Iraq Today: Afflicted by Violence, Devastation, Corruption, and Desperation – by Stephen Lendman
Seven years under occupation, Iraqis still cope with what Refugees International calls “a dire humanitarian crisis that sees huge numbers of displaced (and other Iraqis) struggl(ing) to survive,” a situation “for which the US bears special responsibility” but does nothing to correct.
Recent UNHCR figures estimate around 4.5 million refugees, nearly 2.8 million internal ones (IDPs), a third of these in squatter slums in Baghdad, Diyala and Salah al-Din. Many fear returning home. Most are impoverished. Settlements lack basic services, including water, sanitation, electricity, and health care. Education is difficult where available.
Camps are built in precarious places – under bridges, alongside railroad tracks, and near garbage dumps. In 2009, they were ordered to vacate. They remain. The directive was postponed, but they fear eviction with nowhere else to go, and little help for their needs and welfare.
Most get no government, US, UN or NGO aid given security’s top priority. “The zero-risk mentality of the burgeoning security industry has hijacked more rational and creative thinking” to provide vitally needed humanitarian assistance.
As a result, the occupation grinds on while conditions deteriorate, “3,000 new individuals registering for refugee status each month,” adding to a growing crisis. They lack proper shelter, food, health care and other essentials, living day to day fearing greater misery, disease or death.
In February 2010, the International Rescue Commission (IRC) issued a report titled, “A Tough Road Home” on uprooted Iraqis in Jordan, Syria and Iraq, saying since last visiting the region in February 2008:
“the needs of displaced Iraqis have become more acute, while international concern and assistance have diminished. In particular, assistance from European countries has begun to fall off,” given concern for their own situation at home.
For their part, refugees and IDP’s fear returning, citing persistent violence, insecurity, and little access to housing, other services, and jobs as well as mistrusting the Americans, puppet government, and fearing persecution.
Conditions for IDPs are precarious, international law guaranteeing no protection, nor can they get economic aid or the right to work where they live. They desperately want to go home, rebuild their lives, but need safe and stable conditions to do it as well as resolution of property disputes to allow it.
External refugees also want to return. Others fear persecution and won’t, but sustainable reintegration structures and basic services don’t exist, and no plans are in place to institute them. As a result, millions of Iraqis remain scattered internally, in neighboring Syria and Jordan, and other countries, trapped in poverty, fear, and uncertainty under worsening conditions.
Like IDPs, external refugees face an ongoing struggle to survive without reliable incomes or safety. Besides lost loved ones, property and savings, they’re traumatized, see no end to their suffering, and feel hopeless, frustrated and desperate.
In his March 15 article titled, “The New ‘Forgotten’ War,” Dahr Jamail noted Afghanistan getting most attention while the “Iraq occupation falls into media shadows,” except briefly after significant violent events killing dozens or a prominent figure.
Yet hundreds die most months. Millions have been killed, irrepararably harmed, and displaced – victims of genocide.
Essential services are spotty or nonexistent, and persistent depravation on October 11, 2009 got Iraqis in Baghdad streets to chant, “No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers,” according to AP.
Exacerbating conditions, including a four year long draught “plagues most of Iraq. In the country’s north,” AP, on October 13, 2009, reported inadequate water “forced more than 100,000 people to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving.”
Cancer is another issue, the result of “more than 1,700 tons of depleted uranium” used during the war and invasion besides more during the Gulf War. “Literally every local person I’ve spoken with….during my nine months (in the country) knows someone who either suffers from or has died of cancer.”
It’s a war/occupation-inflicted plague that will claim many thousands more lives for years to come, including children born with DU-caused deformities, especially in heavily bombed areas.
After two decades of war, sanctions, and occupation, Iraqis have suffered horrifically from one of the greatest ever crimes of war and against humanity – ongoing, destructive, devastating, unreported, and unaccountable.
War Takes Its Toll on Both Sides
Consider an April 24 Army Times report headlined, “18 veterans commit suicide each day,” saying:
“Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department (VA).”
About 7% succeed. Another 11% try again within nine months. VA’s hotline gets about 10,000 calls a month from current and veteran service members – troubled, desperate for help they’re not getting, and in danger of taking their lives to escape.
On April 24, New York Times writers James Dao and Dan Frosch headlined, “In Army’s Trauma Care Units (WTUs), Feeling Warehoused,” saying:
“For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned (and commissioned) officers.”
They suffer from wounds, loss of limbs, depression, PTSD, and despair, yet their treatment “has made their suffering worse.” Since 2007, at least four WTU soldiers committed suicide. Coverups try to hide them, and according to Lt. Col. Andrew L Grantham, WTU commander, “These guys are still soldiers, and we want to treat them like soldiers.” In other words, they’re to blame, not the army, Pentagon or White House.
Not for Iraq’s toxic environment either, affecting US forces like Iraqis, endangering their health, welfare, and lives that for many will be lost, with or without physical wounds.
