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By Dr. Catherine Thomasson
The news is humming; the American people are ready for a change in Iraq policy. What is the right choice for policy in Iraq? We as an organization must advocate for principled action following our mission to pursue peace, cessation of violence and its causes and advocate for a just, equitable and sustainable society.
Our national organization unanimously passed a resolution that you can read here. It is time for all of us to advocate for American withdrawal and Iraqi independence with the support of the world.
It's easy to recount the crisis in Iraq. New reports from MedAct, the British affiliate of IPPNW, and other sources show that the violence is escalating with over 100,000 civilians and over 2, 075 American soldiers dead. Over 160 physicians alone were killed or kidnapped in the first four months of 2005. The numbers of those injured vary by a factor of three to five times as many as those killed. (http://www.medact.org/)
Over 60% of families don't have enough food, 23% of children are considered chronically malnourished and the estimated number of persons living with a chronic health problem directly caused by war is 223,000. Only 54% of households have access to a safe and stable water supply. However, “safe” water includes piped water in Baghdad even though it is not potable. 78% of households have electricity disruptions or voltage problems and 28% have secured or share generators. 36% of families do not have access to “improved” toilet facilities.
Hospitals in Baghdad reflect the infrastructure challenges. All have backup generators estimated to be able to produce 60-70% of the electricity needs if the power system fails. However, 60% of the toilets don't work, sewage has backed up in some of the facilities and there is inadequate refrigeration for medicines and supplies. The water filtration systems of hospitals was looted after the invasion and there are still serious deficiencies in the ability to produce potable water in hospitals.
Why haven't services improved?
The problems began with the complete lack of security for public services and buildings at the time of invasion, except for oil fields. Never before has there been an attempt to control all aspects of reconstruction by the occupying force without the use of NGO's, other neutral third party members or even the state department. Paul Bremer as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) designed a system that only allowed for US companies to secure no-bid contracts for all services.
Another major factor is the insistence on privatization. Private contractors now control all aspects of Iraqi society, changing the country from one which was structured with central control of essential public services such as food distribution, health services and education.
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported to Congress at the end of January that “inadequate CPA controls meant that there was no assurance that $8.8bn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) had been used, as mandated by Security Council, to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.” This $8.8 bil. is Iraqi money, primarily from oil sales and represents 10 years of spending of the former Iraq Pubic health system. In addition, while $32 billion has been pledged for reconstruction, little if any has actually been spent.
These problems outline the fact that our occupation is worsening the situation in Iraq. The CIA acknowledges that our presence in Iraq is the major cause of increasing violence.
Its time to retreat to the drawing board, create a different model of provisional order, and provide true international support for the nascent Iraqi government. The mere acknowledgement of eventual withdrawal would allow the over 40 groups of insurgents to engage with the Iraqi government and be included in building the new government
Research done by Israel and Saudi Arabia has shown clearly that the occupation is fueling the insurgency. If Israel and Saudi Arabia can agree, isn't it time for us to agree as well!
Call and write your congress people and ask them who is responsible for the $8.8bn unaccounted for by the CPA? Who is responsible for bringing prosecutions? How so much Iraqi money could have gone missing?
Let them know that you support withdrawal. Thank Reps Wu and DeFazio for co-sponsoring H.J.Res. 55 Homeward Bound calling for withdrawing our troops and ask Reps Blumenauer, Hooley and Walden to co-sponsor. Ask them to co-sponsor H.Con.Res 197 calling for no permanent American bases in Iraq already cosponsored by Hooley, Blumenauer and DeFazio.
Thank Senator Smith for voting for calling for stronger position against the use of torture and ask Senator Wyden to be consistent in supporting the rights of the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay.
If you'd like to invite Oregon PSR to present "Heath Effects of War", please contact our office.