Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Iraqis Need to Start Fending For Themselves BUT They're Still Shocked and Awed

Two weeks ago, 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police refused to fight during the battle against Shiite militias in Basra. My first reaction was anger. I asked myself, "What's with these people? It has been five years already...they have to get it together so we can get out of there!"

Then it occurred to me how easy it was for me to say that, enveloped in American sumptuousness, by comparison, and fortunate enough to be born a citizen of the most secure nation on earth. And, should something out of the ordinary occur such as 9/11, I will, at the very least be counted among the missing or dead, unlike Iraq where the civilian death toll could range anywhere from one-hundred thousand to one million people, people who were only trying to follow the pursuits of "civil' life.

There is no shortage of estimates, but they vary enormously. The Iraqi ministry of health initially tried to keep a count based on morgue records but then stopped releasing figures under pressure from the US-supported government in the Green Zone. The director of the Baghdad morgue, already under stress because of the mounting horror of his work, was threatened with death on the grounds that by publishing statistics he was causing embarrassment. The families of the bereaved wanted him to tell the truth, but like other professionals he came to the view that he had to flee Iraq.
Nope, I'm not living in the midst of what can only be called a humanitarian catastrophe. I don't have to risk my life, waiting in line, for three to four days every time I need to fill up my gas tank or petroleum to heat my home.

Baghdad, Iraq: An Iraqi woman gestures as she reacts to her plight after waiting in a queue to buy petrol for three days, with others to fill up her containers with petrol for heating. The woman is nearing the front of the queue after three days waiting in line, now with only a few people ahead of her to buy rationed fuel.

I don't have to worry about whether I have clean running water, electricity, proper sanitation...whether the hospitals, schools and/or any of the other institutions I take for granted, will be there, will not be when I need them most. I don't have to worry every time the phone rings - that is, if it works at all - that it's to deliver tragic news or is a desperate call for help when I myself am paralyzed to do anything about it. The bottom line is my basic needs are more than met and in an emergency, I'm confident, despite Katrina, that our national and local government will not obstruct me from or deny me access to the basic services designed to make me, at the very least, able to focus on what is required of me to act as a responsible citizen.
Iraq remains in a state of protracted humanitarian crisis as a result of ongoing conflict, including violence or the threat of violence against the civilian population, widespread abuses of human rights, and lack of capacity of the national authority to assist affected civilians. There are massive constraints on humanitarian access, impeding the humanitarian community in its provision of adequate and timely assistance.
Five years later, the Iraqis are not better off, in fact, things are much worse as Crooks and Liars point out:
* 43% of population lives in absolute poverty
* Prior to war 19% of children suffered malnutrition; today 28%
* Last year 75% elementary-aged kids went to school; now 30%
* Prior to war 50% lacked access to clean water; now 70%
* Only 50 of 142 primary health care centers are open to public.
Despite my comfort level, and the safety and security this country offers me, I, like any other person experience stress. There is a certain level of stress - our body’s response to a challenge, that makes us more productive, valuable and/or responsible, however; excessive stress can potentially paralyze, making us essentially useless. Needless to say, the Iraqi population is suffering to the point that the word stress does not adequately convey their situation.

So, how can I expect Iraqis to "stand up," as Bush says, in order to let "America" stand down when I, like the majority of Americans have never experienced conditions that strip a person of not only their basic needs, but leaves a person without any alternatives other than to wait for that bullet, bomb or disease to wipe him or her out.

The Bush administration tries to compare our attempt at "democratizing" Iraq to the American Revolution, however; we, the people decided to take that giant step, whereas the Iraqis had no choice...they were ironically bullied into setting up a "democracy".

Imagine if France took it upon themselves to democratize the American colonies and waged war on the colonists, attacking them until they agreed to "fight" for their "independence". The United States of America would have never seen the light of day. There is no way in hell the spirited people who fought so hard to free themselves from British rule, would knuckle under, to of all people, the French.

It's very possible that removing ourselves from the picture is exactly the motivation the Iraqis need to "stand up" for themselves. After all, who wants to take orders from the country that invaded their country, destroyed their infrastructure, and transformed the majority of their lives into a living hell? It is time to manifest the American ingenuity we love to brag so much about to not only confirm our destiny as a nation, but to assist the Iraqis build up Iraq's future Iraqian style instead of tearing it down Haliburton style.


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