The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Another report from Robert Fisk. You can e-mail letters to the independent at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should include a postal address and (if possible) a telephone number. It's interesting to note that the Independent on Sunday *is* currently running a campaign - to decriminalize cannabis. A rather interesting set of priorities. Note that this is a *campaign*. They're not asking concerned readers to send in money to a charitable fund but to turn up in force to a mass rally in London. Following the Fisk article I've included another by Graham Ball that's on the Independent on Sunday's website. Gabriel. %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Children starve, Saddam survives Robert Fisk, among scenes of appalling filth, is told: 'When you have no food, you don't worry about democracy or who your leaders are' IN FRONT of Fatima Hassan's house, a tide of pale-blue and creamy-white liquid streams gently through an open sewer. Her iron front door cannot hide the stench, nor the sound of the screaming, barefoot children in the street . Jumping the sewer - leaping across the little canyon of filth - is a pastime for the kids of the Basra suburb of Dour Sheoun. Stand outside Fatima's door and they run towards you, blistered, whey-faced, with large eyeballs, the irises ivory-white with malnutrition. On my way down from Baghdad, I handed a beggar girl a 250-dinar note - scarcely 10p - only to see her thrown to the road by her friends, the money torn from her dirty fist. Here, a woman - a bright, pretty woman in a black chuddar with a white headband - introduces us to her eight-year old daughter, Roula, then suddenly says: "Please take her with you." Sundus Abdul-Kader is just 33 - and she is ready to give away her own child. Fatima has five children. Her husband was a car painter in Kuwait before Saddam Hussein invaded the emirate; he stayed on for eight months after its liberation, still working but unpaid by his Kuwaiti employers. Now he sells sandwiches. "We don't eat eggs or milk," she says. "We can't afford to eat meat. We drink the tap-water - we don't boil it. This little boy of mine has trouble breathing, this one has a swollen stomach because of the water. We go to the hospitals but the doctors say there is no medicine. Wherever we go, they say there is no medicine." Outside, an older woman in black pushes her way through the street urchins. "I have two crippled people in my family," she pleads. "They have fever and sore throats. Can you take them with you to Europe?" We explain that we are not doctors, but she thrusts into our faces a thick piece of yellow paper with a history of muscular dystrophy from which her relatives are suffering. After half an hour, my writing hand grows numb listing the sicknesses and starvation. A child has anaemia, another has severe respiratory problems, a third cannot control its bowels; it appears to be dying. "When are you going to lift the sanctions?" yet another woman shouts at me. "Our children need food and clothes." At the end of the street, there is a tootling trumpet, a fat man with a drum and a stooped old soldier marking time for a squad of 300 middle-aged, half-bearded men, all carrying Kalashnikov rifles but most of them in shoddy uniforms. These are the local Dad's Army, Saddam's heroic Volunteers, preparing to withstand the might of the US. They march round a traffic island while the children chant the national anthem. "A country that stretches its wings over the horizon And clothed itself in the glory of civilisations. This land is a flame and a light, Like a mountain that overlooks the world. We have the anger of the sword And the patience of the Prophet." Then the kids return to sewer-jumping. And this, remember, is the country which - according to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair - threatens the whole world. North of Basra, the Baathist militiamen and soldiers cruise the Baghdad highway in pick-up trucks, the soldiers in balaclavas, a heavy machine-gun fixed to the roof of the driver's cab, searching for the Shia Muslim guerrillas of the marshes. Where the marsh Arabs live by the road, massive tank pens have been built alongside their villages, 30 or 40 T-55 battle tanks in each compound, an army of occupation in its own country. For Iraq is disintegrating by the day, its cities run by their governors, almost out of touch with Baghdad. No one travels the bandit-held roads at night. Saddam's portrait still stands, pallid and fading, around the streets of Basra. It hangs inside the foyer of Basra's General Hospital, an old infirmary built by the British before the 1914-18 war with tiny yellow bricks and narrow Scutari-style corridors. Dr Abdul-Amir Al-Hafaji wants to show us his children's ward. It is a disgrace, the floors stinking of urine, the pillows spattered with blood, the blankets filthy. The hospital ran out of disinfectant long ago. Rubber gloves are rewashed between operations. Syringes are re-used. So are the plastic shoes which staff wear on the blood-slippery floor of the operating theatre. On one bed lies Montaza Nather with abdominal distension and fever, one of nine children who sell cigarettes on the street to support a family, whose father earns just #1.66 a month. He is starving, a child of only 17kg who should weigh twice as much. There are flies on his face and hands. Two small girls are sick with typhoid, watching us carefully, ignoring the legions of flies crawling on the blankets. "We were forced to reopen our pediatric clinic two years ago because there were so many sick children," Dr al-Hafaji says. "It's due to malnutrition, poverty, lack of medicines. We are short of antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medication. We are having a hundred typhoid cases a month, but it is two or three times that in summer." He appears not to notice the evil smells from the floor. "We used to have an excellent vaccination programme. We had pure water. Typhoid, malnutrition, diarrhea, measles, polio - we never saw such cases." And all this, I kept reflecting, was supposed to make the Iraqi people rise up against the president whose portrait hangs even on the walls of their homes. "They may not like Saddam," a dispirited Western aid official tells me later, "but these people have been reduced to penury. They live in shit. And when you have no money and no food, you don't worry about democracy or