Mortality due to Violence in Iraq, 2003 (Roberts, et al., 2004)
The Iraqi people have paid the heaviest price for American greed, hubris, jingoism and bloodlust. The war was found to be responsible for more than 650,000 Iraqi deaths – 600,000 by violence and the remainder from a economic collapse – (Brownstein & Brownstein, 2008) and, at its peak, 4.7 million out of a population of 27 million, or one in six, had been made refugees (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2007). The unfathomable destruction of these people and their country is the preeminent legacy of this disastrous, criminal war. Simply reading and writing about the stories and statistics of this unending nightmare is at times hard to bear and no language can possibly do justice for the victims.
Nuremberg Principle VI defines “war crimes” in part as “wanton destruction of cities,…or devastation not justified by military necessity” (International Committee of the Red Cross, 2012). During the November 2004 invasion of Fallujah (Schwartz, 2008, p. 112):
"US forces surrounded the city and barred entry to everyone. Even humanitarian and medical personnel were not allowed to enter for the next two months. The commanders of the siege then invited all women, children, and older men to leave through a few of [the] heavily guarded checkpoints. All fighting-age men were prohibited from exiting….Civilians who stayed in the city during the fighting, estimated to be about fifty thousand of the two hundred fifty thousand residents, found themselves in a kill-anything-that-moves free-fire zone."
The city was destroyed, has not been rebuilt and will probably not recover in a generation. This great victory was mimicked in Baiji and Ramadi, cities of 200,000 and 500,000, respectively. A study by the Iraq Body Count found that of all people in Iraq killed by air strikes, 46% are women and 39% are children (Sengupta, 2009). Mortality due to violence in Iraq increased 58-fold in 2003 (Roberts, et al., 2004).
Victims’ compensation is disgustingly low, at $2,500 per death, $1,500 for serious injury and $200 for minor injuries. Of course, most people receive nothing at all: from 2003 to 2006, the Pentagon paid out $31 million in total claims for both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Hedges & al-Arian, 2008, pp. 44-45). Only one in six Iraqi widows receive the government stipend for widows ($50 per month plus $12 for each child). As a response to this inconvenience, the government is starting “a campaign to arrest beggars and the homeless, including war widows” (Williams, 2009). The Iraqi surplus, which could easily provide a modicum of dignity for those that have lost everything, rests in US and European banks, the oil and banking sectors partially sold to foreign investors, and the proceeds used to construct opulent military suburbias, swimming pools and fast-food restaurants in the Green Zone, as discussed above.
The purported ‘democracy’ in Iraq is a rhetorical façade. After invading the country, the United States installed an American viceroy, who appointed a temporary government to hold elections. The Ba’ath party, which would be the chief political opposition to the occupation, is still banned from running in elections (Shadid, 2010). According to the 2009 UN Arab Human Development Report, “it is a crime to insult any public institution or official. It is also a crime, under article 227, to publicly insult a foreign country or an international organization with an office in Iraq.” The Report concludes: “Bad as Iraq’s economic legacy was, it does not compare to the economic breakdown that followed the US-led invasion...standards of living are still lower than they were before the invasion.” Iraq ranks 152nd out of 179 countries in Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index (2012).
Brownstein, Catherine A. and John S. Brownstein. 2008. “Estimating Excess Mortality in Post-Invasion Iraq.” New England Journal of Medicine, 358(5), pp. 445-447.
Hedges, Chris and Laila al-Arian. 2008. Collateral Damage: America’s War against Iraqi Civilians. Nation Books.
International Committee of the Red Cross. 2012. “Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, 1950.” http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/390.
Reporters without Borders. 2012. Press Freedom Index. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2011-2012,1043.html
Roberts, et al. November, 2004. “Mortality before and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Cluster Sample Survey.” Lancet 364(9448), pp. 1857-1864.
Schwartz, Michael. 2008. War without End: The Iraq War in Context. Haymarket Books.
Sengupta, Kim. April 16, 2009. “Iraq Air Raids Hit Mostly Women and Children.” Independent.
Shadid, Anthony. January 14, 2010. “Iraqi Commission Bars Nearly 500 Candidates.” New York Times.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 2007. “Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World.” http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&id=470387fc2.
Williams, Timothy. February 22, 2009. “Iraq’s War Widows Face Dire Need with Little Aid.” New York Times.