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Iraq’s Children will Bear the True Cost of the War
Basic amenities, health and education infrastructure are shattered beyond recognition

Michael Jansen

11child-running2.jpeg

August 11, 2008

In their book, The Trillion Dollar War, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes argue that the Bush administration continues to rely on emergency appropriations to fund the war effort which, in their estimate, has cost US$1.5 trillion. Furthermore, US$1.5 trillion in outlays for compensation of troop deaths, assistance to vetrans and refurbishing the military will double this figure. This, say the authors, is a "conservative" figure.

Five years ago, when it invaded Iraq, the Bush administration expected a short, cheap war. In the event, it has turned out to be not only the second longest fought by the United States after Vietnam, but also the most expensive since World War II.

While the costs to the US can be estimated, the costs to Iraq are incalculable and may never ever be unearthed. US fatalities and wounded have been carefully counted, but no tallies have been kept of Iraqis who have died or suffered injury or illness. Estimates of the death-by-violence toll alone range from 151,000 to 600,000 during the first three years to 1.5 million through August 2007. One US media survey showed that 53 per cent of Iraqis have been physically harmed by the war.

At least 4.5-4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced since the war, 2.2-2.4 million internally; 1.5 million have fled to Syria, 750,000 to Jordan, and the remainder to Egypt, Lebanon, the UAE, and Yemen. Many of the internally displaced were driven by sectarian militias from their homes in mixed urban neighbourhoods, towns or villages and cannot return because their houses have been taken over by members of other communities or destroyed. This ethnic cleansing has transformed the socio-economic fabric of population centres.

Before the war Baghdad, the largest city with a population of 5-6 million, had a 65 per cent Shia majority but this has risen to 75 per cent. Sunnis and Christians who remain are walled into single- sect districts and are afraid to travel from one place to another.

The lack of electricity, clean water, and efficient sewage disposal is threatening the well-being of Iraqi civilians. Un- employment is 50-70 per cent, inflation 70 per cent, and electric current averages less than seven hours per day. Although Western companies have received more than US$50 billion for reconstruction, the infrastructure has not recovered to its pre-war state.

The country’s public health system, once the most well developed in the region, is in crisis. Hospitals and medical facilities, short of equipment and medicines, cannot cope with large numbers of wounded and ailing civilians. The health ministry, controlled by the faction of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is both inefficient and sectarian-minded.

Doctors, nurses, and medical specialists have left the country under threat. Experts argue that virtually all Iraqis - already stressed by 13 years of sanctions, isolation, and occasional US attack - have experienced psychological trauma since the invasion. Children are most severely affected. This means the next generation could be disturbed and violent.

The education system has been seriously undermined by the flight of teachers, researchers and university professors and the lack of decent facilities, books, and equipment. University campuses have fallen under the control of Shia fundamentalist factions which impose social restrictions on students, interfere in course work and intimidate instructors. Standards have fallen.

According to a report released by an international women’s organisation on March 7th, Iraqi women are facing a "national crisis." Sixty-four per cent of women surveyed said violence against them had increased, 76 per cent said girls were prevented from attending school, 68.3 per cent said the availability of jobs for women was bad and 70.5 per cent said their families did not earn enough to pay for basic necessities. Since the estimated number of widows is half a million, this means that many fatherless families have to depend on relatives or suffer deepening poverty.

The true cost of this war will be borne by generations of Iraqis to come.





:: Article nr. 46366 sent on 12-aug-2008 13:29 ECT

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