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Are you better off than five years ago?

By Daniel M Pourkesali

That was the question posed in the latest Pew Research Center national public opinion survey and the results were dubbed as the most pessimistic assessment of personal progress in the last five decades of polling conducted by the Pew Research and the Gallup organization. Over half the respondents said that they were worse off financially than they were five years ago, nearly the same percentage responding to another poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup last month.

As historic as these results may be, they should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, deep economic downturns and high gasoline prices don't exactly boost consumer confidence. But what about those other people? You know the ones whose country we invaded right around the same time frame five years ago. Has a similar question been posed to them?  Well, if you have to know the answer is yes and the results were even more dismal than the ones conducted here with 90% of respondents feeling that the situation in Iraq is far worse today than it was before the U.S.-led invasion. 

Now let us explore just some of the reasons behind this high level of dissatisfaction - People living in  Baghdad, a city with an average high temperature of around 43C/110F during these hot summer days, have actually next to zero electricity to power their fans or air conditioning.

After more than 5 years under U.S. occupation, Baghdad residents can now count on only an hour of electricity a day while they received 16 to 24 hours under Saddam's rule despite severe economic U.N. sanctions of the kind that are now being increasingly imposed on Iran. Ironically, little electricity that the Iraqis are generating is being supplemented by Iran. Things have gotten so bad that Mr. Bush has all but stopped including how long the power stays on in his weekly report of the state of affairs in Iraq to Congress. 

But as bad as the electric situation may be, it is the least of a multitude of far more serious problems faced by over eight million Iraqis who are without water, sanitation, food and emergency aid according to this report by a major international relief agency and corroborated by the latest Iraq Index released by the Brookings Institution which shows major declines in almost every major economic and quality of life indicator when compared with estimated prewar levels. 

So why did the President of the United States declare this tragic experiment as "Mission Accomplished" and his administration continues to characterize it a smashing success despite such irrefutable catastrophic results that have also cost the lives of a million Iraqis and over 4000 Americans not to mention trillions of dollars and counting which will be for our children and grand children to repay?  

The answer is neither complicated nor elusive as one might think -- Five months before the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and shortly after taking control of the White House, the Bush administration declared Iraq as "a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East" for which US "military intervention" might be necessary. 

Sounds familiar but not quiet convinced?  Well, don't take my words for it just ask Mr. Greenspan and then prepare for even more financial turmoil ahead as our government makes its case against that other pesky "axis of evil" member with "all options on the table" except real diplomacy. 

The question each and every one us must now ask is this - Do we continue on as mere spectators and then read the bleak consequences of our inaction in yet another opinion poll five years from now? The answer stares us in the face every time we pull into a gas station. 

About the author: Daniel M Pourkesali is an Engineer with an Aerospace company in Northern Virginia specializing in development and manufacturing of flight dynamics, engineering and control systems. He is also a columnist and board member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Persian Gulf Organization, and Iranians for International Cooperation.

... Payvand News - 07/14/08 ... --

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