Also, vivid in my memory was the fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved, not because one country attacked another, but rather as an outcome of dialogue. Yes, the Russians sent ships and the Americans countered with more ships, but ultimately dialogue prevented a war and the United Nations was involved in the solution. This message that I received from the events of 1962 still resonates today. That is, that dialogue is still the best way to solve disputes and the United Nations Organization is needed more than ever.
My activism carried me through high school and the Viet Nam War. The point is, my activism was born out of these events and the tumultuous 60’s. In 1981 I found myself living in Baghdad and working for a Canadian company called Canron. We were providing water pipe and fittings to Iraq for the supply of drinking water. The Iraqi regime had decreed that everyone in Iraq would have clean drinking water and properly treated sewage. As a Canadian company we were doing millions of dollars of trade in Iraq and I was sent to administer the contracts. My experience living among the people of Iraq and interacting with them was one of respect, kindness and honesty. When the Gulf War broke out and the U.S. talked about collateral damage for the first time, I thought of my Iraqis friends, and so I saw the war from a different perspective than did most North Americans.
I followed the events in Iraq and learned about the effect of the embargo on the people of Iraq and in particular to increased infant mortality. My daughter was born in December of 1990 and, being a ‘stay at home father’, I was deeply involved in raising my child and – readily empathized with those Iraqis who were losing their children at an alarming rate. Reports of the rise in infant mortality rate and deaths of civilians were stalled by the U.S. and U.K. at the United Nations. They blocked reports coming from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. Finally, the information could no longer be hidden and the “Oil-For-Food” programme was initiated in an attempt to alleviate the hunger to which years of embargo had subjected the Iraqi people.
We learned that during the 1991 Gulf War the U.S. led bombing raids that attacked every hospital, every water treatment plant, every wastewater plant, most schools and every major intersection in downtown Baghdad in order to destroy the water distribution and sewer collection systems. All attacks against civilian infrastructure are in direct violation of the UN Charter and must be considered war crimes. A good friend of mine, Denis Halliday, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said the following;
“We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral.”