Thirteen years ago, Bush/Cheney went to Iraq to rescue it from an oppressive dictator that the United States had installed decades earlier. Saddam Hussein may have killed 250,000 Iraqis during his 25-year reign, and the country suffered from U.S. sanctions that may have killed at least 500,000 infants.
When Bush/Cheney invaded Iraq, with no cause, it had several successful export-oriented industries such as leather goods and agricultural products that employed hundreds of thousands in fairly well-paid jobs. It had a resilient electrical, water, and highway infrastructure although sanctions were taking their toll on the infrastructure.
Iraq’s primary and higher educational system was the best in the area, and its government provided the best free health care in the Middle East. In a nation of 27 million people, it had the largest percentage of middle-class employed at three million people. Women enjoyed greater equality than any other Middle East country. And it had 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing each day that supported the country’s economic superstructure.
The invasion put oil revenues into “debt payment and reduced production by 40 percent. All government-run and oil-subsidized industrial plants were dismantling, bankrupting private industries. Commercial agriculture lost oil-financed subsidies and were destroyed by air attacks. Austerity measures removed the country’s educational and medical systems. Middle-class professionals who had belonged to the leading party were jobless or forced into exile. Their departure devastated the electrical, water, and highway infrastructure.
Eight years of war left 60-percent unemployment, sporadic electrical service, poisoned water systems, dysfunctional medical services, episodic education, and a lack of viable public or private transportation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki auctioned oil contracts off to international oil firms. Oil production increased, but the revenue went into the U.S.-selected government ranked as the seventh most corrupt on the planet. Maliki refused any funds for reconstruction in Sunni areas and used the money for military supplies, for example paying the U.S. $4 billion in 2011 for 18 F-16 jets. Only 25 percent of people in Iraq had clean sanitation, but Lockheed’s F-16 plant in Fort Worth benefited.
Any Iraqi government staffing positions went to Shia citizens in Shia areas as Sunnis lost any jobs that they might have regained. It’s not surprising that Sunnis fought to regain oil fields, refineries, and pipelines. With increasing guerilla attacks, Maliki escalated its repression of Sunni communities and any forms of protest. Once the Sunnis regain areas, they work to begin the construction process.
The current administration seems determined to support the existing Iraq government, comprised of Shiites and excluding Sunnis. Earlier this week, I wrote that the U.S. should look to our nation’s problems with domestic terrorists instead of going back into the Middle East to “fix” Iraq. Here are nine more reasons, thanks to an article by Carl Gibson:
We have the worst health care system in the developed world. Only in the U.S. do people profit from human illness and injury. For example, the average hip replacement here costs $40,364; in Spain, it costs $7,731.
We deliberately saddle college students with a lifetime of debt servitude. Student debt has now exceeded $1.2 trillion, more than our credit card debt. Each college graduate owes an average of $30,000. The debt curtails the ability of these graduates to purchase homes or even cars. Low wages require students to use loans for basic survival as well as tuition payments.
Other countries have free tuition for higher education or, at the very least, far less expensive charges. For example, when Quebec proposed a tuition increase from $2,200 to $3,800 over a six-year period, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets in protest.
We have an oligarchy because the rich can buy their own politicians. With a population of 310 million people, our country allows 535 people, most of them millionaires, white, and male, to make all the federal decisions. These people are purchased by even wealthier people who have far more access to legislators than actual constituents.
We punish poor people for enduring the circumstances we forced them into. After billionaires pressured homeowners into risky subprime loans, many of the people lost their homes. In just Detroit, 60,000 homeowners were forced to vacate their homes, resulting in massive urban blight. The same billionaires who sold the loans then bought the homes for pennies on the dollar and developed them into housing for the wealthy.
Detroiters who kept their homes now have to pay increasingly higher rates for water that they couldn’t afford. Detroit has already shut off water for 150,000 households and continues the practice at 1,500 to 3,000 houses per week. The U.S. system rewards the rich and penalizes the poor.
We allow a rape epidemic on our college campuses to go unchecked. At least 20 percent of women on U.S. college campuses will experience sexual assault. These are only the reported ones. In many schools, the rapist will be permitted to continue at school—sometimes even with a living assignment in the same dormitory as the victim. Traumatized victims end up dropping out of school while conservative columnists like George Will bemoan the way the victims ruin the rapists’ lives by reporting them.
We send people off to die, and don’t take care of the ones who come back alive. The recent Veterans Affairs health debacle is just the tip of the iceberg. Whenever Congress tries to address veterans’ issues, the GOP members filibuster the bills.
In 2010, Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) bill to provide aid for homeless veterans with children was filibustered by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). A bill that would have spent $1 billion to hire veterans for jobs in the public sector was filibustered by 40 senate Republicans in 2012. And just this past February, Senate Republicans once again blocked a bill aimed at providing health care and education to veterans. Neocons push to send troops into Iraq while they deny returning veterans help.
We make it profitable to systematically incarcerate poor people and minorities. Private enterprise and county governments make money off imprisoning people. They succeed with heavy patrols of low-income neighborhoods and arresting young blacks for small amounts of marijuana.
Portugal’s addiction rate has dropped by one-half in the past decade since it because treating drug addiction as a public health issue. The drug war costs U.S. taxpayers $20 billion a year as drugs become more and more available. The country has more black men in prison than the number of slaves in the Confederate South. Prisoners paid pennies for a day’s work vastly increases the profits of private enterprise. These are jobs that once created a middle class in the nation
We cut our own public services while letting billion-dollar corporations dodge taxes. Architects and engineers have given our infrastructure a “D+” because roads and bridges have fallen into disrepair. Students fall far behind those in other countries because of our refusal to invest in public education. Republicans refuse to extend unemployment compensation for the hardest-hit victims of the economy and cut the food stamp program by billions of dollars.
At the same time, major corporations pay no taxes and receive subsidies because the GOP ignores the loss of over $100 billion in tax revenue annually.
Our police forces have become unaccountable paramilitary organizations. After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, local police forces took the surplus military equipment. Municipal police departments can get tanks, drones, firepower, armor, water cannons, flash bank grenades, LRAD sound devices, and other equipment not necessary for enforcing civilian law.
Frequently, the military equipment is used to remove non-violent protesters from public spaces. The U.S. condemns countries such as Russia and Egypt for using military equipment to suppress peaceful citizen protests while detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely in military jail for flimsy accusations.
Let’s address problems in our own country before we try to “fix” any others.