To the Editor;
We are now five years into the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In spite of assurances to the contrary by the Bush Administration, the condition of civilians in Iraq, particularly children, has gone from intolerable to almost incomprehensible. According to international law : “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the occupying power must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards, as well as the provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation.” Clearly, the United States has not come close to meeting these obligations. (The argument that there is an Iraqi government that should be responsible for these tasks is entirely specious.)
The International Red Cross in a recent document (Iraq: No Letup in the Humanitarian Crisis) states that “Five years after the war began, many Iraqis do not have access to the most basic health care.” Furthermore “Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, at least 20,000 have left the country. The Iraqi health-care system is now in worse shape than ever.”
Of all the basic necessities of life, clean water must be one of the most important. Even this staple has disappeared for millions of civilians in Iraq. One result of impure water, a cholera epidemic, raged through Iraq last year. Such an epidemic in the United States would be front page news. From Iraq, it is a whisper.
We are long past the time when we could hope that our occupation would result in a good outcome. It is time to change course and advocate for an international solution to this humanitarian crisis.