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.
Filed under: The human race