Monday, July 30, 2007
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".