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Confronting empire

June 22, 2007 | Pages 8 to 12

John Pilger | Martín Sanchez | Dahlia Wasfi | Camilo Mejía | Jeremy Scahill | Rob Will | Joel Geier

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Dahlia Wasfi

Physician and Iraqi antiwar activist who has traveled to Iraq twice since the invasion and spoken out around the U.S. about what she has seen.

WHEN I speak, it's always for both sides of my family, but in particular this evening, this is for one of my cousins, who lived in Baghdad. He's 21 years old, and he's dying from brain cancer. And in my mind, I cannot rule out that our use of depleted uranium contributed to this.

I speak to you 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.

What else to read

Haymarket Books is distributing audio CDs of all of the nearly 100 meetings at Socialism 2007. For a full list of meeting topics, see the schedule at the Socialism 2007 Web site. To order CDs of any of the talks, or for more information, call Haymarket at 773-583-7884 or e-mail [email protected].

You can also watch several presentations from Socialism 2007 by:

John Pilger

Jeremy Scahill


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.

Picture this in your mind--a humanitarian worker in Baghdad is quoted as recalling the scene after a bomb blast: "I saw a 4-year-old boy sitting beside his mother's body, which had been decapitated by the explosion. He was talking to her, asking her what had happened."

There is no respite for Iraqis from the suffering inflicted by American weaponry and American racism. During the first Gulf War, destruction of Iraq's electrical grids incapacitated the medical system--what had been a first-class range of facilities known as the jewel of the Arab world.

After January 1991, primary health care and preventative services ceased to exist, and with economic sanctions, there were critical shortages of food and life-saving drugs and equipment. Cholera became endemic in Iraq. Easily treatable diseases such as respiratory infections and diarrhea, accounted for 70 percent of the deaths of children under 5 years old.

This calamity was the tragic state of Iraqi society when the illegal shock-and-awe invasion came, and with it, a vastly increased number of patients.

With the dissolution of law and order after our invasion came the looting of Iraq's hospitals. Today, lack of security delays the delivery of supplies, and no money is being distributed from the U.S.-operated ministry of health.

Falluja--God help us for what we have done to the people of Falluja.

On March 31, 2004, four American civilians lost their lives in Falluja. They were civilians with military backgrounds, in the same that a paramilitary death squad in El Salvador responsible for the brutal rape, torture and murder of four American nuns was comprised of civilians.

Though they had GPS systems from Blackwater, those systems were not working that day, and they became disoriented. But they should have known long before, when they were boarding a plane for Baghdad, that they were going the wrong way.

Perhaps they only signed a contract with Blackwater to achieve financial security for their loved ones. But there is a word in the English language to describe an individual who sells his body, his principles and his soul for monetary reward. That's a congressman.

In the same way that Nazi soldiers fell victim to their system during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, these hired killers from Blackwater got justice served to them on a silver platter.

Then, revenge was carried out on a people who can truly be identified as civilians. In April 2004, U.S. Marines closed the bridge to the city and a hospital road--a war crime. The U.S. military and its vehicles stood at the hospital entrance--a war crime. And snipers were positioned on rooftops, targeting ambulances and the clinic doors.

Between 600 and 800 civilians were killed in that siege, but that wasn't enough. In November 2004, the second major siege of Falluja began. The Nazzal Emergency Hospital, protected by the Geneva Conventions, was leveled to the ground, and Falluja General Hospital, was seized by the U.S. military.

Doctors described being tied and beaten, despite being unarmed and having only medical instruments. Burhan Fasa'a, a cameraman with the Lebanese broadcasting company, reported that there were American snipers on top of the hospital, shooting everyone in sight. In addition, the U.S. military blocked the Iraqi Red Crescent from entering the city for seven days.

The result was a death toll of between 6,000 and 8,000 civilians. This means that the Iraqi death toll in November 2004 alone surpassed the invaders' death toll for all of Operation Enduring Freedom thus far. As we sit here tonight, death, destruction and war crimes continue in this battered city.

