Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From a NYT article

Antiwar activists, with a fool-me-once skepticism, watch the dispute over the Qum plant with an alarmed sense of déjà vu.

I am not even going to link to them. I just wanted to say that I have been involved in anti-war activism since 2002, and I don't know of a single anti-war activists who were fooled by the war-promoting bullshit by the NYT or CNN or anyone else. The hundreds of anti-war activists that I have meet all figured out - like I did - that Iraq had no nuclear WMDs and if they had any biological or chemical WMDs, they surely could not hurt Americans if we stayed out of Iraq. We all rather doubted there were ANY WMDs in Iraq at all.

But those dumbies at the NYT, CNN, FAUX, ABC, NBC, CBS and just about every other corporate media outlet in the USA could not figure it out. Now, they try to re-paint reality.

Here's the reality: I had a six year old notebook computer, an AOL dial-up connection, and the ability to read and think. All by my lonesome, I figured out that the claims about WMDs in Iraq was a pack of lies. I figured out that Powell's presentation at the UN was a load of shit. I figured out that Saddam was more truthful than anyone in the Bush administration, and likely better for Iraqis too (turns out - HE'S BETTER BY A LONG SHOT!). And I was not the only one who figured it out. Nearly every anti-war activist did.

These asshole 'journalists' just piss me off. They are terrible at their jobs, and then wonder why the media is in so much trouble.

Special note to McClatchy's (former Knight Ridder) --- they were not like the rest of them at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today is the International Day of Peace

And yesterday, I visited a war resister at Camp Lejuene. His name is Cliff Cornell, and his information is at Courage to Resist website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WWB: severe trauma to children

WHAT WAR BRINGS: severe trauma to children

In any war or occupation where there is a refugee crisis, children are deeply affected. They, like their parents, often flee their homes with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, they lose their childhood friends, schools, familiar routines. They often face poverty. They often end up homeless.

And being in a war zones is also deeply traumatic for children. They see and hear things that will forever scar their minds, and they have little resources to deal with the impact of all the horror on their lives.

And the US authorities, lawmakers, military and general public take little note of what is happening to the children in the occupied countries of Iraq and Afghanistan (or the children in the areas of Pakistan subject to drone bombings). They, therefore, do very little to help them out.

A US journalist did a report on a survey done by the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 2007. These Baghdad children had been exposed to fighting in the streets, passing dead bodies on the way to school, seeing relatives and friends killed or severely injured, and other actions of war and occupation. They didn’t just see them once in a while – they saw these things a lot, for years on end.

Trauma severe for Iraqi children

About 70% of primary school students in a Baghdad neighborhood suffer symptoms of trauma-related stress such as bed-wetting or stuttering, according to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The survey of about 2,500 youngsters is the most comprehensive look at how the war is affecting Iraqi children, said Iraq's national mental health adviser and author of the study, Mohammed Al-Aboudi.

…… The study was conducted last October in the Sha'ab district of northern Baghdad. The low- to middle-income neighborhood is inhabited by a mix of Shiites and Sunni Arabs. Al-Aboudi said he believes the sample was broadly representative of conditions throughout the capital.

The next story tells of the games the Iraqi children play, imaginary games where they re-enact the horror they see around them daily.

Children of war: the generation traumatised by violence in Iraq

The car stopped at the makeshift checkpoint that cut across the muddy backstreet in western Baghdad. A sentry appeared. "Are you Sunni or Shia?" he barked, waving his Kalashnikov at the driver. "Are you with Zarqawi or the Mahdi army?"

"The Mahdi army," the driver said. "Wrong answer," shouted the sentry, almost gleefully. "Get him!" The high metal gate of a nearby house was flung open and four gun-toting males rushed out. They dragged the driver from his vehicle and held a knife to his neck. Quickly and efficiently, the blade was run from ear to ear. "Now you're dead," said a triumphant voice, and their captive crumpled to the ground.

Then a moment of stillness before the sound of a woman's voice. "Come inside boys! Your dinner is ready!" The gunmen groaned; the hapless driver picked himself up and trundled his yellow plastic car into the front yard; the toy guns and knives were tossed by the back door. Their murderous game of make-believe would have to resume in the morning.

The article goes on to describe the behavior symptoms these children of war show – bullying, bed wetting, nightmares, stuttering, withdrawal, muteness, panic attacks, and violence. The mental and emotional scars are extensive, and often invisible. And, in Iraq, they mainly go untreated. From that same article:

In a rare study published last week, the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (API) said the violence had affected millions of children, raising serious concerns for future generations. It urged the international community to help establish child psychology units and mental health programmes. "Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions," the API's Marwan Abdullah told IRIN, the UN-funded news agency. "In some cases, they're found to be suffering extreme stress," he said.

Of course, they don’t always play games of war. Sometimes they are recruited into being militants. I wrote a post on that earlier, but the following report from 2006 talks about the psychological trauma the child militants are facing.

Insurgents using children to fight US-led forces

The Iraq Aid Association (IAA) in Baghdad, which works with children suffering psychological trauma as a result of violence, said most child insurgents harbour reasons for revenge.

…. According to the NGO, at least 15 children have been used by insurgents and five are in therapy with the NGO for psychological problems. IAA added that there were many more cases of children participating in the insurgency, especially in the western Anbar province. Ten-year-old Mustafa Ibrahim is one such child. He said he has hated US troops since his parents were killed by them in May 2004 as they fled a battle in Fallujah city. “I do not have anyone for me in this world and I want to meet my family in heaven by revenging their death because God will compensate me for this,” he said.

I sure can’t say that I blame him. If I was a child in that same situation, I think I might join up with the resistance as soon as I was able. I have no information on what happened to that child.


Iraqi refugees to Syria and Egypt were interviewed for signs of psychological trauma. The results indicated that the levels of trauma in Iraqi far exceeded what were seen in refugees from Kosovo or Afghanistan. This study was done in late 2007, and is probably mainly done with adults. I am sure it applies to children also.

