Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Misery

It seems I am expected to comment on the cholera outbreak in Iraq. Actually cholera has appeared sporadically in Iraq for many years, maybe forever, so what is surprising, at least to me, is that it's taken this long for a notable outbreak to emerge, given the general destruction of Iraq's water supply system. I assume most readers basically understand what cholera is, but if you're interested you can basics from CDC here.

About 5% of people who are infected with cholera become severely ill, specifically with indescribably profuse watery diarrhea. Untreated, severe cholera is likely to lead to death from dehydration, but as I noted in a previous post, it doesn't require high tech treatment to get people through alive -- basically, what you need to do is drink large quantities of Gatorade™ (plug there for my friends from the University of Florida, which still gets royalties) or any similar solution that rehydrates, and contains electrolytes and sugar. (The sugar helps combat the diarhhea.) In advanced cases, intravenous rehydration may be needed.

Cholera is not spread from person to person directly, but rather through contamination of drinking water or food by feces. Yuck indeed. Unfortunately in Iraq, where sewage flows in the streets in many places and drinking water treatment plants are out of operation, the spread of cholera once it gets a foothold seems inevitable. Water treatment plants are down because of the general deterioration of Iraq's infrastructure, and because chlorine is in short supply due to restrictions on storing and transporting it, as it has been used as a weapon. In many places, there is no running water at all, and people get water directly from the Tigris. It's hard to see how the Tigris won't become contaminated. Given that hospitals in Iraq are already overwhelmed, with a severe shortage of medical supplies, I have to wonder whether they are at all prepared for what may be coming. I would hope that the WHO and Iraqi Red Crescent are moving to pre-position adequate stocks of rehydration solution, but I haven't heard anything to that effect. The occupation force could certainly contribute to such an effort, but I haven't heard that they are.

There's no telling how bad this might get, but while we hope for the best, I have to point out that even a very widespread outbreak will contribute only marginally to the suffering of the Iraqi people. The basic situation in Iraq is fundamentally misrepresented by U.S. politicians and by our corporate media. The essential dynamic is still that the United States armed forces are propping up a Shiite-led government closely allied with Iran. The "insurgency" which is now engaged in a campaign of attacks on Iraqi Interior Ministry forces is in fact a civil war. The Interior Ministry is controlled by Shiite militias and the Iraqi "police" are among the principle perpetrators of sectarian cleansing. The bombing two days ago in Baquba has not been placed in context for Americans. Baquba is a largely Sunni city ruled by the Shiite governing party.

The posture in which the occupation finds itself -- sacrificing blood and treasure on behalf of Iranian power -- is so bizarre, given that the U.S. is preparing to attack Iran, that our public discourse cannot even acknowledge it. But how do Iraqis feel about the occupation? Well, let's see. One of the first things the U.S. started doing after cake-waking to Baghdad was to round up young men at random, by the thousands, and ship them off to Saddam Hussein's dungeons to be tortured. In the process, our brave young men would kick down peoples doors, rough up the women, break all the furniture, and in many cases steal their cash. (This has been absolutely documented.) Soldiers and mercenaries routinely murder Iraqi civilians with total impunity. The latest revelation is particularly piquant: the U.S. scatters items such as detonators, fuses and ammunition around, and then shoots to death anyone who bends over to pick up one of the objects.

Now I don't know about you, but if I saw ammunition lying on the sidewalk in front of my house, I'd probably pick it up. Just sayin'.

I don't need to tell you that whatever the CIA agents who run Iraq Body Count tell you, something like a million Iraqis have died since the invasion from direct or indirect consequences of violence. More than two million have been driven from their homes. At least 1/4 of children are malnourished. The invasion was an illegal war of aggression in the first place, and the United States, on orders of the Commander in Chief, has routinely committed atrocities and war crimes throughout the occupation, and is doing so today, this very moment -- to no discernible end or purpose except for the sake of continuing.

I was, shall we say, amused, by the outrage over inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University. No one in this country seemed outraged by the UN inviting the terrorist and war criminal George W. Bush to speak. Ahmadinejad has never invaded any sovereign nation, and in marked contrast to the United States, he limits himself to torturing Iranians, in Iran. Unlike the United States, Iran does not possess weapons of mass destruction, although the United States encouraged the use of chemical weapons against Iranians in the 1980s. If Iran is "interfering" in the internal affairs of Iraq, at least they don't have 165,000 soldiers and 30,000 mercenaries in that country. Nor has Iran ever overthrown the legitimately elected government of the United States and replaced it with a puppet phony king, as the U.S. did to Iran.

Most Americans now want the U.S. to get out of Iraq, but I wonder what the sentiment would be if the news media told them the truth, for a change? But that will never happen.

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