Peace movement supporters turned out in their hundreds to public meetings around the country last week featuring US anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and founding member of Doctors of Iraq Salaam Ismael.
Ismael witnesses the carnage day after day, desperately trying to cope with few resources. "The health system has been destroyed after three years of occupation", he told the 500-strong meeting in Sydney on May 23, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Medical Association for Prevention of War.
The Iraqi people have become death statistics on the Internet: 100,000, 150,000, numbers with no names, he said. The wholesale destruction of Iraq's health infrastructure involves more than buildings — there is little food and hardly any medicine. Eleven of the 18 hospitals have been completely looted and the water supply is 40% less this year than last.
"Where is the money going?", Ismael asked, before explaining how corruption and profiteering had followed the privatisation imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. During the second siege of Fallujah, he said, general anaesthetic ran out and he had to perform amputations under local anaesthetic, with the patients being held down.
Since 2003, 3000 doctors have left Iraq and many specialist departments are being closed down. Last year, 61 doctors were assassinated, some for treating resistance fighters. Ismael's 65-year-old father was beaten when Ismael was accused of treating insurgents.
Ismael described the horrific effects of the enhanced napalm and cluster bombs used by the US military, including on children, who have lost not only their limbs, but also sometimes 16, 17 or 18 family members.
In conclusion, Ismael echoed Sheehan's words earlier in the meeting: "If we want to stop terrorism, we must know the reason. The reason is the arrogance of US foreign policy. Our responsibility is to take action."
More than 300 people attended the meetings with Sheehan and Ismael in Brisbane on May 24 and Melbourne on May 25.
From Green Left Weekly, May 31, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.