According to the United Nations State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011 report, the percentage of the Iraqi urban population living in slums, defined as lacking access to basic necessities such as sanitation and water, increased from below 20 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2010.
• Real unemployment is on the order of 50 percent and inflation is over 50 percent. There has been a mass exodus of doctors and other professionals (estimated at 40 percent of those in the country prior to the war), and the education system lies in ruins.
• Iraq has experienced a staggering growth of infant and child mortality. A 2007 report estimated that 28 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition. An Iraqi government agency reported that 35 percent of Iraqi children in 2007 (about 5 million children) were orphans. An entire generation has seen their parents killed or disappeared.
So we come to the “end” of the Iraq war. Like everything else said about this “war”, the word “end” is meaningless. We are actually going to have 15,000 mercenaries protecting and serving an uncertain number of “diplomats” who will stay there indefinitely. We are also leaving a few military bases here and there; one presumes along with military personnel living in them. Of course, this wasn’t a “war” in the first place. It was an invasion of a sovereign nation with whom we were most definitely not at war, a nation that had not threatened us in any way.
But Obama went to went to North Carolina last week to address the troops about the end of the war. It was “an extraordinary achievement”, he said. “A moment of success,” he said. He told the soldiers they had sacrificed and suffered loss and pain, and so had their families. He failed to mention the fact that a few months ago, his administration was pushing Iraq to allow thousands of American troops to remain – his proposed agreement fell apart because the US demanded that Americans be immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. He did not mention the hundreds of American flags burned in joy by Iraqis upon hearing the news that America’s soldiers were finally leaving. His speech to the troops was full of oo-rah moments, apparently de rigour for the CiC; but more to the point, it was also full of hyperbole and outright lies. “Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” Stable and self-reliant, is it? With a representative government nonetheless hand-picked by the Americans.
“Because of you, because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny. That’s part of what makes us special as Americans…There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are.” We invaded their country for no reason other than to steal their oil. They did not ask us to come in. We have left them a country completely decimated and ruined. Unemployment is somewhere between 25% and 48% – the figures are hard to pin down because of black market activities and security issues. In 2009, the mean per-hour wage was $2.10.
Another great line from the speech: “And let us never forget the source of American leadership: our commitment to the values that are written into our founding documents and a unique willingness among nations to pay a great price for the progress of human freedom and dignity.” This from a man who is poised to sign a bill which overturns the Constitution. An obligatory little threat to other nations must be included – you never know who is listening: “And make no mistake, as we go forward as a nation we are going to keep America’s armed forces the strongest fighting force the world has ever seen. That will not stop. That will not stop.” (That is not a transcript error; he felt the need to say it twice.)
And Obama managed to utter the biggest lie ever said about Iraq since Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: “That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.”
On 16 Dec., while in Turkey, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the effort in Iraq was “worth it.” Panetta expressed hope that the people of Iraq will be able to “enjoy the freedoms and liberties and opportunities that all people ought to be able to enjoy.” His main concern seemed to be that we learn a cost lesson “for the future”. We are to assume, I gather, that there will always be more wars and that the lesson here is to do them efficiently.
“Panetta said the Defense Department will factor lessons learned in Iraq as well as Afghanistan as it sets budget priorities for the future.
“ ‘As we go through the process of having to achieve savings in the defense budget,’ he said, ’I think it is an opportunity for us to shape a defense system for the future based on learning the lessons of the past.’ ”
Neither man spoke about the costs to Iraqis. In lives, infrastructure damage, refugees. A cost to their future as the depleted uranium continues to work its way through the soil and water, causing cancers and deaths. Neither spoke about the fact that we relieved the Iraqis of Saddam Hussein, only to replace him with another tyrant of our choosing, al-Maliki.
A 2006 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University published in the Lancet medical journal found that in just over three years there were 654,965 “excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war”, with Iraq’s death rate more than doubling due to gunfire – the leading cause of mortality – as well as lack of medicine and clean water.
Then a 2008 analysis by British polling firm Opinion Research Business estimated “that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003“…
Thirteen years of bombings and sanctions crippled the infrastructure and basic services of what was once a wealthy country. Then came the 2003 invasion, which destroyed electrical plants, sewage systems, water treatment facilities, hospitals and more. Eight years later, the living conditions in Iraqi are worse than under Saddam Hussein, with the country plagued by a continued lack of electricity, clean water, medical care and security…
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, since 2003 “more than 4.7 million Iraqis have fled their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care“…
The US military dropped thousands of bombs across Iraq laced with depleted uranium, the radioactive waste produced from manufacturing nuclear fuel. Valued by the military for its density and ability to ignite upon impact, depleted uranium bombs continue to kill years after they’ve been dropped. In Fallujah, which was bombarded more than anywhere else in Iraq, British researchers uncovered a massive increase in infant mortality and rates of cancer, with the latter exceeding “those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” according to The Independent.
