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[casi] "Iraq I wonder what happens to Dina" (Fwd)

I came across an interesting article. Although
published in 2002, the article draws on a trip
to Iraq in 2000. The author spent time with a
family that obviously didn't have to rely on
the monthly food basket. So this must have given
a misleading impression what life in Iraq is
like under the sanctions regime for the
majority of Iraqis: "Mercedes' prowled the
city's more elegant streets."

Given accounts like that, it's no wonder many
people are so ignorant about the devastating
effects of the sanctions. As an expert on the
sanctions and CASI member, the author himself
would have known about these effects though.

When explaining the rationale of the sanctions
to Iraqis, a "historical accident over intentions",
was stressed. It's simply because "no one expected
Saddam to survive... So the sanctions "had to be
maintained to avoid world powers appearing
weak..." were the "gentle explanations".

Equally sanguine is the view on war, or as the
author calls it, "this liberation of our design."
In the "most optimistic scenario... democratic
rule rapidly springs up..." And Dina's boyfriends
will then be able to "buy fresh flowers for her".

"As a worst-case scenario, Dina dies shrieking,
cowering behind the dining table..."

I don't know if missiles leave the victims much
time to "shrieking" or "cowering". They tend to
be torn to bits instantly. In a still worse
scenario, they end up like Ali. But an optimistic
view may help the devotees of the perpetrators'
'liberation' myth to avoid pricks of conscience.


------------Start Fwd------------

February 10, 2002 8 New York University.
All Rights Reserved.

Iraq: I wonder what happens to Dina

By Colin Rowat

Global Beat Syndicate

BIRMINGHAM, England -- "There's a lot of ambiguity out
there, and ambiguity is not necessarily bad for our
purposes," a senior Pentagon official recently told the
Boston Globe last week. His first person plural probably
did not include Dina. Dina was 12 when I had lunch at
her family's house in Baghdad two years ago. That Friday
in Ramadan we ate fish -- shipped up from Basra in
freezer chests -- laughed and discussed alcohol in
three languages. The knife Dina's father deftly wielded
to make the salad had no handle. I tried not to eat too

Dina's mother worried that Pomon was too aggressive
for children. She preferred the Teletubbies, whose tapes
she received from a relative in New Zealand. Without
smuggling, they would not have had a VCR either.

I do not think Dina or eight year-old Sara spent much
time watching the Teletubbies. Instead, they danced in
their living room to videos by the Back Street Boys, 'N
Sync, and Westlife. Sara explained that the computer's
CD-ROM was not working; she wondered if it was a virus.

After we left, a European woman who worked with Dina's
mother forecast that Dina would be dangerous in a few
years. She was already beautiful, full of life, and much
more at ease with our conversations about HIV and sex
than I was at her age -- especially in my parents'

More than anyone else whom I met on that trip, I
wondered what the future promised Dina. At the time, the
theme of reports from Baghdad was that the sanctions
were crumbling: shop windows were clean and shelves were
well stocked.

Mercedes' prowled the city's more elegant streets. How
would this mood of cautious optimism treat her?

I have been thinking about Dina again recently. Iraq's
future has become more complicated. On one hand, the end
of Saddam's long and damaging rule appears within reach
-- again. While Iraqi opinion cannot be polled
properly, the consensus that few Iraqis will mourn his
demise seems well founded.

Against this, we do not know what price Iraqis will pay
for this liberation of our design. In the most
optimistic scenario, Saddam leaves without violence,
democratic rule rapidly springs up and normal relations
with the international community are restored. Dina's
earnest boyfriends can then afford to buy fresh flowers
for her.

As a worst-case scenario, Dina dies shrieking, cowering
behind the dining table, her mother clutching that salad
knife, her father in a tattered uniform somewhere, as
Iraq's forces make their final stand against an American
onslaught. Last year, a Red Cross worker in Baghdad told
me they were not worried for themselves, they were used
to wars. But they had no experience helping civilians in
a chemical or biological threat environment.

I do not know which of these scenarios is more likely,
but I do know that the ambiguity facing Dina and 23
million other Iraqis is probably very bad for their

One of the more effective parries used by our British
foreign office ministers when pressed on the crippling
effects of the sanctions on Iraq has been the rhetorical
question: should we just lift sanctions and hope that
Saddam behaves well?

Naive hope without a plan is irresponsible, they rightly
argued. But it is here, as well, when we are gambling
with Iraqi lives. A leaked U.N. memo on likely
humanitarian scenarios warned that Iraqis are less able
to cope with a new war than in 1991. The memo
anticipated half a million casualties, epidemic or
pandemic outbreaks of disease, dire food situations and
perhaps two million people in need of shelter.

In consequence, U.N. agencies are now accused of
scare-mongering to hustle the cash for their $37.4
million emergency needs fund. Compared to the $1.6
billion set aside by British Chancellor of the Exchequer
Gordon Brown to fight a war in Iraq -- and regarded
by defense experts as insufficient -- this is
peanuts. Still, the money is not coming in to the aid

When I am asked the question haunting Iraqis -- "Why
has the west done this to us?" -- I stressed to them
historical accident over intentions: no one expected
Saddam to survive; the sanctions that impoverished,
sickened and killed you had to be maintained to avoid
world powers appearing weak, and so on. Dina, as we
prepare to throw dice for your life, and cannot even
raise the money to pay for band-aids, gentle
explanations like mine seem horribly inadequate.

Colin Rowat is an economist at the University of

8 2000 New York University. All Rights Reserved. The
Global Beat Syndicate, a service of New York
University's Center for War, Peace, and the News Media,
provides editors with commentary and perspective
articles on critical global issues from contributors
around the world. For more information, check out

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