbala. The team also carried out some repairs at previous installations. The Iraqi Youth and Student NGO we have previously worked with plumbed in three purifiers supplied by us at a school and two hospitals in their area (Nassiriya). We like working with this NGO as it is just the kind of organization that will eventually provide the honest and responsible civil leadership that Iraq needs for a stable future, if it is ever to have one.

For the Iraq Water Project groupie who attentively follows our updates (specifically April 2010) over the past months---and remembers it all---I can report that the seemingly failed Rutba Hospital installation finally got completed. It’s way too complicated to describe here. If you really want to know, call me (216-371-6056) and I’ll tell you all about it. 

Thanks again to Veterans for Peace chapters and all our supporters for making this work happen.

One last thing: as this is written, the huge demonstrations in Egypt are now in their third astonishing week. Our very good friend, and Iraqi coordinator for this project, Faiza al Araji, is at this moment in Cairo seeking an advanced degree at the American University. We are of course concerned for her health and safety, but as she possesses within the scope of recent experience years of life under Saddam Hussein, two US invasions and massive bombings of her country, the kidnapping of one of her sons, and consequent flight into Jordan, Faiza in all probability is viewing the Cairo scene with much greater equanimity than any of us might do. She reports that her own situation is tolerable, and that she shares with the demonstrating Egyptian youth a great hope of a better future for their country. Thank you, Faiza, for this and for everything you do. We hope the same for your country and your future and for the future of your sons. Iraq Water Project is an expression of that hope.

Art Dorland, IWP Chair