Monday, July 30, 2007

43% of Iraqis in "absolute poverty" but let's focus on a soccer match

Today the US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi National Force-West died July 26 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." Those deaths, for anyone just waking up, took place on Thursday and are only now being announced on Monday.

This is becoming a regular pattern and possibly Congress might want to ask Petraeus exactly what's going on? Is the US military so incompetent that they don't know three soldiers died on Thursday until a Monday morning rollcall?

There is no excuse for this and the fact that the press continues to act as though this isn't happening allows the US military to continue to monkey with the numbers. MNF only announces deaths, they do not release the names. The Defense Dept. releases the names and that's why there is the time lag between MNF and DoD. There is no excuse for the repeated delays in announcing deaths.

But if MNF wants to claim this is just happening, Congress needs to ask Petraus why, with all the communication equipment in Iraq, MNF is no longer able to release death announcements in a timely fashion? Those deaths should have been announced no later than Friday. Instead, they are being announced four days after they occurred.

ICCC doesn't yet have a link to those 3 deaths but they have updated their count to include them. The total number of US service members announced dead since the start of the illegal war is 3651 and the total of deaths announced this month thus far are 72. Those are "announced deaths" and the repeated and continual delay in announcing deaths is the reason some now wonder what else the US military is currently sitting on?

If you saw any of the footage on TV yesterday or this morning, you know Gordon Brown ducked his head and came trotting down the stairs to the tarmac. He then gabbed like crazy to Bully Boy who did the shifty eye thing he so favors. The two of them hopped in a golf cart with Bully Boy driving and Bully Boy made a little loop before driving off.

Though there's nothing amazing in any of that, if you've seen the footage on TV, you know it's being treated like something amazing. Brown and Bully Boy last met face to face in April. Noting that would take away the "freshness" of it all so the commentators bill it as their "first" meeting with a few going on to note it's their "first" since Brown became prime minister.

In the real world, the crisis in Iraq continues. Oxfam and NCII have released a new report entitled "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq" (link is not PDF, it takes you to a summary of the report -- the report is in PDF format). Key findings include:

*Four million Iraqis - 15% - regularly cannot buy enough to eat.

*70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.

*28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.

*92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

*More than two million people - mostly women and children - have been displaced inside Iraq.

*A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.

Reading the report, you learn that the situation (no surprise) in issues such as water are worse now than they were before the illegal war started. From the executive summary:

Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.
Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now.
The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 per cent reported receiving food rations only sometimes.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already.

Search in vain for this in the paper, any paper. Search in vain for it tomorrow, more than likely. But there's plenty of time to gush over the Bully Boy Meets Blair nonsense and news persons continue to confuse themselves with sports writer. Worst offenders are the New York Times' Stephen Farrell, Peter Gelling and whomever wrote the headline to "With Eyes Fixed on a Distant Soccer Field, Iraqis Leap at a Reason to Celebrate." Link provided solely for the laughs their article warrants. Do "Iraqis" leap or even skip? Reading the article you hear of crowds of young men and all men are quoted. Bare chested men. You get the feeling Farrell and Gelling would most enjoy describing the hair patterns on the men's chests.

It's nothing but junk news. Oxfam won't be covered by most print outlets (reducing it to a World Brief is not covering it) but we've got time for this nonsense yet again and to be told "Iraqis" celebrated (yet again) when it appears to be, as usual, all men.

The press really ought to be ashamed. The Guardian of London rushes to say the soccer title "transcends sport" -- does it transcend absolute poverty? Isn't this rah-rah crap the same thing that, in the US, allows cities who won't spend on libraries and other necessities to fork over citizens' monies so that stadiums can be built whose seats are overpriced and most can't afford them and the profits all go to Big Business? But best of all writing of "Iraqis" allows them to continue to ignore the very real and highly unreported realities for Iraqi women.

The Washington Post's big story is that contractors aren't in it for the money. The point is . . . . proved? . . . by describing a man who had just been arrested for drunk driving, couldn't pick find a degree he liked in college and a friend told him he could make $7000 a month in Iraq and have weekends off to go jet skying in the Persian Gulf. Apparently, the man's story illustrates that money and jet skying are the big motivators. Contractors keep the illegal war going. (And the enlisted are not making the big bucks.) It should be noted that mercenaries have generally always cited both the "adventure" and the money as main reasons for doing what they do.

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