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Old 04-09-2003, 11:40 PM   #1
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humanitarian crisis worries

Is anyone else worried and sad about the possibility of many lives being lost to disease, injury, hunger, and anything else that kills people who are refugees? I haven't seen any numbers telling me how many refugees there are but there have been reports of people leaving towns that got bombed. These are refugees. The cities of northern Iraq are currently being bombed and it's so dangerous even in Baghdad that the Red Cross had to leave. This is bothering me. I'm afraid that people are going to die because they can't get medicine, food aid, water systems, etc, etc. in there. This will determine how hearts and minds in Iraq react to the chain of events. If we help them, good. If we don't disaster.
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Old 04-10-2003, 12:02 AM   #2
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you might find this worth reading

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/06/we...ew/06MAAS.html

Food, Too, Can Be a Weapon of the War in Iraq

by Peter Maass

AL KUT, Iraq A few days ago I drove with a Marine convoy into the desert north of Nasiriya, heading toward Baghdad. The landscape was as unforgiving as it comes parched and barren, like the moon with an atmosphere of dusty oxygen. As we moved forward, mostly through sand but occasionally on an unfinished road that was half-gravel, Iraqis appeared at the convoy's flanks, doing what comes naturally to destitute civilians when well-provisioned men and machines of war rumble by: they were begging.

Every half-mile or so, a few Iraqis appeared like ghosts in the wasteland. Some put their thumbs and forefingers together and brought them to their mouths, the third-world sign language for please-give-me-food. Some rubbed their stomachs. Others tilted their heads back and cupped their hands, as though drinking one of the plastic bottles of Oasis mineral water that are stacked like howitzer shells in the backs of Humvees; they were thirsty, too. The smartest ones waved Iraqi dinars bearing images of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps the marines would extend charity in exchange for a war souvenir.

Many Iraqis were in need of decent food and clean water long before the first cruise missile was fired at Baghdad. But there were many more of them once the war began. Cities and villages have been cut off from fresh supplies, electricity and water pumps.

Civilians are suffering, and a debate has begun about who should control relief efforts. The Pentagon has said it wants to keep control over all humanitarian aid. But relief agencies, like Catholic Relief Services and Oxfam-America, have said they don't want to be part of a military effort, because they must be independent to do their jobs.

But staying independent is a challenge. In war zones, especially, the distribution of aid is an intensely political act, no matter how neutral a group tries to be. In 1994, humanitarian agencies in eastern Zaire found themselves helping not only women and children, but many Hutu men and boys who had participated in the genocide of more than 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis. In 1993 in Somalia, the warlords were able to convince their militias that the American military operation there was not a humanitarian intervention to combat famine but a military invasion; 18 American marines and at least 12 humanitarian workers were killed.

In the early 1990's in Bosnia, I first learned the rub-the-stomach language of want. Food is a military necessity; armies need it, and always get a slice of it, no matter the intentions of the donors. And if civilians can be fed by international aid agencies, well, that's one task a besieged government does not have to handle, and one more reason for it not to be concerned about hungry or thirsty people.

The angels of charity are only human, too. The invasion of Iraq had little support, and outright opposition, from some relief groups. They might not wish to engage in activities that strengthen the American occupation of Iraq; if providing food to areas no longer under Mr. Hussein's control is seen as part of that effort, or helps it by encouraging defections, the angels of mercy might be less aggressive in providing their mercy. But far more important for relief groups is the political bind they are in if they operate under, or are thought to operate under, military control: they may not be allowed to deliver aid to the people they wish to deliver it to, and they may become fair military targets for the other side. Last month, for example, a Red Cross worker in Kandahar, Afghanistan, was shot dead by a suspected group of Taliban.

Violence was a constant hazard for relief workers in Bosnia. Though officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees tried to retain their independence, traveling only with escorts from the United Nations peacekeeping force, their convoys were frequently shot at or looted, mostly by Serbs trying to starve Muslims (and occasionally Croats) into submission; drivers and other relief personnel were killed and injured.

In Iraq, Pentagon officials and Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, a retired army officer who is designated to take charge of the postwar reconstruction, do not wish, as the war still rages, to relinquish control of humanitarian operations. But the military, despite what officials in Washington might say, is not configured for or adept at distributing aid.

A few days ago, I rode in the back of a Marine Humvee as it passed through several small towns near the city of Kut, 170 miles south of Baghdad. Civilians along the road were holding out packs of cigarettes, hoping to sell them to nicotine-deprived G.I.'s. The captain in the Humvee explained that his marines were under orders not to engage in commerce with civilians, nor toss them cast-offs from their M.R.E.'s, no matter how friendly the civilians might seem. Doing so would mean civilians would get close to their vehicles, and it's impossible to know the difference between a commerce-savvy civilian and a suicide bomber.

The battalion I have been traveling behind does distribute some humanitarian aid, largely through its civil affairs unit. Often it is given to civilians who have been inconvenienced by tanks and assault vehicles parking in their fields. On Thursday, as I waited on the outskirts of Kut during a battle there, several Iraqi men walked out of the city with yellow humanitarian packets M.R.E.'s for civilians under their arms.

The art of humanitarianism is to provide aid to the people who genuinely need it, and that's usually women, children and the elderly. The Iraqis with the yellow rations were fighting-age men; it's a good bet they were deserters who were given a thank you meal from the civil affairs contingent at the front, just up the road.

