Categories
Essays international issues

Who Is Responsible For The Iraqi War Refugees?


Smart, observant children can learn from the mistakes of their parents. In the case of Iraq, it is the child ignoring the wisdom of the parent.

One can imagine George Herbert Bush’s military advisors telling him not to go after Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. Overthrowing Hussein, the advisors explain to the erstwhile president, will create a power vacuum and a country splintered by bloody civil war. In addition, the advisors remind the president that the United Nations has not issued a mandate allowing military forces on the ground to topple the Hussein government. George Herbert Bush decided to listen to his advisors and obey the will of the international community. It was not a popular decision at the time.

In retrospect, it is obvious to even a casual observer that our incumbent president was itching to finish what his father started. George W. Bush figured he could secure his place in history by exporting democracy to Iraq with an iron fist. The results have been catastrophic for the Iraqi people and the citizens of the United States.

Here are the simple facts. Despite opposition from international and domestic leaders, President Bush convinced enough people in government to green light the invasion of Iraq. The military intelligence used as a pretext for the invasion turned out to be bogus. Five years later, the war rages on. Thousands of U.S. Military personnel have died or have received serious, life-changing injuries. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens have needlessly lost their lives or suffered serious wounds. More than five million Iraqi refugees have lost their homes, jobs, and entire way of life.

No one in the United States government wants to take responsibility for this destruction. It is now the responsibility of the people in this country to do the right thing.

Nothing speaks more eloquently about the suffering the war in Iraq has caused than the stories of the refugees themselves. Kareem, a history professor, suffered disfiguring wounds to his face when American airplanes bombed the University where he teaches. Forty-five students and teachers died when the second floor of the building collapsed into the first floor. More than a hundred people reported injuries from the attack.

“The Americans are a peaceful and honest people,” Kareem says. “That’s what I’ve seen through the television. They refused the war and this war has been destructive to both countries…For the last four years, it has gone from bad to worse.”

Ahmad worked as a loyal employee of the US Coalition Forces in Iraq. He bonded with the Marines he worked with as a translator and cultural liaison. He felt as if the Marines had become his family. After a Shiite militia murdered his fellow translator and friend, Ahmad fled the country in fear for his own life.

This story is all too familiar to seven thousand other young Iraqis who worked faithfully in official capacities for U.S. troops in Iraq, mostly as translators and cultural advisors. Insurgent factions have marked these young Iraqis for death. The United States Government refuses to grant visas or political asylum to these former employees.

Hiba is a young woman who fled Iraq with her family a few months after the war began. Jordan’s government denied asylum to this family of seven. They spent four years living in a tent in Ruwayshed, a refugee camp on the border of Iraq and Jordan.

Unfortunately, Hiba’s story is similar to the experience of a majority of Iraqi refugees. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan routinely deny access or status to homeless families and refugees fleeing from religious or political persecution from within their own country. There is no government infrastructure or private sector relief programs established in bordering countries to deal with the refugee crisis. The situation is analogous to the Jewish refugee crisis after World War II when more than four million people lost their homes and way of life in the Holocaust.

These are but a handful of the refugees stories. There are thousands of stories, many too horrible and brutal to imagine. We are the only source of help the Iraqi refugees can call on at this time. “The List,” an independent citizen action group, helps Iraqis living under the threat of death to find safe haven outside of the country. UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, urgently needs funding. This agency relies on private contributions for over 95% of its budget. To find out how you can support organizations like these, please visit http://www.iraqirefugeestories.org/

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Categories
Essays international issues

When Will People Worldwide Have Enough Clean Water to Drink?


“It’s not going to happen.” This will be the short and tragic answer to the question if governing bodies throughout the world continue to side-step the troubling reality of our planet’s shrinking fresh water supply. The challenges of global warming, pollution from industrial waste and sewage disposal, and the deterioration of water delivery systems must be faced now in order to avoid a worldwide water crisis within the next ten to fifteen years.

As the world population grows, more fresh water is needed for drinking water and sanitation. As a result, the water available for agriculture and industrial uses is plunging below demand levels. The effects of global warming are causing water shortages and droughts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Water mismanagement by government agencies adds to the shortages. Dumping treated and untreated human waste into bodies of water is a suicidal policy that is reducing the worldwide fresh water supply on a daily basis. Poisonous industrial waste products continue to find their way into lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers.

The world’s supply of fresh water hasn’t increased since biblical times. We’re destroying an irreplaceable commodity essential to life while increasing demand at an uncontrolled, alarming rate.

While 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water. O.3 percent of the fresh water is found on the surface. The balance is buried deep underground.

The burgeoning water crisis is not confined to third world countries or the desert nations of the Middle-East. In Atlanta, Georgia for example, there are days the tap water is so murky residents are afraid to bathe in it much less drink it, even though city officials claim the water is safe. The discoloration of the water is a result of under-serviced mains and pipes, many more than a century old, reaching the end of their useful life spans. When pipes in a water delivery system crack or break, dirt, bacteria, and other pathogens are sucked into the complex underground arteries of a system like Atlanta’s. The problem is usually handled by flushing out the contaminated pipes and upping chlorine levels in each, isolated instance. Few Officials see this as a viable solution for the future. Atlanta’s water problems exemplify similar situations in major cities across America. The Country’s water delivery systems are failing due to old age. A massive infusion of capital (100 to 150 billion dollars per city) is needed to install new systems.

Most of us are too consumed with our daily struggle for existence to worry about global problems like the water crisis. This has to change. Citizens of every country in the world have to take steps to force their governments to enact social programs and legislation to address the water crisis right away in order to avert a catastrophic decline in the quality of life we have become used to.

The situation is bad enough already. One person out of six people alive today doesn’t have easy access to a safe, fresh water supply. Two out of six people in the world (approximately 2.4 billion individuals) do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. This increases the instance of water-borne diseases astronomically. One child in the world dies every fifteen seconds due to a water-related illness. Studies have estimated 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases. Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-related health problems. 1.8 million Children die each year from diarrhea. Millions of women and children in under developed countries are forced to trek long distances every day to collect water from sources that are often polluted.

It will take unprecedented cooperation between world governments to solve the world-wide water crisis. But the effort has to begin with individual citizens. Governments will not move quickly enough unless there is a loud outcry from the people most affected — you and me.

Let’s take the issue of carbon dioxide emissions for example. The U.S. Government has been too slow in lowering emissions standards. We would all be driving cars running on hybrid and even non-gasoline based fuels today if the original schedule for emissions reductions had been adhered to. We face the imminent threat of crop failures, coastline flooding, extensive droughts, and other serious problems resulting from global warming because this issue has not been managed properly by our government. It is not a problem of adequate technology. It is a problem of mandating change.

Another issue world governments are avoiding is the disposal of raw sewage. We need an environmentally friendly method of treating and disposing of human waste. The necessary funds can be raised and the technology implemented quickly if people force their governments to mandate change.

We need more projects like the “One Water” documentary film sponsored by the University of Miami to raise public awareness of the growing world water crisis. In addition, governments and people around the world must cooperate in developing educational programs, incentive programs, and the distribution of birth control devices to slow population growth to a responsible rate.

Cooperation, innovative ideas, comprehensive solutions, and immediate action are required. We must not put off until tomorrow what desperately needs to be done today.

Sources: U.S. News and World Report; “The Coming Water Crisis,” August, 4, 2002, Web edition. National Geographic News; “UN Highlights World Water Crisis,” June 5th, 2003, Web edition. Water Partners International (http://www.waterpartners.org/.) World Water Council (http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/.) “One Water” (http://www.onewater.org/.)

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing