Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Iraq: Freedom and Slavery

Shortly after Al Qaeda’s brutal attack on the twin towers President Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress and the American People and asked:” Why do they hate us?"

He answered: “They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

Six months later at a Connecticut Republican Committee meeting the President developed this theme and began laying the ground work for the invasion of Iraq arguing:” … the best way to secure the homeland is to find the enemy wherever they try to hide and bring them to justice… (Applause.) You should not be confused about the nature of the people we're dealing with. They hate us, because we're free. They hate the thought that Americans welcome all religions. They can't stand that thought. They hate the thought that we educate everybody. They hate our freedoms. They hate the fact that we hold each individual -- we dignify each individual. We believe in the dignity of every person. They can't stand that.”

It’s now six years since President Bush’s speech and four years since the invasion. Despite the recent increase in US troops, violence has increased and the President has said U. S. casualities will spike over the summer.

Iraq is ravaged by a violent civil war. Basic human necessities such as clean water, electricity, education and health care are beyond the reach of average citizens. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Iraq is now experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since 1948.

Millions of Iraqis whom the president claimed to be emancipating are voting with their feet and fleeing the country. Frank Rich reports that:

"Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) The Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s… Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave “God’s gift of freedom.”

President Bush and the United States have refused to accept the very refugees this preemptive war has created. So, Iraqi refugees are voting with their feet, fleeing to those countries that will take them like Sweden and Syria. According to the United Nations about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.

Rather than experiencing democracy and freedom, many of Iraq’s female refugees, including girls as young as 13 years old, have become sex slaves in order to survive.

The New York Times reports:

For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.

Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to “have a cup of tea.

By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes. For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.

Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months…

Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.

Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.

So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees…Some of the women, seeking work outside the home for the first time and living in a country with high unemployment, find that their only marketable asset is their bodies.

I met three sisters-in-law recently who were living together and all prostituting themselves,” Sister Marie-Claude said. “They would go out on alternate nights — each woman took her turn — and then divide the money to feed all the children.

Sometimes you see whole families living this way, the girls pimped by the mother or aunt,” reported Mouna Asaad, a Syrian women’s rights lawyer.

From what I’ve seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” she said. “The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.

Rather than bringing freedom to the oppressed, the US invasion of Iraq has led to civil war and sexual slavery for thousands. The war has created a class of refugees stripped of their humanity. This has been done in our name.

Do they hate us for our freedoms?

There is no evidence that the Iraqi people hated us at all. Sixteen of the nineteen Al Qeada operatives were from Saudi Arabia, our oil rich ally. None were from Iraq whose secular government was barbaric, but had no ties to those who attacked the World Trade Center.

But the Bush administration choose to invade Iraq, devatating the country, unleashing a civil war and driving Iraqi women into prostitution. If these were your wives or daughters how would you feel? What would you feel?

And we have done it all in the name of freedom!

The damage is done. We have destroyed a country and sullied the very idea of freedom! The least we can do now is set a timetable to get the hell out!

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