The battalion commander stopped by my S.U.V. recently, and I asked about his unit's humanitarian work. The commander, who is a smart and focused lieutenant colonel, was dispatched to Iraq to kill the bad guys, and he doesn't mind doing so. That's his mission. "Yes, we're giving out humanitarian rations," he told me. "It's kind of the carrot-and-stick approach. No better friend, no better enemy." He does not want to do humanitarian work, he continued. "It's not our job, but we do what is humane and what we can to relieve suffering," he said. "The aid we give out is more of a gesture."

I asked whether he had talked with Iraqis and perhaps shared a meal to find out their needs. He said his civil affairs unit handles those things. He doesn't have time for kebabs. "I don't like eating goat," he said and smiled.

His version of humanitarianism is marching to Baghdad as quickly as possible to get rid of Mr. Hussein. Despite the language in Washington, that's probably the Pentagon's version of humanitarianism, too. And that's why, as the march on Baghdad goes forward, I expect to see more Iraqis begging for water.
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Old 04-10-2003, 11:53 AM   #3
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I was reading about this last night on an aid agency's web site. Damn. I don't like this one bit. I am not anti-military but they do some things better than they do others. Giving out aid is not their forte. Aid workers are trained to do this. Let them do their jobs, for goodness' sakes. I'm writing letters to Congress about this. It might not do anything but heck, I tried.
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Old 04-10-2003, 12:15 PM   #4
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I agree with you, verte. The military aren't trained to give out aid - they aren't trained to ensure that aid goes to those who need it most and not just those strong enough to get to the front of the queue and they aren't trained to recognise what aid is most appropriate for which people. Besides there is also the problem that the military are seen as the aggressors, or as somewhat threatening and this can also cause problems in giving out aid. I think the sooner aid agencies are able to resume their work in Baghdad the better.
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Old 04-10-2003, 12:26 PM   #5
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They don't know how to get information as far as needs are concerned, and this is the basic component of information as per giving out aid is concerned. If you can't even do that you can't do anything else. Get these bureaucrats the hell out of the aid process, they're only screwing it up. Let the aid workers do their jobs. This burns me up.
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Old 04-10-2003, 12:44 PM   #6
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I just got this from my ISP's headlines. It's not exactly bad news.

LONDON (Reuters) - The British Royal Navy said on Thursday Iraq's deep-water port of Umm Qasr would receive its first merchant ship carrying humanitarian aid on Saturday.

"A ship called the Manar from the United Arab Emirates carrying 700 tons of foodstuff will go in in the next couple of days," Steve Tatham, a Royal Navy spokesman based in Bahrain, told Reuters.

He said the shipment would quickly be followed by two Australian vessels carrying some 28,000 tons of wheat.

The port has been closed to merchant shipping while U.S. and British forces cleared mines from the approaches to the port.


I'm certainly not against them cleaning up the mines. They do need certain security safeguards.
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Old 04-10-2003, 02:07 PM   #7
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i was watching the bbc news coverage this morning and was completely frightened at the social disorder right now in Iraq. i fear that the problem will worsen before any order and structure is officialy put into place. i would love to provide any help to them.
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Old 04-10-2003, 06:39 PM   #8
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ABC News just reported that looters have lotted a local hospital. Taking medical supplies, beds, and other equipment. As a result other hospitals in the area have locked their doors.

We need help in there now.
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Old 04-10-2003, 09:26 PM   #9
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It's a mess. At least the Red Cross is functioning in Baghdad right now. They have the military guarding their buildings and supplies. They need to restore security first. I sure hope they can get this situation under control so they can help the people that need to be helped. This is going to be harder than the military conflict. It's scary. I'm afraid that many people don't know what the heck they're supposed to be doing.
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Old 04-10-2003, 10:13 PM   #10
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I'm very afraid for the people of Iraq. The US television has picked up these wonderful visions of "long live bush" but not the pictures of hospitals across the nation. Again a bloodless bloodbath of Iraqi's. With all the "celebration" food and water have lost their significance to the news media.

My prayer
"Please God let not anymore people die in this war, let us find a way to feed the children, let us get medicine, especially antibiotics in to help all Iraqi's, even soldiers. Let us quit bombing and ask for guidance to help these people.

Now get the freakin water turned back on! How to put a nation on it's knees
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Old 04-10-2003, 10:44 PM   #11
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No joke. They're dangerously low on everything. Yeah, people are dancing on statues and stuff but they don't have enough water or other vital stuff. I'm going to try to figure out how I can help.
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Old 04-11-2003, 01:43 PM   #12
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Seems there is not enough military in the liberated Iraq. So the situation is out of control, lots of robbery and plundering reportet, but i'm unable to verify it - just too much
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Old 04-11-2003, 02:27 PM   #13
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The military are not really trained to be a police force. They need police or some equivalent thereof. They need to make some changes quick. They need to guard public places like schools and hospitals and business districts as well. The present situation simply isn't tolerable.
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Old 04-11-2003, 02:32 PM   #14
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I'm just watching a press conference with Rumsfeld and he's basically saying that the problem with looting of schools and hospitals and with there being a lack of food and water and healthcare is irrelevant given that the Iraqis have been "liberated".

Nobody's saying these problems mean it would have been better if Saddam stayed in power, we're just concerned for what's happening to the Iraqi people now. Seems that he's unable to understand that. Grrrr.
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Old 04-11-2003, 02:46 PM   #15
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I haven't changed my opinion of Rumsfeld, and there's no reason to do that now. The guy is clueless and this problem isn't going to be solved.
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