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The kill children too,
don't they?



Biljana Vankovska
TFF associate

Professor at the University of Skopje, Macedonia


February 7, 2005

On its resolute road towards NATO membership, via Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the blessing of its mighty 'ally' and 'lobbyist', the Macedonian Government has frequently demonstrated its cooperative spirit. One question remains surface: is there any limit that should not and will not be crossed on that road?

The small Macedonian contingent in the Operation "Freedom for Iraq" is supposed by its Government to be a bargaining card for entering NATO, on top of the - rather cosmetic - security reforms. The new Minister of Defence recently announced quite an original way to support its 'Ally': in Skopje (and/or in neighbouring states to Iraq) Iraqi citizens will be trained for three months in rescue operations, medical help and crisis management. That's something for a country like Macedonia in which a mere 'crisis' would be bliss!

These training periods are to be given "as long as there is a need for them" - which means, we can take it, for a very long time indeed. This activity is also supposed to be a concrete expression of support for the new Iraqi Government, which the recent elections supposedly have made 'democratic' by definition?

It would take vast efforts to refrain from cynical remarks on what and how Itaqis can learn from the Macedonian 'achievements' in these fields, especially in crisis management. One can't escape the feeling that Macedonia could learn far more from the Iraqis who have been coping with hell for many years and are most likely to continue doing so for many years. The only exciting thing in this new idea stems from the fact that the Macedonian instructors will be safe, being far from the military operations, while those lucky Iraqis will be able, at least for a short while, to feel like human beings.

Many of us who opposed the war in Iraq since its first forebodings in 2002 have repeatedly warned the public about the coming humanitarian catastrophe for the Iraqi people and the gross breaches of international law. Some (but regrettably few) of us dared also say publicly that Macedonia definitively does not belong in the so-called Coalition of the Willing. It is a weak and poor country, which suffered an internal conflict of its own four years ago and needs to focus on its own peace-building and democracy-building, rather than spreading 'freedom' and 'democracy' elsewhere.

Today the arguments of the global anti-war movement against the Iraqi war have proved to be painfully true, although the death-toll and the level of destruction indicate how 'optimistic' we were in our old prognoses. Therefore, we need to brief the Macedonian instructors and trainers a bit about the Iraqi reality to give them an idea about what their Iraqi students may need to know in the field of 'civil protection' - from whom and what is another question...

The international economic sanctions from 1991 to 2003 are estimated by UN organs to have killed about one million Iraqi civilians, out of which more than one-third were children; this is now largely forgotten. The governments of the countries involved in the present war try hard to avoid any publicity on its death-toll, estimated at one hundred thousand victims (by the respected British medical journal The Lancet) in the first 18 months - again with children, women and elderly people over-represented among them. The mortality rate of children under five in 'liberated' Iraq is higher than during the dictatorship. More than ten percent of medical facilities were destroyed or heavily damaged. The air attack on the Emergency hospital in Falluja on 9 November 2004 was condemned as a crime against humanity by Amnesty International, and one should certainly not forget the shocking scenes of collecting dead bodies in the sport stadium, before their mass burial. Falluja is already our time's Guernica - a symbol of our shame and failure to prevent human sufferings.

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So is Macedonia now allowed and able to wash its hands from these crimes, only because its military participation is symbolic and 'innocent' - its soldiers are situated in the military base Taji, near Baghdad, not fully engaged in military operations? Should Macedonia and its citizens feel any better because it is now going to focus on humanitarian relief and protection from fire and other disasters? Of course not!

Here's another piece of information for the Macedonian instructors: they'd better keep in mind that the causes of fires in Iraq are not to be found in bad installations or accidents. Not even from 'ordinary' military weapons. According to the report of the British charity organisation Medact, the "Freedom for Iraq" Operation uses unlimited possibilities to experiment with old weapons (napalm known from Vietnam and depleted uranium from the Gulf War and the Balkans) and new ones, such as phosphorus and even jet oil.

The use of these weapons develops so high temperatures that human bodies simply evaporate. What is going on in Iraq, dear trainers, has nothing to do with the ridiculous "All and everybody in defence and protection" campaigns that were run in former Yugoslavia! It has no resemblance to the little Macedonian 'war crisis' in 2001, with merely 200 people killed. The Macedonian military presence in Iraq is indeed pathetic (in terms of the number of soldiers deployed and their ability to do anything of military importance); yet this latest attempt to teach Iraqis how to rescue their children, homes, hospitals and schools is even more pathetic, indeed absurd.

Gen. Tommy Franks has already publicly admitted that they have stopped counting dead bodies (unless they are American or British). Bush's America is obviously ready to fight for Iraq's freedom until the last drop of Iraqi blood. Moreover, eventually the death-toll may become so unbelievably high, an abstract figure that no longer touches or horrifies people, because one hundred thousand victims have no single name, no face or scream! They become just a number!

Truly, the number of deaths in the Tsunami catastrophe can be compared with the Iraqi one, but there is one little difference. Those people died our of the nature's caprice (although they might have been reduced a bit if there had not been snags and omissions in the warning system). In Iraq, children and innocents die because of men's inhumanity, greed and hypocrisy. Yes, because of our cowardice and impotence too...

And children die in Macedonia too, don't they? Like the two-year old boy, who died of bronchial obstruction a few days ago, while his mother was trying to borrow some money from the neighbours in order to take him to the hospital. They die silently, in cold and misery, because of allegedly irresponsible mothers who - imagine! - allow their children to live in cold and without regular meals!  These children in Macedonia do have faces and names; yet, nothing will change the fact that they leave this world as silently and miserably as they came into it. Not a tear will drop, not a memory will remain.

The government will keep talking proudly about our participation in US-led 'peace' missions which will eventually be rewarded by full membership in NATO. Still, while ambitiously running the NATO race and trying to please the Hegemon, UNICEF reports show that Macedonia remains in the lower half of the table on what countries spend for the needs of children. Many children will never be born in Macedonia because their would-be parents are too responsible to give birth to something so precious as a child is in the conditions of societal poverty, unemployment and social injustice.

Strangely, all this human suffering and deprivation is justified with reference to the quest for democracy. Democracy has allegedly won even in the Iraqi hell. Unfortunately, children will also keep dying in those 'democracies' which seem to only exist in the fantasies and fallacies fabricated in Washington and Brussels.

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