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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Apologies if this has already been posted. <http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/news/43AFD82E2A099F25862 56BC7000EF5E5?OpenDocument&highlight=2,iraq?opendocument&headline=Inside%2B Iraq%3A%2BGulf%2BWar%2Bleft%2Bwater%2Bsupply%2Bcompromised> Inside Iraq: Gulf War left water supply compromised By Jon Sawyer Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief 05/27/2002 09:08 PM Retired Rolla computer science professor Tom Sager at the Hamdamjissir water treatment plant near Basra, Iraq, that he helped repair last year. (Jon Sawyer/P-D) HIBHIB, Iraq - The health of 7,000 people who live in the farming region of Hibhib, 50 miles north of Baghdad, depends on the one good eye of Abdul Rahman Hussein. Several times a day he climbs up the bamboo ladder perched precariously against one of the rusted storage tanks of the Mansouria al-Shatt water treatment plant. If the water pumped in from the tributary of the Tigris River looks reasonably clear, Hussein says, he pours in a tin bucket full of liquid chlorine. If it's unusually clouded, he'll goose up the dose with two or three buckets more. Hussein has been the custodian here for 25 years. Over the cot in his room below, you see the electric switch box and the gauges for measuring chlorine content and other tools of water purification. The gauges don't work anymore - not since U.S.-led attacks in the 1991 Gulf War knocked out most of Iraq's electrical grid and with it most of the motors, gauges and pumps that drove the country's 1,400 water treatment plants. U.S. insistence on the letter of United Nations sanctions against Iraq have stymied efforts to rebuild the water treatment plants. Gas chlorinators have often been banned, for example; they might be diverted to chemical weapons programs. Earlier this month, thanks to an eclectic group of American military veterans and like-minded supporters, repairs began at the Hibhib plant. As Hussein climbed atop the tanks and eyeballed the water, he took in as well an unusual sight: half a dozen Americans shoveling dirt, taking notes and drawing up a list of parts, everything from filters to pumps, chlorinators and a new intake line out to the river's main channel. One of the Americans pitching in to clear a drainage ditch that morning was Art Dorland, 59, a Vietnam War vet who now works construction in Cleveland. He was making his second trip in two years to rebuild damaged water treatment plants in Iraq. Dorland says that raising questions about U.S. policy toward Iraq at a moment of unprecedented support for President George W. Bush's war on terror brings to mind a memory from his days in the Navy - that "in the snappiest, smartest, most robotic military review, there's always some damn fool out on the parade ground who just can't make his step follow the drumbeat." "If the newspapers are telling it right, we are a united country," Dorland adds. "The American war eagle is high aloft, swooping on prey, scarcely ruffling a handsome pinion, and we're all loving it." Except, that is, for Veterans for Peace - Dorland's outfit - which marches to the beat of a distinctly different drum. Let others talk of war, Dorland said. "We just want to fix water pipes." Marching out of step Nearly four out of five Americans support the decisions Bush has so far made in the campaign against terrorism, according to recent surveys. Those polls also suggest that 60 percent or more would support deploying military troops to back up Bush's call for removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power. Among the minority of Americans who take a different view, and the even smaller minority willing to put their views on the line, is Veterans for Peace. The group has its national headquarters in St. Louis, in the World Community Center building on North Skinker Boulevard that houses a collection of like-minded activist groups. Its national administrator is St. Louisan Woody Powell, a Korean War veteran who has accompanied Veterans for Peace delegations to Colombia, Mexico and North Korea. "We feel the more people know about the conditions we address with our projects overseas the less likely they will be able to ignore them," Powell said. "Perhaps we can help activate the generosity most Americans would like to think is part of our culture." The trip this month was the third to Iraq in the past two years, each focused on rebuilding specific plants. The targets this time were the treatment plant in Hibhib and another in Fallujah, on the Euphrates River 50 miles west of Baghdad. Total cost to make the two plants fully operable is estimated at $60,000; the veterans had raised about three-quarters of that before the trip. Not your average tour The half dozen members of the veterans group who crossed the desert from Jordan into Iraq, traveling in GMC vans, were breaking U.S. law. Travel or business in Iraq without express prior authorization is banned. (The law exempts journalists.) Potential penalties run as high as 12 years in jail and $1 million in fines, although prosecution has been rare. What sort of people would take such a risk, not to mention the hassles of low-budget travel through a country with no credit cards, no Pizza Huts and a leader who is clearly No. 1 on Bush's axis of evil? Unusual people. Besides Dorland, the other military veteran on this delegation was Trish Kanous, 44, a former member of the Army National Guard in Idaho. She's a pharmacist in St. Paul, Minn., recently