By: Higinio Polo / Source: Rebelion.org / The Dawn News / March 4, 2016.
It’s been 25 years since the morning of February 13, 1991, when US bombers unexpectedly launched their bombs, from more than 200 kilometres away, on a shelter that was located on the Baghdad district of al-‘Amiriya. In this shelter were 400 children that had seeked refuge there to escape from bombs and war. Nothing could stop the relentless US war machine: in the weeks after that, they attacked hospitals, shelters, water treatment plants, infrastructure, roads, power plants, towns and cities. For over two months, a deluge of fire descended on Iraq, leaving the country prostrated. I visited the al-Amiriyah shelter in 2003, when a new war was about to start: the war launched by George W. Bush with lies and shameful manipulation, even to the Security Council of the UN. When we entered the shelter, it smelled of death, and in the blackened walls there were remnants of the hell that it had become, traces of small hands that had desperately clawed the walls: al-Amiriyah was a giant crematorium, where children had burned to death, and we walked in silence with a heavy heart.
The Gulf War was developing, launched by the US against Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Washington christened the slaughter with the name “Operation Desert Storm”. The almost four hundred Iraqi children who were burned alive are just some of the victims of the American savagery: thousands of soldiers died buried in the desert sands, and Washington viciously hit Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities, killing thousands of civilians. Then came the sanctions, which blocked the arrival in the country of all kinds of supplies; from food to medical supplies and medicines, as well as any material or product that, according to the United States, could have “military applications”. The US violated all international agreements that monitor and ensure the protection of civilians in times of war.
After the first Gulf War, sanctions on Iraq created an emergency situation, with severe damage to water pipes, the environment, to cities. Before the US aggression,The World Health Organization had classified Iraq as a developed country in the Middle East, but after the US attacks it found that the infant mortality rate had increased by 25%. Diseases proliferated: cholera, which had been completely eradicated, reappeared, and the same occurred with polio: the cases increased steeply. Malaria, which had been nearly eliminated, appeared again. The use of depleted uranium by the US Air Force caused many people to develop tumors, as well as leukaemias and malformations, and renal failure and infertility in women grew significantly. A quarter of the population no longer had access to drinking water, something that before, the whole nation had. Under American pressure, the international commission that controlled the program “oil for food” refused to authorize the importation of materials for water purification. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed by the embargo, although the United States never felt responsible for the massacre. The U.S. never even felt moved by that.
In 2003, American planes were already bombarding again: in those days, when I was covering the poor Iraqi hospitals, everyone in our delegation was horrified by the sight of all the defenseless children in the hospital rooms, where the only supply was blood to respond to cases of malformations caused by depleted uranium bombs. While we were touring the neighborhoods devastated by the poverty caused by the embargo, we saw Iraqi soldiers digging trenches to protect themselves: they greeted us cheerfully, they so naively confident, thinking that those trenches would resist the deluge of bombs prepared by Washington, that it made every heart shrink. On the outskirts of Basra, near the estuary of Shatt al-Arab, bombs fell just a few hundred meters away from the bus that carried our delegation.
Then, war came again. A different war. On March 20, 2003, Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, with the lies of alleged “weapons of mass destruction” that Iraq had; with the lies of the alleged complicity that the Iraqi government had with al-Qaeda; with no mandate from the United Nations, in violation of international conventions, ignoring the massive global protests, that were not able to prevent another war and massacre. Once they overthrew Saddam Hussein, came occupation, chaos, plundering of cultural and archaeological riches of Iraq, with the participation of US military and mercenaries. The state in which they left the country also opened the door to Islamist terrorism, gangs of looters and murderers, misery and hunger in a country that had been one of the most prosperous in the Middle East. In the apocalyptic chaos that the sanguinary US policy had created in the Middle East, it seemed that nothing could be worse. But US still wanted more: it also needed Syria. The harassment began in 2011.
After twenty years of war, the Iraqi population continues to resist; they resist the destruction caused by the US, the chaos created by its army, sectarian divisions that were stimulated by the American secret services, terrorist groups created by the CIA and its allies (Saudi, Qatar, Turkey, United Arab United). Despite being a rich country, thanks to its oil, Iraqis are still forced to live in poor conditions, with the divided territory controlled by factions: Kurdish militias in Barzani and Talabani, in the north; the fierce jihadists Daesh, Shiite militias, government forces, thousands of US troops still in the country, the US mercenaries, the new units that Washington stands there which are prepared to intervene in Syria while Iraq has been at war for twenty-five years.
Now, when we invoke the hundreds of children in that horrifying shelter al-Amiriyah in Baghdad, I recall one of the signs that someone had left on the walls shattered by Washington’s bombs and ferocity: Let Iraq live. Let Iraq live.