time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of
inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their
especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great
difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within
one's own bosom and in the surrounding world."
Here is a water story. A very grim one, I must warn. But
this is the story that's made it impossible for me to feel the anger and
hatred so many Americans are now exultantly feeling: a story that leaves
me sure I've no honest choice, in response to September 11, but to seek
the kind of justice described not by our nation's elected or appointed
leaders, but by people like Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.:
In 1991, in the wake of Desert Storm, the United States Defense
Intelligence Agency researched what the effect would be of strategically
bombing the water storage systems and sewage treatment systems of Iraq
until they were destroyed. An American journalist and professor, Thomas
J. Nagy, has since investigated the relevant DIA documents. They were
declassified in 1995. Nagy has written several articles about what he
discovered. No major media or magazines have shown interest in Nagy's
reports. I can see why: they're almost too shameful to be believed -
like the first whispers we once heard of the massacre at Mi Lai. The
article I'll be citing was in the September, 2001 issue of The
Progressive. It's titled "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How
the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply." The
documents Nagy cites are all available online. Nagy's conclusions are
his own, but he is not pushy: his article tells how to access the
documents, so you can read them and draw your own conclusions. (Click
Here to Access)
These 1991 Intelligence documents, to my amazement as a water lover, go
into great technical detail about the sources and quality of Iraq's
water; they note that Iraqi rivers contain biological material and
pollutants which, unless treated with chlorine, cause epidemic diseases
like cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid. The documents note that chlorine
was embargoed by the sanctions, as were food, all other forms of
drinkable liquid, and medicine. The documents predict that if Iraq's
water systems are destroyed it is poor Iraqis, particularly children,
who will be affected - not the likes of Saddam Hussein. Knowing this,
our political and military leaders under the elder George Bush - in an
act that flies in the face of the Geneva Convention rules of war,
systematically destroyed the water and sewage systems of Iraq anyway.
And the sanctions on chlorine and medicine remained in place.
The Defense Intelligence documents continue: they mention epidemic
outbreaks of acute diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory ailments, measles,
diptheria, pertussis, meningitis, and other diseases, again and again
causing problems - most notably death - for children. One DIA document
describes a refugee camp in which 80% of the population has diarrhea,
cholera, hepatitis B, measles, gastroenteritis... It reports that 80% of
the resulting deaths are children.
When, in the mid-90s, a team of Harvard doctors witnessed the epidemics
and urged that sanctions barring medicine be lifted, the Defense
Intelligence Agency responded by saying that the Iraqi regime was
exaggerating the incidence of disease for political purposes. The
sanctions and fouled water remained in place. They remain in place to
this day. The United Nations - not some Iraqi propagandist, the
United Nations - now reports that five hundred thousand
Iraqi children aged five and under have died as a result, and that 5000
more infants and children will continue to die each month until medicine
and safe water are restored.
Remember your own children at age two or three? How political were they?
How pro or anti Clinton, Bush or Saddam? How Islamic or Christian?
Weren't they just children? What is a terrorist? What is terror? Is
there a greater terror than watching your child die before your eyes?
Even with the best medicine available, tending my feverish children
through the night I've sometimes wept in helpless terror when the
thermometer hit 105. And when they've entered convulsions, how well I
remember the desperate cure: cold clean water.
I try to imagine tending my child, with no medicine, as
78% of her body and 90% of her brain becomes water deliberately defiled
by America's leaders. I try to imagine having nothing with which to cool
her but cloths dampened with more ruined water. I try to imagine singing
to her inert body, then putting away, permanently, her abandoned
clothes, toys, tiny shoes, as I try to forgive her killers. My mind
balks. What is a "terrorist" but an inflictor of pain and
terror? Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, in the interests of our
"defense," agree to this day that the sanctions are
"working" and that the cost is "worth it." 1.25
billion Muslims know this. Some are insane with fury as a result. Now
5000 Americans have been denied their lives. Many Americans are furious
in turn. So bombs are falling, civil liberties are vanishing, anthrax
could be in anyone's mail. Pakistan is boiling, India is heating up.
Pakistan and India have huge problems and mind-bending tensions.
Pakistan and India have nukes. And 5000 more infants and children will
die this month for the crime of being born to mothers who've done
nothing but suffer under the rule of an Iraqi leader whom the U. S.
empowered in the first place.
"This is a war against evil," says George W. Bush - who in May
gave $43 million to the Taliban knowing they bury women alive, then in
September posed beside newspaper headlines reading, BUSH GOES AFTER THE
TERRORISTS' MONEY. If Bush is right, if this is truly "a war
against evil," then God help us. I'm not a conservative, a liberal,
a Republican, a Democrat. But on the basis of simple love for my own and
all children, and my own and all living waters, I say the sanctions are
child-killing insanity. Only a servant of what Martin Luther King, Jr.
called "the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and
militarism" could justify such a killing cost.
"Problems cannot be solved," said Albert Einstein, "at
the same level of consciousness that created them." I pray that
half a million dead infants and children and 5000 dead New Yorkers lift
our consciousness to a new level. "We are called upon," to
cite Dr. King again, "to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for
the victims of our nation, for those it calls enemy."
The only power I have to win a war against evil and terrorism, and so
defend those I love, is to refuse to inflict evil or terror myself. How
many photos of dead firemen must we contemplate before we begin to truly
honor them - by carrying water the way firemen, clouds, and rivers do,
to anyone and everyone who'll die without it?
This article originally appeared on
OrionOnline.org, the website of Orion and Orion Afield
magazines, under the feature headline "Thoughts on
America." The list of contributing writers continues to grow.
Reprinted with permission.
Editor's Note: Professor Nagy's study, referred to in the article
above, can be found at
http://www.progressive.org/0801issue/nagy0901.html. It includes
detailed directions to the government documents concerning the biological
attack on Iraq.