Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19 Blogswarm, Part One

Scenes of a broken nation:

- A doctoral candidate can't get her thesis examined because there is no one to do it.
Widespread threats against Iraqi university staff have all but stripped the country of its intellectual core, particularly in Baghdad.

According to the country's higher education ministry, 240 lecturers were killed from 2003 to October 2007.

Approximately 2,000 academics have fled the country, according to Tariq al-Bakaa, a former minister of higher education who served under the 2004 government of the then prime minister Ayad Allawi.
- A family waits in line all day and even longer for gasoline.
Iraqis are once again facing days of power outages and queues hundreds of meters in length at petrol stations in parts of the capital, Baghdad, as well as in some of the country's provinces. . ...

The Iraqi electricity ministry has blamed the oil ministry for not providing sufficient fuel to run its generators. The oil ministry has blamed the electricity ministry for failing to provide its refineries with an uninterrupted power supply.
- Another family learns that eating by candlelight is not romantic.
In many areas of Baghdad, electricity is only available for a couple of hours a day.

Iraqi officials usually blame the electricity shortages on disruptions in fuel oil supplies or sabotage at power plants. Now, officials are confirming that corruption and intimidation are sometimes factors in who gets electricity in Iraq's capital.
- A sick man can't get care because it's too dangerous to get to the hospital.
Because of poor security conditions in much of the country, the sick and injured are often cut off from access to medical care. In some areas, it has become extremely difficult to provide emergency medical services, supplies or equipment....
- A sick child can't get care because the family can't afford it.
Some people go to private clinics, which are safer but also more expensive – so much so that a large part of the population could never afford them. A private-sector consultation typically costs between two and seven US dollars, depending on the quality of the service. It is not at all clear how people earning less than five dollars a day could ever pay so much.
- A sick woman can't get care because there is no one to provide it.
Hospitals and health-care centres often lack drugs and other essential items. There are not enough functioning emergency rooms and operating theatres to cope with mass casualties. There are currently 172 public hospitals with 30,000 beds – well short of the 80,000 beds needed – plus 65 private hospitals [for a population of 27 million]. ...

Like many other Iraqis, medical doctors, nurses and their families are in danger of being kidnapped or killed. Some have received threats against them. According to official Iraqi sources, more than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003. Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, at least 20,000 have left the country. The Iraqi health-care system is now in worse shape than ever.
- Poor families face the choice of doing without enough water...
Many Iraqis can no longer rely on public services for clean water. Left to their own devices, many people, especially the poorest, struggle to find what they need. The estimated average monthly salary in Iraq is now around 150 US dollars. As the cost of drinking water is roughly one dollar for 10 litres, each family has to spend at least US$ 50 per month on water alone.
...or drinking what may be disease-carrying filth.
Sewage systems have often deteriorated to the point that there is a real danger of drinking water being contaminated by untreated sewage.
- A man makes his living as "body contractor."
A 38-year-old Shiite who sports a thin beard and a checkered black-and-white kaffiyeh, [Jabber] Sowadi charges clients $300 to $500 to track down missing relatives, or more often their corpses.
- Then there are the walls...
Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party, and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag.
...and the silences...
It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. ... Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.
...interrupted by the sounds of death and the wails of the survivors.
The death toll from a bomb attack near a revered Shiite shrine in the central Iraqi city of Karbala has risen to 52, a health official told AFP Tuesday.

A bomb exploded near the shrine of Imam Hussein, a pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims in the centre of the city, on Monday.

Karbala police chief Brigadier General Raed Shakir said the bomb had been planted in the area by insurgents, although other police and health officials said the attack was carried out by a female suicide bomber.

On Tuesday, Salim Kadhim, spokesman of the Karbala health directorate said the death toll from the attack was now at 52, while 75 others were wounded.
Let's make no mistake.

We did this.

It's our fault.

Our fault.

Our fault.

The blood is on our hands. And it will not wash off.

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