The orgy of failure and corruption in 2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Iraqi society, as well as an embarrassment for the American occupation. From the point of view of long-term American goals in Iraq, however, this storm cloud, like so many others, had a silver lining. The Iraqi government’s incapacity to perform at almost any level became but further justification for the claims first made by Bremer at the very beginning of the occupation: that the country’s reconstruction would be best handled by private enterprise.
Moreover, the mass flight of Iraqi professionals, managers and technicians has meant that expertise for reconstruction has simply been unavailable inside the country. This has, in turn, validated a second set of claims made by Bremer: that reconstruction could only be managed by large outside contractors.
This neo-liberal reality was brought into focus in late 2007, as the last of the money allocated by the U.S. Congress for Iraqi reconstruction was being spent. A “petroleum exodus” (first identified by the Wall Street Journal) had long ago meant that most of the engineers needed for maintaining the decrepit oil business were already foreigners, mostly “imported from Texas and Oklahoma”.
In every other key infrastructural area, a similar dependence was developing: electrical power, the water system, medicine, and food were, de facto, being “integrated” into the global system, leaving oil-rich Iraq dependent on outside investment and largesse for the foreseeable future.
During the year of the “surge”, all but 25 or so of the approximately 200 mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad became ethnically homogenous. A similar process took place in the city’s southern suburbs.
The United States, which had accepted about 20,000 Iraqi refugees during Saddam’s years, admitted 463 additional ones between the start of the war and mid-2007.
Syria, the only country that initially placed no restrictions on Iraqi immigration, had (according to UN statistics) taken in about 1.25 million displaced Iraqis by early 2007. In addition, the UN estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees were in Jordan, as many as 70,000 in Egypt, approaching 60,000 in Iran, about 30,000 in Lebanon, approximately 200,000 spread across the Gulf States, and another 100,000 in Europe, with a final 50,000 spread around the globe.
Food was a major issue for many families; according to the United Nations, nearly half needed “urgent food assistance”, substantial proportion of adults reported skipping at least one meal a day in order to feed their children. Many others endured foodless days “in order to keep up with rent and utilities”. One refugee mother told McClatchy reporter Hannah Allam, “We buy just enough meat to flavor the food – we buy it with pennies … I can’t even buy a kilo of sweets for Eid [a major annual celebration].”
Under this kind of pressure, increasing numbers were reduced to sex work or other exploitative (or black market) sources of income.
In Iraq, approximately 10% of adults had attended college; more than one-third of the refugees in Syria were university educated. Whereas less than 1% of Iraqis had a postgraduate education, nearly 10% of refugees in Syria had advanced degrees, including 4.5% with doctorates.
The degradation of Iraq under the American occupation regime was what initially set in motion the forces that led to the exile of much of the country’s most precious human resources
The reasons for this remarkable brain drain are not hard to find. Even the desperate process of fleeing your home turns out to require resources, and so refugees from most disasters who travel great distances tend to be disproportionately prosperous, as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans so painfully illustrated.
(ht2 Stan Goff @ Feral Scholar also see this about the Dem leaderships co-option/betrayal of the antiwar movement)