Today's text is excerpted from a ritual performance by Lisa Wagner and Anita Stenger Dacanay of the Still Point Theater Collective (312) 226-0352.

"We Think The Price is Worth It"

Reader 1: May 12th, 1996: an interview with Madeleine Albright.

Reader 2: Ms. Albright, we have heard half a million [Iraqi] children have died. That's more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?

Reader 1: I think this is a very hard choice. But the price, we think, is worth it.

Woman: We need food. We need medical care. We need shelter. We need hope.

Baby boy Muntiha, less than one day old with congenital
malformation. The baby has stumps for arms and legs.
Basra, Sept., 1998.
In a hospital with 35-40 deliveries/day, they are now averaging
13 congenital malformations/ month. On the day of our visit,
there were 3 such births.
-
photo and commentary by Chuck Quilty

Reader 2: WE THINK THE PRICE IS WORTH IT.

Reader 1: At the Saddam Pediatric Hospital, three-year old Sahara was dying. She had acute myeloid leukemia and was bleeding internally from the nose and gums. She needed 10 to 15 units of platelets a day - the doctors could obtain just one. Dr. Rad Aljanagi, chief resident, said " In the UK and US leukemia is a treatable disease, yet due to lack of chemotherapy we have not achieved one cure - only some remissions - in the last eight years. In 1994 and 1996, we had no treatment at all, so every single patient died."

Reader 2: WE THINK THE PRICE IS WORTH IT.

Reader 1: Iraq's cancer, leukemia and malignancy rates have risen by as much as 70 per cent since the Gulf War. The increase is associated with the depleted uranium weapons, used primarily by the US and UK, which left residue of radioactive dust throughout the country.

Reader 2: Dr Jenan Ali, a world-renowned surgeon trained in Glasgow, has been keeping a record of "mysterious" congenital abnormalities. Her photographs for 1998 are chilling: full-term babies undeveloped, babies reminiscent of those born in the nuclear testing areas of the South Pacific, a baby with no face, another with no eyes, twisted limbs, or no limbs, tiny mite with huge head and no brain. Page after page of tragedy. Dr. Ali said, "These babies were born to all young parents with no history of abnormalities in the family - as far as we can tell - since we have few laboratory facilities now."

Reader 1: A pregnant woman in Basra said: "I am frightened of what I may deliver." With no ultrasound or scanning facilities - also banned under sanctions - nothing is known until birth. When mothers ask, after giving birth, "Is it all right?" there is terror in the question. Some soil samples in areas of Basra show 84 times radiation from uranium elements. One in four babies is born prematurely and underweight, due to malnutrition or environmental factors. No oxygen incubators work at optimum capacity, there is no rehydrate, no gastro-nasal nutrition. As we stood in the premature unit containing 17 babies, the doctor remarked, "We have not had one premature weight birth survive since 1994."

Reader 2: WE THINK THE PRICE IS WORTH IT.

Reader 1: "We have a new phenomenon," remarked one doctor. "People are just dying. They are not ill. They just give up - especially young men between the ages of about 30 to 35. Their youth has been sacrificed to the embargo and they see middle age approaching with no hope, no dreams, no aspirations or ability to provide for those they love."

(SILENCE)

Reader 2: The words of Ramsey Clark:

Reader 1: "It's criminal to inflict suffering. We ought to diminish suffering rather than create it."