As you read this, we're four years from the moment the Bush administration launched its shock-and-awe assault on Iraq, beginning 48 months of remarkable, non-stop destruction of that country … and still counting. It's an important moment for taking stock of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Here is a short rundown of some of what George Bush's war and occupation has wrought:
Nowhere on Earth is there a worse refugee crisis than in Iraq today. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some two million Iraqis have fled their country and are now scattered from Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Iran to London and Paris. (Almost none have made it to the United States, which has done nothing to address the refugee crisis it created.) Another 1.9 million are estimated to be internally displaced persons, driven from their homes and neighborhoods by the U.S. occupation and the vicious civil war it has sparked. Add those figures up -- and they're getting worse by the day -- and you have close to 16% of the Iraqi population uprooted. Add the dead to the displaced, and that figure rises to nearly one in five Iraqis. Let that sink in for a moment.
Basic foods and necessities, which even Saddam Hussein's brutal regime managed to provide, are now increasingly beyond the reach of ordinary Iraqis, thanks to soaring inflation unleashed by the occupation's destruction of the already shaky Iraqi economy, cuts to state subsidies encouraged by the International Monetary Fund and the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the disruption of the oil industry. Prices of vegetables, eggs, tea, cooking and heating oil, gasoline, and electricity have skyrocketed. Unemployment is regularly estimated at somewhere between 50-70%. One measure of the impact of all this has been a significant rise in child malnutrition, registered by the United Nations and other organizations. Not surprisingly, access to safe water and regular electricity remain well below pre-invasion levels, which were already disastrous after more than a decade of comprehensive sanctions against, and periodic bombing of, a country staggered by a catastrophic war with Iran in the 1980s and the First Gulf War.
In an ongoing crisis, in which hundred of thousands of Iraqis have already died, the last few months have proved some of the bloodiest on record. In October alone, more than six thousand civilians were killed in Iraq, most in Baghdad, where thousands of additional U.S. troops had been sent in August (in the first official Bush administration "surge") with the claim that they would restore order and stability in the city. In the end, they only fueled more violence. These figures -- and they are generally considered undercounts -- are more than double the 2005 rate. Other things have more or less doubled in the last years, including, to name just two, the number of daily attacks on U.S. troops and the overall number of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded. United Nations special investigator Manfred Nowak also notes that torture "is totally out of hand" in Iraq. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."
Given the disaster that Iraq is today, you could keep listing terrible numbers until your mind was numb. But here's another way of putting the last four years in context. In that same period, there have, in fact, been a large number of deaths in a distant land on the minds of many people in the United States: Darfur. Since 2003, according to UN estimates, some 200,000 have been killed in the Darfur region of Sudan in a brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign and another 2 million have been turned into refugees.
How would you know this? Well, if you lived in New York City, at least, you could hardly take a subway ride without seeing an ad that reads: "400,000 dead. Millions uniting to save Darfur." The New York Times has also regularly featured full-page ads describing the "genocide" in Darfur and calling for intervention there under "a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel."
In those same years, according to the best estimate available, the British medical journal The Lancet's door-to-door study of Iraqi deaths, approximately 655,000 Iraqis had died in war, occupation, and civil strife between March 2003 and June 2006. (The study offers a low-end possible figure on deaths of 392,000 and a high-end figure of 943,000.) But you could travel coast to coast without seeing the equivalents of the billboards, subway placards, full-page newspaper ads, or the like for the Iraqi dead. And you certainly won't see, as in the case of Darfur, celebrities on Good Morning America talking about their commitment to stopping "genocide" in Iraq.
The above is from Anthony Arnove's "Four Years Later... And Counting" (TomGram). Brenda noted it and Arnove is the author (most recently) of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal. It is amazing, what Arnove's writing about. But so is the paternalistic attitude involved (I'm referring to the Modern Day Carrie Nations, not Arnove) and that attitude was quite popular with regards to Iraq pre-start of the illegal war. The Iraqis weren't smart enough, couldn't do this, couldn't do that, they needed -- really, really needed -- the soooo advanced, sooooo wonderful, soooooo helpful United States. Now that attitude can still be found among some on the right and some on the left (those who helped sell the war). It can still be expressed, in fact, in the same terms and, for a few, is expressed that way. But what you hear from most making that argument before the illegal war started, what you hear today, is the flip side, Mommy and Daddy are mad. Mommy and Daddy can't believe how ungrateful those Iraqis are. So you get the scolding. You get the, "Why can't they pull it together?" You get all of that crap.
As though, for the last four years, Iraq hasn't been occupied by a foreign power (the US) which has refused to honor basic rights and requirements but has slapped tags on everything they could in the rush to have a fire sale on public property. Those unhappy with the "progress" in Iraq would do well to blame those in charge and not blame the Iraqis. They'd do even better to drop the paternalistic attitude, grow the hell up and realize just how condescending their attitudes are (and condescending is being polite).
But, like a Baby Shopper, they instead rush off to find another "child" they can pour their hopes, dreams and military into -- enter Darfur. And the Carrie Nations, so eager to sell another war, only demonstrate how little some have learned in four years of illegal war.
The illustration is Isaiah's "The Non-Cake Walk Party - March 19th" from yesterday. March 19, 2003, the illegal war started. March 19, 2007, it goes on. And it goes on because people don't care? Isn't that the lie we're told?
And we get channeled. Some try to channel us into rah-rah-rah, support this War Hawk, s/he's a Dem! Or they try to channel us by hectoring "BE HONEST" when, quite frankly, the only liar is the one saying "BE HONEST" who lied by omission through her silence for over a year on Iraq -- her silence while Abeer, a fourteen-year-old girl, was gang raped and murdered by US soldiers. "BE HONEST"? You first, dear, you first.
