At least 275 children in southern Iraq have been infected with a disfiguring skin disease, an outbreak some health officials are blaming on the war's devastating effect on the public health system.According to the United Nations -- citing reports from Iraq's southern province of Qadissiyah -- 275 children have been struck with leishmaniasis, which is spread by sand flies. Most have a form that causes skin sores, but others have a type that strikes internal organs and can be fatal.
"This is a killer disease and we are trying to stop its spread," said Dr. Omer Mekki, an epidemiologist at the World Health Organization's Iraq office.Two types of leishmaniasis have been found in southern Iraq, according to Mekki: 212 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis, also known as Baghdad boil disease, and 63 cases of visceral leishmaniasis, or kala azar, Hindi for black fever.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is not fatal but can cause facial lesions and crater-shaped sores, leaving patients disfigured. Kala azar can kill, and causes fever, weight loss, anemia, and swelling of the spleen and liver.
The above is from Maria Cheng's "Skin Disease Strikes Iraqi Children" (AP via Los Angeles Times) and as if malnutrition, cholera, air bombings, armed thugs and the deaths of family members weren't enough for the children of Iraq to face, they now have to deal with that. The article tells you that this wasn't a problem before the invasion (despite the disease's historical roots in the region) but is now thanks to a lack of adequate services (sanitation, potable water, all the things that the US was responsible for as an occupying power).
There were legal responsibilities and obligations that the US had and has an occupying power. They were not met. IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC action that will address what does go down in Iraq:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers. IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it."
Worth it? UPI reports that Exxon and Shell are whining over the theft of Iraqi oil legislation not being pushed through:
Iraq's legal framework is still uncertain, Big Oil firms say, though negotiations on oil and gas deals are ongoing and could wrap up by next month.
"Shell along with other major international oil companies are quite interested in future possibilities in the country of Iraq," Shell Gas and Power Executive Director Linda Cook said Wednesday at an international energy conference in Houston.
Iraq has the world's third-largest reserves of oil and sizeable gas reserves but is largely undeveloped and underexplored. Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron are in discussions with Iraq's Oil Ministry for special technical support contracts, a first step in Iraq's long-awaited development of its energy sector.
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