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"The Arab Holocaust"

Raed Battah -- who has lost Iraqi family members due to sanctions -- wrote
the following heart-felt piece for the most recent SpinTech.  The article
also includes useful points of rebuttal to the recent State Department
briefing on Iraq.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

SpinTech: October 12, 1999 

The Arab Holocaust 
by Raed Battah

Well, it happened. I finally got the old, "If you don't like here then just
leave." There I was, in the middle of one of many arbitrary "lift sanctions"
appeals to none other than my own boss. She obviously missed the part when I
talked about the 2,000,000 women, elderly, and children who have died
silently in what I refer to as the "Arab Holocaust". To call itthatis risky,
I know -- after all, the Jews lost 6,000,000 before they earned exclusive
rights to that term. But now we have a fresh humanitarian catastrophe. Yet,
between the most minuscule cracks in my defense of Iraq-- a defense that is
designed to enlighten and educate -- some people still find opportunities to
justify sanctions. 

Should've, could've, would've, is how some people usually begin, most often
referring to what Iraqi President Saddam Hussein should have, could have, or
would have done. This intellectually bankrupt process of thinking leaves
these people in worse shape than if they knew absolutely nothing at all
about the situation, because it allows their inhumanity to go unchecked. 

Ignorance is an even larger problem, and deception is the food for
ignorance. I can only hold people accountable so much, since it is not their
fault that they are not given the facts, rather they are given an imbecile's
explanation of why the US does what it does. It is only practical to assume
that complete idiots would believe that daily bombings of Kurds in the north
and Shi'ites in the south somehow protects Kurds in the north and Shi'ites
in the south. And yet our government trumpets those very convictions when
they express to the press the necessity of "no-fly zones". 

The State Department's Lies 

Likewise, it is interesting to note that the State Department makes no
hesitation in telling demonizing and refutable lies. For instance, two
important examples should be noted. First, the State Department recently
released a statement concerning Iraqi diversion of aide, specifically 250
tons of powdered milk, boxes of teats, and feeding bottles. It was timed
quite appropriately to coincide with the convening of the UN General
Assembly which met late in September and was to discuss the sanctions
policy. The items were aboard a launch-sized Indian vessel called the
Naurani. The US and its kept press feverishly attempted to bastardize the
situation and make it look as though Iraq was selling vitally needed
supplies. The truth, however, was that the boat contained 75 cartons of
talcum powder, teats and feeding bottles of foreign origin, items which were
purchased by a businessman, Tahsin Mahmud Rastam, and which failed to meet
basic Iraqi product standard guidelines. The items were being shipped back
to the United Arab Emirates because they were not good. This was confirmed
by George Somerwill, Chief of Information of UNOCHI, who stated that, "At no
time under the food-for-oil (a.k.a. 986) program were such products, as
claimed by the US, purchased." 

A second and more crucial example of the shameless effort by the US to
divert responsibility for the suffering which sanctions cause, is the almost
immediate response to the recent Child and Infant Mortality Survey which was
released in early August. The Clinton spin doctors immediately took
advantage of American ignorance by saying that the survey showed, in those
areas which Iraq has implemented only the minimum requirements of the 986
program, specifically the fifteen governorates of the center-south region,
that infant mortality was more dramatic than in the north. The 986 program
in the three northern governorates, Dohuk, Erbil, and Sulaimaniya, is both
coordinated and implemented by the United Nations. The center-south contains
87% of the 22 million person population. 986 funds are distributed as

Gross 986 revenue over 1 year = $10.52 billion 

30% to Kuwait = $3.156 billion(taken from center/souths 53% or $5.57
13% to 3 northern governorates (2.86 million people) run by U.N. = $1.36
53% to Center/South (19.14 million people) run by GOI = $2.4196 billion(This
is after the deduction of Kuwait's 30%) 
1% to UNSCOM = $1 million 
2% to UNOHCI = $210 million 

According to these numbers, provided by Farid Zarif, Assistant Coordinator
at UNOHCI, the GNP per capita per day in the center/south is $.30. The north
receives about $1.30 per person per day. This is about 375% of what the
center/south receives. 