UN research indicates high levels of trauma among Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees in Syria are suffering from extreme levels of trauma, far higher than among refugees elsewhere from other recent conflicts, according to new figures released on 22 January by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The figures, based on interviews with 754 refugees and analysed by the US Center for Disease Control using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSC) and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ), reveal that 89.5 percent are suffering from depression, 81.6 percent from anxiety and 67.6 percent from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

…… According to the figures, 77 percent of respondents had been affected by air bombardments, shelling or rocket attacks, 80 percent had witnessed a shooting, 68 percent had undergone interrogation or harassment by militias, and 75 percent knew someone close to them who had been killed.

The following story is about Iraqi refugees in Egypt and is from February 2008. There are between 70,000 to 150,000 Iraqi refugees in Egypt, which is a small number of the overall refugees from Iraq.

High rates of trauma, sickness among Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees, she said, had a higher rate of medical problems compared to other refugee populations, such as the Sudanese and Somalis. Iraqi children also had health problems unique to their population, which Ahlam believed were attributable to radioactive waste left over from Iraq’s war with Iran and the first Gulf War in 1991. Human horror stories exist among Iraqi refugees - from women who have lost their power of speech due to shock, to children with stunted growth, to young boys who are losing their hearing or sight.

….. Psychiatric problems are also a growing cause for alarm within the Iraqi population in Egypt, Etefa said. Post-traumatic stress is increasingly becoming a problem.


Iraqi children sometimes end up in Iraqi-run or US-run prisons. This is a horrifying and very traumatic event for the child. Here is the story of one such child.

Child prisoners left without support

He isn’t a criminal, but just the sight of a police officer terrifies 14-year-old Omar. The boy was released last month from an Iraqi prison, after being detained there for more than seven months. “They arrested me because they said I was a suspect after a car bomb exploded in a road near my home and resulted in the killing of an American,” Omar explains. He happened to be near the explosion and was arrested along with adult Iraqis suspected of the attack.

….. Omar said the experience of being in prison was terrifying, “and I was crying day and night for my family.” The trauma of the experience remains with him: “I would rather die than go there again.”

Children also end up in US-run prisons in Iraq, and the overall experience is not any better.

Iraq & Afghanistan -War Crimes Against Children

The best kept secret of the Bush's war crimes is that thousands of children have been imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise denied rights under the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements. Yet both Congress and the media have strangely failed to identify the very existence of child prisoners as a war crime. In the Islamic world, however, there is no such silence. Indeed, the prophet Mohammed was the first to counsel warriors not to harm innocent children. From jailing children together with adults in prisons where they were raped to failing to notify their parents of their arrest, the U.S. committed numerous war crimes against children in Afghanistan and Iraq, a new book on President Bush states.

"American guards videotaped Iraqi male prisoners raping young boys but took no action to stop the offenses (and) children in Abu Ghraib were deliberately frightened by dogs," writes political scientist Michael Haas in his new book, "George W. Bush, War Criminal?" (Praeger), a question he answers in the affirmative.

Ralph Lopez wrote a Daily Kos diary about the abuse of children in US prisons in Iraq (and other war crimes).

Some photos of Iraqi children and the trauma they have faced (scroll down at the link).

And another story from Iraq; Children of war

On the night of April 4, 2003, Ali Kathem, his wife Rasmiyeh and their seven children grew increasingly anxious as bombs dropped all around their civilian neighbourhood. When the windows in their home exploded, Ali loaded his family into his small taxi and made the perilous choice, in the middle of the night, to move his children to his mother's home across town. A bomb shredded the family's vehicle, burning most of its precious cargo alive. Before she succumbed to her injuries, Rasmiyeh, the devoted mother, was able to throw her youngest child, a three-month-old girl named Hawra, from the inferno. The infant was the only one to emerge unscathed. Zhara, Hawra's three-year-old sister, also survived and was transported to one of Baghdad's woefully inadequate hospitals.

…... When Jaber finally found Zhara, the little girl was covered in bandages and wrestling with septicemia. Lying in her hospital bed while doctors struggled to provide her with even the most rudimentary care, Zhara whimpered in a half-sleep for her deceased mother. "Cover me up Mama ... I'm cold," the little girl pleaded.

A story of trauma to an Afghan child.

Burnt children after a NATO bomb attack

I don't know their names, I don't even know their age. They weren't in condition to talk. They are five "presumed Taliban" arrived on Tuesday to the Emergency hospital in Lashkargah, placed in south Afghanistan. They are coming from the Kajaki area, in the eastern land of Helmand province, they travelled for hours through the dust of the desert. But to be arrived is just a great fortune. The man who brought them here told us that the bombs started falling on their settlement just Monday evening .Two of the five "presumed talebans" (or talebans whenever there is time to disguise them) are his own sons.

The three remaining ones are kuchi children, the nomads of Afghanistan. They were brought by their older sister. She doesn't have the words to tell their names and their age. She doesn't even have the words to scream her anger against the lot, the destiny ,God and maybe against all the metal monsters which wing above Afghanistan and let falling their devices to spy the houses, the settlements and the people lives, in the name of holy war against terrorism; the same war George W. Bush tells he continues on behalf of God. The children don't moan when the tweezers remove the burnt skin from their bodies. Even not a wail. Only their eyes follow the faces of nurses and doctors around them and they are looked after with real care.

And a photo of a child with those injuries is above. Photo is by Maso Notarianni at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah. This came from the RAWA website, same link as above.

And a reprint from a post done the other day on vicious injuries: A little girl in Kabul

Guljumma talked about what happened one morning last year when she was sleeping at home in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Valley. At about 5 AM, bombs exploded. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm. With a soft, matter-of-fact voice, Guljumma described those events. Her father, Wakil Tawos Khan, sat next to her.

…… The destructiveness of this war is reality for Guljumma and her father. And for hundreds of families at Helmand Refugee Camp District 5. And, in fact, for millions of Afghan people. The violence of this war - military, economic and social - keeps destroying the future. Every day and night.

Not a damn thing has been done to help her. You can see her photo here.

