Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Stan Cox, author of Any Way You Slice It and Losing Our Cool, to discuss the humanitarian crisis that exist in Iraq.
Here's the full text of the interview:
MP: 13 years on from the Iraq war, how do you see the effect of that war on today's humanitarian crisis in the country?
Stan Cox: You can draw a causal chain directly from the 2003 invasion to the current humanitarian crisis. And you can follow it backward through the sanctions period of the 90s to the 1991 Gulf War. The sanctions took a terrible toll on Iraq's society and infrastructure, and cost hundreds of thousands of excess deaths during those years. The 2003 invasion and the continued fighting through the occupation multiplied the death and destruction, and created a population of millions of internally displaced people. The war also created the conditions that allowed ISIS to develop. I am astounded that American politicians can deny that cause-and-effect with a straight face. Now the war with ISIS is multiplying the humanitarian crisis even further. Iraq now has to help not only its own refugees but those from Syria also.
MP: How has the war affected Iraq's infrastructure?
Stan Cox: The "shock and awe" campaign of 2003 and the fighting of the years that followed were obviously devastating to the infrastructure, and the continued chaos has meant that much of the necessary rebuilding can't be done. More recently, there have been events like the battle to run ISIS out of Fallujah, which totally wrecked much of the city. The coming battle for Mosul is expected to be even more devastating.
MP: What's your take on the Iraq's natural disasters? How have these disasters affected the region?
Stan Cox: The Middle East is among the world regions least vulnerable to what we generally think of as natural disasters: tropical storms, earthquakes, floods, etc. However, this summer, as we moved deeper into the global warming era, record heat waves caused terrible suffering in the region, including Iraq. I say the heat waves "caused" the humanitarian disaster, but that is just shorthand. As we argue in our recent book How the World Breaks, "natural" disasters are actually social-economic-political phenomena. The heat in Iraq this summer would not have been as severe a humanitarian crisis as it was if there had been no fighting, no displaced populations, no destruction of infrastructure, adequate shelter for all, full access to water and other necessities, etc.
MP: How did Iraq's food distribution system develop as a result of the UN sanctions? How has the sanctions changed Iraqi people's lives?
Stan Cox: The sanctions that followed the 1991 Gulf War caused severe food scarcity in Iraq, so the government had to create an extensive public food distribution system (PDS), one able to supply each family a monthly ration that would ensure at least minimum nutrition. Even when the UN Oil for Food program was instituted after a few years, the PDS remained necessary, and it became an even more important lifeline during the chaos that followed the 2003 invasion. Much of the food has been supplied from the UN World Food Programme, which has called Iraq's PDS "the largest public food program operating in the world today."
MP: How do you see today's food problem in the country? What should be done about it?
Stan Cox: The ISIS fight has displaced many additional people, and they are wholly dependent on food rations. There is growing worry about how to provide for internal refugees from the coming battle for Mosul. It is estimated that there could be from 300,000 people displaced for three months to a million people displaced for a year. They all will require food rations. It is almost always the case that food crises and hunger are caused not by weather disasters or crop failures but rather by political and economic failures, usually accompanied by war. Iraq's food problems can't be solved until there is peace, stability, and an internationally supported rebuilding.
Stan Cox is research coordinator at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. He is coauthor, with Paul Cox, of "How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, From the Caribbean to Siberia" (The New Press, 2016).