People you've got the power over what we do
You can sit there and wait
Or you can pull us through
-- "The Load-Out," written by Jackson Browne, off his Running on Empty
We've got the Mud Flap Gals (as Elaine's dubbed them) who appear to believe that a push up bra lifts us all. Why else would they, supposed feminists, gush and bore, multi-times a day, and never have one damn word to say about Iraq? Now they did note it, last summer, in terms of a woman carrying a book entitled C**t to an Abu Ghraib hearing. That they found funny or cute or maybe post-post-modern? But day after day, they rush to take on the very pressing issues of make up and who Ms. put on their cover and what it means if a woman is holding a pet and blah, blah, blah, blah, how they (wrongly) know Eve Ensler is obejectifying, and blah, blah, blah. It's crap, that's all the Mud Flap Gals churn out. And possibly, before you question Ensler's committment to diversity of body images, you might ask why your own site offers the equivalent of mud flaps? But the Mud Flap Gals are useless and have been useless for four years and they're far from the only ones. On International Women's Day, how many people noted MADRE's report? How many noted Iraqi women?
You know the answer, you've read Gina and Krista's column in Friday's round-robin. It's a funny kind of faux-feminism, as any feminist who marched for peace against an earlier war can damn well tell you. (There are many real, young feminists today. As Gina and Krista noted, "This isn't directed to them.") So there's those, the ones who can't be bothered to talk about Iraq.
We tackled independent print publications last night. So let's note organizations now. First, the problems with one organization -- WalkOn.org (last noted here Feb. 22nd). Marckus notes
Sheldon Rampton's* "Iraq: Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?" (Center for Media and Democracy):
This week marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. To commemorate the occasion, the online advocacy group MoveOn.org is organizing more than 1,000 candlelight vigils throughout the United States. "We’ll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than 3,000 servicemen and women, and we'll contemplate the path ahead of us," states MoveOn's website. "We cannot send tens of thousands of exhausted, under-equipped, and unprepared troops into the middle of an Iraqi civil war. ... Honor the sacrifice. Stop the escalation. Bring the troops home."
MoveOn's 3.2 million members strongly oppose any continuation of the war, and the language above seems to suggest that MoveOn's leadership agrees. But MoveOn's organizing around Iraq has become notably ambiguous lately. Although it talks in general terms about bringing the troops home, specific timetables or meaningful steps in that direction are nowhere discussed. Most strikingly, MoveOn has adamantly refused to support the Iraq amendment from Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, which calls for "a fully funded, and systematic, withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq" by the end of 2007.
Politically, the Lee amendment cannot pass; fewer than 100 members of Congress are expected to vote for it. However, the same thing is true of weaker legislation that MoveOn is currently supporting, in league with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and David Obey. The Pelosi bill merely establishes "benchmarks" of progress in Iraq, so that all Bush has to do is certify that he is making progress on those goals to keep funding flowing for the war. Instead of withdrawing troops this year, the Pelosi bill talks about beginning to withdraw them in March 2008. Even so, it faces united Republican opposition and is not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, even if it is approved by the House of Representatives. And even if it does pass, Bush has already said he will veto it. So why was the Democratic Party leadership so determined to prevent the Lee amendment from even coming to the floor — and why has MoveOn.org avoided even mentioning the Lee proposal to its members?
On Sunday, MoveOn distributed a survey asking its members to vote on three options: support the Pelosi bill; oppose it; or "not sure." MoveOn's Eli Pariser described the survey in an email as an opportunity for members to participate in "a big decision coming up this week. ... MoveOn is a member-directed organization -- we believe that all of us, together, are smarter than any one of us." In fact, however, MoveOn's survey was designed to conceal from its members the option of supporting the stronger anti-war amendment put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
There are, of course, other ways of running a survey. When TrueMajority.org recently surveyed its members about the best way forward, they offered three choices: the Lee plan, the Pelosi plan, and the option of demanding that Congress reject any further war funding, period. Only 24 percent of TrueMajority's members supported the Pelosi plan -- which appears to be the reason why MoveOn's survey gave their members no choice but the Pelosi plan.
Even MoveOn's rules for the war's fourth-anniversary candlelight vigils expressly exclude anything specifically aimed at ending it. "There are many ways to commemorate the war anniversary -- but MoveOn and other coalition members are coming together around solemn candlelight vigils," explains their website. "Events other than vigils that honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their families will not be publicly posted here."
*3-20-07 CORRECTION: THE ABOVE IS BY SHELDON RAMPTON AND JOHN STAUBER.
Pathetic. (WalkOn, not the article.) So let's close with someone not wasting everyone's time.
Dallas notes this from Iraq Veterans Against the War:
Iraq veterans use street theater to show true reality of war
WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to illuminate the true reality of the conflict in Iraq, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) engaged in a series of street theater actions around the nation’s capital on Monday. This day begins the fifth year of a war that has claimed the lives of over 3,100 American service members and over 655,000 Iraqis.
Actual veterans of the conflict in Iraq played the part of American service members -- with reenactments that highlighted various aspects of life in combat in Iraq. The event was treated like a military operation with participants in full military uniform, however, there were no weapons used at any time.
"We are calling Monday's action Operation First Casualty because we believe that truth was the first casualty of this war. Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq," said Garett Reppenhagen, IVAW board chair and one of the organizers of March 19th’s event. "It is time for the American people to know the truth so they will act to bring the troops home now."
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