returned from a year teaching English in Yemen. She's also a convert to Islam, someone who keeps her head covered but is pressing to win greater equality for Muslim women. Co-leader with Dorland was Tom Sager, 59, a retired professor of computer science at the University of Missouri at Rolla. Sager has been to Iraq twice in the past two years and has traveled to Cuba to protest the U.S. embargo there. His work on peace causes goes back more than four decades, he says; his initiation was marching in ban-the-bomb demonstrations in 1959. Michael Lessard, 30, joined the group from Quebec City, Canada, where he is a graduate student in international relations. Robin Wagar is a real estate broker from Dallas and an active Presbyterian. She was making her first trip to Iraq but has been to Israel and the West Bank several times. She showed up for the trip with hand-stenciled T-shirts, black with bold white letters proclaiming "Stop the occupation - Peace and Justice for Palestinians." Dorland has been a wanderer, professionally and intellectually, for most of his life. He dropped out of college to join the Navy, did a tour in Vietnam, came home to a variety of jobs - telephone lineman, church custodian and, for several years in West Virginia, "a groundhog farmer - because that's about all I grew." He's traveled throughout the former Yugoslavia, to Cuba and in the Middle East, with previous veterans trips and also with the group Pastors for Peace. The group's responses to the contradictory realities of Iraq - part victim, part police state - varied. When it was suggested at various meetings that Iraq would be a swell place if only the United States left it alone, Kanous and Dorland were generally more skeptical, Sager and Lessard more accepting. On an evening at the theater, Wagar was the only person in the group - or in the audience - to give a standing ovation to a play based on Saddam Hussein's novel "Zabibah and the King." Iraqi on board Also traveling with the group was Amira Matsuda, 44. She lives in Dallas now but grew up in Hilla, a city southwest of Baghdad adjacent to the ruins of ancient Babylon. She married a Japanese engineer and took Japanese citizenship after leaving Iraq in the late 1980s. One of this trip's more memorable moments was a visit with her family. The family has suffered much. One son, a soldier fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, has been missing for 17 years. Hilla was hit hard during the Gulf War and completely cut off; Matsuda had no word from her family at all until six months later. She has been unable since to obtain U.S. visas so that her family might visit Dallas. Schools and clinics in Hilla were heavily damaged by allied bombing, Matsuda says, as was the town's power grid. Matsuda rejects Pentagon assertions that the targets in Hilla had military value. "People from Hilla know that's not the case," she says. Yet there's no hint of resentment as Matsuda's family lays out a feast of homemade buffalo cream cheese, date preserves and tea. Her mother, Noria Ahmed Arra, 85, sets the tone. The daughter of a Turkish provincial governor, she came to Hilla in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. She is nothing if not a survivor. Arra casts a teasing glance on Tom Sager, the ex-professor from the University of Missouri, saying she has her eye on him as a potential spouse. "The problem is that you've still got your teeth," she laughs. "You might bite me - and I couldn't bite back." A "small" present It was that combination - of suffering, generosity and a willingness to look beyond the deep divisions between two countries - that left the strongest impression on members of the veterans delegation. Art Dorland said he was especially struck by a visit to a water treatment plant not far from the Mansouria al-Shatt site. This facility was on a small canal, its shabby tanks set against a lush backdrop of date palms, figs and pomegranate. The manager here was Adnan Fadhil Tarhur, who said he also owned the surrounding farm. He retired from the army three years ago, after 31 years that included service throughout the Iran-Iraq war and in the 1991 Gulf War against the United States. Tarhur said that he was part of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He still doesn't understand why it triggered such a fierce response. "Kuwait is part of the Arab area," he said. "Whether we entered Kuwait or not - that was an Arab matter. It had nothing to do with America." The sanctions regime has crippled not just water services but also farming, Tarhur said. The spare parts he needs to keep his tractor and plow running are either blocked or overpriced. Tarhur lives in a one-room mud-brick hut adjacent to the water tanks. The room is mostly bare: a cot, some pots in the open-fire cooking area, a couple of magazine photos tacked to the wall. The exception is the intricately crafted bamboo cage that holds what Tarhur calls a date palm finch. As the veterans group prepares to leave, Tarhur says he'd like to give them a small gift. He ducks into the darkened hut and comes back out, clutching the bird and cage. Dorland says no, that of course they won't take the bird. But the offer leaves him deeply moved, he says later - touched by a gesture that he called characteristic of an Iraqi people that too few Americans have had the chance to know. "It's the only thing of value he had," Dorland says. "He offered it to us." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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