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A Little Unfinished Business in the Middle East

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If President Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq based on lies and deception, as is now widely believed, please explain why the U.S. is not responsible for repairing the horrific damage inflicted on those two nations and for paying reparations. By some estimates more than 1 million Iraqis have been killed, more than a million have been wounded, more than a million have lost their homes, two million have fled the country, and millions are without adequate electricity and other services essential for civilized life.

Meanwhile, President Obama's ongoing war in Afghanistan is claiming some 4,000 civilian lives a year and forcing hundreds of thousands of Afghan residents out of their homes. And what of those citizens of both nations who have lost their jobs, starved to death, been stricken by diseases which previously did not exist, such as cholera, and doused with radioactive poisons from uranium-tipped shells and have been unable to obtain medical care as doctors and health technicians fled in the face of the invasion or because hospitals, (yes, hospitals) were destroyed in the fighting or commandeered by the Pentagon?

Is the U.S. going to pay indemnity for the stillborn or grotesquely deformed infants in Iraq as a result of its use of illegal, irradiated ordnance? Is it going to pay for the war-induced outbreaks of cholera across Iraq that have claimed in one recent year more lives (in the thousands) than in all of Asia from that preventable disease?

In Afghanistan, the U.S. air raids flattened whole commercial and residential blocks in Kabul and elsewhere and spread unexploded cluster bombs having the power to kill over wide areas. As Howard Zinn, who rightly termed the bombings a crime against humanity, wrote in " The Progressive" magazine, " The city of Kandahar, attacked for seventeen straight days, was reported to be a ghost town, with more than half of its 500,000 people fleeing the bombs. The city's electrical grid had been knocked out. The city was deprived of water, since the electrical pumps could not operate..."

Are the American people, who just at this moment are a little short of cash, going to pay back the Iraqis for the income they lost when the U.S.-made war ravaged their infrastructure and their economy? As the Los Angeles " Times" reported Feb. 15, 2009, "Unemployment and under-employment have plagued Iraq since the U.S. invasion of March 2003, which toppled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship but also led to sectarian warfare and chaos that closed most businesses and uprooted millions of Iraqis." That's six years of terrible joblessness and commensurate lost wages to workers. That's six years (and now more) of lost business to merchants. To worsen the plight of employees, Chomsky cited a labor leader who reported "the occupying forces broke into union offices, arrested leaders...(and handed) over concessions to bitterly anti-union U.S. businesses." (You'd almost think Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was behind this!)

As Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes write in their book " The Three Trillion Dollar War," (Norton), "For most Iraqis daily life has become unbearable---to the point that those who can afford to leave their country have done so. By Sept., 2007, a stunning 4.6 million people---one of every seven Iraqis---had been uprooted from their homes." Not surprisingly, the writers add, "The majority of Iraqi children are not attending school."  

The authors describe how the U.S. attack degraded Iraq to the point where that public is worse off now than under dictator Saddam Hussein: "Life is actually worse for the Iraqi people now. The country's roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and museums have been destroyed and its citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war."

My question: Given all the foregoing crimes and calamities, (and the countless others not enumerated in this piece) which of our presidential candidates, particularly those who dwell on their Christian background and virtues, are going to advocate Americans repay the aggrieved and robbed citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq for all the lives lost, for all the treasures stolen, for all the oil revenue swindled in contracts made at gunpoint, in short, for all that we Americans have damaged and destroyed? Speak up, gentlemen! #

(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant.)

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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