Monday, July 30, 2007

Iraqis letting the occupiers down again.

What other country could so torture another country, so devastate it, so thoroughly plunder and destroy it for over a decade, and yet have thousands of people still saying "well, hell, maybe they'll do a better job with Darfur"? Take a look at this. I think there might have been a short time, maybe for the first twelve months of the occupation, where Bush's supporters would still have ironised about how happy-go-lucky life was under Saddam, but we should have heard the last of that. The statistics in the Oxfam-NIIC report describe a cruel and callous asset-stripping operation. We knew about the refugees, the attacks on women, the SPC death squads, the torture chambers (that, remember, were actually worse after Abu Ghraib), the abritrary imprisonment of tens of thousands, the shooting up at checkpoints, the bombing of housing estates, the deliberate destruction of water and power facilities, the attacks on hospitals, the black and decker punishment, the dawn raids, the sport killing and raping, the proliferation of mass graves, the slave labour, the curfews, the biometric lockdown, the subjection of Iraqi cities to blitzkrieg then military fascism. One could have guessed that people were also starving to death, and dying from preventable disease, and suffering from mental trauma. But here are the statistics: 43% of Iraqis are in absolute poverty; 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished; 32% of internally displaced persons who need food rations can't get them; 70% of Iraqis don't have adequate water supplies; 80% don't have effective sanitation; 4 million Iraqis are in dire need of humanitarian assistance (no, not that kind, get the damned finger off the trigger); and 11% of new born babies are underweight.

The causes of this are fairly straightforward: a violent occupation has driven out about forty percent of professional Iraqis, destroyed much of the infrastructure in which they were able to work, frustrated transport of people and goods, terrorised communities and disrupted the provision of basic services like schooling; the country has been privatised and purchased, with the effect of massively increasing unemployment since about half of the Iraqi labour force had been employed in the state sector prior to the occupation; the billions of US tax dollars that were supposed to be for 'humanitarian assistance' have been handed over to political clients, mercenaries and rent-seekers (Ahmed Chalabi is predictably one of the big levers used in this, having been placed in charge of the Supreme Contracts Committee in 2005); the cut tarrifs and flat taxes have reduced state income even more than it might have been; the main institutions of the state welfare structure were attacked and squeezed to near genocidal effect under sanctions, hollowed out by 'de-Baathification', and then transferred to patrimonial control; such state-run organisations as are functioning are often leased out or contracted under memoranda of understanding, thus further transferring potentially huge amounts of Iraqi government resources to private entities; everything that is built and rebuilt (after a good bombing campaign, usually) is run within the public-private hybrid that characterises the state-capitalist extortion of Iraq, so that all the profits accrue to Halliburton, all the liabilities accrue to the puppet regime, and all the costs are borne by the public. Were it not for the presence of several thousands of NGO organisations in Iraq, the situation would be a great deal worse than it is.

There might, who knows, be another epidemiological survey of Iraq released next year. If the above statistics are correct, a third of the population of Iraq is at risk of dying from starvation, never mind the much more frequent causes of death such as gunfire and aerial bombardment. One estimate that models the Lancet's statistics on IBC trends suggests that close to a million are probably dead already, in addition to the death rates that one would have expected under Saddam and sanctions. Yet, the death rate had a doubling time of one year in the Lancet study. That is, if it was 3.2 per thousand on year, it was 6.6 per thousand the next, and 12 per thousand the following year. If organised violence has slowed down over the last year, then it is possible that slightly less than a million have died as a result of the occupation to date. If the rate of increase stayed the same, then there were 24 deaths per thousand this year, which would add roughly 650,000 to the total, meaning an excess death rate of 1.2m. I don't know how much the rate of violence can potentially increase, but if the same trend held until 2010, then the death rate would be approximately 10 million.

Still, the teleprompter continues to give both Democratic and Republican candidates the following line in some variation: "can't win em all, better luck next time, Iraqis let us down".