With Arkan Hamed
BAGHDAD – Many Iraqis see dismal days ahead in the face of rising violence and the decision by the U.S. government not to seek any further funds for reconstruction.
"It is obvious that the situation is much worse than it used to be," retired army general Ahmed Abdul Aziz told IPS. "Can you walk free in the streets? Did you receive your food ration last month? It is essential for most Iraqis to receive the food ration just to feed their families."
The former Iraqi general added: "When you go to the hospital, do you find medicines? The answer is no medicines, no services, no sheets or pillows, no beds, no nursing, and no ambulances to carry you from your house."
World Bank president and former U.S. deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz had said Iraq could "really finance its own reconstruction." But such words have fallen flat because the state of the infrastructure is clearly worse now than even during the harsh economic sanctions of the 1990s.
As the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq approaches, a study by Linda Bilmes at Harvard University and Dr. Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University found that "the total economic costs of the war, including direct costs and macroeconomic costs, lie between 1 trillion and 2 trillion dollars." A trillion is a thousand billion.
This money has done little for Iraq. The situation on the ground remains dire, with estimates of unemployment at 70 percent.
"My three sons have graduated from college, yet they still cannot find decent jobs because there are no jobs available," former deputy minister for trade Dr. Abdul Hadi told IPS.
The Saddam regime "did not allow any of the graduates to be without jobs," he said. Now there is even a severe shortage of teachers in the universities.
"I will not be satisfied until I find that all the people have the will to rebuild their country instead of humiliating their brothers," said Dr. Hadi. "I want to tell [U.S. President George] Bush that he has destroyed our country for at least the next 25 years. He is the greatest terrorist, Arabs can never forget."
People have no recourse to law anymore. "We are not living in a proper way," restaurant owner Qassim Abdul Hamed told IPS. "We are suffering at the hands of those who come in their vehicles just to have meals free of charge."
The restaurant has to go on serving free meals to the Iraqi police, he said. "We can’t say a word because they have guns."
And the free meals have to be served when the cost of food has risen due to fuel shortages. "There have been scuffles in the restaurant, which we have not seen before," Hamed said.
Munaim Abid Hassan, a 22-year-old waitress at the restaurant, said she is working to feed 12 people in her family, since she was the only one with a job.
"We used to love the American people, but not anymore," she said. "Hatred is spreading all over now, and everyone wants revenge on them. You [Bush] are bringing disasters to the people of your own country, not only to Iraqis."
With 2,206 U.S. soldiers killed so far, and more than 100 attacks on coalition forces every day, occupation forces appear unable to protect either themselves or Iraqis. Under the Geneva Conventions, it is the responsibility of the occupying power to provide security for citizens.
"The Americans destroyed everything in Iraq," Gen. Aziz said. "I think every Iraqi should weep all his life over what is going on. Bush should be among the greatest terrorists along with his colleagues in Britain, because they are all criminals who have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."
(Inter Press Service)