Photo: Guljumma, seven years old, with her father Wakil Tawos Khan, at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5 in Kabul on August 31, 2009. Last year, an air attack by the US military struck their home in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. She lost an arm in the bombing. (Photo copyright Reese Erlich 2009)

Some Iraqi children have undoubtedly been sold into prostitution, particularly among the refugees of Syria. There is not much that has been said about this, but I do recall a TV news story young Iraqi girls in Syria and the “survival sex” that they engaged in.

The situation is Afghanistan seems to be much worse. There are stories of children who are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery from 2007, and more recent stories of children kidnapped by local police and repeatedly raped. This last one has been reported in the last couple of months. The victims are boys, and this was something the Taliban never ignored or tolerated. This first story is from 2007.

Boys in Afghanistan Sold Into Prostitution, Sexual Slavery

Wealthy former warlords in Baghlan, a northern province of Afghanistan, recruit adolescent boys for sex and entertainment, while local authorities remain powerless in stopping the practice. A ‘bacha bereesh’ is a boy without a beard, and in several circles a beardless boy is most desired by rich, powerful male patrons. Grown men become involved in ‘bacha bazi’— which literally translates into ‘boy-play’. This is a time-honored tradition, condemned by human rights activists and Muslim clerics, but it is seeing a revival in the north province of Afghanistan. It is by no means restricted to the north of Afghanistan only, but has virtually faded in the south, where the Taliban’s strict moral code act as a deterrent.

And this story is from July, 2009.

Child Rapist Police Return Behind U.S., UK Troops

The police in the province, who are linked to the local warlord, have committed systematic abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys, according to village elders who met with British officers. Anger over those police abuses runs so high that the elders in Babaji just north of Laskgar Gah warned the British that they would support the Taliban to get rid of them if the national police were allowed to return to the area, according to a Jul. 12 report by Reuters correspondent Peter Graff.

The US military’s proposed solution is more training for the Afghan police. The above article also details how Karzai re-instated police and local politicians who are deeply involved in the drug trade and other criminal acts. I suppose they think more training will help that too.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, children are a large part of the population. Families are generally larger than what we see in the US. These children see all the horrors of war and occupation, without any resources to deal with the trauma. And the trauma we have visited on these innocent children is staggering. The trauma that has been visited on them – because of the US/NATO invasion and occupation – is even more staggering. The silence that exists around this issue is deafening.

But recovery is possible. Salee and her sister Rusul were severely injured in a US missile strike outside their home in 2006. Salee lost her legs above the knees, and Rusul lost her right foot. Their brother and another neighborhood child were killed. Almost three years have passed, but she and Rusul were brought to the US for surgery and prosthetics by No More Victims.

And today, Salee is in Los Angeles being fitted for new legs. I had the opportunity to meet both girls when they came to Greenville for treatment, and they are full of life and full of hope and full of energy. Yes, recovery is possible for a lot of the children hurt by war, even those with devastating injuries. There are pictures of Salee, and her youthful joy, on my blog.

Here are some more photos of Salee.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: severe trauma to children.

Neba tells her story

Please support No More Victims

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, recovery is possible!

These are photos of Salee and her dad in Los Angeles this month. Salee is being fitted for new prosthetic legs. It is clear from her smile and how she stands, that she is moving on from the horrific injuries she suffered less than three years ago.


Given half a chance, she will have a great life.

Here is the report from Ann Miller, who is with No More Victims. This organization brought Salee and her sister Rusul to the US for treatment.

Just wanted to give you an update on our little Salee. She's finished her first week of care at Shriners with appts on both Monday and Friday of last week. By Friday, the prostheticist at LA's Shriners had fashioned a clear plastic mold of her legs. One wasn't fitting properly and he was going to make some adjustments and he'll see her again this Friday.
She and Abu Ali are happily settled in to the Ronald McDonald House here in LA. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that it's just a mile from our apartment (esp since Salee calls first thing every morning, "Ann, this is Salee. When you & Cole come? I love you." She's a sweetheart and growing up; very sweet and loving, LOVES shopping (after shopping with her yesterday her mantra for the evening was "I love this day! I love this day!") I, however, am not a shopper and that will be the onlly shopping day I can afford, but there are lots of other things to do! She's been to the beach, ridden the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica pier, and spent lots of time just seeing the sights of LA. The RMH is very nice and there are a couple other Iraqi families staying there so they have people to talk with.
Abu Ali asks every day about everyone in the Carolinas. Rest assured that each of you who's e-mailed and sent them your good wishes has had them passed on. He just LOVES to hear who has asked about him and every time I mention someone's name he says how much he misses everyone.
Salee is enjoying school in Iraq. The girls cover their heads in school now and she says that's good as she makes the sign of the cross to indicate to me that it's a religious thing (Muslim, of course.) Her fourth grade class was moved to the second floor of the building to the first floor to accomodate her and the principal instructed all of the children at the beginning of the year not to make fun of her. She had some trouble with a little boy staring at her legs but she said to him, "What are you looking at?" and stared him down. Now Abu Ali says that she's frightened the kid so much that he walks an extra block to circle their house so as not to encounter Salee! One teacher threatened to fail her for not paying attention in class and Salee responded, "Fail me then". The teacher explained that she'd have to repeat fourth grade if she did and Salee said, "Fine". Then, when exam time came, Salee got the highest score in the class. The teacher asked how that happened and Salee replied, "You challenged me." Does that not sound like tough little Salee? (I got this story through a translator - though Salee's English is vasly improving I wouldn't have understood all that!) She takes English in school and it's her favorite subject.
Abu Ali says that Rusul is doing very well! She runs and plays on her new foot and little Rusul lugs both her and Salee's backpacks to school every day. Though Salee walks very well and without crutches, it's difficult for her to carry things while walking.
Thank you to each of you for all you've done for Salee, Rusul, NMV and the children of Iraq! Please continue sending your good wishes, and if anyone's going to be out LA-way in the next couple of weeks, we'd all love to see you!

