Ah, the hollow piety of the sanctimonious and self-righteous. They who shout and weep, curse and pray, toot horns and even juggle outside a Florida hospice where one very famous woman has died, and several other less-known and therefore unimportant people, gradually, slowly, and even painfully die. Sadly, none of them can die peacefully so long as the circus from on high is in town.
Genuflecting before poorly-made signs bearing poorly-conceived slogans, hands raised in order to be that much closer to Heaven, these self-declared men and women of faith clutch their personalized Bibles and bemoan the "black-robed tyrants" who sanctioned the "murder" of Terri Schiavo. In the same breath, many of these same God-fearing opponents of the Constitution and its separation of powers, praise their President Bush and other "saved" elected officials like Representative Tom DeLay and Senator Bill Frist for being honorable men by legislating increased activism in the federal judiciary for the sake of poor Terri. Of what use is the Constitution, after all, when it cannot save the chosen or, at least, increase one's political capital?
Honorable men, indeed.
Yes, Terri Schiavo starved to death. Starvation, however, is something with which she was entirely familiar. After all, it was her self-imposed starvation which ultimately placed her in her final state of persistent vegetation. Tragic though her plight may be, it was Terri's own actions that set the stage for her tragedy. Likewise, as determined by courts of law (activist and tyrannical though they might be), upon review of evidence to which the general public has not been privy, Terri preferred death over a persistent state of mere existence. According to those courts, bodies for which our fair President and his disciples have little need and less respect, the evidence of Terri's wishes was clear and convincing.
In short, Terri had choices.
Those condemned to death by St. George the Pious and St. Thomas the Just, and the "honorable men" who preceded them, didn't and don't have such choices. By way of example, the ordinary citizens of Iraq were long subjected to sanctions imposed by the honorable men of the United States through the United Nations, before the U.S. relegated U.N. to the dustbin of irrelevance. After ten years, those sanctions were responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter-million Iraqi children. Many starved to death.
Increasing the number of dead Iraqi children were the 90,000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq's civilian infrastructure during the U.S.-led Gulf War air campaign. Ninety percent of Iraq's electricity-generating facilities were destroyed, as well as water-pumping and sanitation systems. Raw sewage flowed through Iraqi streets and contaminated the drinking water, resulting in an explosion of infectious disease.
By 2000, thirteen percent of all Iraqi children died before they could turn five, more than double the child-mortality rate before the imposition of sanctions. By 2000, twenty-five percent of Iraqi children suffered from chronic and frequently irreversible malnutrition. Nine percent suffered from acute malnutrition.
In 1995, then-U.N. Ambassador Madeline Albright, when asked about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, remorselessly said, "[W]e think the price is worth it."
Apologists for U.S. policy argue that Saddam Hussein did far more to harm his people than sanctions ever did. Granted, Saddam Hussein must bear a significant portion of the blame for such deaths, particularly for his regime's obstruction of the Oil-for-Food program. Be that as it may, for years the U.S. deliberately turned a blind eye to the prohibited trade of Iraqi oil, trade which undermined the Oil-for-Food program and enriched only Saddam and his corporate partners in crime. Regardless, justifying U.S. behavior by comparing it to that of Saddam Hussein is, quite simply, asinine.
Moreover, the honorable men of the United States intended to deprive ordinary Iraqis of food and drinkable water through sanctions and massive bombing. During the Gulf War, Iraq's electrical grid was deliberately targeted by U.S. "smart" bombs in order to degrade the civilian infrastructure and accelerate the impact of the sanctions regime. In January of 1991, just before the start of the Gulf War and six months into the sanctions regime, the U.S. predicted that Iraq's ability to provide clean drinking water could not last more than six months. As a result, the U.S., with gruesome accuracy, predicted epidemics of cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid.
Having achieved their desired end of killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the U.S. then repeatedly blocked U.N. humanitarian projects aimed at alleviating the suffering it had created. The U.S. blocked international efforts to permit foreign companies to mill flour for Iraq to curb the unconscionable rate of civilian deaths from malnutrition. The U.S. also blocked efforts to provide Iraq with water tankers, arguing they could be used to haul Iraq's much-celebrated but never-located chemical weapons. The U.S. thus denied Iraqis access to potable water despite the insistence of UNMOVIC that tankers designed to carry water could not also carry chemicals.
In today's parlance, the U.S. blocked every effort to have Iraq's feeding tube reinserted.
The pious and the holy did not protest the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children at the hands of the U.S. through its deliberate and calculated denial of food and water. Our sanctimonious elected officials did not pass ill-conceived and illegal legislation to end the suffering of Iraqi children. The falsely-pious pundits and politicians did not deem the starvation and thirst of the Iraqis sufficient bases to primp and preen before the cameras and congratulate themselves for being sufficiently familiar with the commands of the good book and the fundamentals of morality.
Instead, Saint George and his disciples, under false pretenses but with overwhelming popular support, decided to invade Iraq. The result? Sure, Saddam is gone. Good riddance. But unnoticed and unreported is that the already staggering rates of child malnutrition and child mortality have doubled and tripled, respectively, since the invasion. No demonstrations. No illegal legislation. No televised prayer vigils. Nothing.
What if Terri Schiavo were not white and Christian? What if she were, instead, a Muslim Arab? Would the self-righteous still have gathered outside her hospice and decried her court-sanctioned murder? Would they have given her a second thought? Would they have given her any thought at all?
Ken Sanders is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. Visit his weblog at: www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com/.
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