News From Baghdad
- From: Voices in the Wilderness
First, an apology for the typo in our most recent update. The $1.1
should have read $1.1 billion: the amount our government is
squandering daily to fund its illegal war on Iraq. In the time since
I began typing this message, a www.costofwar.com reports that over
$41,265,540,319 plus, have gone to pay for the war: that money could
have paid for at least 1,046,706 four-year scholarships to public
universities. We can only reflect on the words of Martin Luther King
Jr.: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on
military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching
News from Baghdad: we learned just a few hours ago that following a
meeting between IPT members and representatives of the US Military's
Civil Operations Center (CMOC), all Voices in the Wilderness members
are banned from the Palestine Hotel, home not only to CMOC but also
the international press corps. (See
that story). Following is the report of the meeting between Iraq
Peace Team members and representatives of the CMOC:
Heavy-handed & Hopeless, The U.S. Military Doesn't Know
What It's Doing In Iraq
Ramzi Kysia, Iraq Peace Team
16 April 2003
Voices in the Wilderness representatives met today with the U.S.
Military's Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) in their
headquarters at the Palestine Hotel to discuss the emergency,
humanitarian crisis facing Baghdad. Trash removal has not occurred
for a month. Electricity, Sanitation and Communications were all
seriously damaged during the U.S. war, and have yet to be restored in
Baghdad. Cholera outbreaks have been reported in Basra, and rumored
to have been found in the central Iraqi city of Hilla. Some of the
local clinics are up and running, but medications for conditions
such as hypertension and diabetes are no longer available. Quality
control equipment and systems are also unavailable, and the lack of
quality control could lead to serious problems in treatment, as well
as creating the potential for epidemics due to contaminated blood
The previous distribution system set up under the "Oil-for-Food"
program is in total collapse, and - unless essential services are
immediately restored - Iraq faces a humanitarian catastrophe.
Prior to the war, the Pentagon set up Humanitarian Operations
Coordination Centers (the HOC in Qatar and Kuwait, and the HAC in
Jordan), as well as disaster assistance response teams (DART), to
coordinate relief efforts between the U.S. military and United
Nations and non-governmental organizations. Not only are HOC, HAC,
and DART personnel not in Baghdad yet, CMOC was not even aware of the
existence of these other military-humanitarian coordinating bodies.
CMOC reported that they did not yet have a plan for how to restore
essential services in Baghdad, but are working on creating such a
plan today. However, that information will not be publicly available
for review, and will only be shared with organizations that agree to
work with the U.S. military in Baghdad - cutting out any humanitarian
agency that insists on maintaining neutrality.
CMOC also reported that they spent several days locating hospitals,
power plants, and water & sanitation plants in order to do needs
assessments. Apparently no one in the U.S. military thought to ask
the United Nations, or other international organizations working in
Iraq, for any of this information prior to, or even after, the fall
of Baghdad. The World Health Organization and the Red Cross have been
working in Iraq for years. The United Nations Development program has
been working to assist Iraq in restoring electricity since 1996.
Locations and assessments of civilian infrastructures are not secret
information - except in the Pentagon's world. Why didn't anyone ask
for this information? Why wasn't a plan for rehabilitation developed
prior to the war?
When told that of rumors of a cholera outbreak in Hilla, CMOC even
asked Voices in the Wilderness where that neighborhood was located in
Baghdad - unaware that Hilla is a major Iraqi city located
approximately 1 hour south of Baghdad!
The biggest problem CMOC reported is the lack of local workers needed
to get civilian systems up and running. However, CMOC seemed unaware
that the mostly unmanned roadblocks put up throughout the city are
making it difficult for anyone to get to work, as is the lack of a
coordinating body responsible for organizing these efforts.
PROBLEMS THAT NEED TO BE IMMEDIATELY ADDRESSED: - A
coordinating body, not associated with any military organization,
needs to be created to direct humanitarian assessment and relief
efforts by all of the agencies working, or seeking to work, in Iraq.
Previously, this was the corrupt, but functional, Iraqi Red Crescent
- Senior-level administrators at hospitals and other civilian centers
fled with the collapse of the previous regime. This has led to
chaotic conditions where lower-level staff are unsure who, if anyone,
has the authority to make urgent decisions. This "power vacuum" must
be immediately filled by creating new, decision-making-structures,
not corrupted by the previous regime.
- The U.S. military has demonstrated that it is neither prepared, nor
interested in becoming prepared, to deal with the humanitarian crisis
caused by their war. The international community must exert itself,
and return UN control to dealing with this crisis, until Iraqis can
form a government of their own to deal with the problems created by
12 years of sanctions and war.
Time is short.
Voices asks you to consider the following actions:
+ Make phone calls and send faxes and emails to members of both the
Senate Committee on Armed Services
(See http:/armed-services.senate.gov/ for listing of members and
their contact information) and House Armed Services Committee
(www.house.gov/hasc/) to demand that US occupying forces allow UN
organizations and other NGO's to perform the work they--not soldiers
bearing massive armaments--are commissioned to do and were doing
these last 13 years.
+ Send the same message to your Senator, Congress people, the White
House and the Pentagon. Demand meetings with any of the above, to
insure your message is heard.
We'll be sending more news in the coming days. Thank you all for your
continued support--in all of its forms. There is so much important
and difficult work ahead of us. May we continue to find renewed
energy and creativity with which to carry it out.
In peace and with hope,
Voices in the Wilderness Chicago
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