Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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DECEMBER 16, 2011 10:42AM

Iraq war commemorations ignore ongoing humanitarian disaster

Rate: 15 Flag

During a ceremony at Fort Bragg yesterday, President Barack Obama formally ended the Iraq War by saying that US troops

will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high. One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end. Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people. America's war in Iraq will be over.  Now, we knew this day would come. We've known it for some time. But still, there is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long.

 

Yes, the moment is profound all right, but somehow he managed to leave out of his remarks any mention of the refugee disaster the US invasion and occupation unleashed and which is unlikely to improve during “peace.” In the wake of the war and the resulting sectarian fighting, Iraq now has some 1.3 million internal refugees, many of whom are living under appalling conditions in refugee camps spread around the country. Moreover, an additional 1.6 million have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, a million of them to Syria alone. With a civil war shaping up in that nation, and with the threat of Israeli and US attacks hanging over everyone’s heads, these unfortunates may be forced to seek refuge elsewhere. But who will have them? What government will willingly provided shelter for an uprooted population for an unspecified period of time?

 

Iraqi Christians 
Iraqi Christians are just one of several minority groups being
driven permanently from their homes - as if anyone in America
could be bothered to even inform themselves about it.

  

Displacement, whether abroad or within one’s own country, is not merely an issue of poverty and inconvenience, as an American observer might imagine. As the Independent reports today  

Around 450,000 of the IDPs [internally displaced persons] are living in the worst conditions, crammed into 380 street settlements scattered around the country. They have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or medical care. Many of these people, deemed to be illegally squatting, cannot get the documents necessary to register for welfare relief or take up jobs, or enrol their sons and daughters in schools. The tension and claustrophobia of such an existence has led to psychological problems, especially among children. Domestic violence is rife.

 

And the displacement is continuing. According to a new report by Minority Rights Group International, many minorities “face targeted threats and violence, the destruction of their places of worship, the loss of homes and property and lack of government protection of their rights. This violence has caused significant numbers of minorities to flee Iraq, in some cases decimating communities to the point that they risk disappearing altogether from their ancient homeland.”

  

In October 2010, an attack on a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad killed fifty-six Christians and twelve members of other faiths. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concluded that around a thousand families subsequently fled Baghdad and Mosul for Kurdistan and the Niniveh plains. Some international officials suspect the figure is closer to 4,000 Christian households. Christians speak of 8,000. Overall, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reports that at least half of Iraq’s pre-2003 Christian community, once around a million strong, has left the country, probably never to return. This trend essentially terminates Christianity’s nearly two millennium-long presence in Mesopotamia. Baghdad’s Jewish population has been reduced to less than ten.

      

At least some Americans have heard that Christians and Jews are fleeing the country for their lives, but how many have ever heard of Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Circassians, Baha’is, Black Iraqis, Roma, Faili Kurds, Kaka’i, Sabean Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen, and Yazidis?

  

All of this devastation comes on top of the overall Iraqi death toll, which ranges from around 100,000 to upwards of a million, depending on whom you trust. It likely produced some 4.5 million orphans, on top of the half million children killed under the earlier sanctions regime, along with veritable legions of widows.

  

The economic impact has been devastating and seemingly permanent. If 17% of the Iraqi population lived in slum conditions in 2000, the figure today is 50%. Seven million out of thirty million Iraqis live below the poverty line. (Figures taken from Informed Content.)

   

But wait – wasn’t Saddam Hussein an evil dictator, and wasn’t it overthrowing him “worth the price in blood and treasure,” as Defense Secretary Panetta put it yesterday in Baghdad? Yes, yes – so everybody keeps telling me. But since you insist on bringing up the human rights issue, it took WikiLeaks to inform us of conditions in Iraq’s own state-run prisons, where in 2006 a US-Iraqi inspection team “discovered more than 1,400 detainees in two separate facilities held in squalid, cramped conditions not uncommon in MOI Commando detention facilities.  Forty-one detainees interviewed had bruising and lash-marks consistent with violent physical abuse. Thirty-seven juveniles were illegally held at the facility, many alleging sexual abuse.”

 

“It's harder to end a war than begin one,” Obama told the soldiers. Well, the displaced persons of Iraq know all about that. Their war is just getting started.

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"Seven out of thirty million Iraqis live below the poverty line."