Iraq A Toxic Wasteland
Twenty years of war, sanctions, and occupation left vast parts of the country’s land, water and air contaminated by scores of pollutants, including depleted uranium, chemicals, toxic metals, oil, bacteria, and other poisons.
The Gulf War was an environmental disaster. It destroyed power and chemical plants; factories; dams; water purification facilities; sewage treatment and disposal systems; oil wells, pipelines, refineries, and storage tanks besides bringing the entire country to its knees, the result of vast gratuitous destruction. In 2003, it was repeated, a “shock and awe” blitzkrieg intermittently continued.
Tigris and Euphrates river waters are contaminated and unsafe. According to Dr. Ibrahim Ali, a Baghdad laboratory owner, “It is definitely not good for human consumption, and every time we analyze it we find something new that might, in time, cause death. Various kinds of bacterial pollution and germs we are finding can be as dangerous as biological weapons.”
Imagine a cocktail of oil, gasoline, heavy metals, depleted uranium, pesticides, fertilizers, benzene, other chemicals, various other pollutants, and the result is poisoned water and fish producing an epidemic of typhoid, dysentery, cholera, hepatitis, and diarrheal diseases if consumed, cancer and other diseases later.
Four years of drought added other woes, reducing food and feed grain crops by 40% or more, threatening as well to turn fertile farmland into a dustbowl. Lack of rain and dust storms dropped Tirgis and Euphrates levels by half in some places, creating “a real serious disaster,” according to agricultural experts.
The combination of war, pollution and drought wrecked Iraq’s ecosystem, drying up fertile farmland and marshes, turning arable land into desert, killing trees and plants, and making a Garden of Eden a wasteland, much perhaps never to be reclaimed.
Empowering bio-pirates, agribusiness predators, is another crime, the result of (Paul) Bremer’s Order 81 (April 26, 2004) – “Amendments to the Patents, Industrial, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law.”
It crippled traditional farming by protecting developer rights of new and improved plant varieties (GMO seeds), forcing farmers to plant them, prohibiting traditional seed saving, and instituting Technology User Agreements, requiring annual royalties to companies like Monsanto.
Bremer’s 100 orders turned Iraq into a giant free-market paradise, a hellish nightmare for Iraqis. They colonized the country for capital – pillage on the grandest scale, a cutthroat capitalist laboratory, weapons of mass destruction.
Iraqis got no role in the planning nor were given subcontracts to share the benefits. New economic laws instituted low taxes, 100% foreign investor ownership of Iraqi assets, the right to expropriate all profits, unrestricted imports, and long-term 30-40 year deals and leases, dispossessing Iraqis of their own resources, so no future government could change them.
One of them is oil, ahead of passing the Iraq Hydrocarbon Law, what former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he’ll do quickly if his coalition forms the new government as well as honor all signed deals in place.
Its provisions include a radical restructuring of Iraq’s oil industry, shifting the country’s reserves from public to private hands with locked in deals as long as 30 years. If enacted, it will be theft on the grandest scale, legalized plunder of most of the nation’s oil and all yet to be discovered. Big Oil will be free to expropriate all profits with no obligation to invest anything in Iraq’s economy, nor partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies.
With or without it, foreign investors are signing deals, ExxonMobil the first US company in 35 years last November. Others are being finalized and more will follow – on favorable terms for the giants to the detriment of Iraqis. Based on current negotiations, foreign companies will produce most Iraqi oil, whether on grand or grandest theft terms to be determined.
Under Bremer laws, free-market pillage was sanctioned. Mass layoffs followed, social services cut, and local infrastructure rebuilding ignored. Corporate interests alone were addressed. Iraq became a metaphor for everything wrong with cutthroat capitalism, showing it to be predatory, heartless and bankrupt.
Violence and Corruption Plague Iraq
The 2007 launched Global Peace Index (GPI) ranks countries annually according to peacefulness, identifying key peace or violence drivers. Of the 144 countries in its 2009 report, Iraq ranked last, Afghanistan second last.
On a 1 – 5 scale, 1 the most peaceful, Iraq scored 5 on:
— number of deaths from organized internal conflict;
— level of organized internal conflict;
— perceptions of criminality in society;
— respect for human rights;
— potential for terrorist acts;
— number of homicides per 100,000 people;
— level of violent crime;
— ease of access to weapons of minor destruction; as well as
— low scores in numerous other categories, showing the country to be violent and dysfunctional, the result of war, occupation, and an internal struggle to free Iraq to sovereign control.
Notably unmentioned is that Iraq, the cradle of civilization, no longer exists – destroyed, balkanized, and colonized for capital, planned genocide murdering its people.
Annually, Transparency International (TI) ranks 180 countries on their perceived level of public sector corruption, claiming a 90% confidence of accuracy. Its latest 2009 lowest scores went to Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Iraq.
Not addressed were free and open elections, impossible under occupation. Those held are media hyped and manipulated for stability. A democratic process is absent.
