Remember The Golden Years?

George Capaccio visited Iraq frequently during the “sanctions years”. The “sanctions years” lasted from 1990 until the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sanctions imposed by the great United Nations on the Iraqi people were the toughest sanctions in human history. They were so bad, two senior UN representatives in Iraq resigned in protest.

George Capaccio is a writer, poet, activist.

After one of his visits to Iraq during the “sanctions years’, he wrote the poem, “I Did Not Look Away.”

I Did Not Look Away

No, I did not look away

from the things I went there to see.

In a land where hunger had become rare

until sanctions and war joined hands in prayer,

I saw women in black begging at street corners

and boys too poor for school

hawking cigarettes and kerosene

to keep their families afloat.

I saw parents rushing into hospitals

with children in their arms,

and emergency rooms flooded with patients

holding in pain on bleeding floors.

I saw ambulances on cinder blocks

rotting away in a parking lot

because ambulances are weapons of war

and can’t be repaired in Iraq.

I saw oxygen tanks standing in line,

waiting for valves that never come,

and hospital hallways stripped to the bone.

Everything gone, lugged off and sold

for even the simplest supplies —

a light bulb, a pail, a bag of diapers.

I saw an infant named Amani Kasim

curled up on a filthy blanket,

her face confined to an oxygen mask,

her body shriveled and discolored

from severe malnutrition.

I saw a fourteen-year old girl named Amira

who could not stand and could not speak

and was dying from cancer.

“Two maybe three days more,” the doctor said.

“We do not have the proper drugs

so we give supportive care only.”

She was so thin, so weak

she could not lift her head off the pillow.

I caressed her brow and cheek

and the damp ringlets of hair

fallen about her face.

A collapsed blood bag froze above her.

Mother and grandmother softly wept

and prayed to God for mercy.

I saw other mothers tending incubators,

that didn’t have thermostats

and might overheat.

I saw the blood and urine

on beds without sheets,

the nimbus of flies around bottles of formula,

the sadness in the doctors’ eyes

as they told me which infants

would live or die.

No, I didn’t look away.

I caressed each brow,

whispered through my touch,

“Your life is a part of me and when you go,

I shall weep.”

I saw a generation of mothers

keeping watch on their children.

I heard them ask me for medicine

and felt their hands open then meet

the emptiness of mine.

In Iraq today, the “sanctions years” are called the “golden years”.

For more on George Capaccio, try Google.

Frankly, I’m tired.

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3 Replies to “Remember The Golden Years?”

  1. All the years we have had sanctions against Cuba are also insane. “Live and let live” is a code that is foreign to us and sanctions are great for weakening the enemy before you kill them.

  2. This is why I speak out.
    This is why I march.
    This is why I cry.
    Thank you for posting this poem.
    I sent it to everyone I could think of.
    Maybe more people will join me now.
    I hope.


  3. Who isn’t tired. So much sadness and suffering in the world…so much caused by us (Americans.) And how to change it? Elect a Democratic (read “cringe, whimper”) Congress? Guess not.

    I’m so ashamed.

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