Religion and War in the Middle East

Iraq today suffers the devastating consequences of an air war that was fought to destroy not only the military, but the entire economic infrastructure of the country. The results of some 114,000 bombing sorties over six weeks killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people and injured several times that number. Electrical, water, sewage, and communication systems, food production plants, roads, bridges, and government buildings were mostly destroyed, and hospitals, schools, and even mosques heavily damaged. A member of a UNICEF fact-finding team spoke of the destruction as having "bombed Iraq back to the preindustrial era."

An April UNICEF report called particular attention to the threats of disease and malnutrition to small children, 3.25 million of whom are under 3 years old. Baghdad and other major cities lack electricity, clean water, and medical supplies and suffer critical food shortages. All this greatly hampers efforts to help the injured and to prevent outbreaks of communicable disease, such as typhoid, hepatitis, malaria, and cholera. Food rations of less than 1,000 calories a day make the weakened population increasingly vulnerable to these diseases borne by contaminated water.

The carnage, needless to say, has not ended with the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, but continues in the form of devastating civil war fought between government troops and dissident Shiite and Kurdish groups. After having virtually called on Iraqi people to rebel against their government, the Bush administration declares its neutrality in these civil conflicts, and only after an international outcry was persuaded to extend help to the refugees (see "An American Disgrace," this page).

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