By Hussein Al-Alak
In January 2007, the Iraq Solidarity Campaign informed the international community about the damage which the growth of poverty has caused to the children of Iraq, through the much- publicised paper "Western Civilisation – The Unspoken Fate of Iraqi Children".
The report, which was published by a wide variety of publications including the Morning Star, URUKNET, the UN Observer, Palestine Chronicle and the Global Research Institute, reported that the increase in poverty since the 2003 invasion has resulted in the growth in the child sex trade, the forced separation of families, an increase in drug and alcohol abuse. Psychiatrists have also highlighted the effect of the ubiquitous violence on the school attendance rates and performance, referred to in the report as "learning impediments".
The report also found that 400,000 of Iraq’s children are also suffering from a condition called “wasting”, which is characterised by chronic diarrhoea and high deficiencies of protein. However, the conduct of the US-backed government of Iraq has sunk to a new low, with news that the regime of Jalal Talabani and Nouri Al-Maliki, who are not satisfied with the murder of one million Iraqis since the occupation began, now plan to starve the rest by eliminating Iraq’s already meagre ration service by June 2008.
The ration system was first established during the 1990s to combat the widespread poverty which had resulted from the UN Sanctions, in a British and American backed blockade which saw the murder of an estimated 1.5 million children due to “embargo related causes”. The 6,000 children lost per month was viewed by America’s Madeline Albright as being a “price worth paying“.
Whilst the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, the United Nations themselves praised Iraq’s ration system as being “the world’s largest and most effective relief effort” and even in the face of invasion, the Iraqi regime provided his population with an advanced six months’ supply but now the “independent” Iraqi government have decided to end the system, which has saved millions from starvation, on the grounds that the closure is “in line with the obligations it has made to the World Bank“.
Some analysts say that millions of Iraqis will be affected, particularly families with no bread winners, as well as women, the unemployed and children. It is also believed that Iraq is going to lose control of its own inflation and that the people are therefore going to experience a price increase in food, fuel and other daily essentials.
In other words, British and American Troops who are based in Iraq at the “invitation” of the Iraqi Government are going to be made to shoot their bullets at, and kick down the doors of, an increasingly starving population.
The news has come as a shock to both campaigners and Iraqi families, in the face of recent allegations by one Arab newspaper, which recently revealed that Iraqi MP’s were being offered five million dollars each, to vote in favour of the privatisation of Iraq’s nationalised oil. It was further revealed that monies brought in from oil revenues were not even going towards the so-called “reconstruction” of democratic Iraq.
But campaigners, led by the Iraq Solidarity Campaign (ISC), have sworn that plans to eliminate this essential service will not go unopposed in either the Middle East or the West, and have already begun to mount a challenge to the Iraqi regime and the US/British occupying powers, in a direct challenge which is already gathering momentum.
Within twenty-four hours of launching the campaign, the international petition “Act Against Iraq Poverty”, addressed to the governments of Iraq, Britain and America, has been endorsed by a variety of political parties and personalities. The ISC demand that the ration service be maintained and be developed to provide for the needs of Iraqi families.
Already the petition has been signed by many political organisations including the Communist Party of Britain’s Somerset Branch, RESPECT (renewal), a Liberal Democrat councillor, the Polish Labour Party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Australian Socialist Alliance, the US Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Massachusetts Green Party. Even some members of the Democratic and Republican parties in the US have endorsed it.
This is alongside the National Revival and Sovereignty Movement of Russia, the Iraq Solidarity Association in Stockholm, the Uruknet Association in Italy, and the former Scottish MSP Tommy Sheridan’s Socialist Solidarity Party in Scotland.
The breadth of international support from campaigners has also come from as far afield as Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Mexico, Sweden, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Sri Lanka, the UK and Venezuela.
One supporter from the United Kingdom wrote, “I add my name to those who urge the UN, the British and Americans, to continue the rationing program in Iraq and stop the abuses aimed at hungry Iraqis!” with Ian Douglas from Cairo asking Bush, Brown, Maliki and Talabani, “What is a government that starves the people?”
Comments to the occupiers from US citizens have also included “Over a million slaughtered, millions of widows and orphans, millions of refugees – and now the occupiers want to snatch the bread from the mouths of the living – stop this genocide of the defenceless Iraqi people.” As others have stated on the petition, the occupying powers need to pay the Iraqi people reparations for the damages and trauma caused by the illegal invasion in 2003. There have been other demands for an independent commission to be established and see to the perpetrators of the war and invasion be tried as war criminals.
The international campaign against the elimination of the rations has been established against the backdrop of the seriousness that ending the service will cause to the Iraqi people, as one health worker recently told Dahr Jamail of the International Press Service: "I and my wife have five boys and six girls so the ration costs a lot when it has to be bought. I cannot afford food and other expenses like study, clothes and doctors."
But as one woman recently told Al-Jazeera, "If they reduce the quantity of the ration, we will be displaced [made homeless] as the money to pay bills will have to be used for food. If we are considered a poor family today, tomorrow we will be considered absolutely desperate."
To sign the international petition please follow the link
-Hussein Al-Alak is Chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.