Every minute the United States government spends $200,000 in Iraq, as human suffering worsens, not counting the violence of suicide bombers and roadside bombs. So, where is the United States spending its tax revenue in Iraq?
Ending malnutrition among children isn’t an answer. Providing an adequate water supply isn’t an answer. Ensuring decent sanitation isn’t an answer. Slowing the growing humanitarian crisis isn’t an answer. Advancing fundamental human rights isn’t an answer.
Oxfam International and the Non-Governmental Organization Coordinating Committee in Iraq released a report on Monday that painted a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation, which, if not addressed, will make Iraq even more unstable. Here are some of the facts:
- “Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 percent before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent now.”
- “More than 11 percent of newborn babies were born underweight in 2006, compared to 4 percent in 2003.”
- “Forty-three percent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty.'”
- “Bereavement is … a major cause of poverty. Most of the people killed in Iraq’s violence—perhaps 90 percent—are men. Their deaths leave households headed by women who struggle to survive the loss of the main breadwinner.”
- “The two million internally displaced people … have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms.”
- “The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since 2003.”
- “Eighty percent of Iraqis lack effective sanitation.”
- “Of the 180 hospitals countrywide, 90 percent lack key resources including basic medical and surgical supplies.”
- “More than two million Iraqis are estimated to have fled to neighboring countries…. Approximately 40,000-50,000 Iraqis are leaving their homes to seek safety inside and outside Iraq on a monthly basis.”
- “Christians—who comprise between 8 to 12 percent of the Iraq population—are increasingly reported to be experiencing discrimination in accessing labor market or basic social services, and are particularly fearful of the attacks by militia.”
- “Iraq is … losing its educated public-service workers in massive numbers….At least 40 percent of Iraq’s professional class, including doctors, teachers, and water engineers, have left since 2003.”
When a CBS News commentary reported the $200,000-per-minute U.S. expenditure in Iraq, it blamed the Iraq government, citing $6 billion on reconstruction projects. The commentary said that Iraqis had taken over only 500 of the 2,797 projects.
The Iraqi government must bear some of the blame for the growing humanitarian crisis. But is it fair to blame the Iraqi government when the professional class is fleeing the country and survival has become a way of life?
No, the lion’s share of the blame rests on the shoulders of the American government. No matter how much some in the media and members of both political parties try to shift the blame to the Iraqi government, the responsibility buck stops first in Washington, where our political leaders have failed us. They failed us going into an unnecessary war; they fail again by keeping our nation locked in a lost cause.
So, what should American Christians do? First and foremost, we should confess our moral complicity in the war for speaking too little, too late and too ineffectively against the rush to war.
Second, we should call attention to the worsening humanitarian situation, asking the White House and Congress for straight talk about where the $200,000 per minute of tax funds are going and why more of it isn’t going to meet fundamental human rights, such a food, water and shelter.
In one week, Congress will go on recess for a month. President Bush will take another long vacation. Iraqi children will remain malnourished and drink dirty war.
What will we do?
Robert Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.