(a different kind of math lesson… – promoted by pfiore8)
Another surreal day in America. Everyone is talking about the “math” in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. Our war criminal in chief endorsed McCain to carry on his proud tradition of violence for profit. The corporate media laps up the most expensive presidential campaign in history. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, the Iraqi people continue to suffer because of our actions and inactions.
Here is a story that every news outlet in America managed to ignore. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) just published a study of the mental health problems of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon. More than half of the refugees interviewed reported high levels of clinically significant emotional distress. What’s a few million traumatized people forced to flee their homes, jobs, schools, extended families, and country? Their suffering does not fit our narrative about the war.
Our presidential candidates have already spent more money on this election than our country has spent over the past five years to help the victims of our foreign policy in Iraq. That’s right. Our presidential candidates have spent more than 300 million dollars, more than four times what has been spent to help refugees in a country we destroyed. Even with the proposed 125 million dollars for FY08/09, it will still be a drop in the bucket compared to the money spent on the presidential race.
Here are a few major points from the IOM report (pdf).
Many of the refugees personally experienced significant traumatic events in the aftermath of our adventure in regime change.
A significant percentage of the respondents (21% in Jordan, 34% in Lebanon) were subject to, before or while fleeing, direct experiences of potentially highly traumatizing events, including witnessing the assassination of relatives and friends, kidnapping, torture, and rape.
Even those refugees lucky enough to escape without a traumatic experience face severe financial, social, and legal challenges. In short, the Iraqis face overwhelming obstacles to find employment, housing, education, and health care.
The difficult moments many Iraqi families are living, and their difficult adaptation to the new environment, are not only results of these families’ plans, expectations and psychological distress. In fact, emotional wellbeing and integration are also constrained by objective social and material obstacles as well. These include the lack of a defined and permanent legal status, the difficult access to services, and the continuous exhaustion of savings and other sources of income. These factors are forcing many Iraqis to work under-the-table, making them subject to exploitation, abuse, and frustrations, and still being unable to fully provide for their basic needs.
Psychological assistance available to help the Iraqi refugees cope with traumatic experiences and major life stresses is practically nonexistent. Mental health services in Jordan and Lebanon are privatized with the cost out of reach of Iraqis in need.
As Americans, we share the responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people. We failed to hold our leaders accountable for invading and occupying Iraq based on false pretenses. We failed to count the civilians killed, wounded, or psychologically scarred by our aggressive foreign policy. We ignore or dismiss evidence of the suffering we created. We gladly latch onto every claim that things are improving in Iraq.
Part of the disinformation campaign conducted by the Bush administration to promote the success of the “surge” is that Iraqi refugees are returning in large numbers. No need to worry about the 2.5 million Iraqis living in neighboring countries because they are coming home. The only problem is that it is just another Bush lie and it is glibly reported by the American media.
The rest of world sees a much different picture.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported September last year that there are between 1.2 and 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria alone.
A UNHCR report issued last month contradicts reports by mainstream media in the U.S., and claims by the Bush administration, that more Iraqis are returning to their homes than the number leaving.
Another gem that never made our media is the Iraqi government promised to pay the refugees to return home, but those promises were just promises.
“Some people did go back when they had nothing to spend any more, especially after the Iraqi government promised to pay them money on return,” said the manager. “Many of them came back to Syria when they found that all those promises were just lies. On the other hand, Iraqis from the north and south are still fleeing because of the military operations everywhere in Iraq.”
The Iraqis are grateful for even the limited opportunities they have in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. They seem far less grateful to the United States.
“It is cheaper here than in Iraq,” Hanan Jabbar, a 38-year-old housewife who fled to Syria five months ago told IPS. “A litre of kerosene costs a dollar back home, while it’s 10 cents here. That is just one example for how impossible life now is in Iraq. My kids go to school safely and play like other children now without me worrying to death about them. God bless Syria and Jordan for having us, and God damn America and all its allies for doing all this to us.”
God damn America! Is that any way to talk about the country that lied about the threat posed by Iraq, destroyed its infrastructure, tortured people in its prisons, allowed hundreds of thousands of its civilians to be killed or wounded in the violence that has marked the occupation, allowed its priceless artifacts to be looted, and did nothing to help the millions displaced as refugees?
I do not care about the electoral math. I am tired of the unending spiral of negative campaigning that only helps elect John McCain. I am fed up with the tepid responses to questions about patriotism because Obama does not wear a flag pin on his lapel. Maybe we should be questioning the humanity of people that support the Iraq war with questions about how much it is costing our society, how many Iraqis have died violently during our occupation, and why we have done so little for the refugees. Real math. Real questions. Real issues.