Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 1 June 2007

The next meal

The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), yesterday reported via Reuters/Alertnet the story of Adeela Harith, a 39-year-old Iraqi widowed mother of three.

"I will keep trying to find food for us in rubbish bins and with the money my children get in the streets by begging, we can buy some water and milk for them…

“…They no longer attend school. The oldest two are street beggars and the youngest, Youssef, is with me looking for food in rubbish bins.

"After my husband was killed, militants came to my home and threatened to kill everyone if we didn't leave our house in 24 hours. I left without carrying anything… I don't have parents. The only brother I had was killed a year ago and his wife is leading a similar life to mine.”

Almost a year has now elapsed since the conclusion of the study of excess mortality in Iraq by Burnham’s team from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University published in The Lancet last October. As of the beginning of last July, they estimated about 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion and occupation. Projecting from that estimate, assuming that the monthly toll has remained at the average for the thirteen months form June 2005 through June 2006 (although we know it has actually increased), by the end of this month, there will be nearly a million Iraqis who have died needlessly in America’s brutal war for control of the planet’s energy resources.

Lurking behind each individual unnecessary death is a story like that of Adeela Harith and her three children, Ahmed 14, Zaineb 12, and Yasser 8. George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, and all their accomplices have left a country full not only of death and destruction but millions of grieving homeless widows, widowers, and orphans.

"A local NGO recently told me they will assist me but I am still waiting. Youssef has serious diarrhoea and two weeks ago Zaineb got sick from the food we ate. The doctors told us to stop eating food which we collect from rubbish bins but we don't have a choice. Either we eat like this or we die of starvation.

“I keep remembering how good the old days were when we had good food, good health and good living conditions but now our life is a disaster. And with the deteriorating situation in Iraq no one cares any more."

And what of the wounded. In posts like ‘Iraqi deaths’ (29 May), Eli Stephens has been pointing out that the death counts we read in the media only enumerate those who die on the spot. They often report large numbers of injured who we never hear of again. With Iraq’s medical infrastructure in the parlous state the occupation and ‘rebuilding’ of Iraq have reduced it to, many of those must subsequently die. And that’s an important point. Many others, however, live on without their legs or without their sight. They may need constant attention by a family member who therefore doesn’t even have time to beg or to scavenge. The statistics are horrifying, but the reality is worse.

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