Please contribute to No More Victims if you can.

WWB: destruction of educational systems

WHAT WAR BRINGS: destruction of educational systems

Like all other institutions in a country at war, education suffers greatly. This post is going to look at how much education has been impacted in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Iraq, the US invasion and occupation has been a disaster all around. In Afghanistan, the picture is more complicated. Prior to the US and NATO troops arrival, education was in dismal shape, particularly education for girls. That has improved in Afghanistan, however many of the gains are now being lost.

Education in Afghanistan

Beginning with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, successive wars virtually destroyed the education system. Most teachers fled the country during the wars. By the middle of the 1990s, only about 650 schools were functioning. In 1996 the Taliban regime banned education for females, and the madrassa (mosque school) became the main source of primary and secondary education.

During the Taliban rule, the Revolutionary Association of Afghanistan Women (RAWA) did sometimes have home education of girls. They also ran schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They are strong advocates of women’s rights and democracy and education. This is their website, and it is worth checking out.

Back in 2001, there was substantial international interest and aid to improve Afghanistan’s educational system. Wikipedia further reports:

By 2006, over 4 million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout Afghanistan. At the same time school facilities or institutions were also being improved, with more modern-style schools being built each year.

Clearly, this is an improvement. But a lot of students are still studying in tents, there is a lack of teachers, and Afghanistan is dependent on foreign funding sources. Girls are often still not going to school. Basic infrastructure is not available, and some schools in Kabul have 30 classrooms and thousands of students. And, in the last year, the Taliban have destroyed 150 schools. They have attacked students and teachers, including horrific attacks where they threw acid on the faces of girls. In addition, many children cannot attend school, often because they need to work to support their families. These reports are from 2009:

Remote Communities Lack Schools

For families living in Afghanistan’s remote areas, access to education is anything but a given. There are currently 12,000 elementary, middle and high schools in Afghanistan. Fifty-percent have no permanent structure, with classes being held under tents or trees. Yet for many of the country’s smaller villages, access to a school, even a school with no permanent structure, is unavailable.

Attacks on Students and Teachers

The Ministry of Education is already seeing some frightening numbers for the current school term. Only three months into the year, a combined 103 students and faculty members have been killed or seriously injured. Last year a total of 203 were injured or killed over the course of the entire year. In addition to the 103 individual attacks, there have also been two schools gassed in the Paktian and Parwan provinces in the past few months. In each instance an unknown gas was used, causing vomiting, eye strain and general distress for dozens of students. Attacks on school children, particularly girls, is a recurring theme in Afghanistan, and the Ministry of Education anticipates an increase in such attacks in the run up to the August Presidential election, not just from the Taliban, but from political interests attempting to cause unrest.

Education and the Legacy of War

Decades of war have left an indelible mark on Afghan society. All around Kabul and Afghanistan’s rural areas one can find the rubble of bombed buildings, and Soviet era armored personnel carriers rusting away. Other stark reminders are the thousands of adolescent boys working to provide for their families.

There are so many problems facing Afghanistan in the area of education, it is difficult to say what the biggest issue is. This report is from 2008:

Attacks deprive 300,000 students of education

Zulaikha, 14, was the top student in her class last year but has been unable to attend school this year because of increased attacks on schools, rampant insecurity and threats to students and their families.

….. "We don't object to our daughter's education but we also don't want her to be killed on the way to school or her family members killed because of her going to school," said Zulaikha's father, Abdul Rahman.

The above article points out that more than six million students were enrolled in 11,000 schools across Afghanistan in 2008. That compares to about one million students (all boys) back in 2000. (The article below says that 1.2 million girls still do not attend school.) In 2008, more than 600 schools were closed due to insecurity. The Taliban claim that they are not behind the attacks on schools, and pin the blame on criminals. The situation has only gotten worse since 2008.

Taliban forces students out of schools into madrasas

The closure of schools and continuing attacks on students in the southern Helmand Province forced Abdul Wakil’s parents to send him to a madrasa (Islamic school) in neighbouring Pakistan. Almost two months later, Abdul Wakil [not his real name] quit the school outside Quetta, capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, and returned home. "In the madrasa we were taught to sacrifice ourselves for Jihad in Afghanistan and were told to do suicide attacks," the 14-year-old told IRIN in Lashkargah, centre of Afghanistan's insurgency-torn Helmand Province.

…… Madrasas not only offer immunity from Taliban attacks but also provide free board and lodging to students and are thus more attractive to poor families than modern schools. Tens of thousands of Afghan citizens are enrolled in Pakistani madrasas, MoE officials estimate.

It is clear that education has improved since the US and NATO forces have shown up, but it is also clear that the gains made are very much in jeopardy. A recent Kos diary detailed how the presence of the Taliban is spreading. And, if this is true after eight years, it is difficult to imagine another eight years will bring any improvement.


In Iraq, the situation is very clear-cut.

The US invasion and occupation has brought a tsunami of destruction to Iraq’s educational system.

Once seen as a model, Iraq struggles to rebuild its educational system

Iraq was once seen as a model of education in the Arab world. The country boasted some of the region’s highest literacy rates, justifying the Arabic saying, “The Egyptians write, the Lebanese publish, the Iraqis read.” Today, up to one-quarter of Iraq's adults are illiterate. Years of war and instability have left their mark. Rather than focus on education, many Iraqis give priority to basic survival, while a decline in the skills of the country’s teachers has taken its toll on those students who do seek to learn.

That article details obstacles standing in the way of sending children to school, including internally displaced refugees, children needing to work to support their families, security problems, and a lack of schools. Teaching standards have deteriorated since the US invasion. The article points out that the children who are refugees in Syria and Jordan are also denied an education.

