War Notes

In the ongoing struggle to win the hearts and minds, sharply increasing malnutrition in Iraqi children is sure to help our cause (and here—you’ll need a log-in).

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

This is truly unconscionable. How can we wonder why there are insurgents fighting against our troops when our “liberation” has wreaked such havoc among the Iraqi populace? Perhaps the most disheartening sentiment expressed in the article is this:

"Believe me, we thought a magic thing would happen" with the fall of Hussein and the start of the U.S.-led occupation, said an administrator at Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics. "So we're surprised that nothing has been done. And people talk now about how the days of Saddam were very nice," the official said.

We have actually made the Iraqi people long for days of Saddam’s rule. And why wouldn’t they? We were delivering them from rape rooms but gave them Abu Ghraib. We were supposed to be freeing them from Saddam’s brutal regime, where people were starving and those who opposed the regime were taken from their beds at night without warning. Now, under our heavy hand, even more people are starving (and doing without water and electricity), and nighttime raids pull men from their beds.

One of the things that haunts me is how little I understood of the Iraqi people leading up to this war. When Fahrenheit 9/11 was released, one of the criticisms was directed at the scenes of Iraqis before the war. Critics of the film accused Michael Moore of having misrepresented Iraq as a happier, safer place than it had actually been. I felt it may have been a fair criticism, but I didn’t really know. Now I read Baghdad Burning and see footage of Iraq pre- and post-invasion, and I realize that I really had no clue what life was like for Iraqis before we got there.

Recently, a man called into the Randi Rhodes Show on Air America, and he was describing seeing the bedroom of an Iraqi in footage of a raid on American television. He was upset; he said the bedroom looked just like his, or his mother’s, or any American’s. I understood his shock. We were told the Iraqis were starving under the decade of sanctions, that Saddam’s storm-troopers made their very lives one of constant abject fear.

But we weren’t told the truth. Sure, some of that existed; I’m not about to become an apologist for Saddam Hussein. But the entire story escaped me before the invasion, and probably many people. Even know I don’t believe I fully grasp what life used to be like for Iraqis, or the kind of people they are, although I think they’re very much like us. All I know now is that they say like used to be better, and we took that from them. What good have we done if we’ve removed one tyranny only to replace it with another?

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