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Jay Shaft: When Silence Becomes Betrayal

Iraqi Children Paying High Price for Freedom: Thousands are Dying, Thousands are Dead!

Killing one person is murder, but killing 100,000 has become accepted US foreign policy.
By Jay Shaft - Editor, Coalition For Free Thought In Media

“We don’t do body counts”
- General Tommy Franks, US Central Command


" Obviously, every day I pray there is less casualty, but I know what we are doing in Iraq is right. "
-- George. W. Bush Fort Hood, Texas, Apr. 11, 2004


100,000 Civilian Deaths Estimated in Iraq

''Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1-419) than in the period before the war.

"Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes."

[ Source: Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham, summary, “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey”, The Lancet, Vol 364, No 9445, 30 October 2004 ]

Since the U.S. invaded Iraq on 3/20/03 at least 50,000-100,000 civilians have been killed. A great majority of those casualties have been women and children. One of the purposes of the invasion was to “free and liberate” the Iraqi people. The evil reign of Saddam Hussein was proclaimed to have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians.

So if Saddam was evil and killed countless civilians, what of the US and the atrocious record of civilian death since the invasion? Is it just as much murder under US occupation as under Saddam’s regime?

The only rational and sane answer is: YES it is murder! Yes, it is unforgivable killing and destruction! No amount of excuses, cover-ups, or rhetoric can change the fact that US occupation has resulted in bloody carnage and gross, unforgivable loss of life.

To use the evilness of a past dictator as a valid reason or excuse for ongoing death and injury is wrong and cowardly. To refuse to count the number of civilians killed is even more cowardly and also so arrogant it is a slap in the face of the occupied nation. The Iraqis have been slaughtered and there has been no effort to even count the high toll that has been enacted. That is imperial arrogance at its most refined form.

There seems to be little or no outrage among the American public about the high price the Iraqi children have paid and are paying for freedom. Liberation has brought about literally thousands and thousands of deaths among children, and malnutrition rates have doubled.

The U.S. specifically stated that one of its main goals was to make Iraq a safer place for the citizens. In one of George Bush’s big speeches he declared that “Iraq is now liberated, the people no longer have to fear the awful regime of Saddam Hussein. The people are now safe to move onwards toward democracy, freedom, and a brighter future where everyone has clean water, abundant food and opportunity to be free.”

The tragedy of the children dying seems to be endless. The child mortality rate is increasing alarmingly despite the claims that Iraq is safer and has been liberated. The children of Iraq have suffered through long years of sanctions, malnutrition, easily preventable disease, and high rates of cancer and leukemia. Just when they were supposed to be ensured better health and welfare, it keeps getting worse.

It is way past the time the American people took a long hard look at the actions of our leaders, and the results of our occupation of Iraq. It is time for the people to say enough is enough. This killing and maiming must stop. If we fail in this regard we are no better than Saddam or any other bloody murderer throughout history.

The blood of the Iraqi people, and especially the innocent children, is on the hands of every American. The people cannot stand apart from our leaders, or the results of their actions. We are all responsible for each and every innocent life lost; there can be no aloofness or separation. We are all complicit with a vast amount of devastation and destruction. We can only stop being complicit by crying out against the atrocities and doing everything in our power to stop this bloody and senselessly ongoing carnage.

This sounds extremely harsh but the reality has to be faced. No freedom or liberation of a country is worth the price the Iraqis are paying with their very blood and future. Nothing is worth the loss of part of a future generation, in any country, for any reason.

Here are some of the hard facts that I am basing this article upon. It may seem like a vitriolic rant on my part, but there is ample evidence to support all my conclusions and statements. Let’s look at the various reasons so many Iraqi children are dying at a horrendous rate each and every month.

Water Borne Illnesses Plague Iraq: Unsafe Water Killing Thousands of Children

One of the major causes of death among Iraqi children is still unclean and poorly treated water. The UN has warned that unclean water may kill more children than violence in Iraq. Since 2003 UNICEF states that the rate of children dying of water borne illness has tripled to almost 6000 a month.

At least one in ten children does not make it to age ten in Iraq due to water borne disease or illness. Diarrhea caused mainly by unsafe water and in some areas lack of clean supplies, is responsible for 70% of child deaths in Iraq, the agency said.

It is estimated that up to 100 children a day are dying from lack of clean water, which is causing illnesses and worsening already desperate malnutrition. This is hard to completely verify, but several studies have just been completed and more are being conducted. The general insecurity of Iraq hampers efforts to collect data and send aid to outlying and rural areas.

Only 55 percent of Iraq’s 25 million inhabitants had even intermittent access to clean water after the war. Since then some improvements have been made, but only about 20 percent of Iraq’s water treatment facilities work even on a part time basis. This means a vast majority of the country uses water that is contaminated with sewage or industrial waste.

A March 2005 report on the unsanitary water conditions by the BBC directly backs up previous reports of just how bad the sanitary conditions are in most of Iraq. Humam Misocni of the Iraqi public works ministry was quoted as saying- “Even the so-called treated water or clean water is not actually clean - it is contaminated with sewage water”

[ See: Iraq blighted by poor services-]

Freelance journalist Dahr Jamail was an eyewitness observer in Iraq for almost two years, and he wrote this article about the poor water sanitation.

