National Public Radio foreign correspondent Loren Jenkins, serving in NPR's
Baghdad bureau, met earlier this month with a senior Shiite cleric, a man who
was described in the NPR report as "a moderate" and as a person trying
to lead his Shiite followers into practicing peace and reconciliation. He had
been jailed by Saddam Hussein and forced into exile. Jenkins asked him: "What
would you think if you had to go back to Saddam Hussein?" The cleric replied
that he'd "rather see Iraq under Saddam Hussein than the way it is now."
When one considers what the people of Iraq have experienced as a result
of the American bombings, invasion, regime change, and occupation since 2003,
should this attitude be surprising, even from such an individual? I was moved
to compile a list of the many kinds of misfortune which have fallen upon the
heads of the Iraqi people as a result of the American liberation of their homeland.
It's depressing reading, and you may not want to read it all, but I think it's
important to have it summarized in one place.
Loss of a functioning educational system. A 2005 UN study revealed that 84%
of the higher education establishments have been "destroyed, damaged and
The intellectual stock has been further depleted as many thousands of academics
and other professionals have fled abroad or have been mysteriously kidnapped
or assassinated in Iraq; hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, other Iraqis,
most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left for Jordan, Syria
or Egypt, many after receiving death threats. "Now I am isolated,"
said a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave. "I have no government.
I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take
me, kill me and throw me in the trash."
Loss of a functioning health care system. And loss of the public's health.
Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the
country. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centers, once admired throughout
the Middle East, has been severely damaged by the war and looting.
The UN's World Food Program reported that 400,000 Iraqi children were suffering
from "dangerous deficiencies of protein". Deaths from malnutrition
and preventable diseases, particularly amongst children, already a problem because
of the 12 years of US-imposed sanctions, have increased as poverty and disorder
have made access to a proper diet and medicines ever more difficult.
Thousands of Iraqis have lost an arm or a leg, frequently from unexploded US
cluster bombs, which became land mines; cluster bombs are a class of weapons
denounced by human rights groups as a cruelly random scourge on civilians, particularly
Depleted uranium particles, from exploded US ordnance, float in the Iraqi air,
to be breathed into human bodies and to radiate forever, and infect the water,
the soil, the blood, the genes, producing malformed babies. During the few weeks
of war in spring 2003, A10 "tankbuster" planes, which use munitions
containing depleted uranium, fired 300,000 rounds.
And the use of napalm as well. And white phosphorous.
The American military has attacked hospitals to prevent them from giving out
casualty figures of US attacks that contradicted official US figures, which
the hospitals had been in the habit of doing.
Numerous homes have been broken into by US forces, the men taken away, the
women humiliated, the children traumatized; on many occasions, the family has
said that the American soldiers helped themselves to some of the family's money.
Iraq has had to submit to a degrading national strip search.
Destruction and looting of the country's ancient heritage, perhaps the world's
greatest archive of the human past, left unprotected by the US military, busy
protecting oil facilities.
A nearly lawless society: Iraq's legal system, outside of the political sphere,
was once one of the most impressive and secular in the Middle East; it is now
a shambles; religious law more and more prevails.
Women's rights previously enjoyed are now in great and growing danger under
harsh Islamic law, to one extent or another in various areas. There is today
a Shiite religious ruling class in Iraq, which tolerates physical attacks on
women for showing a bare arm or for picnicking with a male friend. Men can be
harassed for wearing shorts in public, as can children playing outside in shorts.
Sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent previously, has become a serious issue.
Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims have lost much of the security they
had enjoyed in Saddam's secular society; many have emigrated.
A gulag of prisons run by the US and the new Iraqi government feature a wide
variety of torture and abuse -- physical, psychological, emotional; painful,
degrading, humiliating; leading to mental breakdown, death, suicide; a human-rights
Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by US forces since the invasion, but
only a very tiny portion of them have been convicted of any crime.
US authorities have recruited members of Saddam Hussein's feared security service
to expand intelligence gathering and root out the resistance.
Unemployment is estimated to be around fifty percent. Massive layoffs of hundreds
of thousands of Baathist government workers and soldiers by the American occupation
authority set the process in motion early on. Later, many, desperate for work,
took positions tainted by a connection to the occupation, placing themselves
in grave danger of being kidnapped or murdered.
The cost of living has skyrocketed. Income levels have plummeted.
The Kurds of Northern Iraq evict Arabs from their homes. Arabs evict Kurds
in other parts of the country. Many people were evicted from their homes because
they were Baathist. US troops took part in some of the evictions. They have
also demolished homes in fits of rage over the killing of one of their buddies.
When US troops don't find who they're looking for, they take who's there; wives
have been held until the husband turns himself in, a practice which Hollywood
films stamped in the American mind as being a particular evil of the Nazis;
it's also collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva
Convention. Continual bombing assaults on neighborhoods has left an uncountable
number of destroyed homes, workplaces, mosques, bridges, roads, and everything
else that goes into the making of modern civilized life.
Hafitha, Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi ... names that will live in infamy for the
wanton destruction, murder, and assaults upon human beings and human rights
carried out in those places by US forces.
The supply of safe drinking water, effective sewage disposal, and reliable
electricity have all generally been below pre-invasion levels, producing constant
hardship for the public, in temperatures reaching 115 degrees. To add to the
misery, people wait all day in the heat to purchase gasoline, due in part to
oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, being less than half
its previous level.
The water and sewage system and other elements of the infrastructure had been
purposely (sic) destroyed by US bombing in the first Gulf War of 1991. By 2003,
the Iraqis had made great strides in repairing the most essential parts of it.
Then came Washington's renewed bombing.
Civil war, death squads, kidnaping, car bombs, rape, each and every day ...
Iraq has become the most dangerous place on earth. American soldiers and private
security companies regularly kill people and leave the bodies lying in the street;
US-trained Iraqi military and police forces kill even more, as does the insurgency.
An entire new generation is growing up on violence and sectarian ethics; this
will poison the Iraqi psyche for many years to come.
US intelligence and military police officers often free dangerous criminals
in return for a promise to spy on insurgents.
Protesters of various kinds have been shot by US forces on several occasions
At various times, the US has killed, wounded and jailed reporters from Al Jazeera
television, closed the station's office, and banned it from certain areas because
occupation officials didn't like the news the station was reporting. Newspapers
have been closed for what they have printed. The Pentagon has planted paid-for
news articles in the Iraqi press to serve propaganda purposes.
But freedom has indeed reigned -- for the great multinationals to extract everything
they can from Iraq's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest
laws, environmental regulations or worker protections. The orders of the day
have been privatization, deregulation, and laissez faire for Halliburton and
other Western corporations. Iraqi businesses have been almost entirely shut
out though they are not without abilities, as reflected in the infrastructure
rebuilding effort following the US bombing of 1991.
Yet, despite the fact that it would be difficult to name a single area of Iraqi
life which has improved as a result of the American actions, when the subject
is Iraq and the person I'm having a discussion with has no other argument left
to defend US policy there, at least at the moment, I may be asked:
"Just tell me one thing, are you glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power?"
And I say: "No".
And the person says: "No?"
And I say: "No. Tell me, if you went into surgery to correct a knee problem
and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if
someone then asked you: Are you glad that you no longer have a knee problem?
The people of Iraq no longer have a Saddam problem." And many Iraqis actually
William Blum is the author of: Killing
Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
 NPR, "Day to Day", June 6, 2006
 New York Times, May 19, 2006
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