Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink....
In Baghdad these days, many Iraqis have been finding text messages on their cell phones from the Ministry of Health warning them not to drink untreated tap water.I knew this because I heard it over the weekend, and I found it on NPR's website. Drill down a little bit, you get this information:
Health officials say tap water all over the city is unsafe and that they fear an outbreak of typhoid or other water-borne diseases during the baking hot months of summer.
Those most at risk are people who live in the city slums, where few have cell phones or television to receive health warnings.
NPR has been big on reports telling us how the "surge" worked, because violence is down. Of course, the causal relationship there is simply assumed: it's as likely violence is down because so many people are dead, or sick from water-borne diseases, or simply refugees, and that the violence worked, and power has been consolidated for the moment, and we're in an interregnum. But that wouldn't suit the American-centric point of view, any more than this problem of water treatment does.
Water-borne diseases are common in poor countries that have no sewage or clean-water systems, but Baghdad once had such things. Dr. Fathil al-Hadawi, of Iraq's Ministry of Health, says the pipes have been wrecked by years of neglect and war.
Hadawi says both water and sewer pipes are broken or cracked in many places, allowing untreated fecal matter to mingle with the tap water. He adds that chronic electricity outages in the city mean that water treatment and pumping stations often stand idle, so even polluted tap water isn't always available.
In Sadr City, one of Baghdad's poorer neighborhoods, school supervisor Jabar Ali says people sometimes go for three or four days without any tap water at all. So whenever water comes through the pipes, desperate people will rush to drink it or store it up.
I Googled "untreated water iraq" and this is what I got:
1) an MSNBC story on water contamination for US troops, from 2006.
2) a report on water treatment vulnerabilities in Iraq from January 1991, which obviously relates to this article.
Granted, a sweep or two through Google is not conclusive evidence that no one really cares about water quality in Iraq (except, of course, Iraqis), but if it's not ocming up high enough to catch Google, it's not coming up very high at all. A search for images found a bit more information: the story of the text messages dates back to May of this year.. The problem itself is now in its 5th year, and, per UNICEF, "Iraq’s 2007 cholera outbreak, the worst in recent memory, underlines the dire state of water and sanitation across the country." UNICEF also tells me that: "less than half of Iraq’s population can claim reliable access to potable water." But violence is down; so it's all good.
And the fact that the US is to blame for this situation, going back at least to Gulf War I, is clear. We are also, as the occupying power, responsible for such things now. But again, that gets in the way of the American-centric narrative; so I suppose we should take what we can get.
Still, is it any wonder Iraq doesn't want to buy our SOFA, and wants our troops to go away and leave them alone? What security can you obtain if people can't drink the water?
But that's okay, the "surge" worked. In order to save the village, we had to destroy it. I'm sure John McCain understands that line of reasoning, anyway.
And as I was saying: "Lord, when did we see you? I mean, you never made the news. How were we to know?"