Thursday, June 16, 2005

Coming apart at the seams 

Some of the apologists for the war in Iraq like to potray life for Iraqis as getting better. Of course they generally have to use meaningless metrics such as how much money the U.S. has spent in Iraq or how many construction projects are planned (not executed, planned) to show any hint of progress. Unfortunately, the news from actual Iraqis is much less sanguine. In fact, reading an article today by the L.A. Times it really seems as though the place is coming apart at the seams. Some exerpts:

Food Shortages Gnaw at Iraqis' Stomachs, Morale

By Louise Roug
Times Staff Writer

June 16, 2005

BAGHDAD — After his American employers left, and monthly food rations began to shrink, Hussein Hadi started selling his furniture. His bed was the last thing to go.

Now Hadi, his wife, sister, mother, two brothers, three children and a nephew sleep on his living room floor in Baghdad, their blankets sewn from flour sacks.

Some nights, they fall asleep hungry. "Hope is small," said his wife, Zainab.

Like many Iraqis, the Hadis depend on food rations distributed by the government. Sometimes the sugar they receive has been hardened by rainwater and the rice is crawling with maggots. The soap is so harsh that it causes rashes. On the rare occasions when the Hadis received all the items — sugar, rice, flour, baby milk, tea, vegetable oil and a few other essentials — they considered themselves lucky.

The U.N. World Food Program, which monitors the distribution of rations, recently reported "significant countrywide shortfalls in rice, sugar, milk and infant formula." Families in Baghdad haven't received sugar or baby milk since January. Newspapers have also begun reporting that the tea and flour handouts contain metal filings and that people have fallen ill after consuming food rations.


More than half of Iraq's population lives below the poverty line. The country's median income fell from $255 in 2003 to about $144 in 2004, according to a recent U.N. survey.


For a year, Hadi and his brothers ran electrical wire and made friends with Americans in the nearby Green Zone, which serves as the U.S. headquarters in Iraq. One of his brothers present in the house pulled out another treasure, a photocopied picture of him and other Iraqis smiling as they stand beside Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq at the time.

Kimmitt and other soldiers ended their deployment, and the Hadi brothers were dismissed. They wanted to work for the arriving troops but were turned away. The interpreters who control the hiring of other Iraqis behind the scenes wanted bribes that the family couldn't afford, the brothers said.

One brother applied to the Iraqi national guard. But they also wanted money: $500 to consider taking him as a recruit.


In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum into which 2 million people are crammed, the reduction in food rations also is taking a toll.

Intisan Karim, 26, lives with 24 family members in a small house. If rations continue to shrink, she joked, laughing without mirth, "we'll start eating each other."

Outside her house, water from a sewer flowed along the dusty streets. Goats gnawed on trash. By roadside shacks, boys sold dirty ice in buckets.

"The food basket is shrinking, and the people's hopes are also shrinking," said Amir Huseini, who dealt with social issues in an office affiliated with the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. "These one or two missing items have become three, four and five, until this point when the really vital item — the flour — is also missing."

I was going to make some sarcastic remarks about how the U.S. should hire Chavez to set up some of his social programs in Iraq as in Venezuela the standard of living of the poor is going up where as in Iraq it is falling sharply. But the article is simply to overwhelming for humor of any sort. The picture this paints is of a regime that is incapable of accomplishing anything and is thoroughly corrupt (you have to pay bribes to join the Iraqi army ?!?!?). Hundreds of billions of dollars and many thousands of lives and this is where things stand. Abysmal.

If this continues, the victory of the insurgency is all but assured.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?