Well, I did it yet again! I overheard someone applauding the United States' valiant efforts in Iraq and dashed their hopes with my skepticism. Unfortunately, my passion swallowed my words in the moment and I was unable to adequately convey the beaming evidence that we have not helped Iraq by occupying it or submitting its people to debilitating humiliation in the past 8 years.
A gentleman from the group stated that my response was contradictory to hard evidence that showed that the Iraqi GDP has grown since our invasion in 2003, thus we must be doing something good for the people, right? He said that the economy must be doing better, ergo the people are doing better. I looked at him skeptically and stated "Since when has the GDP of a nation depicted the actual condition of its general population?" That's a good rhetorical response, right? It's obvious that the US GDP growth rates are a pitiful depiction of my well being or that of my fellow Americans.
GDP statistics offer a very vague and often nonexistent depiction of disparity between the wealthy and the poor, unemployment rates, the average national income, much less indicators that depict "well being." What is "well being?" It's a combination of physical security, autonomy, self determination, access to infrastructure, economic mobility, health, access to education, and many other freedoms that we take for granted every day. This actually reminds me of Amartya Sen and his book "Freedom As Development." He gives a fantastic explanation of many dynamics of development that are often not taken into consideration.
As my fire burned within me, I thought of my dear friend and her family and their plight for the right to live in dignity. As their faces raced through my head, I couldn't help but think of their beautiful nation that has been raped of many of its national treasures and historical beauties. The fact that Iraq's GDP has increased since the days of Saddam Hussein are no surprise to me because Iraq was placed under strict sanctions by the United Nations after the Gulf War. Iraq was a very successful country during the 1960 and 1970s. It was a jewel of the Middle East due to it's cultural significance as well as it's thriving economy. This all became a legend of the past during the Iran-Iraq War which devastated the country's economy and killed a sizable portion of Iraqi men. Iraq never really recovered from that war because Saddam invaded Kuwait which led to the Gulf War. Isolation in the form of sanctions limited Iraq's ability to participate on the global market and as a result stagnated economically.
Just because Iraq is able to participate on the global market again, does not mean that the corruption of the new government is not absorbing the revenues. This does not indicate that the Iraqi people are healing. The young man asked me what my response was to polls that indicated that the majority of Iraqis wanted the US military to stay in Iraq, I simply stated that cannot be the reality of the people. Who was polled and which regions were polled? Were the "safe" areas and people polled or was it a fair poll that actually represented the views of the general populous? Who sponsored the poll? Were Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq taken into consideration, as their views might be drastically divergent from those of Iraqis within the country. Because I do not know what sampling methodologies were used for his claims, I fail to see the validity in his claims in behalf of the people.
The wealthy as well as much of the middle class left Iraq. With this exodus, Iraq was drained of many of its financial investors as well as tremendous human capital. The brain drain has had a devastating effect. The occupation, corruption of new political leaders and Iran have electrified Iraq with desperation and fundamentalism. Would you return to raise your children in a country with no jobs, no security and no hope for the future? If you are not insane enough to subject your life to such instability, why would you expect Iraqis to do so?
Iraq is no longer bleeding. Its situation can be likened unto a gaping wound that has been inappropriately dressed and left to gangrene. The stench of the fruits of occupation and mismanagement are like bacteria that has overwhelmed the country to irreparable state. In order to save the life of Iraq, the United States' presence in Iraq must be severed. Yes, this will be painful, but just as we had to leave Vietnam, we too must remove ourselves from Iraq.