Swans Commentary » swans.com Special Issue on Iraq - February 2, 2004  







Methods For Saving The World's Children

Thomas J. Nagy,
Coilín Oscar ÓhAiseadha,
and Mike FitzGibbon





(Swans - February 2, 2004)   The ongoing horror of escalating Iraqi civilian deaths and the US military deaths has led to the defection of leading establishment figures such as the billionaire George Soros, former US Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and members of Tony Blair's cabinet. These developments make it timely to discuss concrete steps to halt the continuing war crime against the children of Iraq, and to bring the crime into public awareness, and to save children from recurrence. The steps proposed can break the predictable cycle of violence and prevent the crime of using water as a weapon against the most innocent and vulnerable members of society:

1) Successful methods for engaging the mainstream media to dissect failed US policy: We cite references delineating the sheer magnitude and duration of the US war crime against the children of Iraq. References to the leading medical journals of the U.S. and UK indicate that ignorance of this crime constitutes willed ignorance rather than innocent lack of awareness.

2) A constructive proposal of atonement, reprogramming military money to save the lives of 2.3 million children each year from the agony of waterborne deaths: We propose long-term reparations to heal this threat to the children of the world.

3) A vehicle for enacting the constructive program: We turn to recent Danish successes for examples of ways of utilizing the medium of the Internet to bring the crime into the public awareness.

We conclude with a proposal to create a constructive program to transform the role of the United States. This program would inform, inspire and enroll a range of stakeholders in society to implement the long-term reparations needed to end the crime, prevent its recurrence, and transform the influence of American economic and political power. We propose the reactivation of the '60s generation as a key agent to push this transformative program.

The War Crime Against Iraqi Children

The massive, merciless, Bush/Blair war and occupation against Iraq has, astonishingly, generated increased resistance from the people of Iraq and the world's second leading superpower, the peace movement, and even former members of the Bushist core itself. Successes and growth of the first two elements have led even the billionaire currency lord, George Soros, and former Bush war cabinet Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill to denounce the Bushist folly.

Before turning to methods of putting the most recent development in the mainstream media together with a constructive plan, it is necessary to do what the media work so assiduously to avoid: recalling even recent history.

Since 1991 a single crime outrages the mute earth by endangering all children. Whenever the US government enacts this crime, it debases not only itself and its citizens but also key pillars of international law such as the United Nations and the Red Cross. The lethal US policy, never debated much less ratified by the US electorate, endangers the lives of America's own children as well as the lives of the children of its allies. The offence is nothing less than continuing war crimes against the children of Iraq.

Documents of the US government itself provide the most direct and damning support of this horrific allegation. The grim parade starts with the Defense Intelligence Agency's "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," continues with the US Air Force's "Strategic Attack 2-1.2" and concludes with the definitive UNICEF study. (1) UNICEF's large-scale survey provides the basis of the estimate that between 400,000 and 500,000 Iraqi children, in the period 1991-1998 alone, would be alive today were it not for Iraq's incapacitated water and sanitation systems and the subsequent imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions, which served to prevent the rehabilitation of these systems.

The strongest indicator of the credibility of the UNICEF study is its publication and/or citation by the most respected medical journals of the U.S. and the UK. These journals include the Lancet, Population Studies, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine. (2)

Ignorance of these crimes by the medical community or underreporting of the crimes in the mainstream media, suggest the most culpable, willful ignorance and betrayal of civic and humanitarian duty. Neither medical doctors nor journalists covering foreign affairs, nor professors with access to such sources can dare say, "I just did not know." Such persons share the guilt of their counterparts from half a century ago in Nazi Germany. The UNICEF findings are constantly cited by former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, Denis Halliday and his successor, Hans Von Sponeck in their tireless delivery of public lectures, writings, and interviews. Both demand an immediate end to this crime and enforcement of the international legal protections guaranteed to non-combatants trapped in war zones or areas of foreign occupation, particularly the children of Iraq.

Reasonable people may disagree about precise estimates of Iraqi children under the age of five killed, only to the degree that reasonable people may argue about the best estimate of the number of children under the age of five killed in the Nazi holocaust. In both cases the number cannot plausibly be less than many hundreds of thousands but most likely the number exceeds 1,000,000 innocent victims. The end of World War II extinguished the Nazi slaughter. In contrast, the holocaust of Iraqi children assumes special urgency because the slaughter continues to the present moment. The disappearance of World Health Organization epidemiological surveillance in June 2003 raises particular alarm.