Many children are no longer attending school, instead trying to find work so that they and their family can eat. Poverty is rampant, and families cannot afford school books or supplies for their children. Violence in Iraq had a tremendous effect on education. Professors have been targeted, with hundreds assassinated. This is a report from October 2008:

Iraq’s unschooled children evidence of devastation’s depth

This is the way many Iraqi children live, working for meager wages or staying at home instead of going to school. Though Iraq's Education Ministry disputes their statistics, the United Nations and aid organizations estimate that about a fifth of school-aged children here don't attend. Girls and children who live in rural areas are particularly affected. Violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq in recent months, but fallout from the bloodshed — lost livelihoods, broken families and disrupted institutions — will linger for a long time. Children begging for money or selling cold sodas from the side of the road are everywhere in Baghdad, even during school hours.

….. By late 2006, many parents had decided it was too dangerous to send their children to school. Other children stopped attending when their families were forced by sectarian violence to flee their neighborhoods. Some have re-enrolled and some haven't.

And the devastation is from primary school to university, and every step in between. The attacks on academics come from all sides.

Iraq: A cradle of civilization in ruins

But now Iraq's educational system is in ruins. On May 18, 2007, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a major story on Iraq 's universities under this headline: "Iraq 's Universities Near Collapse: Hundreds of professors and students have been killed or kidnapped, hundreds more have fled, and those who remain face daily threats of violence." Students in Iraq are without teachers, without books and computers, without university structures. And years are going by. Those who have taken refuge in Syria and Jordan (estimated at more than 2.2 million Iraqis by summer of 2007) are often unable to avail themselves of the higher education of those countries. Only a few succeed in being resettled elsewhere.

Iraq's academics targeted by militias

These assassinations have hit nearly every academic discipline and every university in Iraq - except perhaps those in Kurdistan. The abduction and murder of Iraqi academics has become a common event. It is disrupting university life and forcing Iraqi talent to flee the country. Those behind the attacks can be from all sides. They include people from the former regime who have lost their position and influence. They also include people who seek to "cleanse" universities of those who collaborated with the former regime. They include sectarian forces who want to get rid of academics who don't belong to the majority sect of the area. Some political and religious groups want universities to reflect their own version of Islam.

Hundreds of them have been murdered or disappeared. Many more have become refugees either inside Iraq or in another country. It is not only a destruction of Iraq’s institutions of higher learning; it is a destruction of their culture, civilization and future. It is designed to make sure that Iraq is very weak for decades to come.

The WHO issued a report on the conditions of Iraq’s schools earlier this year.

Schools in Iraq

The report came as a result of a study that was conducted by health ministry and World Health Organization. The report said 50 percent of the schools are not clean and 70 percent of these schools are suffering a lack of drink water. The Minister of Education denied this report although his ministry was participating in the writing of this report. The minister said those who wrote the report have political agenda and they are not academics or professionals. He described the numbers that came in the report as imprecise. Everyone in Iraq knows about the bad conditions in most Iraqi schools. They have been here since Saddam's time.

There is now widespread corruption inside the educational system, just like there is widespread corruption inside all of Iraq, another result of the war and occupation.

The destruction is so deep

I saw one of my friends who teaches English language in of the high schools. After few minutes of talking about the main issue that all Iraqis talk about, I mean security situation and life troubles, I asked him about his work and thought to hear some complains because of the lazy students but the story he told me was something completely new for me and killed any hope to have a new good life in this country.

He told me that one of his students is the son of his educational inspector. My friend told me that this student could not pass the exams because he knows nothing about English language. The educational inspector duty is to check whether the teacher is doing his duty correctly and to help him in passing over any problems to improve the level of the students but this one is completely different. In addition to neglecting his own son, he threatened to send my friend to jail because he did not give the success mark for his son. The educational inspector said "I will send this teacher to jail and if he believes that anyone can help him then he is wrong"

In Iraq, high school students have to take a comprehensive exam that will determine the future course of their lives. It is very important to do well on the exam, and students are out of school for weeks so that they can study full time. An Iraqi student in Mosul (who goes by the blogger name of Sunshine) took the exam this year and wrote about it in her blog. It was a very stressful time for her, because she knew that the exam would determine her future. The end result seems to be that the Ministry of Education used differing standards to grade these exams, depending on where the student lived (which is dependent on sect these days in Iraq).

Here is a bit of her report:

The huge difference between the students' marks in different Iraqi cities made the iniquitousness so evident.

…… For our government I'd like to say something: I studied and prepared for the 6th grade so well, 16 months, at least 5860 hours of studying (12 hours per day, I usually study from 11 to 14 hours everyday) I tried to concentrate in spite of the hard situation, losing dear people, explosions and shooting, I did everything I could, I studied under the stairs during fights, my house was damaged for SEVEN times but I didn't give up ,I studied with chaos around me, I remember all the times I studied in the darkness till late time at night and used candles' light or torches, I walked for hours to reach the lectures at 2 pm while the temperature was more than 50 degrees, I didn't complain about carrying my books and searching for a room to study, as we closed all of the windows with wood because of the continuous explosions, I didn't care about the cold weather when the temperature in under zero degrees, or the hot weather in summer, I said, impossible in nothing for me, after all the suffering all I am asking you is to give us the result we deserve, based on our efforts and cleverness, not our cast or religions ..

That gives us some idea just how difficult it is to get an education in Iraq, even when you really want to learn and your parents really want you to go to school – and they have the financial resources to pursue this goal.

Here is a report from McClatchy’s on this scandal:

Protests broke out this summer in three Sunni Muslim cities in which conspicuously low numbers of students passed their national exams, fueling suspicions that Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government is discriminating against Sunnis and others.

Alaa Makki, a lawmaker who heads the parliament's education committee, said he was troubled by allegations that the Ministry of Education discriminated against minorities, noting that students failed their exams at disproportionately high rates in Sunni Anbar province, in the Sunni city of Tikrit and in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah in Baghdad. Education Minister Khudhayir al Khuzai is a Shiite. Just 27 percent of the students passed their 12th-grade national examinations in Fallujah, a city in Anbar. "These people can't suddenly have lost their ability to study and all failed," Makki said. "There is an error, and we hope to correct it."

