The Human Cost of War

A confidential UN “contingency planning report” was recently made public by a British student group, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. The report paints a dire picture of Iraq after extensive bombing and ground fighting, refuting the fairy-tale notion that 21st century wars are sophisticated high-tech operations, designed to reduce civilian suffering to a minimum.

According to the report, as many as 500,000 civilians in Iraq could suffer injuries and require medical treatment if the US launches a war. 5.4 million people would be in need of humanitarian intervention. The UN expects another 2 million “internally displaced persons” and refugees to be marching south as soon as conflict begins.

After the war, casualties would continue. According to the report, the US-led attack would likely destroy all major infrastructure facilities, such as bridges, railroads, and provisions for clean drinkable water. Devastation of the electricity network means that the sewage system could be destroyed, laying the groundwork for epidemic diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

The absence of a functioning, post-war health care system would leave 5.2 million people in a particularly vulnerable situation, including 4.2 million children under five years old, and one million pregnant or breast-feeding women. It is estimated that 3 million people will require therapeutic feeding.

The UN’s brutal sanctions against Iraq have caused 1 million deaths and means leaving the population far more vulnerable than in the 1991 Gulf War. The document warns that “the bulk of the population is now totally dependent on the government of Iraq for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs and unlike in 1991, they have no way in coping if they cannot access them: the sanctions regime, if anything, has served to increase dependence on the government as almost the sole provider.”

The US government is giving only $15 million to the UN to “handle” the potential humanitarian crisis – a pittance compared to the $200 billion the war could cost the US. If the Pentagon would sacrifice only one of the thirteen new F-22 fighter jets they bought in 2002 at $187 million per jet, the US could give more than ten times as much in aid.

All other governments around the world have contributed only $900,000 in humanitarian aid as of February 6. Clearly, the “opposition” to the war stance from France, Germany and Russia has little to do with concern for the Iraqi people, and more to do with protecting their own oil interests.

Justice #33, February, 2003