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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/17/09

Betweeen Iraq and a Hard Place

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"Uncle Joe" Stalin once said that "one death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."  At a conservative estimate, Iraqis form 1 million statistics as the result of the most recent U.S. war of aggression, begun in March 2003.  This number excludes the 500,000 children buried because of American restrictions on Iraqi imports of medicine and food between 1991 and 2003, a number former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright deemed "worth it".  It also excludes the nearly 2 million adults who also did not survive those draconian "sanctions" during that same period.

But what of those who survived the sanctions, the bombed-out housing, the devastated water-treatment facilities, the wrecked power plants, the collapsed bridges, and the wiped-out roads?  The people who survived the "rules of engagement" devised by the War Department in peaceful Washington, D.C.?  You know, the families whose front doors were kicked in by the new Crusaders, ready, willing, and able to shoot anyone whose looks they did not like?

Well, there are roughly 2 million of these who fled such situations, who have been forced out of their homes (or what's left of their homes), to seek shelter and sustenance, where and when and however they might find them.  And those are the ones still in Iraq.

There are also an estimated 2 million more who navigated the radioactive, poisonous, depleted uranium dust from expended U.S. munitions and found refuge in neighboring countries, lands such as Syria, denounced by the United States and Israel as supporting terrorism, and Lebanon, a country devastated and destabilized by American and Israeli pressures and policies.  Unlike Israel and America, Syria, bleeding Lebanon, and nearby Jordan are poor countries, short of water, food, and resources, barely able to feed and shelter their own people.

Iraq once numbered about 25 million inhabitants.  The approximately 4 million "internally displaced" and "refugees" together comprise about 15% of the population.  The ones abroad are mostly members of what was once the Arab world's most educated and populous middle class, the very people needed in any country for stability and growth, the very people that a devastated Iraq cannot afford to lose.

American policy towards Iraq has been equal-opportunity terrorism: the 2 million Chaldean Catholics, Muslim Shii, Muslim Sunni, and others, all left because of fear: fear of death from above, fear of death threats, fear of murder, fear of kidnappings.   They also feared religious violence engendered by U.S.-sponsored militias, U.S.-backed sects of one kind or another--or of American-sponsored death squads designed to trigger Hatfield/McCoy-style internecine violence.

This is an unfortunately familiar pattern.  The American South saw it during the War Between the States.  Germany and Japan saw it during the 1939 war.  It is a pattern designed to dehouse, deculturalize, destabillize, and destroy a country and its people.  In this case, it is a country and a people who invented the wheel, who invented writing, who invented accountable government.  Iraq is a country and a people with 5,000 years of recorded history behind them, a history reduced to dust and ashes, like the Mesopotamian treasures of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

That's the general.  Here's the specific.

One Story  

Our interlocutor is an Iraqi refugee who knows first hand how badly things have gone wrong.  To save herself, she managed to make it out of the Black Land, first to Jordan, then the United States.  For our contact's safety and the safety of her family, still at the mercy of unknown and unknowable death squads, she will remain nameless.  She can tell you, though, that she is educated with a university degree in linguistics and a certificate as an English translator.  She is Arab, she is Muslim, she is the daughter of a Sunni and a Shii.

After the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, in violation of the federal Constitution and the Law of Nations, our contact told us that it was a common practice for mysterious people to turn up at the doors of Iraqi houses and "ask" the inhabitants to leave.  Then, typically, a strange family would move in, taking ownership and control of the original owner's effects.  No one knew who these people were, no one knew who had done the asking. In fact, no one wanted to know, it was far too dangerous to ask awkward questions.  The police or what was left of the authorities, once the Americans and their Coalition Provisional Government had dissolved the civil power, simply stood by and did nothing to help those forced out of their homes.

These involuntary "donors" became the Displaced.  They had to stay in Iraq because they had no money to leave the country, they had no funds to bribe local officials in nearby Jordan to permit their entry if they did.  They were not allowed to work in Jordan because they could not get permanent residence, although, if you had the equivalent of US$150,000 to put at the disposal of the Jordanian government, you could stay in the Hashemite Kingdom.

If, somehow, you got to Jordan, you couldn't afford a place to live because you were not allowed to work.  And you also couldn't afford medicine or a doctor.  Our interlocutor, reliant on saved funds, was sick for two months because she didn't have the equivalent of US$40 for antibiotic injections.  She recovered only when an Iraqi doctor in Jordan managed to get some medicine from the local hospital for her.

If you, like our translator, made it to the Hashemite Kingdom, created as the result of British policy towards its League of Nations mandate in the 1920s, you had to leave every three months to renew your temporary residence.  This exposed you to murder, rape, and other violence along the road during the 10-hour trip to Iraq.   Unlike I-95 in the United States, this thoroughfare was laid out in the middle of nowhere.  The return was equally bad, with the traveler still a moving target.  And, at the Jordanian frontier, there was an added "fillip": the border guards demanded a US$500 bribe to admit you.  If you were fortunate and had the money, all you usually had to contend with was harsh looks by the men with the keys to the Kingdom.  If, like our interlocutor, you were unfortunate, you could be sent back with no explanation to try again, making a fruitless 20-hour round-trip.  She endured this three times.  On some occasions, if Fortuna smiled, you could pay the bribe in US$100 installments--on top of what you shelled out for food and rent.  Then, there was the "required" US$50 blood test also demanded for admittance (something the U.S. Department of Homeland Insecurity has not yet discovered.)

Our contact did this for two and a half years.

And what did she trade for her life?  It wasn't a mess of pottage.

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J. Michael Springmann was a diplomat in the State Department's Foreign Service, with postings to Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in Washington, D.C. The published author of several articles on national (more...)
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