Do you mean seven million out of thirty million? Sorry....Just to make sure. It wouldn't be a bad crisis if only seven people out of thirty million were below the poverty line (if only)...

But thank-you for this information. The propaganda campaign in favor of war rarely admits its mistakes after....
Yes, and I've inserted the "million" just to make it clear.

And what is the collective American response to this situation, which we made possible? One solid yaaawwwn...
This is truly a nightmare, but I don't see anyone in the US giving a damn about any of it. But who has ever lost sleep over the Cherokees' and Chickasaws' "trail of tears"?

Rated.
Awful stuff. The war in Iraq may never truly be over. So much devastation has been wrought.
It's hard to fathom the amount of hurt that came from this war. Thank you for writing this.
i could say, once again, that america under the direction of the dubya cabinet invaded iraq without a vestige of legal or moral justification. it was war-crime pure and simple. leaving excuses nothing, although there is some sour satisfaction that destroying iraq did not result in any advantage to the evil empire.

that smiling pimp currently enjoying the view from the oval office has proven to be more dangerous to americans than cheney, dubya, nixon and reagan in concert. 'you deserve it,' but i wish you would discover some combination of self-respect, self preservation, and common sense to resist enslavement, because the emperor is inclined to use the labor of his serfs to screw the planet.
Judy - thanks for noting the suffering of the Iraqis. As usual in a war, it's women and children who bear the brunt of the suffering. In regards to the plight of minorities in Iraq, it's important to remember that the country Iraq was formed when colonial powers carved up the failed Ottoman Empire. That it lumps together two Muslim sects and the Kurds, not unlike Sartre's vision of hell in No Exit where three people who detest one another live eternally in a tight quarters, apparently wasn't taken into careful consideration.
But that sort of thing was also the argument that one will never get a hearing for, which is that whatever you though about the war being launched, it didn't really matter anymore, and that all that mattered was securing the country. That argument still applies today as to the enthusiasm of many for leaving, not saying you personally, just in general. People did care actually, its just that in the debate over whether we should have done that or not, not as much attention got paid to the question of consequence mitigation, and that is still the case now, which may well result in a lot of dead Iraqis.
I'm old enough to have lived through any number of U.S.-supported efforts, all supposedly in the name of democracy: the murder of Argentine medical doctor and leftist revolutionary Ché Guevara; the assassination of socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende and the murder of Chilean folk singer Victor Jara; the Grenada invasion; the Falklands War; the war against counter-military groups in Colombia, Venezuela, Central America and Mexico; the Panama invasion; and the long, ineffective "war on drugs" on the U.S.-Mexico border.

And that's just in Latin America.

Sadly, our nation (and its so-called leaders) has a very, very short memory. The truth emerges only when it's convenient.
I opened this thinking it would comment on female sex trafficking, which I hear has skyrocketed & that the media is not covering it.
Thanks for posting this. As for the country not caring, I wouldn't be too concerned. That's the way societies are. What is sown is reaped, not necessarily in predictable or correlatable ways. I'm reminded of the Thomas Jefferson quote "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." We will be reaping the harvest of this debacle for a long time to come.
Vzn,
Yes, trafficking is a vast issue. I could have mentioned it in my post, but I wasn't planning to write a novel here. I intend to write about it soon.
Yes, because it was soooooo much better when saddam was there?
anya
Please refer back to my text. The evidence suggests the human rights situation is comparable. We'll have to see what sort of regime ends up running the place, and what means it relies on to shore up its authority. I'm merely saying that it's too early to pop the champagne corks - assuming that human rights were ever a serious consideration when it came to regime change in Iraq and not just a convenient and instantly disposable talking point.
We didn't "win" this war, we lost. We didn't "help" Iraq, we raped it. The only thing we cared about "liberating" in Iraq was its oil.

By our fruits they shall know us. Lots of people choose to deceive themselves with the plausible sounding (to the tone deaf masses) lies we gave for invading. They act as if that's a virtue! And they also act as if that somehow relieves us of the responsibility and the consequences we bear - sort of like saying if you jump off a cliff for a "good" reason you won't then suffer the impact.

