Ten years after the US invasion of Iraq, the humanitarian situation in the country is bleak. Critics say the hugely unpopular occupation of Iraq, and the lack of accountability for the officials responsible, has irreparably damaged America’s image.
On March 20, 2003, the United States – in defiance of the United Nations, which had weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq – opened a military offensive against the Arab Republic on the premise that the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction.
One decade later, the global community is aware that the intelligence claims of Iraqi WMDs were patently false at least – and a blatant fabrication at worst – but this knowledge has done nothing to erase the damage of the conflict.
The exact number of Iraqi civilians who lost their lives during the war varies considerably, depending on the source. The Iraq Body Count project (IBC), for example, puts the number between 110,937 and 121,227. But the Opinion Research Business (ORB), an independent polling agency based in London, has calculated the number of fatalities at over 1 million.
For the survivors, each of whom seems to know somebody who was killed or injured in the conflict, the physical aftermath of eight years of war and insurgency is visible everywhere.
In Fallujah, previously the site of fierce fighting between Iraqi resistance fighters and US forces, more than half of all babies conceived after the start of the war were born with heart defects, and the area has a disturbingly high infant mortality rate.
A World Health Organization (WHO) study published last year connected the grave situation with the effect of toxic substances prevalent in many conventional weapons. Hair samples taken from the civilian population of Fallujah showed levels of lead in children with birth defects five times higher than elsewhere; mercury levels were recorded at six times higher.