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Destroying the land and those who keep it

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on Feb. 22. -- RS

by Jim Goodman

(Monday, March 17, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- Although they keep saying war in Iraq is not inevitable, we all know it is. We know that most Americans do not want an invasion of Iraq, and we know that the rest of the world would like to "give peace a chance" as well. A war in Iraq is the hot item on George Bush's to do list. Getting Osama Bin Laden had been the hot item, but that didn't work out too well so he must have gone to plan B.

Iraq has been under siege for the past 12 years, they haven't been able to fight back, so they just sit there and take the almost daily bombing, sanctions and death. Hunger is a constant since farmland is destroyed and transportation is disrupted and of course farmers are killed.

Bill Moyers interviewed a Vietnam veteran once who told him that after being "in country" for a few months he realized that the villagers there didn't give a damn who was ruling the country, all they wanted to do was raise some rice, feed their family and live in peace. I suspect farmers in Iraq feel the same way, they want to farm and feed their families. The bombing makes it nearly impossible, the depleted uranium we scattered across the country during the Gulf War makes it dangerous just to be there. I have no idea what I would do in their position, it is hard to farm in the U.S., but there, I couldn't begin to comprehend what it would be like.

Most farmers in the US are currently paid less than the cost of production and are often kept afloat by government payment programs. Along with cuts in social programs, one could expect farm payment programs to become expendable as a means to help pay for the war.

The threat of war has already caused fuel prices to increase and since fertilizer and pesticide manufacture is based on petroleum, their price will surely rise as spring planting approaches. President Bush has arranged for Australia and New Zealand to increase their dairy exports to the US by up to 50% in exchange for their support of our war effort. Bush gets his war, we loose our farmers. With much of the US currently under drought conditions, near record low farm prices and war induced increases in petroleum prices, farmers can look forward to hard economic times along with the rest of the US.

Farmers are used as the poster children of globalization, in that their survival supposedly depends upon free trade agreements being ratified and enforced. With impending war, the EU has probably gained a temporary reprieve from several lawsuits that would force them to accept genetically modified (GM) grains and hormone tainted beef from the US. Not wanting to further antagonize EU members whose support for the war is shaky at best, the lawsuits will go on hold. No matter, EU acceptance would be of no benefit to US farmers, corporations yes, farmers, no. War is war, the US seems to have established a pattern, we have the right to say how things must be done, do it our way or we will either sue you or kill you.

Although we are very different, farmers, whether in Iraq or the US will not fare well because of this war. Their economy and farms are already ruined from 12 years of US oppression. Farmers in Iraq will, after the war, find they are still living in an oppressive society, only their leader will now be someone friendly to the Bush administration. British and American oil companies will be profiting from their oil, and they will still be poor and have even less of a country than they do now. US farmers will be no better off economically, and we will be facing even more agricultural imports from around the world.

No one ever wins a war, some will profit financially, but the losses of life can never be replaced. In Iraq, the land will never be the same, perhaps they will never be able to feed themselves again. But as always, we are the pawns of war, not just the farmers but the people. The common people die and sacrifice that those, like George Bush, may establish their legacy and go down in history. All we ever really wanted was to raise food, take care of our families and live in peace.

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin. He can be contacted at r.j.goodman@mwt.net