Sunshine lives in Mosul. The Ministry of Education is looking into the allegations. This corruption, and the overall neglect and decay of the educational system, are inspiring some Iraqi parents to send their children to private schools – which were forbidden under the Saddam regime. There are now 175 private schools in Iraq.

There are women who were elected to provincial council of Baghdad who are working for better schools and education. This is a report from September 2009. Maybe there is hope that Iraq will once again return to the status it had years ago, when it was one of the best educational systems in the Middle East.

Baghdad’s women leaders fight for education

Mahdia Abdulhussein’s frustration with the Baghdad school system drove her to stand for the provincial council, where she is fighting alongside other women members to advance education and children’s issues. Abdulhussein, whose background is in education, said her primary mission is to improve the quality of schools devastated by war and provide more support for students and teachers. “There are many failures in curricula that impact education and students,” she said. Her passion for education reform is shared by many of the 11 women on Baghdad’s 57-member provincial council. Many of the women served as teachers before moving into politics.


And over in Pakistan, the refugee crisis and violence is having a major negative effect on education. Part of the problem is that the displaced people may not be able to return home until the end of the year, and another major problem is the Taliban destruction of schools.

Schooling, food security worry returnees

Arsenault said about a million children were at risk of not starting school in September, mainly due to the widespread destruction of school buildings by the Taliban in Swat and the fact that 4,000 schools continue to shelter IDPs.

According to media reports, between 170 and 200 schools for girls were destroyed by militants in Swat.

QUOTE: But the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children: what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and to be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen. The truth about war comes out, but usually too late. We are assured by the war-makers that these stories have no bearing on the glorious violent enterprise the nation is about to inaugurate. And, lapping up the myth of war and its sense of empowerment, we prefer not to look. ~ Chris Hedges

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: destruction of education. (Jury is still out on Afghanistan, but it is not looking good.)

Iraqis before the invasion in 2003

Monday, September 14, 2009

WWB: children forced to be militants

WHAT WAR BRINGS: children forced to be militants

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, children were forced to be militants. Sometimes this was for money, sometimes as an after-effect of violence in their lives. I used the word ‘forced’ because I do not hold children responsible for the fact that they are militants. I hold the adults responsible. The children are too young and too naïve to know what they are doing.

A Daily Kos poster Sue4theBillofRights wrote a diary on children in Afghanistan and how they become suicide bombers after seeing civilian casualties.

Afghan Children Commit to Be Suicide Bombers After Civilian Casualties

With Taliban looking on approvingly, these tearful children in Afghanistan swear that they will now be suicide bombers after losing people they love in the only thing that more war funding gets you: More war.

A Canadian child, Omar Khadr, was detained in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo. He was 15 at the time of his capture, and brutally treated by both US authorities and Canadian authorities. I am not sure how he ended up in Afghanistan and how he ended up fighting, but I do know he was a child and not capable of making such adult decisions as to go to war and fight.

Khadr Video Released

Khadr is at times despondent, and then inconsolable, as he takes turns answering the questions of his Canadian interrogators, followed by other periods where he refuses to look at them at all.

And over in Pakistan, the Taliban are reportedly buying and selling children for suicide attacks. Some are as young as eleven.

Pakistan: Taliban buying children for suicide attacks

Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has been increasingly using the children in attacks, the officials said. A video released by Pakistan's military shows the children training for the task. In the video of a training camp, children can be seen going through exercises.

Reports out of Iraq also claim that children are recruited as suicide bombers. This report is from a UN representative in 2008.

UN says Iraqi children are recruited as suicide bombers by militants

Insurgent groups and militias in Iraq are recruiting children in the war-torn country as suicide bombers, the United Nations said Friday, echoing concerns expressed recently by the U.S. military. Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, said her recent five-day trip to Iraq convinced her that the country's children are "the silent victims of the ongoing violence. Since 2004, an increasing number of children have been recruited into various militias and insurgent groups, including as suicide bombers," said Coomaraswamy.

It is difficult to put a number on this – all we know that the number is more than zero. Children in Iraq were not just recruited as suicide bombers, they are also hired to assemble bombs, clean guns and transport weapons. Their parents support this, mainly because they need the money the children earn to feed their families. This is dangerous work while they are doing it, because of the possibility of an explosion. It is also dangerous for the children to be working for men who are known to be violent. Children are working for the Sunni insurgents and the Shia insurgents, and (reportedly) al Qaeda.

This was also reported in 2006.

Insurgents using children to fight US-led forces

Some children have been recruited by insurgents to fight in Iraq, according to a prominent local NGO.

…. “I have been trained to be a suicide bomber but he [the insurgent trainer] wants me to wait for an opportune time to become a shahid [martyr] in a very special attack and until that happens, I have to help in attacks against the US troops who are against Islam and [who are] the killers of my parents,” Mustafa said. ‘Shahid’ is a religious term in Islam that literally means ‘witness’. It is a title that is given to a Muslim after his death if he died during fulfilment of a religious commandment, or during a war for the religion.

…… According to the instructor, insurgents give weapons to child fighters after training them for three months on how to use them. He said very small children unable to carry the weight of a weapon are instead taught how to use hand grenades and taught how to distract US soldiers before attacks.

And this is a report from 2007.

Poverty drives children to work for armed groups

Eleven-year-old Seif Abdul-Rafiz and his two brothers were left with no choice but to leave school and work so as to help their unemployed parents make ends meet. Unable to find a job, Seif resorted to making bombs for Sunni insurgents who are fighting US troops in Iraq. “We work about eight hours a day and are supervised by two men. They give us food and at the end of the day we get paid for our work. Sometimes we get US $7 and sometimes we get $10, depending on how many bombs we make,” Abdul-Rafiz said. “The bombs are used to fight American soldiers. I was really afraid in the beginning but then my parents told me that it was for two good causes: the first is to help our family eat; and the second is to fight occupation forces,” he added.

Iraq's Children Fighters

Mohammed,13, finishes his breakfast, changes his clothes and walk three kilometres, not to school or even work but to a training campaign. Carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a belt filled with bullets, he kisses his mother with a broken heart and heads for the unknown. "I was forced to help militants to save the life of my mother and sisters," he tells with a tone full of sorrow and pain.