Zarif addressed a meeting with members, including myself, of the August
delegation of the organization Voices in the Wilderness. He was one of many
UN officials with whom we spoke and who expressed their concern and
frustration with battling outside propaganda. Officials also expressed the
nearly impossible job of implementing their six-month programs amidst
constant US and UK denial, and delays of vital goods through the Sanctions

US, UK delay aid 

Program 986 is operated in six month installments. This means that programs
concerning food distribution, medical refurbishment, and educational
advancement must be designed, executed, and evaluated within six months in
order for the next program to develop. In most cases, these programs run
grossly off pace due to the decay of a competent infrastructure, and the
constant delays and denials of vitally needed products by the Sanctions
Committee. Out of 500 orders for products aimed at revitalizing the social
infrastructure, the US and UK have placed holds or denials on nearly 450. Do
you see the beast emerging? Have you begun to turn your head in shame yet?
Can you believe that it's happening all over again -- the lies, the killing,
the inaction? What will you tell your children when they ask, "Why did you
let them die?" 

James Rubin, State Department spokesman and devilish Albright protege, says
that the Child Mortality Survey shows irrefutable proof that Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein is intentionally starving his own people by hoarding
medicines and medical supplies in warehouses. That is a lie! The chief
Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq (and the 986 program), Hans Von
Sponeck, believes quite the opposite. 

He says, "It is not -- I repeat, it is not, and you can check with my
colleagues -- a premeditated act of withholding medicines from those who
should have it. It is much more complex than that." He added, "In my mind I
have no doubt in saying that there is no one person in the Ministry of
Health or anywhere else in the Iraqi government who is deliberately trying
to damage the health, or allowing children or others to die by deliberately
not distributing medical supplies. That's just nonsense!" 

Could this be true? We are always told that the regime is monstrous and
repressive. The truth is, that even under stringent UN sanctions, the Iraqi
government is managing to provide, strictly on a GNP percentage basis, the
most funds in the areas of education, medicine and general infrastructure
than any other country in the region, and most others in the developed
world. According to Von Sponeck, the problem is that the per capita income
in Iraq is hovering around $180. That puts Iraq on the economic level of
Chad, Niger and Haiti -- members of the Least Developed Country list. 

What is terribly ironic is that after literally dozens of remarks by the US
State Department, specifically about Saddam's supposed attempts to squander
vitally needed money, our Free (to the highest bidder) Press has not once
divulged the truth to the American public. The truth being that Saddam
Hussein doesn't see a penny of Iraq's oil revenues. Not one penny is
available to him. Every penny is deposited into an escrow account in the
Bank of Paris. It is the UN Sanctions committee that has virtually complete
authority over the use of 986 funds. Don't forget this important point. 

Some facts about Iraq's situation just jump right out at an observer. Take
for instance the comments of Semere Solomon, Assistant Coordinator of UNESCO
in Baghdad. Mr. Solomon expressed in his own personal tone the crisis at
hand. "The whole goddamned social and civilian infrastructure is rotting. I
don't know what kind of generation we are creating. It is very humiliating.
The Iraqis are a very noble people, with very noble ideas and cultures. I
really appreciate their resilience and their steadfastness." These comments
were likewise made to the members of the August delegation to Iraq. 

Resilience, steadfastness, compassion; these are the things which define my
people. This is illustrated in Iraq's policy towards refugees. Prior to the
Gulf War, displaced persons in Iraq, particularly Palestinians, Kurds, and
Iranians were given refugee status or permitted to integrate fully into
Iraqi society. The Iraqi government provided financial aid (70 dinar per
month) to refugees. Although today this is less than five cents a month,
prior the Gulf War it was the equivalent of $280 a month. Abid A. Mir,
Senior Programme Coordination Officer for UNHCR (United Nations High
Commission for Refugees) told my Voices delegation, "The Iraqi government
has done very well with the refugees. There's no question about it. It's a
rich country -- it was a rich country -- and they had all the good will to
take care of them. It's only after sanctions that they need our help." 

