#The Right to Heal

I sit here this early morning, full of thoughts of Iraq, and the babies, and the soldiers who were sent to fight an unnecessary and illegal war, an occupation, and the mess that we went in and caused and left without even trying to clean up, and the continuing suffering of the Iraqi people, and the veterans who did what they were told and who are suffering too, and all the families of people who died…it’s overwhelming, this.

I think extra hard about these things today because last night I attended “The People’s Hearing on the Lasting Impact of the Iraq War”, in Washington. It featured a panel of Iraqi civil society leaders, US veterans, scientists, lawyers and doctors, well, here’s the blurb from the invite:

“On the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraqi civil society leaders and U.S. military veterans will testify to the lasting impact of the war and make the case that the U.S. government must be held to account for the serious damage it has caused. From the U.S.’s role in sectarian violence and the ongoing health crisis caused by toxic munitions and burn pits used during the occupation, to the destructive effects of multiple and concurrent deployments and stigma faced when attempting to access care and support from the Department of Veterans Affairs, we demand the Right to Heal.”

Amen. That so needs to happen. I was there in the company of someone who I’ve written about in the pages of this blog before, someone who I admire and respect so very, very much and whose dedication to the above cause makes me humble and sorry if I am embarrassing you Ross Caputi, but it’s true. He’s a veteran of the second siege of Fallujah and founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project who is in the introductory page to my blog, and he came down to DC to attend the hearing, and I was honored to be able to spend time with him and to learn from him.

We talked with the dedicated Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a toxicologist from the University of Michigan who has done some studies of the fallout from the toxic weapons we used and the waste we left behind and she spoke of the need for more research, we have very little data because we can’t get the necessary samples, there’s no funding and besides, we (the US) are supplying the Iraqi government with weapons that they are using on the people of Fallujah.  Yanar Mohammed and Falah Alwan spoke last night of the dire situation in Iraq…we left a mess and now the government that we support is waging war on Fallujah and other cities.

I am no expert and I know that I am woefully uneducated and uninformed about the situation in Iraq. But through news from Ross from people on the ground who he knows and respects, as well as news from journalists such as Dahr Jamail and Feurat Alani, I feel that I can say that what the US government wants us to believe isn’t the reality, there. I believe that with no reservations. We have a history of lying about Iraq, and that hasn’t changed, despite the hope.

So what is the reality? The reality is that Fallujah and the people are refugees once again. It means that Fallujah General Hospital is being shelled, the electricity is being cut off. And still, the babies are being born…this picture was posted recently on the Birth Defects in Fallujah General Hospital facebook page.

Baby born in March

Baby born in March

The accompanying text said this: “the baby born in Baghdad to amother from Fallujah because of the security situation in Fallujah.” There have been no pictures posted on the page since January, and I can guarantee that it’s not because there are suddenly no more babies being born who look like this (from January):

baby born in January

The situation in Fallujah is dire. These people need help, and they need justice. And now we are hearing even less about the situation there. It’s a humanitarian crisis.

So as I started my blog I will end, I sit here in my nice warm kitchen on this cold but sunny morning in March, trying to wrap my head around it all, and trying to not feel helplessly hopeless, which is hard, given everything, including the fact that this short New York Times article was the only news coverage I could find of the hearing. I worry so much about the doctors at Fallujah General Hospital, and the babies, what is happening to them, and their families?

But, I had some nice long chats with Ross and he has some great ideas for his new expanded project, including organizing fundraisers for medical equipment to help the brave doctors who are dealing with this issue. The wonderful people on the panel last night, part of the Right to Heal project, reminded us all that it takes all of us, together.  If I can reach one person through this blog, if I can convince one person to tell another person about this issue, that’s a positive step. And that person can tell another, and maybe somehow we can get some critical mass and maybe we can get through to our “representatives”, and maybe, just maybe, there will be change. I don’t know what to do, but I have to do something. We have to do something. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Vietnam and Laos. Fallujah and Basra. We have to make it stop. We have to.

More on the new project soon…I believe that there will be lots of work to do. I hope you are ready to help.