As a result, US choices govern, puppet leaders, not democrats, and rampant corruption follows, the kind New York Times writers Marc Santora and Riyadh Mohammed highlighted in their October 28, 2009 article headlined, “Pervasive Corruption Rattles Iraq’s Fragile State,” saying:
“Corruption is a phenomenon that forms a real threat to the structure of the state,” according to interior minister Jawad Bolani. His report detailed corruption throughout his ministry employing one in four public sector employees:
— money skimmed from salaries;
— contracts manipulated and fudged for personal gain;
— ghost police officers on payrolls so commanders can take their pay, and other officers fired to steal theirs;
— criminals freed by well-placed bribes, their records expunged for payment;
— detainees abused by guards to extort money from relatives; and
— political corruption to secure loyalty of large portions of the security apparatus.
Corruption runs from top officials to street corner cops, according to investigators without listing names.
But in early 2009, a fraud scandal related to food distribution forced the trade minister to resign, and the deputy transportation minister was arrested after being caught trying to bilk a security firm for more than $100,000 to get a contract for Baghdad International Airport.
“Going after corruption (can exact) a high cost,” said The Times writers. One official, “after issuing an audit report on the Iraqi Supreme Criminal Court, which examines (Saddam Hussein-era crimes), was informed – through the local media, he said – that a judge on that court had issued an arrest warrant for him.” It first read for “the extermination of the human race, (then) changed to an accusation of fraud.”
Human Rights Abuses in Iraq
In April 2010, Amnesty International released a report titled, “Iraq: Human Rights Briefing,” covering major media suppressed crimes, including:
— thousands detained without charge or trial, some for years in overcrowded conditions, gravely affecting their health and safety;
— torture, ill-treatment and other abuses against men, women and children, including beatings with cables and hosepipes, prolonged suspension by their limbs, electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies, breaking of limbs, removal of toenails with pliers, and rapes, among others;
— unfair trials, with low quality court appointed lawyers, using torture extracted confessions to convict;
— the death penalty, increasingly imposed in the last five years; currently, at least 1,100 detainees have been sentenced to death; over 900, including 17 women, have exhausted all means of appeal or clemency; government supplied information on executions is suppressed, many carried out secretly;
— killings and other human rights abuses by armed groups, including kidnappings, torture, bombings, and other attacks;
— impunity for prison guards, US and Iraqi security forces, and security contractors after whitewashed or no investigations of their crimes;
— violence against women (domestically and on streets), given little or no protection by authorities;
— refugees and internally displaced people enduring severe hardships as explained above;
— human rights abuses in Kurdistan, including those explained above; and
— future prospects.
AI’s conclusion – “the human rights situation in the country remains grave. All parties to the continuing conflict have committed gross abuses and the civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the ongoing violence. The security situation is still precarious despite some improvement in 2009. Attacks on civilians, arrests, kidnapping, armed clashes” happen daily.
AI covers vital issues without explaining their cause:
— an ongoing war and genocide;
— Iraq illegally occupied;
— a US approved puppet government in place;
— a proxy army doing America’s bidding;
— no concern for vulnerable civilians;
— the absence of vital infrastructure;
— a longstanding humanitarian crisis;
— the inability of millions of Iraqis to cope; and
— a brutal colonizer addressing none of the above issues or the right of Iraqis to sovereign freedom, peace and security – only possible free from occupation.
The BRussels Tribunal (BT)
In February 2010, BT published Professor Souad Al-Azzawi’s report titled, “Violations of Iraqi Children(‘s) Rights Under the American Occupation,” saying:
“Numerous violations to Iraqi children’s rights have continuously and systematically been committed under the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq,” including:
— targeting them and other civilians during the invasion;
— American forces murdering them, sometimes by massacres, during raids in Fallujah, Haditha, Mahmodia, Telafer, Anbar, Mosul, and most other Iraqi cities;
— killing them by bombings and other attacks;
— detaining, torturing, and raping them;
— impoverishing them;
— starving them, causing acute malnutrition;
— starving whole cities as collective punishment;
— killing one in eight children (650,000) by microbial pollution, lack of sanitation, and clean drinking water;
— inflicting grave harm through chemical and radioactive munitions;
— a failed health care system by design, including by “the international assassination of medical doctors;”
— a dysfunctional education system, available only to 30% of Iraqi children;
— a crippled economy, ongoing violence and killings, American troop raids on civilians, and horrific hardships gravely harming Iraq’s men, women, and children; and
— a 4.5 million orphan population, according to a Ministry of Labor estimate; others say five million; 500,000 live on streets with no institutional help; others are in US and Iraqi-run prisons or internally or externally displaced.
Al-Azzawi concludes saying that since 1991, US administrations committed “genocide amongst the Iraqi population, including the children.” After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War, imposed genocide began with crippling sanctions, then continued during war and occupation.
“The (ongoing) excessive and unnecessary use of power against the civilian population, and the intentional targeting of even unborn children (through chemical, radiological and other weapons as well as other means reveals) a premeditated plan to depopulate Iraq.”
As a result, children live in “an environment of total chaos, violence and terror.” Genocide will only stop when US forces leave, but their crimes will affect Iraqis for generations. The historic record will last forever, including in the collective public memory.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.