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   It's Not Enough

Eyewitness in Iraq:

It’s Not Enough

by Michele Naar-Obed

For a while, the overwhelming feeling was one of deep guilt. Guilt, however, does little good and in its worst form leads to paralysis. The facts are that all we’ve done over these years has not been enough.

“Are our children not human? Are the children of Iraq not human enough to deserve medicine and health care? Wasn’t the Gulf War and 12 years of sanctions enough? Every day, every day, we are bombed [in the southern no-fly zone] and now you want another war? Isn’t it enough?”

These questions posed by Dr. Hassan, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the Ibn Caswan Hospital in Basra, haunt me. This was the third hospital visit for our delegation and in each place we’re told the same thing. Cancer, leukemia, and genetic malformations continue to increase. Even with the oil-for-food and -medicine program, there is only enough medicine to cover about 10% of the caseload.

We learn that Resolution 661 does not allow for antibiotics, antiviral, antifungal, and many chemotherapies, no matter how much oil is sold. These medicines are still considered dual purpose, one of them for use in chemical warfare.

Dr. Hassan minces no words with us. With great frustration she tells us that since 2000, cancer and leukemia rates have risen 300 and 150 percent, respectively. She shows us pictures of children born with defects that are virtually unheard of. Everyone is convinced that this is the result of depleted uranium and doctors have been reporting the numbers to the World Health Organization.

During our meeting, she recognized Sr. Anne Montgomery [traveling with our goup] and remembers meeting her seven years ago. She tells us nothing has changed since then. The work that has been done by over 50 delegations and a variety of other groups that have visited Iraq clearly has just not been enough to effectively change this human tragedy.

After a bit of silence and a cup of tea, we are taken to the wards. Row after row of rooms filled with mothers and children line the corridor. Our group brought bags of stuffed animals, balloons, and lollipops to give to the children. Each child would receive something. The stuffed animals ran out first, but most of the children were happy with the other things we gave them. One little girl, however, had her heart set on a stuffed doll. Nothing we did was enough to alleviate her disappointment. In the confusion of trying to find something for her, someone thanks me for bringing the gifts. With tear-filled eyes and a lump in my throat, I replied, “there weren’t enough.”

For a while, the overwhelming feeling was one of deep guilt. Guilt, however, does little good and in its worst form leads to paralysis. The facts are that all we’ve done over these years has not been enough. If the U.S. wages another full-scale military envasion, there won’t be enough we could do to get the blood off our hands, especially if we are complicit in silence. Our efforts will not be enough until the threat of war is over and the economic sanctions are lifted.

There is still enough time to raise our voices, to march in the streets, to participate in nonviolent civil resistance, and to shut down the war machine. There is still so much work to be done if it’s ever to be enough.

Michele Naar-Obed of Duluth, Minn., was part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ December 26—January 9 delegation to Iraq. She is staying on in Baghdad to work with the Iraq Peace Team.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.

For more information, write to or call:

Claire Evans,
Personnel and Delegation Coordinator,
Christian Peacemaker Teams
P.O. Box 6508
Chicago, IL 60680

Tel: 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291

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This story was published on February 10, 2003.
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