In response to a study carried out by Iraq’s Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway’s Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program which highlighted how malnutrition had risen in Iraq’s under 5’s from 4% under Saddam to double that following the occupation, a clown responded with the following remark

Anyone who thought that invading a country would imediatly make all the little children happy, well fed and educated needs to be neutered. It will probably improve over time, and once we’ve withdrawn the sanctions will be gone, and in all likelyhood this malnutrition will fall again.

This remark incensed me and so I responded that there were no sanctions in Iraq and reminded the clown that the problems Iraq is facing are directly related to waging an illegal war to remove non-existent WMD. The reason people opposed the war was precisely because of the fact that innocent, defenceless people, primarily children, were going to be killed, maimed and subjected to the deprivations outlined in the Washington Post. The clown’s response?

So? The counter argument is that this is a temporary issue, while right now there is greater suffering this will improve to a higher standard over time. Can you honestly say you expect the Iraqi people to be in a worse state in say four years than under sadam? This is not the same as saying that it’s a good reason to start the war.

I replied: Were the Iraqi people consulted by Bush and Blair about whether they would like their country to be invaded and bombed into the stone age to get rid of Saddam, so that at some point in the future they would have a better country? Have you actually read what Iraqis themselves say about the occupation? According to Iraqi bloggers and the unembedded journalists life in Iraq is dire. Nearly everyone knows someone who has been killed, usually a relative.

Riverbend says that childhood is over for Iraqi children, they have seen things no child should see. The average child is going to have seen corpses in the street but for others they will have seen their parents shot dead before them or suffered the loss of limbs or an eye. If only we could wave a magic wand and make things better but the reality is these children are scarred for life. Do they not count in your world?

Cancer rates have shot up in the country. Iraqis are talking about diseases and illnesses that never existed prior to the invasion. Hundreds of tons of Depleted Uranium were dropped on Iraq during the Gulf war and the 2003 invasion leading to a sharp rise in the births of horrifically deformed babies, now when mothers give birth, the first question they ask is not what sex the child is, but is it normal. DU will be around for 4.5 billion years and once contaminated with it, your genetic heritage is destroyed for ever.

Two years after the invasion Iraqis say that while things were bad under Saddam at least there was security and things worked, like the sewage system, there was clean running water (the US knew what the result of bombing the water supply and treatment would be), electricity was supplied, hospitals struggled under sanctions but doctors could practise without fear of attacks and clinics were not bombed to smithereens. There’s a brain drain happening too, with people trying to get out of Iraq because they fear for their childrens safety. There also happens to be a petrol crisis in Iraq and fuel is hard to find!

The reconstruction of Iraq is not happening and the people qualified to carry out the work of repairing the infrastructure who worked for the state-owned companies were effectively barred from competing for contracts after Paul Bremer’s illegal economic reforms were introduced; this has contributed to unemployment in the country, now running at 65-70%. The beneficiaries have been Western companies like KBR

What about the barbaric destruction of the country’s heritage ? For instance, the priceless objects that were looted from Iraq’s museums and which ended up in the hands of private collectors abroad, can never be replaced. The looting and ransacking was carried out under the gaze of US troops while the Iraqi Ministry of Oil was protected. Or what about the destruction of Fallujah’s beautiful mosques? Are these replaceable?

Is this the best way to foster democracy in the world? Is this the best way to depose despotic leaders? Are you suggesting that the deaths of 100,000 people (Lancet Report) and the destruction of an entire country is a price worth paying to remove one man? Do the ends justify the means? Isn’t democracy under military occupation a non sequitur? If the recent election was being held in Burkina Faso under martial law, wouldn’t the West condemn it as undemocratic? Why is it acceptable when the US are doing it? Such democracy is meaningless as it is not based on a show of freedom. Many Iraqis who spoke to Dahr Jamail said they believed that voting in the dubious elections for a National Assembly would bring the occupation to an end more quickly. He also says that more and more Iraqis are saying things were better under Saddam.

Forget the lies about WMD, the illegal invasion of Iraq was never about removing Saddam, it was about establishing a military footprint, just as in Afghanistan. The future is bleak and US military officials predict that fighting the resistance will continue for several more years. Asked if the insurgency had a much longer run ahead of it [a] senior U.S. military official said,

“Historically, the answer has to be yes. Because I think the average insurgency lasts about eight, nine or 10 years, something along those lines,” said the official, speaking to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity. “So we’re two years into this thing. History would tell us yes… Do I know whether it’s going to be three years, five years, seven years, nine years, 15 years? No. I don’t think anybody can tell you that. Insurgencies aren’t normally short-lived.”

So yes, I can honestly say that in four years time I think the situation will be worse for Iraqis than it was under SH. Does pointing out the bleak situation facing Iraqis today make one an apologist for Saddam? Can we not hold the thought that Saddam was a bad man, and the thought that the Occupation is worse, in our minds at the same time?

This exchange went on for a while longer and in the end the clown conceded that the occupation was instrumental in causing the malnutrition rates we now see in Iraq. It was very instructive lesson for me on how well-informed followers of the mainstream are. Mr Clown reads the Guardian.

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