Iraq ... the Truth

July 1997

By Bob Bossie SCJ

From St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Worker

What must it be like in the summer, when temperatures soar to 130 degrees with high humidity? My mind fills with images of the Black Plague that decimated Europe centuries earlier. Now, even as I write, I cannot find the words to describe my shock and disbelief at this total breakdown of a society. Iraq is prohibited from selling enough oil to rebuild its infrastructure, including the sewage pumping station that serves this neighborhood which we visited an hour earlier.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten. Nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish. Psalm 9 - 19

Archbishop Kassab, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Basrah and Naseriyah, told us that during his recent visit to the Uited States, he had asked US government officials: “Surely you don.t hold those children who were born after the Gulf War responsible for their government,s behavior ?”” They were unmoved. It was during this time that I reflected that Abraham and Sara were from “ Ur of the Chaldeans “ ( Gen.12:31 ), faith ancestors of Christian, Muslim and Jew. Doctors at St. Raphael’s, a middle class Baghdad hospital run by the Dominican Sisters, concurred with all the medical personnel we met on two facts. First, Resolution 986, the so-called “Oil for Food” deal, will not alleviate the suffering. it’s too little and too late, they said. Joe Gump, a member of Voices’ third delegation and father of 12 children expressed it best when he said that you cannot raise a family if your resources are dimished to 10% of what they were. And raising that to 15% will not do much to improve things. Second, these doctors said that the entire civilization and culture of Iraq is being destroyed by the sanctions. We have not been able to receive any journals or medical books for six years, they said. Life is more than food, one said.

For this reason, our delegation of four brought medical textbooks and journals to the medical college in Baghdad. This is the same for all the professions: teachers, scientists, engineers. When a journalist told us that they are unable to get even newspapers, we gave him a week old copy of the Chicago Tribune. He said with obvious delight, “And it has color photographs, too.” As Jesus said, “Not on bread alone shall one live.” (Lk. 4:4)

Sr. Maryanne, Administrative Supervisor, gave me a list of needed supplies (everything from sutures and stethoscopes to cardiac monitors and incubators). Before sanctions, she said, medical care was available free to everyone. Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end these san tions, sent four delegations to Iraq in 1996 in open defiance of US laws. To date, we have delivered over $45,000 worth of medical supplies to the neediest hospitals and clinics. The US Treasury Department has warned our campaign that we are subject to imprisonment for 12 years and $1 million in fines. I joined the first and fourth delegation because I could not remain silent while this slaughter is being conducted in my name.

I will do so again and again. May God have mercy.