- April 17 - Less than 24 hours after issuing a press release
(below) highlighting the failures of the U.S. Military's attempts
to oversee humanitarian intervention in Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness
was banned from meeting with the U.S. Civil Military Operations
Center, or international journalists, working out of the Palestine
Hotel in Baghdad (see attached picture).
If the freedom to critique U.S. policies in Iraq regarding humanitarian
issues is being curtailed already, then exactly what does this
mean for building "democracy" here?
Palestine Hotel, Baghdad - April 17, 2003
"NO VOICES OF WILDERNESS NGOs"
BAGHDAD (16 April, 2003) - Voices in the Wilderness representatives
met today with the U.S. Military's Civil Military Operations
Center (CMOC) in their headquarters at the Palestine Hotel to
discuss the emergency, humanitarian crisis facing Baghdad. Trash
removal has not occurred for a month. Electricity, Sanitation
and Communications were all seriously damaged during the U.S.
war, and have yet to be restored in Baghdad. Cholera outbreaks
have been reported in Basra, and rumored to have been found
in the central Iraqi city of Hilla. Some of the local clinics
are up and running, but medications for conditions such as hypertension
and diabetes are no longer available. Quality control equipment
and systems are also unavailable, and the lack of quality control
could lead to serious problems in treatment, as well as creating
the potential for epidemics due to contaminated blood products.
distribution system set up under the "Oil-for-Food"
program is in total collapse, and - unless essential services
are immediately restored - Iraq faces a humanitarian catastrophe.
the war, the Pentagon set up Humanitarian Operations Coordination
Centers (the HOC in Qatar and Kuwait, and the HAC in Jordan),
as well as disaster assistance response teams (DART), to coordinate
relief efforts between the U.S. military and United Nations
and non-governmental organizations. Not only are HOC, HAC, and
DART personnel not in Baghdad yet, CMOC was not even aware of
the existence of these other military-humanitarian coordinating
that they did not yet have a plan for how to restore essential
services in Baghdad, but are working on creating such a plan
today. However, that information will not be publicly available
for review, and will only be shared with organizations that
agree to work with the U.S. Military in Baghdad - cutting out
any humanitarian agency that insists on maintaining neutrality.
reported that they spent several days locating hospitals, power
plants, and water & sanitation plants in order to do needs
assessments. Apparently no one in the U.S. Military thought
to ask the United Nations, or other international organizations
working in Iraq, for any of this information prior to, or even
after, the fall of Baghdad. The World Health Organization and
the Red Cross have been working in Iraq for years. The United
Nations Development program has been working to assist Iraq
in restoring electricity since 1996. Locations and assessments
of civilian infrastructures are not secret information - except
in the Pentagon's world. Why didn't anyone ask for this information?
Why wasn't a plan for rehabilitation developed prior to the
that of rumors of a cholera outbreak in Hilla, CMOC even asked
Voices in the Wilderness where that neighborhood was located
in Baghdad - unaware that Hilla is a major Iraqi city located
approximately 1 hour south of Baghdad!
problem CMOC reported is the lack of local workers needed to
get civilian systems up and running. However, CMOC seemed unaware
that the mostly unmanned roadblocks put up throughout the city
are making it difficult for anyone to get to work, as is the
lack of a coordinating body responsible for organizing these
THAT NEED TO BE IMMEDIATELY ADDRESSED:
- A coordinating
body, not associated with any military organization, needs
to be created to direct humanitarian assessment and relief
efforts by all of the agencies working, or seeking to work,
in Iraq. Previously, this was the corrupt, but functional,
Iraqi Red Crescent Society.
administrators at hospitals and other civilian centers fled
with the collapse of the previous regime. This has led to
chaotic conditions where lower-level staff are unsure who,
if anyone, has the authority to make urgent decisions. This
"power vacuum" must be immediately filled by creating
new, decision-making-structures, not corrupted by the previous
U.S. Military has demonstrated that it is neither prepared,
nor interested in becoming prepared, to deal with the humanitarian
crisis caused by their war. The international community must
exert itself, and return UN control to dealing with this crisis,
until Iraqis can form a government of their own to deal with
the problems created by 12 years of sanctions and war.