Testimony of Dr. Dahlia Wasfi at Iraq Forum Held by Congress Members in D.C. (02/05/2006)
I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my mother’s side – Ashkenazi Jews who fled their homeland of Austria during Hitler’s Anschluss. It is for them that we say “Never again.” I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my father’s side, who are not living, but dying, under the occupation of this administration’s deadly foray in Iraq. From the lack of security to the lack of basic supplies, to the lack of electricity to the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of reconstruction to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are much worse off now than before we invaded. “Never again” should apply to them, too.
On my first day in Basrah, December 25th, 2005, my family’s house lost electricity. On the second day, we lost water. On the third day, we lost telephone service. One cousin said, “I think tomorrow, we won’t have air.” He was joking, but with the hundreds to thousands of tons of depleted uranium that continue to fall on Iraq as I speak, every breath is tainted. Depleted uranium is the jost likely etiology for the 600% increase in Iraq’s infant mortality rate and 300% increase in pediatric leukemias and lymphomas after 1991. It is also the jost likely cause of Gulf War Syndrome.
During the forty-two days of the 1991 Gulf War, electricity power stations, telecommunications centers and sewage treatment plants were destroyed. Their repair or replacement was impeded by economic sanctions. To this day, fifteen years later, water from the tap is contaminated, as I accidentally proved during my stay. Families have to buy their water from special “R.O.” stations. For families who can afford it, bottled water is better for drinking, which provides economic gain to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Between my visits in 2004 and 2006, there has been no reconstruction in Basrah. Bombed buildings remain a constant reminder of our aerial campaigns. One cousin taught at a primary school that was bombed during “Shock and Awe.” To this day, the structure is damaged and unusable. Streets are filled with garbage and sewage — un-drivable because of bombing damage and general disrepair. New traffic lights were installed while I was there, but due to limited electricity, they are not functional.
Hospitals throughout Iraq were crippled by sanctions as well and have been unable to recover. Epidural anesthesia for child labor or disc disease is simply not available. One of the main hospitals in Basrah could not do operations for a week because they had no gauze. That hospital was still standing, however, unlike in Fallujah.
And the segments of the population who suffer jost whenever there is no law and order, are women and children. They are the jost susceptible to the traumas of violence and kidnapping. Before the invasion, my cousin at age 18 traveled around Basrah independently. Today, it is unsafe for her to go out without being accompanied by a man. As scores of Iraqis die EVERY day, it does not matter if you call it “civil war,” “sectarian strife,” or “democracy;” it is — by design — an American killing field, a smokescreen for stealing oil.
It is families — Iraqi and American — who are paying the highest price for the disaster of U.S. foreign policy. This Congress has appropriated hundreds of billions of dollars for our illegal occupation, but the money isn’t being spent on armoring military vehicles, and it’s not going towards helping returning veterans, whose healthcare budget came up one billion dollars short in 2005. Under Paul Bremer’s regime in Iraq, nine billion dollars went missing. Nine billion. Could we have used that money here at home? We should ask the citizens of New Orleans — a city that was 70% black — now scattered across the country.
And while Louisiana and Mississippi were gasping for air, 6800 members of their National Guard were in Iraq, as part of a military force inflicting the same death and destruction as Katrina on the civilian population there.
In September 2001 — with the exception of Barbara Lee — Congress gave a blank check for war to “The Decider,” who had access to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. We are the ones using white phosphorus. We are the ones using napalm and its derivatives. We are the ones using depleted uranium. This is not a war on terror; this is a war of terror.
Your obligation to the people of Iraq, to the people of America, and to the rest of the world, is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American troops and mercenaries from Iraq.
In the words of Hassan Juma’a Awad, president of the Basrah Oil Workers’ Union:
“We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don’t want a timetable-this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country, and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills, and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.”
Bring the troops home. Make it your number one priority, as if lives depended on it. Because they do.
Bring them home NOW.
Dahlia Wasfi (http://politicstv.com/dspan.php)
(the author is member of the BRussells Tribunal Advisory committee)