THINKING FOR OURSELVES
The fifth year
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Mar.25-31, 2007
This week we began the fifth year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. By almost every measure this effort has been a disaster. Yet the administration offers us nothing but the promise of continual warfare.
On Monday President Bush addressed the nation to mark the anniversary of the launch of what was then called Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a brief speech Bush set a new goal for our military forces saying, “At this point in the war, our most important mission is helping the Iraqis secure their capital.” He went on to say that “the Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages and success will take months, not days or weeks.” Behind this diminished goal is the reality that this kind of urban warfare will further destroy the social fabric in a city already devastated.
The most recent polls of Iraqi beliefs about the war show a steadily eroding faith in their future. Now more than half of the Iraqis believe they are in a civil war. 58% believe that within the next five years they will divide into regional governments or separate states. In the meantime the presence of U.S. troops is not welcome. A 51% majority, including one-third of Shiites and 94% of Sunni Arabs, say attacks on U.S. forces are acceptable political acts. In addition 83% of Shiites and 97% of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. By more than 3 to 1 Iraqis say the presence of the U.S. forces is making the security situation worse. Only the Kurds, who have lived for centuries in Northern Iraq and who see this war as an opportunity for political independence, hold out support for the U.S.
Today six in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going badly. Only one-third expect things to improve. This pessimism reflects a dramatic deterioration in the 16 months since the last comprehensive poll was taken. In November of 2005, seven in 10 Iraqis thought lives were good and would get better.
Baghdad was the worst place in the country. Every single person interviewed for the survey said they felt unsafe in their own neighborhood. Every single person said they avoided going outside because of violence. Outside Baghdad, on every aspect of life involved in the survey—from security to the availability of fuel, medical care and schools—the majority of those interviewed rated conditions as bad. Not a single person predicted things would be better next year.
Fear has taken over daily life. In Baghdad 95% of the people said they have kept children home from school and that they avoid police stations and other public buildings. 100% say they avoid U.S. troops, travel and either going to or applying for work.
These attitudes reflect not only the increased violence and sectarian fighting but the failure of the U.S. and its privatized effort to provide the most basic elements necessary for normal life. The unemployment rate is above 30%, household fuel supplies are lower than they were in 2004, electricity production is also below 2004 levels, and the inflation rate is 20%. Meanwhile civilian deaths and displacements are higher than ever. For Bush to say “there has been good progress” defies all reason.
Making much more sense are all those of us who have gathered this week to publicly declare our opposition to this war. On the streets of hundreds of towns, on the sidewalks in front of the White House, in churches, synagogues, mosques and meeting halls thousands of Americans are offering the only real hope for the future—the conviction that WE MUST CREATE PEACE NOW.