U.S. occupation creates humanitarian disaster in Iraq
Published Sep 3, 2007 8:01 PM
If the full dimensions of the horror the U.S. occupation has created in Iraq
were exposed and confronted, world outrage would reach such a pitch that the
occupation could not continue.
A huge number of reports that are largely ignored or given only passing mention
in the corporate media confirm an unprecedented level of destruction of
essential infrastructure, loss of life and massive displacement of people.
There are more than 4 million Iraqi refugees and more than 1 million dead.
Seventy percent of Iraqi children are not in school. Yet these reports and
statistics do not begin to tell the story of destruction and violence caused by
the U.S. occupation.
Iraq, which was a modern, industrializing country before the first U.S. war in
1991, is now under U.S. occupation, facing national catastrophe and
disintegration. Its once internationally acclaimed and free health care system
is now in shambles. Thousands of years worth of its cultural heritage have been
looted and smashed.
From August 1990 to March 2003, during the 12 years of U.S.-imposed starvation
sanctions, Iraq still had full literacy and struggled to maintain potable
water, electricity and a basic food ration for the population of 25
Now 8 million people, or almost one-third of the population, are in need of
emergency aid, according to Oxfam and a network of 80 aid agencies.
The anti-war movement here must focus attention on the reports that expose the
all-pervasive violence of the U.S. occupation. Otherwise the corporate media
are able to put their “spin” on who is responsible for the violence
in Iraq today. Consistently they blame the Iraqi people for the unfolding
horror and not the U.S. occupation army.
The corporate media are currently giving extensive daily coverage to the
drumbeat coming from U.S. politicians, Republican and Democrats alike, who
wring their hands and describe the chaos and violence that would follow a U.S.
troop withdrawal. This constantly repeated theme is woven together with
coverage of seemingly senseless and sectarian attacks on civilians by
“terrorist forces.” U.S. troops are described in every news article
as trying to end the “sectarian violence” and desperately seeking
to bring security and order.
Resistance to violent occupation
The media’s constant focus on seemingly random violence and mayhem,
allegedly committed by contending Iraqi militias, is meant to mask the total
violence of occupation. It also distorts who the resistance is and what are the
primary acts that resistance fighters are engaged in. According to the
Brookings Institution Report—Iraq Index, Aug. 23—over the past year
resistance attacks of all kinds, including roadside bombings, rocket attacks,
suicide attacks and car bombs, have amounted to 4,000 to 5,000 each month, or
more than 150 attacks a day.
The report contains a chart showing that the vast majority of the resistance
attacks are on U.S. forces and Iraqi security forces, not on civilians.
According to this chart, 80 to 85 percent of the attacks target the occupation
and its collaborators.
However, to the imperialist army of occupation, the entire Iraqi population has
become the enemy and is treated with totally brutal repression and massive
The latest “surge” has increased the number of U.S. troops in Iraq
to 170,000. There are also more than 200,000 “private contractors”
or mercenaries. According to Jeremy Scahill, author of “The Mercenary
Revolution,” these mercenaries answer to no authority or law. The U.S.
occupying authority has granted these mercenaries complete immunity from
prosecution under either Iraqi law or even U.S. military law. Contractors can
interrogate and torture prisoners, gather intelligence, operate rendition
flights and kill at random.
The British medical journal The Lancet has published two peer-reviewed studies
on deaths due to the invasion of Iraq and continuing occupation. The studies in
2004 and 2006 estimated the number of excess deaths caused by the occupation,
both directly and indirectly. The Lancet’s 2006 report reported that the
study’s best estimate was that 655,000 more Iraqis had died than would
have been expected in a non-war situation, as of June 2006.
Another 14 months of even greater chaos and violence have passed since that
time, which may well have brought the number of excess deaths close to 1
U.N. agencies, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, report that 70
percent of the Iraqi population lacks access to safe drinking water and 80
percent lacks effective sanitation. The World Health Organization has noted
increased cases of diarrheal diseases and now cholera due to polluted drinking
The Oxfam report states that “health services are generally in a
catastrophic situation in the capital, in the main towns, and across the
governorates.” Forty-three percent of Iraqis are now in “absolute
poverty.” The unemployment rate is 50 percent. Since the U.S. imposed
sanctions on Iraq, many people there have depended on a food ration distributed
by the government, and since the occupation the number has grown. But many of
the more than 2 million internally displaced people in Iraq cannot get
subsidized rations because they are not registered in their new homes.
Many schools are closed and the buildings have been taken over to house the
homeless. More than 40 percent of Iraq’s teachers, water engineers,
medical staff and other essential professionals have left the country since
Refugee crisis and prostitution
At least an additional 2.5 million Iraqis have fled to nearby countries.
Hundreds of thousands have depleted all their savings. About 500,000 of the
refugees are school-age children who have limited or no access to
Reports say that for many thousands of women, who are now single heads of
household, prostitution is becoming one of the only means of feeding their
families. The London Independent, The New York Times, MSNBC and other media,
along with Amnesty International, confirm reports of growing child prostitution
and trafficking of Iraqi children.
Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women’s group Women’s Will in
Syria, puts the figure at 50,000 women forced into the sex trade because their
husbands and fathers have been killed and they are banned from working legally.
There are few options for a family to survive.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program described
the spiraling refugee population as “a humanitarian crisis that could
engulf the region.”
Refugee International reports that an additional 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis flee
their homes each month, making this the world’s fastest-growing refugee
Collaborators unable to govern
There is no government in Iraq today capable of organizing or providing any
social services at all—not security, health care, schools, electricity or
potable water. There are only a handful of corrupt U.S. collaborators,
appointed heads of ministries who live in the U.S. Green Zone under U.S.
protection. They dare not venture outside. U.S. contractors have found they
have no one on the ground in local administration to accept the leaking, faulty
projects for which the contractors overbilled the government.
The longer the U.S. forces of occupation stay in Iraq, the greater the
destruction and violence. The occupation’s only solution is to try to
drown the resistance in blood and fragment the society with divide-and-conquer
tactics. From the first days of “shock and awe” bombings, this has
been Washington’s approach.
The benchmarks that the occupation has demanded of the puppet government of
Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi parliament include signing away all future
control of Iraq’s oil resources. Such outright colonial demands only
increase the determination of the average Iraqi to resist occupation by all
Iraq more than ever needs an aroused world movement that will stand up to the
endless U.S. excuses for continued occupation. A movement that demands an end
to all the funds for this criminal war. That is for getting all U.S. troops out
of Iraq and the region. That demands reparations to the sovereign Iraqi
government that is sure to eventually replace the collaborationist regime so
Iraq can recover from the disaster U.S. imperialism has imposed on its
Sources used for this article include: The Lancet, Survey 2, Oct. 11, 2006,
“The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002-2006,”
by Gilbert Burnham, Shannon Doocy, Elizabeth Dzeng, Riyadh Lafta and Les
Roberts. Oxfam, “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq,”
July 2007. Brookings Institution Report,
www3.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf. UNHCR Refugees figures through
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