Happy Birthday, “War”

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I don’t really have much of anything in particular to say myself on this day, the sixth anniversary of the beginning of George W. Bush’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia, but I did want to bring some items of note to your attention.

This post from the International Committee for the Red Cross (dated last week) tells us that…

The first month of 2009 brought a relative calm that Iraq had not known for some time, despite fears that security might deteriorate owing to the provincial elections. Street life returned to something akin to normal. “Baghdad feels like it has emerged from several years of horrendous violence, but the lull is fragile and recent, and we don’t know whether it will last,” said an ICRC employee in Baghdad. Violent incidents did occur, however, mainly in Mosul and Kirkuk and in the Qandil area.

Even with improvements in the security situation, basic services such as water, electricity and medical care still cannot meet the needs of the population. Job opportunities are scarce and salaries are not enough to live on. For an average Iraqi earning around 70 US dollars per month, prices of goods are too high. In addition, such a person often has no access to health care. Many children, rather than go to school, try to support their families by walking between rows of cars to sell items such as cigarettes, fruit or sweets to drivers stuck in the capital’s traffic jams.

During the month of January, the ICRC maintained its support for civilians by distributing emergency and winter items to people displaced by fighting or other violence in the Qandil mountains and in other governorates such as Babil, Najaf and Diyala.

And this tells us the following…

Despite a reduction in violence and democratic elections in Iraq, the U.S. Department of State’s recently-released report on conditions in Iraq throughout 2008 stated that there is “widespread, severe corruption at all levels of government.”

Officials in the Iraqi government have embezzled an estimated $18 billion in American aid. On Monday, a dozen policemen were arrested in connection with a series of killings and kidnappings.

Nearly six years after the war began, Iraq still has many infrastructure problems, dealing with little electricity.

The World Focus post also tells us this (an account from NBC’s “World Blog” describing Iraq’s war widows)…

I recently visited the Iraqi Tourism Board to see some old friends and contacts. I went in smiling because I hadn’t been there for while and was excited to see my old friends, but the place had an eerie feel to it. It looked darker – and it was. In every room, when I popped in my head to say hello, there were women dressed in black from head to toe.

As a cup of coffee was placed in front of me, my curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked if a colleague had died or something? A woman covered in black responded, “They killed my husband and burned my home. So we moved to a Sunni neighborhood; stress and grief killed my mother a week later.”

I turned my head to the woman next to her and she said, “They killed my brother in front of his wife and children…just because he is Shiite living in a Sunni neighborhood.”

The smile I had on my face when I arrived was long gone. I actually felt ashamed that I had a smile on my face to start with. So, I chugged down my coffee and quickly left.

Also, Greg Mitchell reviewed some of the editorial commentary from the New York Times that was written six years ago here, and among their editorial writers, it may be totally unsurprising to know that the only one who absolutely “nailed it” was Paul Krugman, what said, among other things…

Look at how this war happened. There is a case for getting tough with Iraq; bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998. But it’s not a case that the Bush administration ever made. Instead we got assertions about a nuclear program that turned out to be based on flawed or faked evidence; we got assertions about a link to Al Qaeda that people inside the intelligence services regard as nonsense. Yet those serial embarrassments went almost unreported by our domestic news media. So most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn’t trust the Bush administration’s motives. And once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening.

And McClatchy today tells us the following from here in a story about a boy named Harb, which is Iraqi for “war,” born on this day in that country in 2003…

War’s six years have been scarred by violence — bombings in marketplaces, a foreign occupation, roadside bombs, sectarian killings, massive displacement and flight and a new — and often broken — political system.

On his birthday and the anniversary of the Iraq war, (his mother) Iman’s uncertainty about the future remains that of six years ago. No one knows the future of the nation or War’s.

The tension has eased a little, however. The family has taken to calling the little boy with black eyes and a shy demeanor Taqawi, a nickname that has no burdensome meaning. It has no meaning at all, really. His older brother called him Taqawi one day and the nickname stuck.

It’s enough that the reminders of war are right outside their door: the rusted coils of concertina wire that snake through the city, the high concrete walls that divide and contain neighborhoods to protect the population, the bullet scarred buildings and the Humvees of the Iraqi and American armies.

And as the story also tells us (in addition to the fact that he has seen violence no child his age should ever see), “War” has never had a birthday party.

Meanwhile, this tells us that “The Decider” himself, the biggest Iraq war cheerleader and the person who made it all happen, finally signed his oh-so-coveted book deal (wonder how long we’ll have to wait to find out who ends up doing the job for him).

Update 1: This is a disgrace (nothing on philly.com’s main page, though you had to REALLY drill down to find something about Iraq on the Inquirer’s main page, and the Daily News didn’t have anything – the Bucks County Courier Times, in its print edition, had remembrances from three Iraq War veterans on the first page of its Metro section).

Update 2: Borderline “on topic” with this, but still, I would say that “the people have spoken.”

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