If George Bush were to fall to his knees and weep bitter tears of penance for the rest of his life over the ruin and suffering he has visited upon the people of Iraq, he would not live long enough to expatiate his crimes, even if he lived forever.
Not only have more than 600,000 Iraqis been slaughtered by the illegal war he has inflicted upon that nation, but his invasion has so corrupted its polity, so devastated its infrastructure, so corroded the opportunity for leading an ordinary, peaceful life, that Iraq’s people are unquestionably worse off under the chaotic “democracy” Mr. Bush has imposed upon them than they ever were under the cruel tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Yes, George Bush is probably the only man on the planet who could make Saddam Hussein look good.
Today, July 30th, Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq(NCCI) will hold a news conference in the Hyatt Amman Hotel in Jordan to issue a report detailing how the violence in Iraq “is overshadowing a humanitarian crisis,” with one-third of a nation, some eight million souls, “in need of emergency aid.” Here’s what their report will say:
# Two million Iraqis have fled their homeland, becoming refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan. In short, they have voted with their feet to get out, as they never did under Hussein, their departure speaking volumes about which tyrant they preferred to live under.
# More than two million people, “mostly women and children,” have been displaced inside Iraq. (This figure may not include the imprisoned 60,000 Iraqi men scooped up in dragnet arrests by U.S. forces who were almost universally innocent of any crimes but who have been labeled “terrorists” to justify the White House war.)
# Seventy percent of Iraqis are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent in 2003, the year Mr. Bush, who knew better than the impartial UN inspectors, took it upon himself to destroy Hussein’s WMD that threatened to incinerate America. The water shortage, by the way, like the sputtering electrical system, undercuts Mr. Bush’s boast a few years back to make Iraq’s infrastructure the finest in the Middle East. Instead, Dr. Saad Eskander, director of Iraq's National Library and Archive in Baghdad, told the New York Times last February 7th about his Internet diary, "I feared that people would not believe what I would say about daily life and the state of total chaos and destruction prevailing in Baghdad."
And speaking of infrastructure, The Times recently reported Iraqi authorities have been refusing to accept shoddy and crumbling construction projects from U.S. contractors. Back to the new report.
# Four million Iraqis regularly cannot buy enough to eat. And a third more children are malnourished today than before Mr. Bush struck. “Malnutrition among children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people,” said Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam Great Britain.
While the White House has refused to open the doors of sanctuary in America to any appreciable number of Iraqis (seven thousand?), Syria, which has already taken in more than 1 million Iraqi refugees, has, not surprisingly, slammed its doors shut, according to Human Rights Watch, a non-profit watchdog agency said in a report of its own.
“The United States and UK bear a particular responsibility to help people displaced in and out of Iraq,” said Bill Frelick, HRW refugee policy director last April. “They undertook a war that has directly caused thousands of deaths, widespread fear and suffering, and forced displacement. This precipitated a sectarian conflict that has caused additional violence, persecution, and displacement on a massive scale.”
Frelick says Jordan and Egypt “have pretty much closed their doors to Iraqi refugees, while Syria is shutting out Palestinians trying to flee Iraq.” HRW made the point, however, that Jordan and Syria have been “the most tolerant in the region toward Iraqis.”
Saudi Arabia is building a $7 billion high-tech barrier on its Iraq border to keep Iraqis out, while Kuwait “is categorically rejecting Iraqi asylum seekers,” HRW said in a briefing paper issued last April.
Egypt, which has provided sanctuary to approximately 150,000 Iraqis, has also taken steps to stem the arrival of new refugees, HRW said. Early last January, authorities began imposing highly restrictive new procedures for Iraqis attempting to enter Egypt. Since Egypt has no diplomatic mission to Baghdad, it requires Iraqis to get to the Egyptian consulates in Damascus or Amman, ensuring a drop in applications owing to the difficulties Iraqis have of getting to Syria or Jordan.
While there is an urgent need for greater humanitarian assistance, Oxfam and NCCI believe “that ending the conflict must be the top priority for everyone involved in Iraq,” the two organizations said in their July 30th press statement, “Iraqi government and multi-national forces must also ensure their troops respect their moral and legal obligations not to harm civilians and their property.”
That’s a polite way to say “stop the killing.” An estimated 78,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes in Iraq, as the U.S. military seeks to hold down infantry casualties engaging in ground combat.
At today’s news conference, NCCI and Oxfam will call on the Iraqi government to extend food parcel distribution, increase emergency cash payments, and back up local aid organizations. They’ll ask the central government to delegate more authority to local governments to deliver the aid and for foreign governments, including the US and UK, to support Iraqi ministries in the relief effort.
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