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By some accounts, life in Iraq has improved since the U.S. invasion of 2003. Electric and water services have improved, and cell phones have increased exponentially. However, the continuing humanitarian crisis of two million Iraqi refugees and an estimated 2.6 million internally displaced belies widespread progress, as the poor security situation prevents them from returning home.

Nevertheless, Iraq failed to make the top ten news stories in any U.S. media format – radio, television, newspapers or the Internet – for a full month (June 2009) for the first time. Not only did recession news eclipse many other stories. The media have also been pulling news people out of Iraq. A sad irony is that the U.S. borrows from China to fund its war in Iraq – sustaining jobs and bringing huge profits to the U.S. defense industry – while saddling future generations of U.S. Americans with the obligation to repay a rapidly growing debt.

Meanwhile, $720 million – the estimated cost of one day of the Iraq war – could provide 424,000 U.S. children with health care, build 84 elementary schools or provide 1.3 million homes with renewable energy. It would more than pay for a full year of peace building, including education for Iraqi refugee youth ($129 million), food for vulnerable Iraqi refugee families ($126 million) and direct support to Syria to help 1.5 million Iraqi refugees ($119 million). Such attention to human needs, of course, would not deliver the obscene profits that accrue from inflated no-bid contracts, mismanagement and outright theft from U.S. programs in Iraq.

Iraq finds itself hard pressed due to the worldwide recession. The world price of oil – on which the country relies for 90 percent of its revenue – has fallen drastically due to low demand. This, in turn, hampers the nation’s ability to address other political, economic and social problems. National elections, scheduled for December 2009, could lead to closer cooperation among competing factions. If the elections fail to forge a stronger national consensus, however, they might instead presage a return to autocratic rule – with which Iraqis were familiar under their former master from 1979 to 2003.

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