Iraq: Still in the Present Tense for Iraqis

From the most recent edition of The American Conservative‘s “Fourteen Days,” a regular feature of the magazine:

It’s easy to think of the Iraq War in past tense. The severity of our domestic crisis has turned Americans’ focus inward, and our new president stakes no claim to his predecessor’s folly. In the public mind, we’ve shaken the desert dust from our boots. But Iraqis don’t have that luxury. The country we broke will be years reassembling itself. By government estimates, one in six Iraqi women aged 15-49 is widowed—some 740,000 in a society that grows increasingly hostile to single women as radical factions take hold. And given the ongoing violence and massive displacement, officials admit that the number may be higher. The desperate few who manage to navigate the bureaucratic thicket—often trading sex for aid—receive a stipend of $50 per month, plus $12 for each child. It doesn’t go far. “They wait in line outside mosques for free blankets, or sift through mounds of garbage piled along the street,” the New York Times reports. “Some live with their children in public parks or inside gas station restrooms.” Shamed by the visibility of the problem, the government has begun to arrest them. Some turn to prostitution, others to the hopeless security of the insurgency. “The Iraq-Iran war took our fathers, and now the Bush war is taking our husbands and sons,” Baghdad resident Shatha Ahmed told Inter Press Service. Her husband, a doctor, was killed last September. She is struggling to support both her children and his parents.

As the new administration’s focus shifts to Afghanistan, Iraq will remain ruined even without a media spotlight on it day and night.

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