Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.S. Has Only Made Saddam Hussain a Hero and Martyr, Says Iraq War Critic

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.S. Has Only Made Saddam Hussain a Hero and Martyr, Says Iraq War Critic

Article excerpt

IN 2003, DR. DAHLIA Wasfi gave up a promising career in medicine in the U.S. to become a fulltime critic of the Iraq war. She's since made two trips to Iraq, lectures nationally on her findings, and has testified before Congress on the devastating effects of the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

On April 22, she made three emotional speeches in Southern California. At All Saints Church in Pasadena, Dr. Wasfi opened her remarks by explaining that her mother is an American Ashkenazi Jew and her father a Muslim Iraqi who teaches inorganic chemistry at Delaware State University.

The petite dynamo showed photos of herself as a toddler in Basra, where her father returned after earning his doctorate in the U.S. After repaying his government scholarship by teaching for five years at Basra University, he returned to the U.S. with his family.

"My memories of the country as a 5-year-old contrasted with the bombed buildings and poverty I saw everywhere on my first visit in 2004," Dr. Wasfi told her audience. "Sewage was in the streets, but at least then the electricity was working in Basra."

It was a different story on her second visit, during the first three months of 2006. "Electricity worked only four to six hours a day," she recalled. "Most people now owned generators, and the fumes from these polluted the air."

Invisible pollution also comes from the radioactive residue of depleted uranium ammunition used by the Americans, Dr. Wasfi explained. In 1991, more than 300 tons of depleted uranium were disbursed into Iraq; no one knows how much more has since been discharged.

"U.S. military personnel should be checked for depleted uranium exposure after they return to the U.S.," the graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School said. "Proof that troops have been affected is the higher incidences of birth defects and genetic disorders in children born to Gulf war veterans."

In Iraq, the infant mortality rate increased by 600 percent following the first Gulf war, Dr. Wasfi said, and pediatric leukemia and lymphomas grew 300 percent. U.S. bombings of electrical grids and sewage treatment plants incapacitated the public health infrastructure. Rolling blackouts affect the use of ventilators and lights in hospitals where as many as five newborns share an incubator. Today, the major causes of death among children under the age of five years are easily treatable and preventable diseases such as respiratory infections, diarrhea and measles.

Dr. Wasfi is particularly angry about Iraqi hospitals hampered from functioning under U.S. military occupation.

Although the Americans allocated $243 million to construct health clinics, she said, only 20 were built-and none were opened. In 2003 there were 34,000 registered physicians in Iraq, she pointed out, while today there are fewer than 16,000. Arabs used to travel to Iraq to receive the most advanced health care in the region, Dr. Wasfi said. Since the U.S.-led invasion, she lamented, health professionals have been assassinated and some 470 intellectuals murdered.

On April 27, 2006, Dr. Wasfi testified on the floor of the U.S. Congress before a forum on Iraq. "The only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," she said, "are the white phosphorus, napalm and depleted uranium used by the Americans."

As for the sectarian genocide, Dr. Wasfi claims it is driven by the military occupation. "Sunnis and Shi'i always coexisted," she noted. "My paternal grandfather was a Shi'i, my grandmother was a Sunni.

What does she want for the Iraqi people?

"Iraqis must have the right to determine their own future," she stated. "The Americans are not part of the solution. An immediate withdrawal is the only answer.

"Iraq is an absolute disaster," Dr. Wasfi concluded. "The U.S. invaded it illegally, destroyed the infrastructure, decimated the society, bankrupted the economy and assassinated the leadership. The only thing the Americans accomplished was to make Saddam a hero and a martyr in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims. …

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