In response to the April 3rd letter to the [Highland Park, [Illinois] News] editor from Nancy Thorner who disagreed vehemently with my naming the war in Iraq an immoral and unjust war and occupation with no end in sight, I would urge the writer of that letter to stop to think for a moment of what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. "shock and awe" invasion in 2003, which Ms. Thorner felt so proud about while glued to her TV set.
While our media news is mostly sanitized to prevent the suffering created by the occupation of Iraq from being seen, it has widely recognized, according to reports of the UNHCR that at least two and a half million Iraqis have gone into exile in refugee camps in bordering countries and 2.3 million have left their homes into internal exile, the internal refugee numbers having increased significantly in 2007 between the beginning of the "surge" in February and end of September, 83 percent of them being women and children.
There are now about a million dead civilian Iraqis (among several polls, including the prestigious British agency Opinion Research Business [ORB]) -- and the numbers of wounded three times more. Some 70 percent of Iraq's doctors and pharmacists have fled, bringing its medical systems to the point of collapse. Physical and economic conditions are at historic bases of misery, and after five years of occupation and massive amounts of U.S. taxpayer monies, most cities and towns lack regular electricity, sanitation, clean and potable water. Half of Iraq's population are children. Some 25 percent are malnourished and 10 percent suffer acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF which also cites a study showing that 70 percent of Iraq's children suffer from traumatic stress syndrome. Small wonder. The war and occupation have laid waste to the country.
And what of our brave military who volunteered because of patriotism and duty? On the 5th anniversary of the war (March 19) the number of military dead had hit 4000. Barely over two weeks later the number has jumped to 4017. The wounded, ill, injured are close to 45,000 and over one-third being diagnosed with PTSD, with burgeoning rates of veteran suicides. A CBS study revealed than in 2005 alone there were 6256 veteran suicides -- that's 17 suicides a day.
There was a reported five-fold increase in the number of bombs dropped in Iraq during 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; over 30 tons of those were cluster weapons which take a particularly heavy toll on civilians. The killing of those civilian families is an example of how the U.S. occupation has engendered hatred for the U.S.- which causes more people to join the insurgency -- which reason is then used as the excuse to continue the occupation, an occupation that will, for obvious reasons go on indefinitely.
Mostly unreported in the U.S. commercial media, in mid March a majority of the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding a timetable for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave the country. This was not the first anti-occupation vote to be passed. A public opinion poll in late 2006 by the BBC showed that 80 percent of Iraqis wanted the occupation out. During the Maliki government assault last week in Basra, as reported in the NYTimes, 1500 government forces had "under-performed or deserted" Estimates of military officers who refused to fight varied from "several dozen to a hundred."
Clearly the "successes" of the surge are tenuous at best. But whatever General Petraeus tells Congress when he testifies next week, however impressive he sounds, we citizens of conscience (yes, "war protestors") must speak out to remind our community that his testimony is delusional. That the Iraq war was and is a national disaster, a regional tragedy, a global catastrophe for the U.S. Ending that moral depravity quickly is in the highest national interest.