Occupation of Iraq: A Human Crisis and a Set Back for Civilization
By Nita Palmer
"Since my husband died I need to work outside the home and someone should stay at home to take care of the youngest children and I have no one but them. It is sad to see my two girls losing their future like this but it is better than losing their lives."
- Um Nour Zeid, Baghdad resident (IRIN news, October 29th 2007)
On March 20th 2003, the US invaded Iraq. They promised that they would bring freedom, democracy, and a better life to Iraqi people. Fast-forward to 2007 and none of this is reality. Reality on the ground in Iraq is the experience of Um Nour Zeid and many others like her: complete insecurity and instability, increasing violence, and limited access to food, medicine and water. This is a crisis of Humanity.
According to a recent report by the UK-based ORB polling agency, over 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed since the invasion and occupation began in 2003. Millions more have been injured. Besides these deaths, the devastating impact of occupation spreads into every corner and aspect of everyday life in Iraq.
Seventy percent of Iraqis do not have access to clean drinking water. 47% of the population of Iraq is "highly dependent on government rations", according to the Non-governmental Coordination Committee in Iraq. However, few see access to these necessary rations, as cuts to aid and problems with the distribution system mean that only 40% of those who need rations are able to access them. As well, in recent months the number of reported cases of cholera has jumped from 30 to over 1,500, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cholera is a disease which has been almost completely eliminated in much of the world, and can be prevented simply by having access to uncontaminated drinking water.
Before the occupation, widows in Iraq were provided with assistance and free education for their children. Today, 15% of women whose husbands have been killed by the occupation forces have been forced to turn to prostitution to survive. Families have been forced to sell their daughters into prostitution to put food on the table. Recalling how she got into prostitution, Baghdad resident Rana Jalil said, "When I came home with some food I had bought from that money and saw my children screaming of happiness, I discovered that honor is insignificant compared to the hunger of my children."
This is "freedom and democracy" in Iraq, US-style.
Morale Lower than Ever Among US Troops
The occupation has also brought a demoralizing and harmful situation for the 160,000 US troops in Iraq. "Search and avoid" missions have become common practice, according to US soldiers. Fear of fighting and death has led many soldiers to simply park their vehicles and radio in to their commanders once in a while, pretending they are on patrol. This low morale among troops is also reflected in the desertion rate. In 2006, 3,196 soldiers deserted, according to the US Army. According to the International Herald Tribune “from 2002 through 2006, the average annual rate of army prosecutions of desertion tripled compared with the five-year period from 1997 to 2001”.
The unending combat, killing, and violence has also resulted in increased suicide rates and mental health problems for US troops in Iraq. One out of every three Iraq veterans needs mental health treatment, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rates of depression and alcoholism are also high. According to the Associated Press, rates of soldiers at risk for suicide “are reminiscent of the increased suicide risk among returning soldiers in the Vietnam era.” The current suicide rate in the US Army is 17.3% - the highest level ever out of the 26 years that the army has kept records.
The US government is facing a crisis in Iraq. They have failed to establish any of their true objectives in Iraq – which from the beginning were not to bring "freedom and democracy", but were to open up Iraq for plunder and exploitation by US corporations, and to establish a permanent military presence for the US army in the strategically valuable location of Iraq. The chief reason that the US has not been able to establish its hegemony in Iraq is the Iraqi resistance. The resistance in Iraq has organized strikes, demonstrations, and spontaneous protests in addition to continued battles against the 160,000 troops and 126,000 “security forces” (private armies such as Blackwater USA Corp) occupying their country. Declining troop morale is another concern for the occupation forces, as they are less and less able to convince soldiers to fight this war which is attempting to send humanity back to the dark ages.
It is not a matter of time that the US needs to “succeed” in Iraq. Everything over the last five years has proved that more time will only equal more crises for humanity as well as for the occupation forces in Iraq. But the US and UK are continuing their occupation of Iraq because they have little other option to solve their growing economic crisis. The occupation of Iraq is their attempt to secure their economic interests and therefore stave off the effects of the crisis of overproduction and falling rate of profit. It also means gaining a better strategic position – in terms of military and trade – over their imperialist competitors like Japan, France, Germany, etc.
What solution to the Quagmire?
The US is in a quagmire in Iraq. If they want a dignified way to leave, the occupation forces should get out of Iraq before the Iraqi people kick them out. Iraqi people have shown time and time again that they will not turn back in their fight for self-determination, in their fight for the interest of humanity over the interests of the US forces of imperialist destruction. Self-determination is the only way that Iraqi people will have the chance to develop the future of their country and tackle the problems of poverty, lack of infrastructure, lack of access to education, etc, that exist today. For our part here in Canada and everywhere else around the world, we cannot turn back in our fight alongside the people of Iraq. We must unite around a clear demand: OUT NOW!
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