Thursday, April 11, 2013

Update from Riverbend

I received a surprise in my email yesterday.  I had two emails and comments on this post about Riverbend:  She posted an update on her blog for the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war.

It is not a happy anniversary.  When the war began, it was sold as "nation building."  We were told that we had to go to war to topple a dictator that threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction.  After 9-11 this seemed a very real possibility.  We were the good guys that were going to win a quick war with "shock and awe" to liberate Iraq.  But, we weren't.  Iraq quickly fell into chaos and internal civil war.  We did change the government, but we didn't build a nation, we occupied it for a time, and then we left.  

We had 4,481 U.S. military casualties.  Estimates range from 100,000 to almost 600,000 Iraqi deaths.
Estimate of civilian deaths from government and news reports.  From website: Iraqi body count
The social landscape of Iraq was radically altered by the war and the subsequent civil war.  The UN Human Rights Commission estimates 1.4-1.6 million refugees in Iraq - out of a total population of 30.7 million. Most are classified as internally displaced, but if you are forced out of your home you are still a refugee.  The infrastructure was destroyed and still has not been replaced. As reported in the Washington post, by Leila Fadel in 2010, the country still does not have enough electricity and clean water.  She reports that president Maliki tried to defend the situation in 2010 by saying:

"Do not expect the electricity problem to be solved before the power stations being built by . . . the Americans' GE, Germany's Siemens and other companies are completed, which will take two years at least. . . Iraq now is a workshop. The electricity stations are working. The oil companies are working. Water stations are working. Everything is working in Iraq -- but it needs time."  

But they aren't working. Everything isn't working.  Iraq is still broken.  I know that in Iowa summers, when it is 95 degrees outside, it is important to my wife that I get the AC working.  I can't imagine the strife in my household if we lived in Iraq where temperatures rise to 120 degrees in the summer if we did not have electricity or water.  Most people in 2010 had four hours of power a day.  Clean water is not any better.  In 2012, as reported in Al jazeera, Baghdad produces 2.5 million liters of clean water a day, but they need 3.5 million.  That is 1 million liters of drinking water short.  In 2011, the UN reported that 20 percent of households have unsafe drinking water, 43% in rural areas, and that irrigation water was inadequate and unsafe. 

What do we do about it? I don't know know, but it breaks my heart. As Riverbend wrote:

"Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn't forget what this was about - making America safer... And are you safer Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, ten years down the line?" 

I am not sure the story will be any better with Afghanistan.  I believe that this was not what we wanted.  So how do we change this?  If you are in Iraq, or have been to Iraq, what can we do?