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UPDATE:  Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project, June, 2004



With all the bad news coming out of Iraq---human rights abuses, torture, fighting, chaos and the rest---let me relate to you one small piece of good news.  Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project will continue its mission of rebuilding water treatment plants and saving countless lives by bringing clean household water to many Iraqis who have been deprived of water by war, sanctions, invasion, looting and chaos.

In the 1991 Gulf War US forces deliberately targeted Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, damaging much of the country’s water treatment capabilities.  Iraq’s water treatment systems deteriorated further in the course of twelve long years of United Nations sanctions.  During this period, UNICEF estimated that 5000 Iraqi children under the age of five died each month due to sanctions.  Water-borne diseases were by far the biggest killer.

War, invasion, looting and chaos have also taken their toll on Iraq’s water treatment network.  Despite the billions of dollars pouring into Iraq for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, treatment capabilities have not even returned to pre-invasion levels.  Water-borne diseases remain the major killer of children in Iraq.

Veterans for Peace rebuilt six water treatment plants supplying 100,000 Iraqis with clean water before the March 2003 US invasion.  Now, thanks to the invasion, the looting, the disorder, and over a year of sustained guerilla warfare, all six of these plants are once again in need of major repairs.

This is a tall order, but we will start with the Hai al-Risala plant in Falluja, which we rebuilt just months before the invasion.  Yes, Falluja, where angry Iraqi citizens recently killed four armed US mercenaries.  One of their bodies was hung from a bridge over the Euphrates, within sight of our water plant.  In retaliation for these killings, the US launched its infamous assault upon the city, bringing down the public services with it.  As this is written, much of the city has been without running water for months.

I have personally visited Falluja three times, most recently in June 2003, two months after US troops opened fire on a peaceful demonstration killing thirteen Iraqi civilians.  These people were asking nothing more than for the soldiers to leave a local school, so that their children could continue their education.  In spite of this, Fallujans were extremely hospitable to us.

But VFP methods are different from those of the US government.  We came to Iraq in peace, to build ties of friendship with the Iraqi people.  None of us carried weapons, nor hired mercenary security guards, nor coveted Iraq’s oil, nor sought to grow wealthy on government contracts.  Certainly none of us stand accused of human rights abuses, murder, torture, rape, or willful humiliation of the Iraqi people.  We came in opposition to America’s Iraq policy, to try to undo at least a small piece of the harm caused by our government.

We rebuilt our six water treatment plants for less than $200,000.  We feel that our $200,000 did more for the people of Iraq than whole billions lavished on war profiteering corporations.  With the money our government has squandered, we could have repaired every water treatment plant in Iraq, several times over.

The cost of rebuilding Hai al-Risala comes in around $30,000.  We are well on the way to that goal, but still a few thousand short, not to mention the five other IWP sponsored water plants.  As long as this project can attract notice for its stark contrast to the self-serving purposes of Big US Government and Big Business in Iraq, we want to keep going.  And we hope that, as in the past, people will continue to find room in their hearts and their checkbooks for Veterans for Peace and the Iraq Water Project.

Tom Sager, IWP Coordinator

June 2004