Monday, October 27, 2008

'Wrecked Iraq'

While both US presidential candidates are fond of using the same talking point about the fact that $10 billion per month is being spent in Iraq, no one seems to have asked the logical follow up question: On what?

Michael Schwartz, writing for the Asia Times takes a look at what that money isn't being spent on in his article, 'Wrecked Iraq'. He also debunks the myth that the Iraqi government has free and unfettered control over its oil revenues, which McCain and Obama both use to chastise Iraq's leaders:

Much has been made in the US presidential campaign of the $70 billion oil surplus the Iraqi government built up in these last years as oil prices soared. In actuality, most of it is currently being held in American financial institutions, with various American politicians threatening to confiscate it if it is not constructively spent. Yet even this bounty reflects the devastation of the war.

De-Ba'athification and subsequent chaos rendered the Iraqi government incapable of effectively administering projects that lay outside the fortified, American-controlled Green Zone in the heart of Baghdad. A vast flight of the educated class to Syria, Jordan, and other countries also deprived it of the managers and technicians needed to undertake serious reconstruction on a large scale.

As a consequence, less than 25% of the funds budgeted for facility construction and reconstruction last year were even spent. Some government ministries spent less than 1% of their allocations. In the meantime, the large oil surpluses have become magnets for massive governmental corruption, further infuriating frustrated citizens who, after five years, still often lack the most basic services. Transparency International's 2008 "corruption perceptions index" listed Iraq as tied for 178th place among the 180 countries evaluated.

The Iraq that has emerged from the American invasion and occupation is now a thoroughly wrecked land, housing a largely dysfunctional society. More than a million Iraqis may have died; millions have fled their homes; many millions of others have been scarred by war, insurgency and counterinsurgency operations, extreme sectarian violence, and soaring levels of common criminality. Education and medical systems have essentially collapsed and, even today, with every kind of violence in decline, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous societies on earth.

So, when McCain and Obama complain about the $10 billion per month being spent there, instead of both of them refusing to consider lowering the Pentagon's budget while they promise a new and improved military effort in equally ravaged Afghanistan, someone needs to ask them what they plan to do about the wretched state of Iraq's infrastructure and why private corporations like KBR, Dyncorp, Blackwater, and Halliburton will still be allowed to flourish under their administrations while the Iraqi and Afghani people continue to suffer.

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