By Terry Canaan
November 10, 2008
Today, the President and the President-Elect will meet at the White House to discuss the bloodless change of government that is the genius of democracy. Viva la RevoluciÃ³n PacÃfica!
The economy is said to be the primary focus, but you imagine the discussion will be pretty broad in its range. Barack Obama has been getting daily intelligence briefings, so we can assume he’s up to speed on world events and the status of different “situations” around the globe. He’s probably not going to be too interested in advice, although you assume he’ll take it graciously. Normally, free advice is worth only what you paid for it, but from a failed presidency, it’s worth even less than that. Obama just wants to know if you have to dial 9 to get an outside line. This is about running the physical machinery of the White House and a smooth transition from failure to promise.
There are many problems that President Obama will have to address and many of those are problems that President Bush let fester. In fact, many of these crises were caused by Bush, who’s now busy pretending they don’t exist.
A big reason for the failures of the Bush administration is their addiction to BS; they seem to have a belief that there is no problem that isn’t a PR problem. It doesn’t matter whether something’s going well, what’s important is the perception that it’s going well. If everyone thinks there isn’t a problem, then there isn’t a problem. Crisis management, for this crew, consists almost solely of press conferences. There is no problem that can’t be talked to death.
And that’s the problem with Iraq. While Bush singlemindedly pursues what he calls “victory,” he ignores the problems he’s caused with his boneheaded invasion of that country. Many will tell you that things are better there than they have been, but few will tell you its better now than it’s ever been. Iraq is still a nation defined by instability, violence, and want. The current President wants you to think otherwise, because that’s how he solves problems. The President-Elect will have to do better. Contrary to what George W. Bush seems to believe, you can’t deny reality forever.
“Many Iraqis tell me that America broke this country and it is still shattered. When they look at their lives they see the lack of electricity, the corruption, the lack of clean water and much more,” writes McClatchy Baghdad Bureau Chief Leila Fadel. “Security has improved but everything here is tenuous and violence, which has dropped but not disappeared, may come back.”
Still, we’re supposed to believe constantly repeated claim that “the surge worked.” Of course, it hasn’t, but that doesn’t matter. Repeat it often enough and everyone either just assumes it’s true or gets tired of banging their head against the wall. But let’s assume for a moment that it did — is this good enough? Of course it’s not. This is a state of existence that we wouldn’t stand for in the US. I can guarantee that if, say, Indianapolis didn’t have reliable electricity or clean water, with sporadic outbreaks of street fighting and frequent bombings, while the local government operated on bribery and corruption, we wouldn’t just want it fixed, we’d want people to go to prison for it. Better — even if you really believe it — is still unacceptable.People can’t live like this, so they leave. Ethnic cleansing has been so successful in Iraq that entire neighborhoods are dark and empty, ghost towns abandoned by those who’ve managed to survive. Those people become refugees.
Iraqi refugees throughout the region have become increasingly desperate. Despite a decline in violence in the second half of 2007, only a small number have gone home, often because their resources are exhausted. Of those who returned to Iraq, many found their property occupied and suffered secondary displacement.
UNHCR estimates more than 4.7 million Iraqis have left their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care. Of these, more than 2.7 million Iraqis are displaced internally, while more than 2 million have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan. Many were displaced prior to 2003, but the largest number has fled since. In 2006, Iraqis became the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe.
Worse, as these refugees return to this “better” Iraq, they’re chased off again or killed. Not even a month ago, McClatchy reported that returning families were being attacked, many killed. “Some have been threatened,” the report read. “Others have found explosives tied to their front doors. Some have had their homes blown up.”
This refugee crisis spreads beyond Iraq’s borders, further destabilizing the entire region. “Many uprooted Iraqis fleeing to surrounding countries do not initially seek UNHCR help, but rely instead on a social net of friends and relatives which UNHCR worries is rapidly wearing thin, bringing rising social problems among the exiles and occasional friction with host communities,” say the UN. As this problem grows — almost completely ignored by the nation that caused it — it causes other problems in other nations. Where the neocons argued that removing Saddam Hussein from power would spread democracy throughout the region, it’s helped to spread instability instead.
It’s looking like we’re out of Iraq by 2011, if not sooner. Bush may not like that, but he’s nearly irrelevant. Iraq doesn’t want to deal with him anymore and seems to be engaged in delaying tactics until they get a chance to sit down with an Obama administration.
When that happens, Iraq’s refugees shouldn’t be overlooked. Contrary to what Bush seems to think, widespread ignorance of the problem isn’t a solution to it.
Terry Canaan is a former political fundraiser living and writing in Wisconsin. He published the blog, “Griper Blade.”