Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The cost of war
The president has not quite declared victory but various generals have been quoted in the news as saying that they leave Iraq having done a good job.
No one wants to talk about the costs of war. The media claim about 4500 American dead. No one mentions the many more injured, haunted by nightmares, struggling with anxiety, and unable to find their way back into civilian life.
No one mentions that what we got for our trouble is that about 2% of the Iraqis regard American troops as liberators.
But American losses are, at least, being mentioned. The losses of the Iraqi people are pretty well unknown. No one seems to be interested. It takes considerable effort to find bits and pieces of that horrifying record.
But here are some pieces:
Estimates of the Iraqis who died as a consequence of military action vary from 100,000 to 600,000 persons. The number of injured is usually multiples of the number of dead. We could estimate numbers upward of 1 million or many more.
Many of the injured were children who found and played with unexploded cluster bombs. Many civilians were injured or killed at checkpoints. The U.S. Army explained that it took them a while to put up signs in Arabic for drivers to stop at the checkpoint. Before that drivers just tried to drive through and got killed.
A significant number of Iraqis were tortured in prison or held for long periods of time.
Many children are left with PTSD, with nightmares and terrible anxieties. The incredible brutality of war which leaves adult soldiers psychologically damaged has that much more terrifying effects on children.
About 4 1/2 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes. Almost 2 million left the country; the remaining 2 ½ million left their homes for a less dangerous part of the country. You can just imagine the massive disruption of people's lives. Many of them cannot return because their houses are damaged or because they cannot find work.
Before the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein had invested a large amount of oil money in modern water and sewage systems, in roads and schools. After the massive bombing during the first Gulf War and the periodic bombings in years between 1991 and the second Gulf War, and finally during this last nine years, Iraqi infrastructure is in ruins. In Baghdad less than half the children go to school. Water and electricity are available for a few hours a day.
The US government paid Parsons constructionalso involved in Boston's Big Digto rebuild 142 schools. Parsons took the money and built 20 schools. (We complain about corruption in the Iraqi government.)
According to the International Monetary Fund $25 billion will be needed to rebuild Iraq. According to the Los Angeles Times several hundred billions of dollars will be needed to repair the damage.
Among the damage that needs to be repaired is removing unexploded land mines and shell casings made out of depleted uranium (that is still radioactive).
Much damage cannot be repaired. Not only did the US military allow the plundering of the Iraqi museums. But US troops built their encampments on top of archaeological sites and did irreparable damage to Babylonian antiquities.
Before of these wars started, Iraq had more than 1000 health clinics and almost 200 hospitals. At least half of these are damaged and need to be repaired or completely rebuilt.
The Iraqi parliament is even more dysfunctional than the current US Congress. It is not clear that we have brought a functioning democracy, of any kind, to Iraq.
This is clearly only a part of the story. How many Iraqis see the US leave and say:A job well done?