[ See: Water, sickness, and a brewing storm]

Malnutrition Doubles Since 2003 Invasion, Child Mortality Skyrockets

On October 11, 2004 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a new global report. Roger Wright, UNICEF’s representative for Iraq, said: “Since 1990, Iraq has experienced a bigger increase in under-five mortality rates than any other country in the world and since the war there are several indications that under-five mortality has continued to rise.”

Wright also said ““Since the war more children in Iraq are malnourished, fewer children are protected from immunizable diseases and there has been an increase in the incidence of diarrhoeal disease.”

Malnutrition, which is exacerbated by a lack of clean water and adequate sanitation, is another major killer of most children in Iraq.

Quoting from Iraqi Ministry of Health data, UNICEF reported in March 2005 that about three out of 10 children in Iraq are chronically malnourished or stunted. This is a consequence of underlying poverty and the inadequate intake of essential nutrients.

Acute malnutrition among children has almost doubled since the war began, moving from 4 per cent to 7.7 percent, said Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food. Acute malnutrition means that a child is actually wasting away to the point of death.

Overall, more than a quarter of Iraqi children don't get enough to eat, Ziegler told the UN Human Rights Commission on March 27, 2005.

[ See the Washington Post article highlighting the report for the full details. Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos: Malnutrition Nearly Double What It Was Before Invasion ]

To put that in hard, cold figures, it means that at least 400,000 children are now starving. Most of these children will eventually die unless a massive humanitarian effort is made to bring in the needed food supplies.

The relief group Save the Children has reported that one out of every four children under the age of five is chronically malnourished. It is estimated that at least 3,000,000 more Iraqi children are suffering from less severe malnutrition or at least going without adequate nourishment for several weeks out of each month.

[ See: Iraq - Health and Nutrition- ]

Malnutrition and lack of clean water are just two of the many ways that the Iraqi children are dying, but they are the biggest killers, and the most easily prevented. While the U.S. finds itself hard pressed to stop the insurgent attacks, which are killing many people, the water and food situation should have been taken care of as soon as we took control of Iraq.

[ See the Medact study detailing the various ways the 100,000 civilians have died: Enduring Effects of War]

"A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the now famous line "A time comes when silence is betrayal." In respect to the war in Iraq that time has come to us of this generation and time. It is different war but the duty of every person who respects the sanctity of human life should be to do everything to end this terrible tragedy.

Dr. King began the speech with these words that I find most relevant when examining the Iraq crisis.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty: but we must move on."

[ The full text of Dr King's' "Beyond Vietnam" speech and a sound recording can be found at]

Once again I am calling upon the conscience and feelings of the American people. We are the ones who must decide it is time to break our silence, for if we do not we betray the people of Iraq with our apathy.

For chaos and destruction to flourish it must have at least a tacit approval by the majority. No minority of voices or groups can ever hope to bring this bloodshed to a halt without enlisting a majority in support of it. The voice of our public conscience must be engaged. Until it is the violence will beget more violence at the cost of many more innocent lives.

When our leaders speak for the people with bombs, tanks and guns it is wrong. When our leaders speak for our nation collectively with death, destruction and devastation, the people must stand up and say NO MORE!

When the people of our nation stand silently then we send a message to the world that we approve of these horrors. That is the message we send the world when we turn our backs or refuse to speak out. We send a clear message by our silence that speaks louder than any words of apology or placation.

What legacy do we want for the future generations? Do we leave a legacy of our nation being bloodthirsty killing tyrants, or that of peacemakers and saviors of innocents? We, the people, are the ones responsible for how the world views us as a nation. We are, as a people, and not our leaders, although they would have us believe it is their sole responsibility.

The past legacy of ongoing war and occupation by foreign powers teaches us something very valuable. The only seeds that will grow in blood soaked ground are the seeds of further bloodshed, endless violence and withering war.

The seeds of peace cannot be planted while fresh blood continues to water the fields of carnage. The seeds of peace can only prosper and grow in an environment of peace. No amount of tilling or preparing the grounds of war will ever make it grow the fruits of peace unless it is purified by compassion and cleansed by caring.

The words and acts of countless peacemakers have borne fruit in many countries throughout history. It is time the American people truly become peacemakers and leave a lasting legacy for the rest of the world to follow. It is time for us as a nation to truly show the world that our claim of wanting to bring peace, freedom and democracy to the world is not just false, broken promises or empty and vacant rhetoric.

[ For further information please see the following articles and information pieces:

200 Children Die Every Day: Iraq's Health Care Under the Occupation
The Legacy of the US War in Iraq Part Two: Civilian Injuries and the Impact on Iraqi Children
EYEWITNESS: Iraq’s children die of curable kala azar
100,000 Civilian Deaths Estimated in Iraq
More Iraqi Civilians Killed by US Forces Than By Insurgents, Data Shows
IRAQ: Focus on water and sanitation
Iraq's Children Suffer Most Under US Occupation
Suffer the children]


Jay Shaft is the editor for the free speech media group Coalition For Free Thought In Media. C.F.T.M. can be found online at - Contact Jay Shaft at

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