Friday, February 29, 2008

The Alternatives to War Funding

Healing the Wounds of War
Alternatives to war funding that can lead to a lasting peace in Iraq

Wars, sanctions and occupation in Iraq have created a humanitarian catastrophe for Iraqis; the lives and livelihoods lost are priceless and irretrievable. And the crisis is spreading; the chaos from the invasion and occupation is no longer contained by Iraq’s borders. Four and a half million people have been forced from their homes, making the war in Iraq the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Almost half of the displaced have fled to Jordan and Syria while 2.5 million Iraqis are displaced within the country. These communities are vulnerable and traumatized by physical and emotional violence.

The human needs emerging from Iraqi displacement will not be met by military surges, spiraling war funding, or continued U.S. occupation. Funding international nongovernmental organizations and providing direct aid to countries hosting Iraqi refugees are the best ways to meet the immediate needs of millions of Iraqis. Meeting these needs is critical to ending the violence and creating the conditions for reconciliation in Iraq. The history of the Middle East shows that there are great consequences for slow or inadequate responses to the needs of refugees.

The first step in healing the wounds of war is to stop the violence. This is best achieved with the complete removal of all U.S. troops. This is what the majority of Iraqis want, this is what the majority of Iraq’s elected officials want, and this is what the majority of Americans want as well. No government in Iraq will be able to gain people’s confidence, or have real sovereignty, if its power depends on foreign military forces. Repair, trust and reconciliation will move forward only when the military occupation ends.

A long-term process of regional diplomacy is needed to undo the damage of this war. The best thing the U.S. can do for Iraq and the world community is to take responsibility for the immense crisis which has resulted from its intervention in Iraq. The U.S. must step back militarily so others with more knowledge and experience in the region can step forward to support Iraqis as they rebuild their country.


One day of the Iraq war could fund a year of peace building

$720 million would be better used to support these United Nations
interagency humanitarian appeals AND the request by the
government of Syria to assist in the care of Iraqi refugees for ONE YEAR.

Protection and Immediate Assistance: $261 Million
The office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is rapidly increasing efforts to help Iraqi refugees and other refugee communities trapped inside Iraq. The initiative covers eight countries affected by the war. It doubles the number of Iraqi refugees in school, provides direct assistance to displaced families, assists in the resettlement of the most vulnerable, and increases emergency stockpiles inside Iraq.

Education for Refugee Youth: $129 Million
"Iraqi children are the most vulnerable among the displaced and are facing an enormous challenge. With the passing of time, the hope for a peaceful childhood, a stable family life and normal education is being swept away for many of them." The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative addresses Iraqi student enrollment in neighboring countries by supplementing teacher training and salaries, and expanding facilities to accommodate the estimated 150,000 school and college-age refugees over the 2007-2008 school year.

Basic and Emergency Healthcare for the Displaced: $85 Million
The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative will expand primary and advanced care, assist in the treatment of chronic diseases, increase support to existing clinics and hospitals, and purchase medicine and emergency medical equipment. It includes the construction of 50 clinics, the treatment of 500 Iraqi cancer patients, and support for specialized amputee clinics.

Food for the most Vulnerable Iraqi Families: $126 Million
The World Food Program (WFP) initiative will assist more than one million displaced Iraqis who are unable to meet their basic food needs. The one-year operation will provide food to 750,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis displaced within the country, and more than 360,000 of the poorest families who have fled to Syria. The project will run until December 2008.

Direct Support to Syria: $119 million
Syria accepted an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees (an amount equal to 10% of their own population) before requiring entry visas beginning in October 2007. It was the last country to effectively close its borders to Iraqis. In addition to support for UN agencies operating in the country, Syria needs additional funds to strengthen its public institutions – including schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure – to accommodate greater demand. In April 2007, at a donor conference called by UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland, the Syrian Foreign Ministry requested $256 million over two years to mitigate the costs of services being provided to Iraqi refugees. The government estimated the true cost to be $1 billion a year.

Peacebuilding measures

• Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq

• Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces

• Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces

• Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

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