Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Because everyone seems to have forgotten, I want to remind you that Iraq has a refugee crisis

We haven't heard much about the Iraqis who have been displaced by the war lately, but that doesn't mean that they all went home and resumed their normal lives as soon as the media stopped talking about them. Not even close.

The fact still remains that five million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the invasion and occupation of their country, and the chaos that action has wrought. Five million people. That number represents approximately 20% of the prewar population of the country.

Some of the displaced have left neighborhoods and sought refuge with friends or family in other areas. Many with resources have fled the country and are living a day to day existence in Jordan or Syria. The overwhelming crush of refugees has rendered damage to the social fabric of both those nations. Indeed, the only beneficiary of this clusterfuck - besides some well-connected mercenary outfits, of course - seems to be the Syrian sex industry.

Still others, lacking the resources to get out of the country or the savings on which to survive once out of Iraq, (refugees are not allowed to work in the neighboring countries, instead they subsist on dwindling savings and refugee aid) are displaced into tent cities in the desert. Jordan and Syria were forced last fall to close their borders and deny more Iraqi refugees to cross over, but inside Iraq, internal migration has been curtailed as well. Last fall, governates stopped allowing internal migration, but still not a peep has been reported about it in the M$M, or by the warbloggers. If they have covered it, I missed it.

If anyone wants to know what happens when young men are congregated in refugee camps with no hope for anything except endless days of hopelessness, poverty and humiliation; one only need cast ones eyes slightly to the west and look at the turmoil in Palestine and take note of the fact that there is no shortage of young men willing to blow themselves up in pizza parlors to inflict a measure of suffering against those perceived to be an existential enemy. In other words, George Bush and Dick Cheney and the rest of the war-criminal cabal have turned Iraqis into Palestinians...occupied, ruled, subjugated and humiliated by outsiders in their own land.

How the hell can you have peace when one in five people is displaced, and an even higher percentage has experienced sectarian violence at the hands of their neighbors? How the hell can you have peace when once-thriving multi-ethnic neighborhoods have been ghettoized by concrete barriers, and people can only go in and out of their own neighborhoods by clearing checkpoints?

How do you rebuild a society when the professionals who delivered services and worked the levers that made society function have fled the country? When doctors offices are padlocked and hospitals stand abandoned save one or two doctors who simply refuse to bend, and the education system struggles in the face of teachers and professors who have either left the country or stopped teaching for fear of being brutally murdered for doing their jobs?

A couple of years ago, we heard a lot about the "brain drain" that threatened to ability of Iraq to return to stability and functioning as a society. In January 2006, the Washington Post was all over it.
"Professors have been threatened. Doctors have been killed in their clinics. Killing has become common," Fayed said. "Some people believe this is intentional, to try to empty Iraq of its elite."

Kubasi, the former head of Iraq's military medical corps, believes that. In late April, his secretary handed him a letter written in what he called "bad Arabic" giving them all by May 6 -- 10 days -- to leave the country. He showed the letter to authorities, who suggested he had faked it. By May 8, Kubasi was in Jordan.

His three sons and his daughter are all physicians. They could not risk staying, he said.

"Every day, we sit here, 10 or 12 of us, senior professionals, just discussing the situation," Kubasi said from Amman. "It's mental death to sit here. But even my patients say I should not come back. Really, really, I could not pay for a kidnapper's ransom. And in that case, you would be killed."

It frustrates him to watch the medical training system he helped create fall apart. "The circuit of teaching, training and care is being broken. It may not be recovered," he said.

"Our medical schools and doctors are known all over the Arab world. The teaching care was excellent, based on the British system. We were successful under Saddam Hussein to start our own postgraduate studies, including many medical specialties. Now they are ridding the country of all of this."

Well, Mission accomplished.

If the mission was to turn Iraq into Palestine, displace one-in-five Iraqis from their homes, send the professional and middle classes into diaspora and ethnically cleanse and ghettoize the cities, it has been accomplished in trump.

The humanitarian crisis of the ordinary people who have been forced from their homes and trapped behind blast walls lies at the heart of any potential political and security gains in Iraq. Until the humanitarian disaster is dealt with, the rest is just window dressing.

That it is no longer even being discussed tells me that the progenitors and supporters of this clusterfuck are decidedly unserious.

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