Felicity Arbuthnot Uruknet 8/27/06

It is to be hoped, that somewhere, in the King’s Lancaster Regiment, in the north of England, there are Commanders suffering Hadean nightmares of guilt. They have a duty of care to their young, often vulnerable and sometimes even, ill educated recruits. They are, in effect, in loco parentis. Lying them to death is not in the Ministry of Defence Manuals, it is still to be hoped.

On 10th August, Private Jason Chelsea, an Infantry man, just nineteen years old, who had joined the Regiment at sixteen, took sixty pills and slashed his wrists. According to the (London) Independent newspaper, his Commanders had instructed those set to go out to Iraq, that they could be orderd to fire on child suicide bombers and that: ‘.. children as young as two carry bombs ..’ Dying, he told his mother, Kerry: ‘I can’t go out there and shoot at young children. I just can’t go to Iraq. I don’t care what side they are on. I can’t do it.’ The young man, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, barely older than a child himself was reportedly dyslexic, had been drinking hard for eighteen months (no one in loco parentis seems to have asked why) had been bullied and ‘knew he had to be tough’ (in the Army environment.) He was tougher than the lot of them. He killed himself, rather than kill Iraqi kids.

If only he had known : that broadly half the population of Iraq is under sixteen. If only he had known it was the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’; the ‘Paris of the Ninth Century’. If only he had known that all we call civilised came from Iraq and the region, from the ‘land between two rivers’ (the Biblical Tigris and Euphrates.) If only he had known that the letters and numbers he had problems with were invented there, before Christ and Mohammed walked the earth, before Westminster Cathederal and Britain’s ‘Mother of Parliaments’ were built.

If only he had known how Iraqis love their kids. If only he had known how, through the grinding years of an embago (August 6th 1990 – Hiroshima Day – to illegal invasion – 9th April 2003) parents of sick children, denied even medicines by the US/UK driven embargo, pleaded with strangers, to take their children to where ever thay came from, take them in, make them well.

If only he had known that the first thing Iraqis say to a friend who has not visited for months or years (due to the complexities of the embargo years) after the hugs is: My daughter, son, neice, nephew, grandchild was top (or second) at school this term.

If only he had known, in the genocidal deprivation of the embargo years, the kids barely beyond toddling age, who were deprived of the proud education and went to sell on the streets, clean the headlights of the great buses that roll throughout the Middle East, to earn for their families. The love and care for by the people for these now little feral kids (with shame that it was happening) and how they were watched, cared for : a five year old being a ‘grown up’ and knowing none of the pitfalls under the vast wheels that rolled from Damascus, Amman and across the Middle East, into Baghdad’s central bus station. If only he had known this was our genocidal legacy to Iraq.

If only he had known that half a million children, a silent holocaust, had died by May 1996, of ‘ embargo related causes’ a figure agreed by the then US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright. If only he had known that the figure stuck there, but the children did not stop dying over the further seven embargo years. If only he had known that they now, under ‘liberation’ die in even greater numbers.

If only he had known the newborn, under fives, the older children with their dreams and aspirations, condemned to death by the US/UK/ UN that I carry in my heart. If only he had put a warm, dead, new born baby over his shoulder, convinced that he could somehow stroke him back to life, as I have. Died for lack of an oxygen cylinder (vetoed by the UN.)

If only he had known the families of the child shepherds, blown to bits with their sheep, in some apparently crazy ‘game’ during the entirely illegal ‘patrolling’ of Iraq by the US and UK (the two rogue states on the Security Council) during the embago years.

If only he had known that Iraq imported, broadly seventy percent of everything, yet when they attempted, because of the embargo, to become self sufficient in basics, US and UK planes, dropped incenduaries which set fire to harvested wheat and barley. If only he had known that during World War 11, Iraq gave free wheat and grain to the UK.

If only he had known, that prior to the invasion, Iraq had never known of a suicide bomber. If only he had known of the adoration Iraqis have for their kids. If only he had known the lies that had been told to him. If only he had studied painting, music, ceramics, instead of going in to the army.

If only he had known that now many Iraqi’s now refer to the horror of the embargo years as ‘ a golden age’, compared to the ‘liberation’.

If only he had known that Iraqis will die for their kids – as he did. His note to his parents reads: ‘ Really sorry Mum and Dad. I’m just no good for you. I have got to finish it. I am just a waste.’ He may be the first ‘coalition’ soldier, to die for not being prepared to kill the children of Iraq. R.I.P. Private Chelsea. In inestimable gratitude.

If only he had known how right his instincts were. If only he had known some of us who know Iraq. The aftermath of tragedy is always if and .. If only .. if only.