Did you know that there are five police academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks? Well, if you’re among the millions of recipients of that “Did You Know?” email proliferating on the Internet, you “know” that “fact” along with a whole lot of other good-news items about Iraq — astonishing nuggets of information like “Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq?”
I’ll refrain from making Counterpunch yet another place on the web where the entire list is reproduced. There are plenty of those already. But I did wonder where the list was coming from.
The urban-legend trackers at snopes.com have followed emails of this type back to mid-2003, not long after President Bush declared “major combat operations” in Iraq completed. They write, “The earliest known antecedent appears to be a Coalition Provisional Authority briefing given by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. Presidential Envoy to Iraq, on 9 October 2003.”
But the “Did You Know” email itself provides no links or sources to support any of its assertions. As snopes.com notes, it’s impossible to attach a “truth value” to such lists, “because they typically contain a mixture of fact, opinion, subjective statements, inaccuracies, and literally true but often misleading claims.”
As you already know — because you’re reading Counterpunch — one look beyond your inbox shows that there’s no shortage of documented facts about conditions in Iraq. Most of them, unfortunately, are pretty grim.
To cover one’s eyes and pluck one example: The October 9 edition of USA Today carried a story by Rick Jervis headlined “Iraq rebuilding slows as U.S. money for projects dries up.” From the information in that single article (which ran in a publication not known for publishing radical peacenik propaganda), you can assemble your own “Did You Know” email, and forward it all your friends and foes:
Did you know that half of all Iraqi households still don’t have access to clean water?
Did you know that only 8% of Iraqi households outside Baghdad are connected to sewage networks?
Did you know that out of 81 water and sewage treatment projects planned as part of the reconstruction effort, 68 have been abandoned?
Did you know that the power in Baghdad is out for 14 hours a day?
Did you know that 330 reconstruction contractors, mostly Iraqis, have been killed?
Did you know that a quarter out of every dollar allocated for reconstruction is being spent on security instead?
Did you know that Iraq’s oil production is lower than before the 2003 war, and 46% lower than before the 1991 Gulf War?
Did you know that nearly $100 million in US taxpayer-funded reconstruction money for Iraq is unaccounted for? [This figure is far too low. Other estimates of missing funds range from $1 billion to $8.8 billion .]
Did you know that the unemployment / underemployment rate in Iraq stands at 50% ?
Did you know that all 11 multinational firms working through the Iraqi Project and Contracting Office have “cost-plus” contracts, which guarantee that they will be paid all of their costs, no matter how high they go, plus a profit?
Did you know that expenses for construction of one water treatment plant under a “cost plus” contract have grown from $80 million to $200 million, with taxpayers, not the contractor, making up the difference?
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Many Americans, understandably, don’t want to believe that there’s a situation that Americans can’t resolve, if we just try hard enough. But in Iraq, we’ve created exactly that sort of dead-end predicament. Those of us who are paying for the occupation have to be confronted with the degeneration of Iraq — a process that will continue, whether our intentions are good or bad, as long as there’s even one US miltary unit patrolling or one US corporation profiteering anywhere in the country.
So find some hard facts, identify the sources, put them in a message, and start hitting your “Send” button.
Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kansas. Did you know he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Stan Cox, CounterPunch