Neither democracy nor development are in the cards. Only death is present. Everywhere.
La Presse, Canada; 25 August 2010
By Ghassan Hélou; Translated By Louis Standish; Edited by Patricia Simoni
Neither democracy nor development are in the cards. Only death is present. Everywhere. In the country, around the corner, at the market, at the mosque. Revenge, kidnapping and ransom have become the daily bread in a country where the only laws of the land are money and brute force. |
At dawn on Aug. 19, the fourth Stryker combat brigade completed its retreat from Iraqi territory and crossed the Kuwait border. It is, of course, a partial retreat. The United States will keep more than 50,000 GIs and several thousand contractors on the ground.
After more than seven years of devastating occupation, after having spent a trillion dollars and losing 4,415 soldiers, how can the departure of Americans be described? Military failure? Abandonment? Having invaded the country in 2003, did the Americans accomplish their mission? Which one? That of a new and democratic Iraq? A complete fiasco!
If, on the other hand, from the beginning their mission was to destroy Iraq and prevent it from putting itself together in the foreseeable future, everyone recognizes that Americans have won a clear victory. Torture, corruption, civil war — those are the findings of Robert Fisk in the British weekly, The Independent, after seven and a half years of American occupation of Iraq, now abandoned to its fate.
Since 2003, the tortured population has witnessed the systematic destruction of its institutions, the collapse of its society, the liquidation of the army and the dissolution of the administration. Corruption is widespread and has become the working system of government. The toppling of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein paved the way for the dictatorships of religious, tribal and ethnic leaders. From a secular state Iraq has become the breeding ground for religious sectarianism — clan, regional or partisan — resulting in fragmentation of the society into micro-feudalism and the awakening of centrifugal tendencies toward the fundamentalism and tribalism the Baath party had tried to curb, for the benefit of the citizenry.
Neither democracy nor development is in the cards. Only death is present. Everywhere. In the country, around the corner, at the market, at the mosque. Revenge, kidnapping and ransom have become the daily bread in a country where the only laws of the land are money and brute force.
The figures are devastating, likely to eclipse the Rwandan genocide. Johns Hopkins University has estimated the number of dead in the first four years of the occupation to be 655,000, or over three percent of Iraqis. Today, according to a study, conducted by the very serious British journal The Lancet, the death toll has reached more than 1.3 million. The population suffers a large number of wounded and disabled; according to research done by Johns Hopkins, the number should be raised to more than two million.
The report from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), published in 2006, revealed the point at which the country sank into barbarism to be after the American invasion in 2003. The Global Peace Index (IPG) of June 2009 considers Iraq to be the world’s most dangerous and oppressive country for women and children — for the third consecutive year.
The embargo imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war already had caused the death of more than 500,000 children in fewer than five years. Questioned on this subject in 1996, Madeleine Albright thought this number acceptable (!). During the American occupation, the rights of children experienced systematic and ongoing violation: killing, malnutrition, homelessness and no schooling. According to John Hopkins University, the number of orphans rose to 5 million, a number confirmed by UNESCO, which revealed, according to its records, that 10 percent of these were in the streets, receiving no care. In a report published in 2007, Oxfam revealed that 800,000 children imprisoned in American and Iraqi detention centers are victims of torture.
Elsewhere, according to the WHO, 24 percent of children born in October 2009 suffer from monstrous congenital defects and cancer-related illnesses, attributed to American use of prohibited weapons: napalm bombs, white phosphorous, enriched uranium … especially during the Fallujah massacre in November 2004. The use of those weapons is considered a war crime, according to Protocol III of the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, 1983.
According to the Center for Global Research, the murders perpetrated against doctors have contributed to an increase in infant mortality that actually rose to 80 per thousand (in contrast to three per thousand in neighboring Kuwait). Figures released by the Iraqi Ministry of Education are even more telling of the deterioration of children’s rights in Iraq: Only 30 percent of children attend school. According to UNESCO, that number was 100 percent before the occupation.
In this Iraqi chaos, the lot of women is no better than that of children. Rapes, violence, and threats have driven Iraqi women into submission, anxiety and fear. During the American occupation, the conversion of society to religious fundamentalism reestablished the status of the women as inferior to that of men. Moreover, the new 2005 constitution stipulates in article 14 that all questions concerning family laws (marriage, divorce, inheritance) will be determined according to religious law, sharia law, whether Sunni or Shiite.
Of course, the constitution guarantees women 25 percent political and administrative representation. A ministry on female issues has also been created, but the fundamental rights of women are overridden in a country ruled by armed men, i.e. American and Iraqi military and militias of confessional obedience. “Before, there was a dictator who persecuted his people. Now, everyone persecutes women,” remarks Houzan Hammoud, a member of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI).
According to Baghdad’s Institute of Forensic Medicine, support for honor killings has increased markedly since Saddam was overthrown. In effect, honor crimes no longer are judged as offenses in the eyes of the government. In this climate of generalized violence, parents are afraid to send their daughters to school; without security, the right to an education is meaningless. The NGO Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) estimates that approximately 3,500 Iraqis have gone missing since the American invasion, and the probability is high that many have been sold into the sex trade and are being abused outside of Iraq.
Immediately after the fall of Baghdad, the occupation began to unveil its true intention: to deplete Iraq of its grey matter. American forces began to put dozens of Iraqi scientists under surveillance. In fact, the elimination and destruction operations targeted not only intellectuals, but the whole scientific infrastructure of the country (scientific knowledge and research capability). According to converging reports, the destruction of businesses after the war has affected dozens of factories, research centers and laboratories in Iraqi universities, particularly Mossul University.
All the material and laboratory products, as well as research in progress and findings, have been destroyed. A seminar held recently in Cairo presented appalling figures of Iraqi scientists and scholars assassinated or forced into exile. Approximately 310 have vanished. It is not surprising, in this case, that universities, centers for cultural and political activity, are the primary targets.
Statistical analysis conducted by the League of Baghdad Universities reveals that 80 percent of the targeted deaths were scholars, and more than half of recent deaths held the title of professor or associate professor. In addition, more than half of those killed were members of the University of Baghdad, followed by those from Mosul and Al-Mustansiriya Universities. The analysis also reveals that 62 percent of the victims held doctorates, that 33 percent were scientists or medical doctors and that 17 percent of the medical doctors were in practice. Finally, 75 percent of those who were victims of attempted murder are dead.
Physicians also have been targeted by these crimes. They have paid a heavy price, with more than 150 having lost their lives — right below the scholars. It is clear that the targeting of specialists from scientific disciplines, such as engineering, physics, chemistry, geology and biology — all connected to vital industrial sectors of the country’s economy — is quite significant. These killings raise the issue of responsibility of the occupying forces; as such, they have full responsibility for these crimes.