The facts are beginning to stack up to show Iraq as a fine nation. But the
US is willingly to ferociously fight these facts with blinding propaganda
and a press that is content with lies. As a journalism student, I always
thought that the press was supposed to be a check on government. 

Take for instance the ongoing murders committed by our criminal pilots.
(Yes, criminal.) They are bombing nearly every day, and every day the
civilian price paid grows larger. Notable is the July attack on the southern
Holy city of Najaf. Even several Western news sources, including AP, AFP,
Reuters, and BBC reported the bombings, the funerals, and the pictures. 

What is painfully ironic is that, amidst all this exposure, Secretary of
Defense William Cohen, the father of all liars in this administration,
proclaimed that there was no proof of civilian casualties from the attack on
Najaf. This statement confused me as I looked at the photographs from AP,
Reuters, and BBC, of the funeral processions and the weeping mothers of
those martyred. It was an unpleasant reminder that this pig could deny such
murders just like he denied in March and April the bombing of Iraqi oil
pipelines which are responsible for generating the revenues for its 986
humanitarian program. This too was verified by international journalist. But
the news sources can't seem to find the relevance in these contradicting
claims by a senior US official. He lied, the press caught him. How about
some accountability? 

Depleted uranium used in Iraq 

It is very hard for me to continue; I want to stop because writing about my
country's plight depresses me. But if I stop then I'll be leaving a lot out.
I will briefly highlight some of the other nightmares that are a result of
our mighty liberation of Kuwait. A key element in the liberation was our
extensive use of toxic depleted uranium (DU) munitions. These pleasant,
penetrating projectiles were quite a party for the soldiers in the battle
ridden Iraqi desert. Our troops were never told of the potentially hazardous
side effects of DU exposure. Nearly 300 tons of this earth-old, radioactive
chemical were sprayed all over southern Iraq. Each DU-tipped round (about 18
inches long and 10 pounds) would create such heat upon impact that the
uranium coating would transform into an aerosol mist. This mist contains
radioactive particles that emit alpha rays. Iraqi Under-Secretary Minister
of Health Dr. Showqi Marcos told our delegation, "Alpha rays radiate over
time and cause mitosis of the cells. This mitosis leads to cancer." 

One of the more pleasant side effects of DU exposure is the high instances
of congenital birth defects among Gulf War Veterans, both Iraqi and
Coalition. These defects include babies born with no heads, no genitals, no
faces, limbs grown together, webbed feet, and stunted limbs. At the Basra
Children's Maternity Hospital, Dr. Jinan Galeb Hassan showed me and other
Voices delegates album after album of horrifying deformities. One child was
equated to a conglomeration of tumors. 

Should I stop there or tell you that a combination of drought, a high water
table, and dilapidated water and sewage facilities, plus the refusal of
vitally needed medicines and medical equipment by the Sanctions Committee,
and the outright abandonment of the international scientific community, has
snowballed into an almost irreversible health catastrophe? Oh God, I'm dying
inside with these people! If only I could be a martyr for them would my
efforts satisfy my guilt. 

My family in Iraq is dying! Uncle Jagoob, Uncle Elias, Aunt Hecina, Aunt
Khemi, Cousin Behegia; they are all dead. I couldn't save them. And the rest
of Iraq can't be far behind with living conditions as toxic as they are

The Arab Holocaust: 2 million are dead. We cannot prevent it because it has
already happened. All we can hope to do is stop it in the future to save our

Raed Battah is a student at Eastern Kentucky University.

Copyright 1999 Raed Battah.
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