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Fourteen years after US-led occupation, Iraq a ‘dead cancer-patient’ Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Fourteen years after US-led occupation, Iraq a ‘dead cancer-patient’

Some Iraqis explicitly wish a return to Saddam's days [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2017

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Exclusive: The New Arab has obtained previously unpublished data highlighting the human and economic cost of the US-led occupation of Iraq.
The New Arab has obtained previously unpublished data highlighting the human and economic cost of the botched US-led occupation of Iraq and its failed promises.

Fourteen years ago, America’s warrior-president George W. Bush declared victory from the USS Abraham Lincoln, promising an era of security, freedom, prosperity and democracy in Iraq, but it doesn’t take much effort to see that none of that ever materialised -- and the new data proves it.

The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq brought insecurity and subjugation to foreign powers, invited poverty and destitution, and spawned instead of one, dozens of mini dictators.

“Today, we are certain that Bush meant the opposite when he made those promises,” Abu Tahsin, a man who had his 15 minutes of fame when he appeared hitting a statute of Saddam with his shoes in 2003 following the fall of Baghdad, told The New Arab. “I am truly sorry for my excessive optimism at the time, because Iraq has been taken centuries back.”  

Even those (once) in favour of intervention agree.

Liberating Iraq from Saddam’s regime was “like curing cancer but killing the patient,” Samir Ali, editor of The Voice of Freedom published by US forces following the occupation, told The New Arab. “Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, millions are living in tents and the country is in a dismal situation,” he added.

For the tenth year in a row, the Iraqi government has refused to publish figures on the victims of violence in the country.

Ruined by the numbers: Death and displacement

For the tenth year in a row, the Iraqi government has refused to publish figures on the victims of violence in the country.

The government has also refrained from publicising the results of recent UN-sponsored surveys of education, healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture, a condition for a multi-billion-dollar loan from the IMF. Most likely, Iraq’s leaders are afraid of the backlash because the numbers won’t put them in a good light.

But The New Arab’s Arabic edition team in Baghdad was able to obtain revealing sets of statistics, described as non-final but roughly accurate by sources in Iraqi government departments, including the Interior Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Security and Defence Committee in parliament.

Up to 430,000 Iraqis were killed between 2003 and early 2017, the figures show, with the casualties concentrated in Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, Salah al-Din, Nineveh and Babel provinces.

The worst fatalities were recorded in 2006, during which 59,000 people were killed in terror attacks and killings by militias, compared to 38 to 43,000 Iraqis killed in the first year of occupation.

The number of people injured in the same period was around 620,000, a third of whom receiving life-changing injuries. Up to 58,000 Iraqis remained missing by December 2016, and 271,000 detained, including around 187,000 who are yet to be referred to the courts.

Up to 3.4 million Iraqis are displaced outside the country in 64 nations, added to 4.1 million internally displaced persons including 1.7 million living in camps across Iraq. Up to 5.6 million Iraqis aged 0 to 17 years are recorded as orphaned, while 2 million Iraqi women aged between 14 and 52 are recorded as widowed.

Up to 35 percent live below the poverty line (less than $5 per day). Up to 6 percent are addicted to narcotic substances. And up to 9 percent of children (below 15 years of age) are in the work force

Ruined by the numbers: Poverty and unemployment

The same trove of data covering this period shows that up to 6 million Iraqis are illiterate. Unemployment has soared to an average of 31 percent, with the highest rates seen in Anbar, Diyala and Babel, followed by Baghdad, Karbala and Nineveh.

Up to 35 percent live below the poverty line (less than $5 per day). Up to 6 percent are addicted to narcotic substances. And up to 9 percent of children (below 15 years of age) are in the work force.

Healthcare fared equally bad, in terms of both quality and cost. There is now only one hospital bed per 1,000 Iraqis.

Free healthcare is a thing of the past. Nearly 40 diseases and epidemics have spread across the country, including cholera, polio and hepatitis while cancer and congenital disease rates have skyrocketed.

According to sources in the Iraqi ministry of planning, 13,328 factories have been shut down since the occupation. Iraq now relies on imports for food, building materials, and various necessary supplies. And once agriculturally self-sufficient, Iraq’s farmed areas have dropped to 12 million dunums from 48 million.

The same figures show Iraq needing 2.6 million housing units to cope with its housing crisis. In education, 9,000 schools are partially or totally damaged out of 14,658 schools, which is about 11,000 schools less than Iraq needs to accommodate its school-age children.

Financially, Iraq’s debt has hit $124 billion held by 29 different nations, the IMF, and six Western oil companies.

Interestingly, Iraq is now home to 126 local and foreign security companies, and 73 different armed militias with 117,000 fighters.

Farid Saadi, secretary of the Iraq Interim Governing Council created by the US forces in 2003 following their capture of Iraq, told the New Arab that many of his colleagued at the council now regret having ever served on it.

“Saddam Hussein was no good man, and the people were waiting to be rid of him. But those who came after Saddam made the people wish they could return to his days.”

(Original Arabic reporting by Othman al-Mukhtar. Translation and additional writing by Karim Traboulsi)

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