May 16, 2011
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has turned the clock back several decades for the poor majority of the population. Every indicator which reflects social deprivation in any society – life expectancy, death rate at birth, death rates from common diseases, illiteracy rate, average calorie intake, joblessness, etc. – is now far worse than it was before the U.S. invasion.
U.N. officials admit that there are more than 1.5 million “internally displaced people” in the country – i.e., internal refugees forced out of their homes by the civil war or the threats of the militias. Many of these internal refugees have nowhere to go and flock to illegal squatter camps in the main towns. The number of urban squatters is increasing, reaching half-a-million in late 2009, according to the U.N.’s figures – which are generally considered a vast underestimate – with more than half that number in the capital.
More than eleven million (almost 60%) of today’s 19 million urban dwellers live in slums, compared to around 20% before the invasion – at a time when living conditions were already considerably worsened by the Western blockade of Iraq.
The Iraqi government’s own statisticians acknowledge the terrible rise of poverty. Their figures show that 23% of the population lives on less than $65 per month and 5% on less than $34 per month. Yet, the food rations, which have been the only means of survival for the poorest ever since the pre-invasion blockade, have been reduced several times by al-Maliki’s caretaker government.
Power shortages have been an old problem in Iraq, ever since the U.S.-British carpet-bombing of the country preceding the invasion put most power stations out of service and destroyed a large part of the power transmission network.
For years, a large section of the Iraqi population has had to make do with no electricity at all. Those who could afford it bought fuel-powered generators, which were often shared between several households.
After eight years of this process, whole urban areas – the poorest – are still getting no electricity at all, while the other areas get only a three or four hours’ supply each day, on a largely random basis. Only highly militarized areas, such as Baghdad’s so-called “Green Zone” get a reliable 24-hour supply. The Green Zone is where most foreign and government facilities are located, along with the residences of the richest.
This is the human balance sheet of the U.S. war on Iraq.