…… "My father was killed by US troops on the outskirts of Ramadi two years ago and since than my mother has been struggling to bring us enough money to survive," he recalls bitterly. "One day, five men came to our door and threatened her. They wanted me to help them in exchange for food and the rent," he added. "If we refused, they would have killed me and my oldest sister. My mother had no chance even to think. She had to agree."

….. Mohammed has been trained to become a suicide bomber, which he hates.

And, from the same article, another child’s report:

"I lost my arm in the same attack that killed my parents and sister," Bilal [not his real name] told IOL in al-Qaim, referring to the 2004 onslaught on Fallujah. "I swore to take my revenge from the US troops. They don’t force me to learn how to be a suicide bomber but I want to meet my family again as a martyr and a hero," he said. "I celebrated with my friends two weeks ago our first success. We killed two US Marines on the outskirts of al-Qaim and day after day we will prevail over our occupiers."

Oh, what a horrific reality we have created in Iraq and Afghanistan!

And then there is the reality of the USA, where children are recruited in their high schools to join the military. And some 16 and 17 year olds do just that.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: children forced to be militants.


Statement from an Iraq War Veteran:

If I say nothing, I have failed. If I do nothing, I am guilty. If I live by these ideals of democracy I can see that war is failure. A war of opportunity rather than necessity is unjust. War is the antithesis of peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom. Let us hear the stories of these young men and women. Let us see through the eyes of the Iraqis and the minds of the soldiers what has occurred under the auspices of freedom and democracy. Let us then ask ourselves if conflict has brought peace. Let us be challenged by the horrific atrocities that no one should have to bear, and then ask ourselves if they were worth it. ~ Drew Cameron

From Dahr Jamail’s article:

Cameron, who hails from a military background, was raised by his father to value the ideals that the military professes: loyalty, integrity, and honor. His trip to Iraq altered everything, and "it wasn't until after I came back that the truth hit me. I would keep to myself, and try to block out my experiences in Iraq. In the course of processing my memories I realized we had destroyed ... [Iraq's] infrastructure and were not there to help. I realized it was not about freedom and democracy, and recollecting the way we had conducted ourselves, and the way we had brutalized the people turned me against the occupation. We were trained to fight and win battles. I was in the artillery, trained to blow shit up. We were not there to re-build anything or help the Iraqi people."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

WWB: vicious injuries

What War Brings: vicious, horrific injuries to civilians

All wars and occupations bring injuries, and this post is going to focus on the horrific physical injuries suffered by the civilians caught up in America’s wars and occupations. Of course, we have no earthly idea how many people have been injured and still survived in our wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. We don’t even know how many people died, much less how many were injured and how badly. We don’t know how many civilians get caught in the crossfire, or how many are injured when we drop a bomb. And that is simply because the corporate media and vast majority of Americans on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t give a shit. They don’t even care enough to make a record or report it. And American people, for the most part, do not care enough to seek out the information.

And even when we do find out, nothing much is done to help the victims, except in rare occasions (and then it is aid groups that help out, not the US military or US government).

Back in 2003, this report came from the Iraq Body Count Project:

The Red Cross reported from Baghdad that during its heaviest fighting the city's hospitals were so overwhelmed by admissions that no one could any longer keep an accurate count, but that one major hospital alone had been admitting the war-wounded at a rate of about 100 patients an hour. And in one of the most heart-rending of statistics, another aid organization reported just a month into the war that a hospital, situated in one of the poorest parts of Baghdad, "had amputated more than 100 limbs of children in that one month."

Since I cannot present any definitive statistics on the nature and the number of injuries, I will present some individual stories. This is just a very small sampling of the total number of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered vicious injuries.

Many people did not live to tell of their injuries, but among those that survived, even with limited medical treatment, the injuries are beyond belief.

Here is one story of an Iraqi. Hayder Abdulwahab woke up after a car bombing in Baghdad in the morgue. He had shrapnel all over his body, including in his eyes. He was injured so badly they thought he was dead.

Given up for dead, Iraqi refugee struggles to survive

Paralyzed, blinded, unable to scream, Hayder lay in a jumble of bodies. Knobby bones poked him from underneath, a still-warm arm lay across his side. The smell of rot was overwhelming. "I'm going to die here," he thought. Then he heard the voice of his brother fighting to get inside, followed by the yell of a doctor who saw a pulse thumping in the open wound of his throat.

Moustafa is another Iraqi who was injured by a US bomb that threw him off the roof of his home in Baghdad. The bomb was not directed at him, but the concussion of the bomb did throw him off his roof. He broke his back in the fall, and he is now trying to relearn how to walk.

Moustafa – update

We visited Moustafa at a friend’s home. And the first thing that Moustafa did after greeting everyone, was to show us how he can lift himself out of his wheelchair, using a walker for balance. And how he can stand, balancing himself with almost no support from the walker. He radiated pride and satisfaction and joy. And we were delighted to share in it. It was extraordinary to be with Moustafa, knowing what he has come through.

“Children of Iraq Association Charity”, a UK charity, is working to help Iraqi children. I don’t know if this is a good charity or not (they look good), but they do have pictures of Iraqi children on their website. They show some of the horrific injuries the children received from the war and occupation. I have been posting pictures of Iraqis on my blog Faces of Grief, and I am sure the pictures on the Children of Iraq Association Charity are legitimate. Look at them and weep.

And here are a couple more.

Photo: A man suffering from burns is wheeled into the emergency room of the local hospital following a suicide attack in the northern city of Kirkuk, 255kms from Baghdad May 12, 2009. A suicide bomber in a pick-up truck detonated himself at a police patrol killing six people, three of them police officers and wounding 14 other civilians and police. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN IBRAHIM (Photo credit should read MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo: A wounded boy receives treatment at a hospital after a bomb attack in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district April 24, 2009. In a second day of major bloodshed, two suicide bombers wearing explosive vests blew themselves up at the gates of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Baghdad on Friday, killing 60 people, Iraqi police said. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani (IRAQ CONFLICT)

And this website did a whole series of photos of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Some suffer burns all over their bodies, and the children wonder what future they might find with such disfiguring wounds. Women find their spouses leave them due to the disfiguring wounds.