who your leaders are. All you care about is surviving." Independent Iraq Appeal Robert Fisk's reports from Iraq over the past week have highlighted the tragedy of children dying for lack of basic medicines. Many are suffering from diseases which may be linked to the Gulf War seven years ago. The Independent has launched an appeal for these children, and is working with the charities Care International and Medical Aid for Iraqi Children, which are already doing much to relieve poverty and sickness in Iraq, to ensure your money goes directly to help them. Please send cheques, made out to Independent Iraq Appeal, PO Box 6870, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5BT. %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Heed our rallying cry By Graham Ball IT IS TIME to stand up and be counted. For the past six months the Independent on Sunday has led the debate on decriminalising cannabis. Now it is time to turn words into people power. We want the thousands who have already signed our petition to join countless others who believe the Government's war against cannabis is harming our society, to join us in London. We are planning a mass march through the heart of the capital on Saturday 28 March and it should prove to be the biggest pro-cannabis demonstration for 30 years. Caroline Coon, the artist and original founder of the drug charity Release, who helped organise the last "pot rally" in London in 1968, is to support our march. "People should never believe that demonstrations are useless. People power on the streets does change things," said Ms Coon who continues to campaign actively for drug law reform. "The drug issue is more important today than it was 30 years ago because authoritarian governments are now using the war against drugs, which is really a war against people, to undermine democracy and civil liberties. "Thousands of people speaking with one voice could force the Government to change the law. We know that prohibition is the worst way to reduce any harm drugs may do. Prohibition wastes millions of pounds in tax revenue which could be better spent on reducing poverty." The deputy director of Release, Greg Poulter, is equally resolute in his support for the march. "It is necessary to show the politicians the strength of feeling in the country for reform of the cannabis laws. Demonstrations of this sort can send a message to the Government that they need to respond to public opinion and not remain entrenched in the discredited doctrine of prohibition," he said. Supporters wishing to take part in the march should assemble in Hyde Park for a mid-day departure for Trafalgar Square where speakers including IoS editor Rosie Boycott, Howard Marks and Paul Flynn MP will address the rally. Groups from as far afield as Scotland, Wales and the North- west have already indicated that they will be attending. And a delegation from the European parliament is also expected. "We shall be urging all our supporters to attend, " said Alun Buffry, spokesman for the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis International Association (CLCIA). "The time is right to support the IoS march. We have noticed a distinct change in attitudes since the campaign began in the newspaper. The fact that a lot of professional people were prepared to put their name to the petition that has been running each week seems to have encouraged a lot of people to announce in public what they may have previously only whispered in private." As yet no one can guess how many campaigners will support our march, but we are urging individuals to start organising groups and let us know how many to expect. A 1996 survey revealed that 8.3 million adults between the ages of 16 and 59 had admitted to using cannabis, and it only requires a fraction of that total to make a point on the streets. But how the point is made is almost as important as the point itself. Rosie Boycott has urged supporters to be streetwise. "It is important that everyone remembers that we are out to change the law, not break it," said Ms Boycott. "It would be naive not to recognise that we will be scrutinised by hostile eyes. We must not provoke police reaction. We want to change the law on cannabis by legal and democratic means," she said. Danny Kushlick, of the drug law reform group Transform, says he is impressed by the way the IoS has taken the argument forward. "Up until now there has been no attempt to get people on the ground involved," he said. And the campaign is having an effect, he thinks. "I've noticed a major shift in the last three months, with the House of Lords committee and the Police Foundation investigation. People are coming out of the woodwork and everything seems to be happening with a rush. It is quite astonishing." HOW TO GET THERE ROLL UP, roll up for the great cannabis march. On Saturday 28 March supporters of the Independent on Sunday's decriminalise cannabis campaign should gather at Reformer's Tree in Hyde Park for the biggest march in support of cannabis for 30 years. (There is no tree there any more - a lamp-post marks the spot.) The procession will follow a police-approved route, out of the park and into Park Lane. From here the marchers head down to Hyde Park Corner and turn into Piccadilly. From Piccadilly Circus we will turn right into the Haymarket and from the south end of the Haymarket turn left into Trafalgar Square. The Royal Parks agency insists that no stalls are erected in Hyde Park and requests that banners be kept furled until marchers are on the road. Collections are banned en route and the authorities request that litter in Trafalgar Square be kept to a minimum. Notwithstanding the limitations, the organisers are determined that the day should be a celebration rather than a confrontation. "In 1967 at the time of the first 'pot rally' in London the underground was in its infancy," said Caroline Coon, who founded Release that year. "The scene in San Francisco was far more advanced and Allen Ginsberg came over and addressed the crowd in Trafalgar Square and was almost arrested." Thirty years later the tables of tolerance are turned. Professor John P Morgan of the City of New York Medical School and co-author of the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, said: "This is marvellous news. I cannot conceive of a demonstration like this in America just now. I wish you success. The eyes of the western democracies are upon you." %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html