As of October 2006, due to the desperate conditions in Iraq of no security, high crime and targeted assassinations, it is estimated that 18,000 of Iraq's 34,000 physicians have fled the country. Two thousand doctors and 164 nurses have been murdered, and another 250 kidnapped for high-priced ransoms. Sixty-eight percent of Iraqis lack access to safe drinking water; 81 percent are without proper sewage.

And the segment of the population that suffers the most whenever there is no law and order are women and children.

Women have all but disappeared from their roles in the workforce. Once contributors to Iraqi society as teachers, judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, traffic police and more, the threat of violence and kidnapping now imprisons many women in their homes. But even there, they are not safe from the terrorism of daily house raids by American soldiers and their subordinate Iraqi police.

For the children of these women, during the first three and a half years of occupation, 270,000 newborns received no immunizations. Eight hundred thousand Iraqi children are not in school due to the chaos, lack of security and severe poverty.

According to the State of the World's Mothers report, released last month by Save the Children, the chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster in Iraq than anywhere else in the world since 1990.

In 2005, one in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching the age of 5. Operation Enduring Freedom would more appropriately be named Operation Dead Children.

As millions of Iraqis suffer, and hundreds continue to 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.

Here at home, if we don't care about the welfare of returning veterans, who make up one-third of our homeless population, how do we expect to care about the welfare of the now over 4 million Iraqi refugees?

If we're not caring for the physically and emotionally disabled at Walter Reed Army Hospital, and the more than 200,000 veterans of this, our latest holocaust, seeking care through the VA system, how do we expect to care about dead and dying Iraqis?

If we don't care about American women, assaulted and humiliated by their brothers in arms, how do we expect to care about Abeer Kasim Hamza--raped, slain and set on fire, after her family was murdered by our men in uniform?

We have an obligation to every last victim of this illegal aggression, because all of this carnage has been done in our name.

Since World War II, 90 percent of the casualties of war are unarmed civilians, a third of them children. Our victims have done nothing to us. From Palestine to Afghanistan to Iraq to Somalia to wherever our next target may be, their murders are not collateral damage. They are the nature of modern warfare.

They don't hate us because of our freedoms. They hate us because every day, we are funding and committing crimes against humanity.

The so-called war on terror is a cover for our military aggression to gain control of the resources of Western nations. This is sending the poor of this country to kill the poor of those Muslim countries. This is trading blood for oil. This is genocide, and to most of the world, we are the terrorists.

In these times, remaining silent about our responsibility to the world and its future is criminal, and in light of our complicity in the supreme crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing violations of the UN charter and international law, how dare any American criticize the actions of legitimate resistance to illegal occupation? How dare we condemn anyone else's violence?

Our so-called enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and our other colonies around the world, and our inner cities here at home are struggling against the oppressive hand of empire, demanding respect for their humanity. They are labeled insurgents or terrorists for resisting rape and pillage by the white establishment, but they are our brothers and sisters in the struggle for justice.

The civilians at the other end of our weapons don't have a choice. But American soldiers have choices, and while there may have been some doubt five years ago, today, we know the truth. Our soldiers don't sacrifice for duty, honor and country. They sacrifice for Kellogg, Brown and Root. They don't fight for America--they fight for their lives and their buddies beside them because we put them in a war zone.

They're not defending our freedoms--they are laying the foundations for 14 permanent military bases to defend the freedoms of ExxonMobil and British Petroleum. They're not establishing democracy, they're establishing the basis for an economic occupation to continue after the military occupation has ended.

Iraqi society today, thanks to American help, is defined by house raids, death squads, checkpoints, detentions, curfews, blood in the streets and constant violence. We must dare to speak out in support of the Iraqi people, who resist and endure the horrific existence we brought upon them through our bloodthirsty imperial crusade.

We must dare to speak out in support of the American war resisters--the real military heroes, who uphold their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, including those terrorist cells in Washington, D.C., more commonly known as the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

I close with a quote from Frederick Douglass, but if you want more information, please visit my Web site at

Frederick Douglass said: "Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters.

"The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

Every one of us must keep demanding, keep fighting, keep thundering, keep plowing, keep speaking and keep struggling until justice is served. No justice, no peace.


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