Propelling the Crime into the Media and Public Consciousness

First and foremost, the crime must be acknowledged and halted. All human beings must publicize this crime and its deadly impact upon the children of Iraq as well as its lethal potential for all children, including the children of the U.S. and its allies.

The testimony of Dr. Herald Kelly, President of the American Federation of Scientists, to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Kelly, 2002) reveals the scope and immediacy of the threat to Western children. Based on his mathematical models of various combinations of nuclear emitters, explosives, weather conditions and sites of detonation of so-called dirty bombs, Kelly concludes that no comprehensive defense to this threat to industrialized society is realistic. Kelly advocates policies promoting genuine justice to reduce the supply of "monsters" by reducing the growing disparity of wealth.

We agree that the most plausible defense is a policy which reduces rather than increases the numbers of potential revenge attackers seeking death to release them from the unremitting pain induced by foreign instigated deaths of their sons and daughters.

Elements of an Effective, Constructive Program to Safeguard All Children

The recent invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and its "Coalition of the Willing" has, as George Soros charges, enflamed passions against the invading powers. It is essential to ask: Would it be easier or more difficult to recruit someone to assemble and detonate a dirty bomb in the downtown section of any town or city in the USA or in the countries of allies in the invading "Coalition," after they have shredded the Charter of the UN in pursuit of their objectives?

In contrast, we must also ask: What impact on recruiting would the reallocation of a tiny percentage of the military budget of the U.S. and its allies to provide for the supply of safe water for all have? Suppose the U.S. expended $9 billion per year to atone for its slaughter of Iraqi kids and to save not only these children but all of the 2.3 million who currently suffer agonizing and eminently preventable deaths from waterborne disease? What impact would this shift of some of the military budget have, not merely on redeeming the moral bankruptcy of the West, but also on the despair of the West's victim states, whether occupied militarily and/or economically by the insidious machinations of economic globalization and water privatization?

Let us turn from the dismal present to ways of building a humane tomorrow. We begin with the recent and repeatable success of the Danish peace movement in setting an example of taking the first necessary step: engaging the media to challenge the "official story."

Successes of the Danish Peace Movement in Raising Political Awareness

The Danish peace movement over the last two years provides inspiration and practical guidance for others striving to generate interest among the media, political leaders and the public elsewhere.

The Danish Committee for Peace and Development in Iraq began in 2002 to shed light on the enormous suffering of the Iraqi people under the trade embargo and to document the falsification of the grounds for a threatened new war against Iraq. Since then, the group, consisting of a mere handful of activists, has organized visits to Denmark by a series of expert speakers.

The first guest speaker, Tom Nagy, stayed for three days in June 2002. Nagy was interviewed by two national newspapers and a current affairs program on radio, participated in two public speaking events and met with the director of the Danish Holocaust and Genocide Center. Payne and ÓhAiseadha disseminated the results worldwide through the Internet. (3)

In October 2002, the Danish group scored its next success, when former humanitarian coordinator Hans von Sponeck was interviewed by several Danish national newspapers and radio programs, participated in a well-attended public debate, and met with the Danish Foreign Policy Committee to correct the many Danish misconceptions about the Iraq conflict.

Former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter's visit to Denmark one month later reinforced von Sponeck's message.

In January 2004, Tom Nagy paid a return visit. As before, his interviews appeared in Danish national print and broadcast media. The Danish group also arranged a long dialogue with the secretaries of international affairs of two political parties, and an audience at the University of Copenhagen.

Since March 2003, Coilín ÓhAiseadha has run a specialized e-mail news service to provide reliable and factual information about the Iraq conflict to journalists, politicians and activists. By furnishing expert information and an ongoing survey of international news, the group frequently inspired Danish journalists to research and publish antidotes to the widespread misinformation of the war movement.

Examples of this campaign's successes include a double-page spread on US troops' active incitement to looting in Baghdad in April 2003 and two front-page articles exposing the falsity of the Danish foreign minister's claims regarding weapons of mass destruction.

To help in replicating the Danish success, we provide a list of functions and activities which worked so well in Denmark:

One person may take on multiple roles. Alternatively, it may be possible to delegate responsibility for individual activities to other persons.

An e-mail-based news service provides a cheap and effective way to generate media interest. One of the most striking successes focused on an eyewitness report that American troops actively incited Iraqi civilians to participate in looting of public buildings in Baghdad.