SUFFERANCE: Iraqi Victims of War

“Enduring hardship for what else shall we do?” (This photo essay is part of an ongoing project I started in July 2008 photographing and documenting the lives of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.) Kidnap, murder, soldier, explosion, army, militia, ambush car; these words are the pattern of vernacular of Iraqi children and their parents in the mayhem of Iraq. Iraqis kidnapped and tortured, or wounded by car bombs, missiles and mortars, often exacerbated by improper medical care and severe infections, bear their wounds of war with determination and a patient shrug; for today in Baghdad, Sadr City, Anbar, Basra, Karbala, Kirkurt, Najaf, Diyala Sulaymaniyah, Qadisiyah, Babil, Dahuk, Arbil, Tam’mim, Salah ad Din; sufferance is the badge of all their tribe. In other words who are you going to complain to when everyone is facing the same situation.

I personally know about two Iraqi girls who suffered horrific injuries due to a US missile strike. Salee and Rusul were playing outside their home in November 2006 when a missile struck them, killing their brother and a neighborhood friend. (Blew them all to pieces would be the correct way of saying it, actually.) Salee had her legs taken off above the knees, Rusul lost her right foot. Both girls had shrapnel over a large part of their bodies. There were brought to the USA by No More Victims for surgery and prosthetics. That is how I got to know them, since they came to Greenville, SC, which is close to my home town.

Like the other Iraqis mentioned above, Salee and Rusul got no compensation from the US government or US military for their injuries.

Iraqis who have disfiguration from vicious injuries do state that they are shunned because of their appearance. Some of that is being addressed by plastic surgery.

Plastic Surgeons Mask Anbar’s Scars

Anbar, a conservative, largely Sunni Arab tribal province in western Iraq, is recovering from years of war between insurgent groups and United States troops. Since the guns were silenced, demand for reconstructive surgery has emerged in Anbar’s two main cities, Fallujah and Ramadi.

Scarred victims of Anbar’s recent violent history say they are shunned because of their appearance, but the province’s plastic surgeons provide a new lease on life. According to a report released in July by Anbar’s health directorate, an estimated 100 people with war-related injuries undergo reconstructive surgery in the province each month. Between 130,000 and 250,000 US dollars is being spent on the procedures in Anbar monthly, the report said. Most of the patients are women.

Walid al-Ani, who has been a plastic surgeon for 12 years, nearly gave up his practice due to lack of demand some years ago. Today, he advertises on the radio and his clinic – in a bullet-pocked building in Fallujah - is teeming with patients. Saad Nasir, a 44-year-old bank employee, recently took his wife to see Ani for skin grafts. In March 2006, she suffered severe burns on her back when the US military dropped flares during clashes with insurgents. One of the flares set their house alight. At a cost of 3,000 dollars, the grafts “are not risky, but they are expensive”, Nasir said.

Disfigurements and deformities are also present in high numbers in Iraq from birth defects. There are no records from the years under Saddam’s rule to compare to current reports, but all medical personnel claim that the number of babies with serious birth defects has gone up significantly in the last few years. This claim is impossible to verify or dispute. The local people are calling for an independent investigation.

Iraq’s City of Deformed Babies

An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase. …. Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces. We recently returned to find out the current situation and what has happened to some of the children we featured.

In May last year we told the story of a three-year-old girl called Fatima Ahmed who was born with two heads. When we filmed her she seemed like a listless bundle - she lay there barely able to breathe and unable to move. Even now and having seen the pictures many times since I still feel shocked and saddened when I look at her. But the prognosis for Fatima never looked good and, as feared, she never made it to her fourth birthday.

And then there is AFGHANISTAN.

RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) have complied some photos of injured civilians that clearly shows the horrific injuries.

Innocent civilians the main victims of the US/NATO so-called “war on terror” in Afghanistan

And here is a story of a seven year old girl who lost her arm in a bombing by US forces. Her name is Guljumma. She lives in a refugee camp, since her home was destroyed last year in the bombing.

A little girl in Kabul

Guljumma talked about what happened one morning last year when she was sleeping at home in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Valley. At about 5 AM, bombs exploded. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm. With a soft, matter-of-fact voice, Guljumma described those events. Her father, Wakil Tawos Khan, sat next to her.

…… The destructiveness of this war is reality for Guljumma and her father. And for hundreds of families at Helmand Refugee Camp District 5. And, in fact, for millions of Afghan people. The violence of this war - military, economic and social - keeps destroying the future. Every day and night.

Not a damn thing has been done to help her. Her photo is above.

Photo: Guljumma, seven years old, with her father Wakil Tawos Khan, at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5 in Kabul on August 31, 2009. Last year, an air attack by the US military struck their home in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. She lost an arm in the bombing. (Photo copyright Reese Erlich 2009)

I will be writing to Obama, my two Senators, and my Representative about this child, just like I have written about countless others. I send 100 photos a year to those four clowns, and have been for years. Prior to Obama, I sent them to Bush. Same address, same results. By the way, I know I send 100 a year because in early January, I buy a roll of 100 postcard stamps. The photos go on the postcards, and then are covered with clear tape. Sometimes, I send more than 100 a year.

At least I know I am speaking out on these atrocities done in my name with my tax dollars.

And, of course, these horrific, vicious injuries are still occurring on a regular basis. McChrystal went to talk to a ten year old boy in the hospital last week. The child had been badly burned by a NATO air strike. Supposedly, the US is against this stuff now. I say the proof will be in the pudding.

And of course this is happening in Pakistan too, from US drone bombings. We just don’t have any information, beyond the fact that the number of dead and injured keeps going up.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: vicious, horrific injuries to civilians.

Iraqi war suffering