Both the United States and Iraq have had thousands of casualties as a result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: both countries are poorer, less safe and less secure. The two year anniversary of the Iraq War should be a time for facing up to the mistakes made and re-evaluation U.S. occupation of Iraq.
In the last week I had the pleasure of interviewing an outspoken and intelligent anti-war activist living in Baghdad, Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar. Democracy Rising will be publishing his interview in the next week. As we were exchanging emails one very basic point became evident: the people in Iraq are clearly worse off today than they were under Saddam Hussein. They are worse of economically, they are worse of politically and they are less safe and less secure.
Regarding day-to-day life, food continues to be in short supply, electricity, even in Baghdad is often only available for two hours at a time, petrol prices have increased ten times and there are lines waiting for the limited supply, the sanitation system and sewage system isn’t operating, the health care system is in shambles and most of the destruction wrought by the U.S. invasion has not been repaired. Unemployment has doubled to 60 percent as Iraqis watch U.S. contractors do work they should be doing as part of the U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq. Through our puppet government we’ve taken over the oil industry and through Paul Bremer’s decrees U.S. corporations are taking over virtually all aspects of the Iraq economy. And, the insurgency puts many Iraqis at risk adding to the risks created by the U.S. military. But, there are more newspapers!
On the political side, the Iraqis are dealing with a government that is a puppet of the United States. The government has been falsely legitimized by a phony election–phony for a variety of reasons (see the election section of Iraq War Facts at DemocracyRising.US). And the same prison Saddam used to torture Iraqis the U.S. has used to torture Iraqis–Ghazwan calls it “Abu Gulag.” Random searches by soldiers at checkpoints and of homes include reports of soldiers stealing from Iraqis. As John Massey a veteran formerly stationed in Iraq reports in an interview with Democracy Rising, U.S. forces have routinely killed civilians. And, Iraqis see the construction of the long-term military bases, known as “enduring bases,” and realize that the U.S. has no plans of leaving anytime soon.
In Vietnam the ironic statement of our tactics was the U.S. destroyed villages to save them. That irony has become the U.S. policy in Iraq–destroy a country to save it–unfortunately saving it does not necessarily mean making things better for Iraqis. It seems to only mean making it better for U.S. corporations and ensuring that the U.S. military has a base of operations in the Middle East.
It is not only Iraq that is worse off, so is the United States. We’ve appropriated $150 billion for the war and are about to appropriate $80 billion more. The budget put forward by President Bush cuts basic programs at home. More than 1,500 soldiers have died and tens of thousands have been seriously wounded. Vets are not provided adequate health care and other services when they return home. Around the world the U.S. is seen as acting without regard for international law and our alliances are in tatters. Our intelligence agencies tell the Congress that Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists and a training ground for urban terrorism–as a result we are less safe and less secure.
Does the U.S. public know Iraqis are worse off today than before our invasion two years ago? I don’t think they do. It is certainly not highlighted in the U.S. media. Already the public is losing confidence in the war. If they knew both countries were worse off as a result support would evaporate.
KEVIN ZEESE is a director of Democracy Rising’s ‘Stop the War’ campaign. You can comment on this column on the blogspot at DemocracyRising.US