An Egyptian historian and lecturer at Lund University, Khaled Bayomi, was in Baghdad in the spring, acting as a human shield. On April 8, 2003, he was present in the area of Haifa Avenue when American troops arrived. Bayomi stood watching with a group of Iraqi civilians. Two bursts of machine gun fire killed the two guards at a public administration building; then, an American tank broke down the doors and a voice speaking in Arabic through loudspeakers encouraged civilians to enter and loot it.

Looting was similarly encouraged at the Ministry of Justice a few hundred yards along the same avenue and subsequently spread to other public buildings.

On his return to Sweden, Bayomi gave an interview published in the national newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. (4) This interview was translated into English and distributed by the American news service Truthout. (5) A Danish activist received this English translation and confirmed the original interview on the Web site of the Swedish newspaper. A short summary of the story was sent by e-mail to a number of journalists in the print and broadcast media, who subsequently interviewed Bayomi by telephone. The intellectual national daily newspaper Information published the story on the front page (6) and the evening newspaper Ekstra Bladet published a double-page spread based on another interview.

While the financial cost of this action was limited to two brief telephone calls and the time required was only a couple of hours to read and confirm the source material, and to write and distribute a summary, the benefit in terms of political awareness among the Danish populace and politicians is incalculable. Similar actions might be undertaken elsewhere by activists with limited resources, acting alone or even in the smallest groups.

Two knowledge-oriented activities are critical to the success of this kind of action:

i) Gathering, selection, and critical evaluation of information; and,

ii) Identification of media and specific journalists who are likely to be motivated to investigate and publish the information received.

These activities are best conducted on an ongoing basis and can be amplified through the information gained from expert visits.

Another case focused on the identification of the missile that struck the marketplace in the district of Shu'ale in Baghdad on March 28, 2003, killing dozens of civilians. Although American and British government spokespersons suggested that the explosion was the result of Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery, a civilian in the area handed the British journalist Robert Fisk a fragment of the missile bearing a serial number which suggested that the missile had originated from American or British forces. Fisk wrote in the British daily newspaper, The Independent:

But .... that vital shard of fuselage was computer-coded. It can be easily verified and checked by the Americans -- if they choose to do so. It reads: 30003-704ASB 7492 .... It is followed by a further code .... It reads: MFR 96214 09. (7)

A Danish-based researcher, Billy O'Shea, set out to identify the missile precisely. As a translator, O'Shea was highly skilled in searching for terminology on the World Wide Web. He discovered that the number 96214 was a NATO manufacturer identification number known as a "Cage code," and found the BINCS on-line database where all Cage codes can be searched. The number 96214 turned out to be the Cage code for Raytheon Systems Co., a Texas-based manufacturer of Tomahawk missiles.

The Danish group passed this information on to a number of pre-eminent activists in the English-speaking world, including the British researcher and lecturer, Glen Rangwala. Rangwala performed supplementary research to identify the military purchaser of the missile as the US Naval Air Systems Command and passed the information on to a number of key British journalists. These journalists published the story in the British news and broadcast media, which led to questions from the opposition in the House of Commons. The results of this research have now been reproduced on hundreds of Web sites all over the world, including translations into Italian, Indonesian, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese, and there has been an unconfirmed account of a peace demonstration at the Texas-based arms factory.

Although Billy O'Shea's original research required a time investment of only a few hours, the impact on the consciousness of humanity is enormous. We would suggest that inspired and committed researchers elsewhere might accomplish similar feats in the future.

The Danish Committee for Peace and Development in Iraq has found it very helpful to use a "stakeholder analysis" to identify working partners and to gain funding. This involves identifying institutions and groups of individuals who might have a special interest in particular issues. The resulting list might include the media, university academic staff and students, government institutions, political parties and youth groups, nongovernmental and semigovernmental organizations, religious groups, trade unions and industrial interests.

The visit of the former humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, in October 2002 illustrates the rewards of a successful stakeholder analysis. The Danish host group arranged a briefing meeting with the Foreign Policy Committee of the Danish parliament, interviews with journalists from a range of print and broadcast media, a public debate hosted by one of the national newspapers, and a public lecture organized by a student at the department of Middle East studies, University of Copenhagen. Funding for the visit was provided by a philanthropic fund, trade unions including a union for social workers and child-care workers, and several nongovernmental organizations focusing on peace and grassroots activism.

A stakeholder analysis for the constructive rehabilitation program might include such groups as

We have found it beneficial to leave preconceptions and prejudices aside, proceeding with genuine curiosity to hear each stakeholder's response. This facilitates productive communication. Also, we find it useful to approach every interest group with a genuine concern for providing service compatible with our vision. Ideally, the fulfillment of our vision would leave all stakeholders better off, and while we may not necessarily achieve this ideal end, our efforts may increase the support we receive from the various stakeholders.

