Some facts remain distressingly constant year upon year in Iraq: One-third of the children there are malnourished, 13 percent die in early childhood, 5,000 children die every month, due mainly to the absence of clean drinking water and basic medical supplies caused by the 10 years of international sanctions.
According to Dr. William Thomson, a clinical specialist from the University of Michigan-Dearborn who has studied conditions in Iraq, there are alarming cases of sudden death among young Iraqi men, attributable in his opinion to no identifiable physical ailment but rather to “stress and the absence of hope.” And 10 years after Operation Desert Storm, the possible impact of depleted uranium weaponry is only now emerging as an international issue.
Through it all, Saddam Hussein remains firmly in power. On the other hand, changes are slowly coming: The governments of the United States and Britain increasingly stand alone in their commitment to maintain and strengthen the isolation of Iraq. The no-fly policy is crumbling as European and Arab countries begin to resume air links and allow humanitarian aid supplies into the country.
These and other salient facts were reviewed at a Jan. 13 forum, attended by 250 and sponsored by the activist group Metro Detroit Against Sanctions (MDAS), preceded by a silent march at St. James Church in Ferndale. Keynote speaker Carmen Pauls, who recently returned from a year of humanitarian liaison work in Iraq for the Mennonite Central Committee, sees some hopeful signs in the resilience of the Iraqi population despite the general infrastructure and public-health catastrophe of the country.
Metro Detroit Against Sanctions is committed to ending the suffering that has been going on for a decade. The group meets at 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at the offices of Life and Relief for Development, 17300 W. 10 Mile, Southfield. For further information call 313-297-8808.David Finkel contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. Guyette can be reached at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org