the price of occupation

A few items about the cost of the US occupation of Iraq.

Over there:
BAGHDAD, 17 October 2007 - Barira Mihran, a 36-year-old mother of three, scavenges every day in other people's dustbins in Baghdad for leftovers on which to feed her children.

Widowed and displaced by sectarian violence, the unemployed mother said she had no other way of providing for her children.

"In the beginning it was very difficult. I never imagined that one day I was going to be forced by destiny to feed my children from the remains of other people's food," Barira said. "We always had good food on our table when my husband was alive but since he was killed in August 2005, my life has gone from bad to worse."

"My children are under age and so cannot work or beg in the streets," she said.

"Sometimes you have to fight for a dustbin. Many women know which houses have good leftovers and so they wait for hours near the houses until the leftovers are thrown in the bins outside. Then you can see at least 10 people, women and children, running to get it, and I will be in the middle of the crowd, for sure," Barira added.


Barira, an educated woman, has now joined hundreds of other mothers who rummage through rubbish bins for food to feed their children, according to the Baghdad-based Women's Rights Association (WRA), which conducted a survey of displaced families and people living on the streets in 12 provinces (excluding the Kurdistan region) between January and August 2007.

Mayada Zuhair, a WRA spokeswoman, said the survey showed an increase of 25 percent, since the previous survey in December 2005, in the number of mothers who fed their children either by scavenging in people's rubbish bins or by becoming sex workers. Of the 3,572 respondents, 72 percent were women (mainly widowed) and of these 9 percent said they had resorted to prostitution and 17 percent said they scavenged for food in dustbins and at rubbish tips. The survey was published and distributed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local government offices.

"This is now a common sight, especially in Baghdad - mothers standing near dustbins trying to find some food for their children," Mayada said. [Article here.]

Closer to home:
The Army began its recruiting year Oct. 1 with fewer signed up for basic training than in any year since it became an all-volunteer service in 1973, a top general said Wednesday.

Gen. William S. Wallace, whose duties as commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command include management of recruiting, told reporters at the Pentagon that the historic dip will make it harder to achieve the full-year recruiting goal - after just barely reaching it in the year ended Sept. 30.

Achieving the Army's recruiting goals - a challenge in the best of times - is not only more difficult now but also of more consequence. That is because the Army has decided that it must grow its active-duty force by several thousand soldiers a year in order to relieve strain on war-weary troops.

Wallace said he expects to reach the goal of 80,000 recruits, with extra effort by his recruiters.

"It's going to be another tough recruiting year," the four-star general said. [Article here.]

The aftermath:
Thousands of U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical injuries and mental health problems are encountering a benefits system that is already overburdened, and officials and veterans' groups are concerned that the challenge could grow as the nation remains at war.

The disability benefits and health care systems that provide services for about 5 million American veterans have been overloaded for decades and have a current backlog of more than 300,000 claims. And because they were mobilized to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 150,000 National Guard and reservist veterans had become eligible for health care and benefits as of Aug. 1. That number is rising. [This article is from 2004.]

Wounded Times is a blog veterans' post-traumatic stress disorder.

From the National Priorities Project, the cost in dollars: what Americans aren't getting because they are paying for endless war. Click around.

To see something of the cost in Iraq on the ground level, I once again encourage you to read The Deserter's Tale, by Joshua Key and Lawrence Hill. Excerpt here.

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