Who Will Be the Agents for the Constructive Program?

The size and scope of the success of the Copenhagen model in repeatedly producing meetings with members and staff of the Danish State, business and NGOs gives the rest of the peace movement great encouragement. These repeated successes provide strong proof that even in a capital city where humanitarian concern has been largely usurped by the war movement, intelligent, persistent work can repeatedly mobilize the sectors needed to put the formerly invisible crime of water as a weapon to kill children into the forefront of public awareness.

The very success in Denmark impels us to map out the next steps:

i) Identification of the agents of the constructive program of atonement and reconciliation which will save "our" children by saving "theirs;"

ii) Identification of the requisite skills and knowledge indispensable for success in this historic endeavor;

iii) Proposal of a medium capable of delivering the education and motivation needed by the agents of change to form and sustain task-oriented groups.

We nominate the aging population of the U.S. and its allies as the agents of change for safeguarding the children of the world. The seniors, particularly the activists worldwide, struggled previously to end the annihilation of Asian children by instant incineration from napalm bombing, from lingering starvation from Agent Orange poisoning, and from the search-and-destroy strategy of American wars against Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These '60s activists achieved marked success despite their modest stock of time, experience and resources. Imagine what the activists would have achieved had memories of past success as well as the greater amounts of time and resources of today's activists fortified them.

To motivate and empower today's seniors for their generation's task, it is necessary to begin by identifying the requisite skills and a means of delivering the skills and for maintaining motivation. Next a medium must be found to deliver the skills and to build and sustain motivation.

The first knowledge needed for success and motivation is awareness that the key to successful aging is investing in the well being and survival of the next generation. It is what Eric Erickson calls the choice of generativity instead of despair as the response to aging.

The second item of knowledge is the use of the Internet to identify partners and to form and sustain partners in face-to-face groups to push the positive constructive program as the method to help assure the success and the very survival of the next generation.

The final success factor is teaching seniors methods of persuasion to transform attitudes towards the constructive program proposed from impractical and idealistic to a workable proposal.

The Internet can be the medium to teach seniors the above skills and to help them and their face-to-face groups sustain high motivation. The ideas of B.J. Fogg, author of "Persuasive Technology," hold great promise. (8)

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Other Essays in this Special Issue

By topic: Previous || Next || Issue Cover Page || Contents

Or jump to any one author (in alphabetical order): Tanweer Akram || Justin Alexander || Anthony Arnove || Naseer Aruri || Jan Baughman || George Capaccio || Milo Clark || Gregory Elich || Sara Flounders & John Catalinotto || Manuel García || Denis J. Halliday || Edward S. Herman || Rania Masri || Thomas J. Nagy, et al. || Michael Parenti || Louis Proyect || John Sloboda || Gerard Donnelly Smith || Michael W. Stowell



Iraq on Swans (all articles regarding Iraq published on Swans)

Outside Resources on Iraq (Web sites of interest)

Additional Resources (compiled by Tanweer Akram)

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1.  See Nagy, T., 2004; McQueen, G., Nagy, T. et al., 2004.  (back)

2.  See McQueen, G., Nagy, T. et al., 2004.  (back)

3.  See Commondreams.org.  (back)

4.  See http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1435&a=129852 (last visited: January 22, 2004).  (back)

5.  See http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/041603D.shtml (last visited: January 22, 2004).  (back)

6.  See http://www.information.dk/Indgang/VisArkiv.dna?pArtNo=20030419143744.txt (last visited: January 22, 2004).  (back)

7.  See http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=392161 (last visited: January 22, 2004).  (back)

8.  Nagy, T. et al., 2003.  (back)

Tom Nagy's References

Nagy, T. "Safeguarding 'our' American children by saving 'their' Iraqi children: Gandhian transformation of the DIA's genocide planning, assessment and cover-up documents." In T. Ismael and W. Haddad (Eds.) Iraq: the human cost of history. London: Plato Press, 2004. Available from home.gwu.edu/~nagy

Nagy, T. et al. "Computing for Waging Peace, Not War" Keynote address to the 2nd Annual Canadian Peace Educators Conference. McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, November 2003.

Nagy, T., McQueen, G. et al. "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities, a challenge for public health ethics." Medicine, Conflict and Survival, forthcoming, April 2004.

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Published February 2, 2004