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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Monday, February 17, 2003


Saddam Hussein, enemy of the environment
A generally conservative friend of mine today asked me for my opinion on Bush and the environment, especially considering the proposal to drill in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. I pointed out that poking a hole in the middle of a barren wilderness the size of Texas doesn't really amount to environmental catastrophe.
She thought I made a good amount of sense, of course, and asked me for advice. She's in an Environmental Writing course with a professor who, for all his admirable qualities, is a raging liberal who focuses far too much on selective parts of the environment. He spent 10 minutes in class raging against Bush's ANWR plan, so she knows where he stands, and now has apparently assigned an assignment discussing some sort of environmental problem and its political ramifications. She asked for my advice on that.
I told her, of course, about the horrific desctruction of the Iraqi marshes by Saddam Hussein, an ecological disaster unparalleled in recent times, and immensely worse than anything Bush could ever dream up, let alone poking a hole in the middle of the barren tundra. But do environmentalist professors (or protestors, for that matter) give a rip about Hussein's doings? Apparently not. But, I do, so I found her some links to get her on her way.
I think I first heard about it in this New York Times story on it. It focuses more on the people of the marsh area than on the ecological disaster, which is probably why environmentalists paid no attention to it whatsoever. The key passage:
Suppressing a Shiite rebellion that followed the Persian Gulf war in 1991, Mr. Hussein bombed the marshland villages, some with napalm and chemical agents. Then, working from an old British plan to drain waters that were excessively salted or polluted, Mr. Hussein's battalions all but eliminated the wetlands over a six-month period in 1992, turning them into a dusty, uninhabitable desert. The United Nations has described the process as one of the world's greatest environmental disasters.
But, it's the New York Times, so it has to go and say this, of course:
Now, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch on Friday, the marsh Arabs face a new disaster if their strategic homeland again becomes a battleground in a war between Iraq and American troops.
This, of course, ignores the fact that if their strategic homeland again becomes a battle ground, their strategic homeland will much sooner become a marsh again, rather than dusty, uninhabitable desert. That's right, the State Department which itself has a lot of good information on the decimation of both the culture and ecology of the marshes, is funding The Eden Again Project by the Iraq Foundation, a "project to determine a viable method of restoring the Mesopotamian Marshlands." The Eden Again page is chock full of great bibliographical information on the ecology of the marshlands and their possible recovery that I'd really like to spend more time reading.
The most extensive work on this subject is the United Nations report on the disaster, entitled The Mesopotamian Marshlands: Demise of an Ecosystem. This is remarkably lengthy, so I haven't had a chance to even skim it yet, but the opening quote from United Nations Environmental Program Executive Director Klaus Töpfer is telling, in more than one way. First paragraph:
There is no doubt that the disappearance of the Mesopotamian marshlands represents a major environmental catastrophe that will be remembered as one of humanity's worst engineered disasters. It is a devastating account embodying in many respects the environmental crises of our times. This disaster encompasses disputes over water rights; pollution; threats to indigenous communities and to archaeological sites; human rights, environmental refugees and war damages; and declining populations of migratory birds and coastal fisheries.
In other words, more evidence of the evil of Saddam Hussein, as if we needed more. But it certainly is a good summary if the disaster, and useful for those who want to study it for use once Saddam is gone. Then of course, there is the second paragraph...It is hoped that this report will act as a clarion call, sparking fresh debate and opening new lines of communication between Tigris-Euphrates riparian countries, encouraging them to come together and share their precious rivers in a peaceful, socially-equitable and environmentally-sustainable manner.
Blah-blah-blah, UN mish-mash. Did they really think that Saddam was going to read this report and say "Gee, whiz, I've been terrible! I really ought to share my precious rivers in a peaceful, socially-equitable and environmentally-sustainable manner!" Did they really think this was going to open "new lines of communication between Tigris-Euphrates riparian countries, encouraging them to come together?" Seriously, people, that's not how life works. Goodness gracious. I'm in college, I'm supposed to be naive.
Anyway... here are some satellite pictures of the damage, here's a sensible professor, an early view of the destruction, and here is a stunning example of hypocrisy. The "Common Dreams News Center: Breaking News and Views for the Progressive Community" was certainly irked about the whole marsh situation--in 2001. But now... well, note the banner in the upper right hand corner. Apparently they don't care about actually doing anything to help the marshlands, now that it actually comes down to it.
So, there's the scoop on the Mesopotamian Marshlands, and reason #3245 that Saddam Hussein needs to go.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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