Iraq's Children In Shadow Of War

For a generation of Iraqi children, war is all they know. So instead of playing with bikes or balls, they bring their nightmares to life.

"Iraqi kids have lost their ... the golden times of their life. They are living in the worst and the most adverse situation a child can live through," child psychiatrist Dr. Ali Hameed told CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

Their elders don't always "teach the children well," either. Local leaders organized a street play in Sadr City. The "bad guy" is dressed as an American soldier, paying off local informants to squeal on the militant gunmen of the Mahdi army.

"Here is some money as a reward from the coalition forces," said one child.

Instead of using their imagination - or toy guns - they fire real guns, loaded with blanks.

And when they "play dead" they are treated as heroes, and martyrs.

They talk of rivers of blood, and revenge.

"Let us revolt against America."

In the classroom, there is no escape either - schools are often near police stations, which are often targets for attack.

Students express some of their fears, drawing whatever comes to mind - sketch after sketch of militant mastermind Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. They all know his name, and face.

"Why is Zarqawi's friend smiling in this picture," the teacher asks?

"Because he blows people up and doesn't care," a child replies.

"We thought when Saddam left, the wars would end and the children would start drawing children's things," said headmistress Lamea Hassan.

Not so. Or not yet.

Dr. Hameed is running one of the only programs in Iraq trying to identify kids who can't cope - training their teachers to spot signs of child-sized battle fatigue.

"So many kids have bed-wetting, nightmares, panic attacks, many kinds of psychological disturbances and disorders," he said.

But there isn't enough money or manpower to treat the million or more of Iraq's children he estimates are deeply traumatized, much less the millions of children learning to live - and die - by the gun.

"So they are being trained to be killers?" asked Dozier.

"I'm sorry to say that I think yes," Hameed answered.

This, it seems, is a generation cheated out of peace -- and innocence.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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