Friday, December 18, 2009

Seaonal Appeal

To all those known and unknown readers of this blog, I send this sincere apology for not keeping it up to date. And I include a bouquet of seasonal good wishes for that ever-elusive peace on Earth and goodwill to all.

This morning I left the house with three urgent messages on my answering machine. The messages were from my families in Iraq. I would like to report that their lives are slowly improving now that the "civil war" has diminished, security has improved, and U.S. troops have pulled back somewhat. Sadly, that is not the case. Five of the six families currently supported by the Iraq Family Relief Fund are headed by poor women whose husbands have either died or abandoned them. None of these women have been able to find any sort of work or to develop a small, sustaining business.

Each time we speak with one another they invariably begin by apologizing for once again having to ask for help. It's not like they are asking for inordinate sums of money. All they want is enough to pay the rent, put food on the table, and cover any medical costs that come up. In these respects, their situation is quite similar to what so many U.S. families are experiencing under current economic conditions.

But there are important differences. For one thing, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places on Earth.In just this month alone, car bombers in Iraq's capital murdered over 120 people and wounded hundreds more. Even more alarming, at least to my mind, is the continuing rise in birth defects and cancer throughout Iraq, but particularly in the cities of Falluja and Basra. While the link between DU and cancer and birth defects has not been unequivocally established, Iraqi doctors attribute this rise to the use of weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) by the U.S. and its British ally. In the first Gulf War of 1991, about 320 tons of DU were used. In the second Gulf War of 2003 an unknown amount of DU was used. According to a recent report in Global Research,

In September this year . . . 170 children were born at Fallujah General Hospital, 24 per cent of whom died within seven days. Three-quarters of these exhibited deformities, including "children born with two heads, no heads, a single eye in their foreheads, or missing limbs". The comparable data for August 2002 -- before the invasion -- records 530 births, of whom six died and only one of whom was deformed.
Our families in Baghdad live with the ever-present threat of death from car bombs, with a shattered infrastructure, a dearth of jobs, and the rising cost of food, clothing, and shelter. One of the families has called me multiple times this week to tell me how cold their apartment is. They would like to buy a heater but can't afford the price, which would be around 100 dollars. Another family has a heater but can't afford to purchase fuel for the heater, which runs on kerosene. A third family is without food and can't pay the rent (300 dollars) without our assistance.

Unfortunately, donations are not what they could be, so I am unable to help any of these families until I receive help. On a more upbeat note, the family of Amal Maseer, the Iraqi artist, is doing well in their new home in New Paltz, New York. The family has been living with their American sponsor since they came here as refugees last March. They would like to move into a subsidized apartment in New Paltz but can't do so until they pay 500 dollars to the managers of the apartment complex. This amount will cover the repair of damages done by the previous tenants. For the life of me, I don't understand why Amal is expected to pay for someone else's wrongdoing.

So in the spirit of the season and for the sake of these families, please consider making a donation to the Iraq Family Relief Fund. Your contributions will go immediately to relieve their most urgent needs for a way to keep warm through a Baghdad winter, for enough to eat, and for keeping a roof over their heads.

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