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Christmas greetings

greetings for Christmas in the hope that peace will come to all, allso those
dying in Iraq.
Can you please send this letter around?
Much love and the sanctions will fall.
Klaus Meier

December 8, 1999

A Mother's Glimpse into the Life and Death of Iraq

I have just returned from Iraq to my clean, "safe" and well ordered life
with my five healthy sons, with clean air to breathe and drinkable water to
be had with the simple turn of a tap.  Yet life can never be the same.  Many
times a day, when I sit down for a meal, or see a healthy child or a
contented well-fed baby, I have to fight back tears as memories well up from
our tiny glimpse into the man made hell of a land being choked to death by
my country; a land where a child dies every six minutes as a result of our

I was one of almost two hundred people (mostly women) from more than forty
nations, invited by Dr. Manal and the General Federation of Iraqi Women to
their 16th General Conference. Although they themselves suffer severe
deprivation they covered the food and hotel expenses for all those attending
their conference, which was an unforgettable experience. And in spite of the
sanctions, they provide assistance and comfort to poor and struggling
mothers throughout Iraq. The indomitable spiritual strength, integrity and
hospitality of the Iraqi women deeply impressed me. The suffering they have
endured for the last nine years has drawn them and the Iraqi people closely

How can I convey the irony of feeling so much more at home in Iraq than in
the superficial culture that we know in America?  The heart to heart contact
with so many suffering and deeply believing Muslims for whom God is a
reality, not a figment of the imagination to talk about on Sunday and then
forget, was deeply moving.  How can one explain the fact that, when they
find out we are from the very nation that is murdering their children,
instead of hating us they welcome us with a warmth that defies all

Late one night, as my husband and I walked back to our hotel through
deserted streets in Baghdad, we saw a very large dump truck stop at a red
light. Standing in the back were about fifty quiet, tired, dusty men and
older boys going home after a day of hard work. The joyful shouts of
"welcomes" and "hellos" that erupted when we waved to them astonished us. As
we walked past the truck many leaned down to shake our hands before the
truck sped off into the darkness. This is how our "enemies" greeted us in

Many Iraqi families live on the edge of starvation and have had to let their
children take to selling small items in the streets. We saw many such
children, like the little girl who offered me incense through our taxi
window. Our taxi was in the lane farthest from the curb, in heavy traffic
three lanes deep, when I noticed a frail little girl standing on the curb,
her delicate face outlined by her head scarf. Our eyes met for just a moment
before I lost sight of her. When we stopped for a red light there she was,
standing at the window beaming at me and offering her little stick of
incense, which I gladly accepted and paid her for. She was so pleased.  When
the traffic started moving again she somehow made her way back to the safety
of the sidewalk. In spite of their need and poverty the trusting eyes of
these children tell you that they have a family and parents that love them.
They were not the lonely, unhappy eyes of children one sees so often in our

We visited the largest children's hospital in Baghdad - room upon room, ward
upon ward of children slowly dying, watched by grieving parents and helpless
doctors and nurses; helpless because our sanctions prevent them from
obtaining the medical supplies they need. And before we imposed the
sanctions the best medical care was free for everyone in Iraq.

Still before my eyes is the face of a six-year-old child suffering from
leukemia, with hope of life but a slim thread. She accepted our small gift
of a hand knitted teddy with a radiant smile and trusting eyes, which also
brought joy to her suffering mother.  But the little girl's grandmother was
weeping and I could not keep back tears as I stood beside her.  I will never
forget the look on the child's face as she noticed us. Tears welled up and
flowed down her little face, which a moment before had been so happy. The
child needed joy and hope, but all her grandmother and I could offer was our
shared grief. And she is but one of thousands of Iraqi children, each dying
a slow and agonizing death. Her illness is almost certainly the result of
the depleted Uranium we used in Iraq during the Gulf War - a radioactive
substance that is causing cancer and deformities in thousands of children
throughout Iraq. And it will continue to do so for hundreds and thousands of
years to come. 

Beside another bed a mother wept as she watched her little girl slipping
into a coma. This is the third time she has watched one of her children die,
each before they reached their third birthday. I could not even begin to
imagine her agony. And this innocent child, like so many other Iraqi
children, does not even know she is an Iraqi. Yet she is being put to death
by our sanctions because she is an Iraqi.

We claim that any weapons of mass destruction Iraq may still have must be
destroyed. Yet we refuse to end the sanctions - a weapon of mass destruction
that has killed more than a million people, most of them children. Our
government bombed Yugoslavia, killing many innocent women and children,
because of supposed mass graves. But we have turned Iraq into a giant mass
grave into which more than two hundred children are laid each day. Surely
this is a crime against humanity.

As we prepare for Christmas let us not forget the slaughter of the innocents
that took place in Bethlehem after Christ's birth. Today, two thousand years
later, the innocents are again being slaughtered, this time in Iraq. 

I have come home wondering who is actually poorer, and feeling deep sorrow
for our nation.  The Iraqi people are rich through their faith in God and
the love of their close-knit families. It is this that gives them strength
to face each day with courage and hope instead of bitterness and despair.
May God help them hold on to their faith. And may it be given that our
nation begins to seek what we have lost through our selfishness and the
empty glitter of our daily scramble for money and material things.

How much I wish that every American mother would go to Iraq and stand beside
an Iraqi mother, feeling her helpless agony as she watches her child die.
Their lives would be forever changed, as mine has been. And they would join
me in calling for an end to the cruel and heartless sanctions. 

Copyright 1999 by Krista Clement.

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