As a whole, we are a nation of anger but in the sober morning we will find ourselves as broke and raped as Iraq - done by the very people who sold us the lies in the first place.
If you want to make Iraq a better place, that requires that it be secure. Once we invaded, why we did so was totally beside the point, since the Saddam Humpty Dumpty Question was not there any more as a practical matter, and then that always meant a lot of troops.
It may be nice in the short-run to withdraw, but if Iraq becomes a failed state like Somalia, there will be dead Iraqis all over the place that will make what's happened so far seem like a fight at a hockey game.
Who cares if it was a bad idea if a civil war could kill millions, and we can't bring Saddam back?
Judy, great essay. Of course. I totally agree with your observations. I served in Vietnam as a medical corpsman. So I saw the human face of war. And it wasn't a very pretty picture when I looked into the yes of the wounded American soldiers, Vietnamese civilians and even sometimes VC guerillas. They were all victims of this terrible institution called war.
But never in my wildest imagination did I think our country would commit a foreign policy blunder that recalled my experiences in the Vietnam war. I thought we had learned our lesson. But I was wrong because I cam home a traumatized war veteran in a nation of civilians, who have no real idea how horrific war is. So I live in a parallel universe torn between two state of being, the war veteran and the war veteran living among civilians.
I have utter contempt for the chick hawks of my generation who avoided the draft for one reason. They had no problem sending other young men and women to war. They are moral hypocrites. At least Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, to mention two well-known anti-war protesters from my era, had the guts to stand up to the war machine which rules this country like a constitutional dictatorship.
So thank you for your essay. And best of luck in your writing career.
George,
Thanks!!

Don,
You wrote:
"Once we invaded, why we did so was totally beside the point, since the Saddam Humpty Dumpty Question was not there any more as a practical matter, and then that always meant a lot of troops."
Are you saying that once an invasion is started, the motivation is irrelevant and there is no accountability? Would you apply the same standard to the German attack on France in 1940 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941? (I'd say both had more justification than W's invasion of Iraq.) If not, why not?
Judy, Thanks for writing and for the useful info. I linked to it in my piece yesterday, which you might find interesting: http://experiencedrivenlife.blogspot.com/2011/12/truth-and-iraq-war.html

All the best, Frank X White
Thanks, Frank, it's an honor!
Don Rich: a brief search about the history of "Iraq" would reveal to you that it was a "Failed State" as soon as it was invented by the British in 1920 (with our help). It was designed to be , as part of the British Empire. So there was never any possiblity of any outsiders helping Arabs, other than getting rid of the British. One has to wonder about the level of education of our top government officials if they did not know all this before they started . I guess the answer is clear : our "elite" are either Imperialists or pro-Zionists, or both. Or may be just hopelessly inept.
Our imperial pretensions have wreaked havoc throughout the planet. We are good destroying other peoples' countries even as our own continues to deterioriate. Perhaps there is a connection there.
Shawn
Excellent point. None of these colonies was ever supposed to be viable as an independent state. Divide and rule was the watchword of the era.
For the most part, the war was not covered by the media in any serious way. No war tax, fought on borrowed money by less than 1% of Americans involved. There is plenty of blame to go around, but I often think of the war as a subsidy for Exxon and Shell, just add it on to the price of a gallon of gas. The horrors of war hidden behind the cloak of a government controlled media.
I wish I could believe Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's reply to the reporters, too, Judy. It is easy to talk when he hasn't walked in those soldiers' boots. Thank you for your excellent reporting throughout the year. Best wishes for 2012.

Rated♥
They rarely ever seem to think about the vast majority of the people that are in any given country that they attempt to influence one way or another except when they try to decide what kind of propaganda they should use. for the most part they seem to consider only the business interests when making their decisions then they think of the people only when it comes to public relations and deciding what to tell the public to sell their wars.

On a minor note I was unaware that there were still people from the Assyrian culture left; I thought they merged into other cultures centuries ago. I did encounter one individual that claimed to be an Assyrian on-line on one occasion but I was skeptical for this reason. He may have been for real, glad I gave him the benefit of the doubt now. The same may go for many of the other cultures you mentioned for all I know.
While the troops will be leaving Iraq soon, they'll most likely be diverted to Iran because of the growing tensions and saber rattling being done by the Obama administration and Israel. With both the U.S. and Israel carrying out illegal sabotage operations in Iran, it will only be a matter of time before we are dragged into a war with Iran.
Is only my opinion I do not want to upset anyone!
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