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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

We add to Iraqi children's suffering


Your voice: Steve Carlton-Ford

The children of Iraq need our support now that the child mortality rate is 133 per thousand. But we are, and have long been, part of the problem in Iraq.

Iraqi children needed our support prior to the first Gulf War when the Iraqi child mortality rate was only 50 per thousand. Our war plans in 1990 - now declassified - indicated that civilian deaths were expected due to our bombing. By the end of that war in 1991, the child mortality rate had jumped to 130 per thousand.

From then on, years of sanctions left Iraq with little capacity to generate electricity or to purify and pump safe water. As a result, child mortality rates continued at their post- Gulf War level. So, Iraqi children needed our support when the Pentagon planned the current war but failed to plan for postwar reconstruction. The Pentagon ignored the Army War College, which counseled the necessity of large numbers of troops to stabilize postwar Iraq. The current war worsened public health in Iraq with bombs often rupturing water lines and disabling electric generators. Then without a large enough occupation force, looters and terrorists operated freely. Sabotage has prevented any meaningful reconstruction. Many of the firms charged with rebuilding Iraq have left without having restored electricity to prewar levels. Without adequate electricity, hospitals, water pumping stations and sewage treatment facilities do not function properly. Without safe water, death by diarrhea will continue to be a fact for far too many children in Iraq.

It may well be that the best thing we can now do is to turn over control to the Iraqis. By invading Iraq, we squandered the opportunity to develop a truly multi-national coalition that could now take over military duties. Time will tell if this government will be viewed as legitimate by Iraqi citizens and whether it can stand in the face of the divisions among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Unfortunately, our military presence will undoubtedly continue to spur terrorism. Iraq needs to police itself; but our training of the Iraqi police force has not been successful.

If and when Iraqi society becomes stabilized, reconstruction programs and humanitarian efforts that are well funded, well organized, and well administered will be necessary to get Iraq back on its feet.

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Steve Carlton-Ford, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cincinnati, is the author of "The Impact of War, Adult HIV/AIDS, and Militarization on Young Children's Mortality," which will be published later this year in Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, volume 11.

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