The Days of Wonder in Iraq

John Brady Kiesling came to the limelight with his courageous resignation from the State Department just before the war had begun in Iraq. He was a career diplomat. Colleagues and superiors had warned him that he would be throwing away his lifelong career for “nothing”. But Mr. Kiesling took the step beyond remaining ordinary, collecting the steady paychecks, and counting for his rewarding retiring days. After struggling through sleepless nights pondering on various aspects of the war issue, Mr. Kiesling came to the conclusion that a unilateral, “preemptive” strike against Iraq would simply not only be wrong, but harmful to the United States as well.

In his widely circulated resignation letter Mr. Kiesling wrote, “The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson.” The path we were on would lead to “instability and danger, not security.”

Many of Mr. Kiesling’s warnings have materialized since then. Our world has not become a more stable and peaceful place after this unjustified war contrary to the endless propagations of voluminous attributions by the American Enterprise Institute and its surrogates in various clothes. Like the thousand years old barbaric tradition, they have displayed and replayed through the long tentacle of cable news media the prized grotesque photos of dead “brothers” of Baghdad, while the memory is still fresh for most of the world population on American rightful protests in displaying of dead and imprisoned soldiers by the fallen Iraqi regimes during the heights of the war breeching the Geneva Convention which is applicable to all the world citizens, Arabs and Non-Arabs, Americans and non-Americans.

This type of hypocrisy, double standards that irritates many, even the truest friends of America cannot but wonder what’s really going on behind these seemingly errant policies.

The major battles of Iraq war ended more than three months ago. Bush’s spectacular landing over American ship, proclaiming the victory in grandiose fashion were widely televised. But since then, there are mounting attacks on the American occupying forces in Iraq. On the average, 12 attacks per day are reportedly been committed “including assaults by mortar, sniper fire, hand grenades, land mines, RPGs, and, most chillingly, close-range shots to the back of the head in the midst of the noonday crowds in central Baghdad. Moreover, reports from Iraq suggest that the pool of “resistance” recruits and sympathizers is growing larger. Coalition troops now face not just renegade fedayeen, but tribesmen bent on vengeance, disgruntled ex-officials and soldiers, Islamist mujahideen, and simple criminals.” [3]

Mr. Kiesling sums up this neo-conservative infested administration as the following: “This is an administration at war, and you are with them or you are against them”. And in the process, the rational paths toward reconciliation and peace are replaced by the irrational divine guidance and a thousand eyes for eye kinds of vengeance mood.

In Iraq, the American Proconsul Paul Bremer has indeed taken a few positive steps, like his initiative of a budget that surpassed Saddam’s old budget by two folds. There are also reports of “new goods and fresh opinions” beginning to give Iraqis a taste of the potential rewards of freedom. [4]

Back in November of 2002, an expert panel opined that disbanding the Iraqi army swiftly would cause tremendous resentments in the 400,000 strong Iraqi army, but the Bush Administration ordered Bremer to do this anyway, creating untoward angers in a defeated and now unemployed army and among their famished families.

Before and during the war in Iraq, the peace activists around the globe were united, coordinated with each other from across the oceans and mountains; borders and thousand miles distance didn’t matter; language barriers were forgotten. Their goal was the unified stance against the war, against the killing of children, men, women and elderly Iraqis. There were millions poured into the streets, lighting the candlelight vigils. The Priests, Rabbis, Imams and Pundits marched in unison forgetting the mundane theological crackpot differences. The atheists, agnostics, believers and communists and capitalists were under the same umbrella. A Muslim woman cried loudly hearing Pope John Paul’s last moment plea from the Vatican podium; Devoted Hindus raised their hands in prayers along with praying Imams in New Delhi’s interfaith march; this world of ours were overwhelmingly against this war and it remains so.

After the major bloodshed ended, the muscles of might and bombardment fright had incinerated the despised Saddam regime, thousands were buried and mourned for, the peace activists lost their steam, they felt stupefied finding that their heart-felt protests could not stop the war, could not bring a peaceful resolution that could have saved thousands of those who are now decaying in unmarked graves, or the wounded Iraqis living their miserable lives, amputees, and blind, feeling burden to their overburdened family. 

With the soaring quagmire like environment existing in Iraq, where all the prewar premonitions, warnings from the anti-war activists are coming to float around Bush Administration’s forceful Merry-Go-Round depiction of the real events, anti-war peace activists are getting motivated once again, their days of slumber are getting replaced with the vitalized new goals for achieving a non-violent world.

Paul Rogat Loeb writes in his recent Znet article, “To most Iraqis, US troops have become symbols of colonialism and chaos. The longer they stay, the more they become targets, and the more Iraqis will resent the US for imposing our will and grabbing for oil while failing to secure basic needs like electricity, clean water, and physical safety. Because the UN represents the entire international community, including eighteen Arab states, a UN administration, in contrast, would be far less likely to be seen as a foreign military occupation. Although the new forces would probably still face some opposition, both armed and unarmed, they won’t be tarred with the same neocolonial agenda. Iraqis wouldn’t view them as simply in it to dominate their country or project American power. Without the disruption of a growing armed insurgency, efforts at restoring basic services, maintaining stability, and setting up a democratic and representative Iraqi government would be far easier. A UN Mandate might even allow a similar transition to when UN forces finally ended Indonesia’s bloody occupation of East Timor and supervised that country’s return to democracy.” [3]

In the beginning, a few decades ago, due to the pollution on the surface water in Bangladesh, due to the rising cholera and typhoid and other water born diseases among the populace, especially the children, it was UNICEF that led the mass wells digging effort in Bangladesh. About 10 million or more wells now exist in Bangladesh from this massive effort. UNICEF’s original goal and intention were noble. They wanted to replace the polluted water sources, rivers and ponds that caused diseases and deaths among the populace.

In the time of distress, and arsenic is nothing but a full-blown catastrophe that is still materializing, one cannot stop wondering, is their any responsibilities that UNICEF should assume? Does the past and previous Bangladeshi government have any dubious roles in this tragedy? No saner person can accuse any purposeful, intentional maligns regarding arsenic crisis in Bangladesh, but is there any criminal negligence involved?

From the very beginning when this crisis came out to the public, UNICEF kept their points of opinion straight regarding their inability of identifying arsenic in any possible testing before undertaking the massive well-digging operations in Bangladesh. They maintain that at the time, standard procedures for testing the safety of groundwater did not include tests for arsenic [which] had never before been found in the kind of geological formations that exist in Bangladesh. [4]

Though there were alarming number of arsenic poisoning cases being reported across Bangladesh, as far as 1985 when ill Bangladeshis were crossing border to India for medical treatment, but the Government of Bangladesh maintains that it knew about the crisis from 1993. It took another two precious years before acknowledging the widespread arsenic problem. And it took a few more years for the international organizations before offering their monetary help in the battle against arsenic.

The British Geological Survey Saga

The British Geological Survey is in trouble. In May 2003, a British judge ruled that 750 Bangladeshi arsenic victims should be able to sue the British Geological Survey, or BGS, a British government-owned research body, for failing to spot the poison in wells sunk across Bangladesh over the past 20 years. [1] George Monbiot, “America is a Religion“, The Guardian, July 29, 2003

[3] Bob Thompson, “Preemptive Strike“, The Washington Post, July 27, 2003.

Hope Out of Quagmire“, Znet, July 30, 2003.

[6] Picture Reference: http://www.mcc.org/gallery/02_08/photos/irq_02_02_17.jpg

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Canada.