Sunday, July 11, 2004

Middle America: Missing From Saddam's Indictment

Middle America: "Ali, a 35-year-old engineer, lives in a modest two-bedroom apartment in central Tehran. I visited him last summer with Hossein, a friend of mine who had fought alongside Ali in the brutal 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. I listened as the two traded war stories while sitting cross-legged on a red Persian carpet, sipping tea and eating Persian melons. Suddenly, Ali turned to me and asked: 'Do you have any children?' When I replied 'No,' he said, 'Good. Please don't talk about children when you meet my wife. She is very depressed that we can't have any.'

That's because Ali has been unable to become a father. His doctors have told him that his infertility may be the result of mild exposure to a cocktail of chemical agents that Saddam Hussein's commanders regularly used on Iranian soldiers. Sometimes a hacking cough, a common ailment of mustard gas victims, overtakes Ali. It emerged toward the end of our meeting -- sharp, raspy, choking -- and lasted a grueling five minutes. When the spasm ended, Ali gasped, his eyes wet with tears: 'I'm one of the lucky ones. You should see the other victims.'"

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