12 days of Christmas


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The holiday season offers Christians an opportunity to consider the different gifts they have brought to Iraq:

Let’s start with civilian deaths: “Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” The Lancet, the respected British medical journal, reported in October. “Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths, and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”

Crude-oil exports, on which the economy relies, were averaging 1.6 million barrels a day last spring, far below the 6 million-barrel-a-day potential. All through summer and fall, the oil infrastructure has been ravaged by saboteurs blowing up pipelines and other oil facilities. As it stands, oil can’t be counted on to generate the income to run the economy.

Before the war, agriculture accounted for more than one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product and 20 percent of employment. It is now in ruins. Recovery costs are estimated by the World Bank at $3.6 billion.

Electricity production was halved by the war, but though patchwork repair is coming back to pre-war levels—itself a patchwork job from the previous Gulf war—it is still far below projected needs, according to Columbia professor Richard Garfield.

Clean drinking water is scarce in many parts of the country. Sewage plants, hit in the first war and never repaired, have been further damaged. As of August, sewage from Baghdad’s 3.8 million people was flowing untreated into the Tigris River.

According to August reports, some 1,000 Iraqi schools need to be rebuilt as a result of damage and looting, and almost 20 percent of the country’s 18,000 school buildings need comprehensive or partial repair. There is no money to do any of this.

Various estimates put unemployment somewhere between 25 and 50 percent.

The Iraqi health care system is suffering from chronic shortages of all kinds. Unsafe streets mean that health workers can’t move about and supplies can’t be transported. Doctors in major hospitals continue to complain of shortages of drugs used in surgery and emergency operations, anti-inflammatory drugs, vital antibiotics, and cancer drugs.

Lack of clean water and shortages of electricity make matters chaotic, with generators breaking down mid-operation and patients dying.

Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte and David Botti.