Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Shirking their responsibilities

The Iraq war truly has been a disaster. According to the UN, it has resulted in 3.7 million displaced people - one in eight Iraqis. Two million of those live as refugees in foreign countries, mainly in Syria and Egypt, and a further 1.7 million are internally displaced, forced from their homes by bombings, death squads, and ethnic clensing by rival sectarian groups. According to the UNHCR, this is "the largest long-term movement since the displacement of the Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948". And its only going to get worse.

To ease this appalling suffering - the result, remember, of a war that was supposed to help people - the UN has launched an emergency appeal and is seeking US$60 million from donor countries. They shouldn't have to do this, because it is clearly the US's responsibility, both morally and legally. They started this obscene war and drove Iraq to this pitiful state of affairs. And as the occupying power they have a clear responsibility under international law to care for Iraq's people. So, shouldn't they be paying to ease the plight of the refugees their crusade has created?

Unfortunately, the US accepting its responsibility to ease the suffering it has caused seems about as likely as their accepting more than a token number of refugees from Iraq. As Terry Jones pointed out earlier in the week, the US has spent around US$500 billion so far on the war - almost a million dollars for every Iraqi it has killed. Meanwhile, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, it has contributed a paltry US$18.4 billion towards the estimated US$100 billion cost of reconstruction - and most of that has gone on inflated costs charged by corrupt US contractors, or on security (that is, if it wasn't simply stolen by corrupt US officials). The US has plenty of money to kill Iraqis, but apparently none to feed, clothe, and house them.

In the lead-up to the invasion, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Bush

"If you break it, you own it"

Its time the US began living up to that, rather than shirking its responsibilities to the Iraqi people.