… Al Jazeera reports that in the central Iraq province of Babil, reported cancer cases rose from 500 in 2004 to 7,000 in 2008. And in Basra, the last 15 years have seen childhood leukemia rate more than double, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Public Health….
Now, his US-backed successor, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, is torturing and killing those who speak out against his rule…
Inspired by the mass actions that took down US-backed strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest the al-Maliki government – only to be greeted with live ammunition. On February 27, more than 29 protesters, including a 14-year-old boy, were gunned down by the Maliki-run security forces in Iraq.
Meanwhile, four journalists in Baghdad report that they, along with hundreds of protesters, were “blindfolded, handcuffed, beaten and threatened with execution” for being insufficiently pro-regime.
The charges of abuse come after WikiLeaks revealed further evidence that Maliki has been using the power of the state – and Shia death squads – to torture and murder his political opponents…
And neither man spoke about the widows of Iraq. How could they? They won’t even acknowledge that Iraqis died in huge numbers. No deaths, no widows, no orphans. They certainly cannot broach the subject of the way many Iraqi women and teen-aged girls are forced to support themselves now, thanks to our “liberation” of the country.
Prior to the US invasion, Iraqi widows, particularly those who lost husbands during the Iran-Iraq war, were provided with compensation and free education for their children. In some cases, they were provided with free homes. However, no such safety nets currently exist and widows have few resources at their disposal…
Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the ministry of women’s affairs says that there are at least 350,000 in Baghdad alone, with more than eight million throughout the country.
Meanwhile, violence against women – including honour killings, rape and kidnapping – has increased, forcing many to remain at home and limiting employment and educational opportunities, according to a new Freedom House report. “A deep feeling of injustice and powerlessness sometimes leads women to believe that the only escape is suicide,” the report notes.
Many Iraqi women who fled to neighbouring countries have found themselves unable to feed their children. Just to make ends meet, tens of thousands of them – including girls 13 and under – have been forced into prostitution, particularly in Syria. “From what I’ve seen, 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” one refugee told The New York Times. “If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.”
In one harrowing experience, Rania and two other girls visited a house in Baghdad’s Al-Jihad district, where girls as young as 16 were held to cater exclusively to the U.S. military. The brothel’s owner told Rania that an Iraqi interpreter employed by the Americans served as the go-between, transporting girls to and from the U.S. airport base...
Before the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq enjoyed the highest female literacy rate across the Middle East, and more Iraqi women were employed in skilled professions, like medicine and education, than in any other country in the region. Twenty years later Iraqi women experience a very different reality. Sharia law increasing dominates everyday life, with issues like marriage, divorce and honour crimes implemented outside of the court system, and adherence to state law.
“Many factors combined to promote the rise of sex trafficking and prostitution in the area,” a Norwegian Church Aid report said last year. ”The US-led war and the chaos it has generated; the growing insecurity and lawlessness; corruption of authorities; the upsurge in religious extremism; economic hardship; marriage pressures; gender based violence and recurrent discrimination suffered by women; kidnappings of girls and women; the impunity of perpetrators of crimes, especially those against women; and the development of new technologies associated with the globalisation of the sex industry…
Although the Iraqi constitution deems trafficking illegal, there are no criminal laws that effectively prosecute offenders. Perversely, it is often the victims of trafficking and prostitution that are punished…
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the government has done little to combat the issue. “This is a phenomenon that wasn’t prevalent in 2003,” says HRW researcher, Samer Muscati. ”We don’t have specific statistics. This is the first part to tackle the problem; we need to know how significant and widespread the problem is. This is something the government hasn’t been doing. It hasn’t monitored or cracked down on traffickers, and because of that there is this black hole in terms of information.” http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=104911
This is what we have given Iraq. This is what we thought was better than what they had. This is what we are presently giving lots of countries, some overtly and some covertly. This is what some Americans signed up to do on purpose, offering their bodies to the war effort – afraid there would be no other job, just too stupid to figure out the lies they were being fed, or in love with the idea of blowing other human beings to shreds – who the hell knows why? We were not asked if we thought this “war” was a good idea, we haven’t been asked if any of the current ones are, and we certainly won’t be asked if we think the next one is a good idea. But we need to stop volunteering to do the grunt work of murdering other humans (or being killed ourselves) so that oil companies and other big corporations can profit, banks can steal assets, and the crazed “leaders” of the “free world” can dominate the globe on their behalf. When the call to serve comes, we need to say no. We need to say fuck, no.