Life has always been hard for Iraqi children. By no means did they have it easy under Saddam Hussein’s rulership. Before the United States invaded Iraq and while Hussein still had control over the country, they had to live in constant fear. Hussein became infamous for his torture, killing, and raping of Iraqi citizens. Unfortunately, he did not stop with children. It was not uncommon for Hussein’s regime to torture children in order to punish their parents for what they considered to be crimes against the regime. Many innocent children were forced to endure horrific pain. The majority of children were not tortured or killed, but many more suffered from the terrible conditions of the country under Hussein. During the Hussein era, over 400,000 children died from malnutrition and disease. Disease was a major problem because Hussein refused to spend the money to provide quality healthcare for Iraqi citizens and instead used poured the money into his military. The children suffered from malnutrition because Hussein ensured that the distribution of resources, including food, in Iraq was wildly unequal. Many children simply did not get the food that they needed to survive.
Although life for Iraqi children was hard under the reign of Saddam Hussein, it could be argued that it is equally hard, if not harder, since the United States has invaded Iraq and captured Hussein. During the period of war, the only social structure that the children ever knew was broken down. They had lived their entire lives with the social structure of oppression. They were always expected to live with insufficient healthcare and nutrients because of the suppression of Hussein. Now Hussein was gone and many of the social structures that the children ever knew were broken. Unfortunately for them, the new social structure that the Americans have created have not been much better. Many experts criticize the United States for invading Iraq without a plan for what they would do after they succeeded in dethroning Hussein. Because of the American lack of planning, the broken social structures resulted in chaos that has led to an equally terrible life for the children of Iraq.
First and foremost, the American invasion of Iraq resulted in the death of many children, including both direct and indirect killings. Over one million people were killed during United States air raids of Iraq, and research predicts that around 39% of those victims were children. In addition, many more children were indirectly killed by disease and malnutrition because the air raids destroyed the little healthcare facilities and resources that they already had. Disease has become especially dangerous because of the toxic environment that children are forced to live in. The destruction of infrastructure had resulted in the releases of metals and other hazardous substances into the air, soil, and water, which has significantly increased the spread of disease. Birth defects are increasingly more common in Iraqi babies since the US invasions. The US nuclear attacks and the radiation that remains in Iraq has caused birth defects in 14.7% babies born in Fallujah in 2007. This means that children who did not even know the social structures under Hussein, are now suffering because of the reckless shattering of those structures by the Americans. Depleted uranium that remains from the war has also caused a rapid increase in child instances of cancer such as leukemia. Over the last 15 years, it is estimated that the rate of cancer diagnosis has doubled in the city of Basra.
As shown by the many statistics above, the Iraqi children have been forced to live under terrible conditions immediately following the war in their home country. They were already living with depleted resources and poor conditions under Hussein, but when Hussein was captured and all social structures were broken, chaos broke loose. The United States’ failure to plan for the aftermath of the war resulted in even worse living conditions that the Iraqi children were forced to adapt to and accept as reality.