Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Inarticulate with rage

Apologies for not posting yesterday. I wasn't feeling well (which is permitted of bloggers, you know) but more than that, I was just so knocked out by the idiotic state of political discourse in this country that words seemed inadequate. They still do but I'm typing anyway.

The Emperor of Mespotamia is about to go on TV and tell us about his new, strong and resolute plan to win the long-promised Glorious Victory. While there has been concern among the courtiers in both the Pentagon and the corporate media over such problems as the state of military readiness and whether the current policy is Making Us Safer™, they are all pleased to note that the level of violence in Iraq has been dramatically reduced. It is fortunate that when American helicopters and fighter jets fire missiles into residential neighborhoods and kill dozens of people, it is not an example of violence, otherwise that statement might be untrue. Come to think of it, it isn't necessarily true anyway, but it is virtually true by virtue of incessant repetition.

While the question of whether "we" are safer preocuppies the Congress, Hani Mowafi and Paul Spiegel, in the new JAMA -- off limits to the public, of course, whose sensibilities are too tender to hear of such things -- discuss the Iraqi refugee crisis. According to the most authoritative estimate, by the UN High Commission on Refugees, 4.2 million Iraqis - that's 1 out of every 7, and a far higher proportion outside of Kurdistan and the homogeneously Shiite south -- have been driven from their homes. About half of them remain inside Iraq, in refugee camps, squatting in abandoned buildings, or if they are fortunate staying with relatives. But the 2 million expatriated Iraqi refugees now constitute, according to my calculations, more than 6% of the population of Syria, and more than 13% of the population of Jordan. That's the equivalent of 40 million refugees living in the United States, in case that helps you imagine the situation.

These people receive little or nothing in the way of services or succor. They are not in camps or organized communities, but dispersed in cities, where fewer than half of children attend school, 62% of heads of household are unemployed, and 80% depend on charity or are consuming their savings, according to sources cited by Mowafi and Siegel. Many women and children must resort to sex work in order to survive.

The responsibility for this catastrophe -- which is only going to get worse -- lies entirely with the government of the United States and its enablers and cheerleaders in the corporate media. The U.S. is in deep trouble in many respects -- in long-term and probably irreversible economic decline, with decaying physical infrastructure, a dysfunctional political culture and an increasingly ill-informed population retreating into irrational beliefs -- but this is nevertheless our obligation. We must pay the cost of the disaster we created. Nobody is talking about that.

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