This is the story that the Bush regime doesn’t want you and all Americans to know about. This is the story that has been cleverly obscured in America by the constant drum of false hope and feigned success with the so-called "surge."
This is indeed the story that everyone in the MSM has shunned like the plague; our subservient fourth branch of government so easily convinced by their corporate masters to sweep aside the truth; the horrors of the occupation. This is without a doubt the story of the real Iraq in 2008, and the unmitigated and ongoing purgatory our misleaders have wrought upon an innocent people – all in the name of profit.
The fact is, IF Bush/Cheney and the rest of the neocon coconspirators were capable of feeling even a semblance of shame or disgust for the retrogressive hell they’ve wrought upon the Iraqi people, each and every one of them would be pushin’ and shovin’ towards the head of the line to plead "guilty of war crimes as charged" at the Hague.
Alas, the Bush regime harbors no such feelings. Instead, they sit in their plush White House offices and in the Pentagon, equipped with all the amenities -- unaffected by their heinous actions and disastrous decisions thousands of miles away -- while the lives of millions of Iraqis are turned upside down by violence, graft and abject poverty.
After militia fighting claimed the streets in his once tranquil neighborhood, Abu Muhammad and his family, along with most of his neighbors were forced to leave their home in the Baghdad district of Adhamiya. Shortly after, he considered himself lucky to find a makeshift refugee camp on the outskirts of town for his family of five to live in. He even found a menial job and was able to enroll his children in the local school.
But, that luck wouldn’t last for Abu Muhammad. He found himself having left a bad situation only to have brought his family to another. Instead of being able to make his family’s life safer and more comfortable, the tribal and sectarian fighting seemed to follow him. The security situation deteriorated even more. Within a few short weeks, the constant eruptions of violence around the neighborhood caused him to lose that job, and because he could no longer take a chance making the perilous trek to the school everyday, he had to pull his children out of enrollment.
"There wasn't enough money to spend on books, clothes and transport," he said.
Meanwhile, his daughter, Fatima, the youngest of his four children, began to show signs of malnourishment and a local medic said she had become anemic.
And then... the unimaginable happened.
"The war disgraced my family. I lost relatives including my wife among thousands of victims of sectarian violence," he told al-Jazeera.net.
By mid-2007, conditions for his family had become increasingly desperate and his children, once healthy and happy, had become gaunt and lethargic. As the fates would have it, it was then that a translator and a Swedish couple who were part of an international NGO, arrived in the refugee camp.
"They heard about my situation, and the woman, who said she could not have babies, offered me some money to give her my youngest daughter of two years old," he said.
"I refused in the beginning but the Iraqi translator was constantly coming at the camp and insisting with the same question. One day I found that my children would die without food and a clean environment and the next time he came to my tent, I told him that I agreed."
As a single father of four, it was the most difficult thing Abu had ever done; releasing his tiny daughter’s hand to the outstretched hands of strangers that day. But he’d already convinced himself that selling Fatima to a family outside his country was the only way to provide her a chance for a better future, and also put food on the table for his other children at the same time.
Abu Muhammad received $10,000 for his daughter. He now believes he is damned by God for what he did, but despite his inner spiritual turmoil, he harbors at least a modicum of solace by his belief that Fatima will now have a better life than millions of other children in Iraq.
"I could see her love in the first time she looked at her," he said of the adoptive mother.
Local aid workers, NGOs and Iraqi officials have in the past expressed concern over the widespread disappearances of children, especially in the Baghdad area, but lately the rate has become even more alarming and officials foresee conditions progressively more conducive both to child malnutrition and trafficking in the future unless Iraq’s security situation improves considerably, and everyday Iraqis are able to escape the iron grip of poverty and social injustices.
One official, Omar Khalif, from an NGO established in 2004 to register cases of missing and trafficked Iraqi children, the Iraqi Families Association (IFA), said that at least two children are sold by their parents every day around the country.
Another four are reported missing.
He said: "[The] numbers are alarming. There is an increase of 20 per cent in the reported cases of missing children compared to last year."
"In previous years, children were reported missing on their way home from schools or after playing with friends outside their homes. However, police investigations have revealed that many have been sold by their parents to foreign couples or specialised gangs."
According to police investigations and an independent IFA study, Iraqi children are being sold to families in many European countries - particularly the Netherlands and Sweden - Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
"Taking advantage of the desperate situation of many families living under poverty conditions in Iraq, foreigners offer a good amount of money in exchange of children as young as one-month old and up to five years of age," Khalif said.
He said there are fears children are being trafficked for the sex trade and the organ transplant black market.
Hassan Alaa, a senior interior ministry official, said that while it has been difficult to precisely trace where the missing children are taken, government forces have captured 15 human trafficking gangs operating in Iraq in the past nine months.
"Many were carrying false documents prepared to take some children out from the country."
"During their confessions, they said many children are sold for as little as $3,000 and for very young babies, the price could reach $30,000," Alaa said.
Alaa added that the child traffickers often resort to drugging children with adult-strength sedatives during the trip out of the country. Traffickers often use the excuse that the children are sleeping when they pull up to a checkpoint.
"All children leaving Iraq now have to be woken up and interviewed by the police and border patrols, except those who are infants and unable to speak," Alaa said.
Extreme poverty and mass unemployment in Iraq have pushed parents to the brink, pressuring them to make decisions once considered unconscionable.
Hoping to find work for the impoverished, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has implemented nationwide plans to make employment a national crisis issue in the new year. The ministry also hopes international aid agencies and NGOs step up their participation and investments in projects geared towards helping the children.
But, even the ministry admitted that help will inevitably come too late for most Iraqi families.
There are hundreds; indeed thousands of tragic stories like this in Iraq, beginning and ending every day -- and increasingly so in Afghanistan as well -- even though there hasn’t been much empirical evidence to date coming out of Kabul.
The fact is: the occupations in both countries have laid a heavy boot against the throats of the people who have had nothing to do with Bush’s wars of aggression. And, as usual, the children suffer the most.
We must ask all the Democratic candidates: How many more children must die of malnutrition or in the crossfire. And, how many more children must fall victim to black market exploitation and sex trafficking before you will end the wars of aggression?
END THE OCCUPATIONS
END THE KILLING OF CHILDREN