Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Dismantling the Iraqi Social Fabric: From Dictatorship through Sanctions to Occupation

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Dismantling the Iraqi Social Fabric: From Dictatorship through Sanctions to Occupation

Article excerpt

Women and children, though by and large a politically and economically marginalized group hardly responsible for the power politics that typically lead to war and sanctions, are often the ones hardest hit by the traumas of such events. For women these events might mean not only coping with the distress of losing loved ones and income sources, it can also lead to increased workloads and stress as the burden of sustaining life and society is increasingly shifted into their hands. It also means the increased risks of sexual assault and other such serious traumas. According to a recent study (Lindsey, 2001) of the impact of armed conflict on women by the International Committee of the Red Cross,

Women's experience of war is multifaceted - it means separation, the loss of family members and livelihood, an increased risk of sexual violence, wounding, deprivation and death. War forces women into unfamiliar roles and necessitates the strengthening of existing coping skills and the development of new ones.

The impact of war and economic deprivation on children is highly harrowing as well. The developmental capabilities of children are heavily stunted by these phenomena. What women and children represent, through socially constructed norms, is the social fabric of any group of people. In Iraq, this social fabric, and hence the family, has been hard hit by the disastrous events of the past 20 years. The rise to power of a tyrant, followed by three major wars and a brutal sanctions regime, has left Iraqi society in ruins, with its potential for recovery facing ever-increasing impediments. The Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq, far from providing relief from this scenario, has actually exacerbated these conditions and have made the symptoms of social deconstruction far more acute. The American strategy regarding Iraq has broken up the social fabric and led to a state of complete disarray, which the American administration has neglected to deal with even six months after the fall of Baghdad on 9 April 2003. The plight of the Iraqi population, and especially its most vulnerable sectors, is not simply an outcome of a random misfortune; it is a result of a very real political and economic environment shaped by Iraq's position and potential in today's world.

Iraq, much like Egypt, is both a cradle of civilization and a modern state with the necessary prerequisites to become a regional hegemony in the Arab World and the Middle East. Such a qualification is much to the consternation of the U.S.-led "western" political orthodoxy that forestalls the emergence of regional powers in its sphere of geopolitical and geo-economic interests. Iraq scores on both counts - its strategic geographical position and the abundance of oil that had allowed the government of Iraq to launch modernization programs that transformed the socio-economic lives of its people.

The Iraqi modernization campaign was pursued from the 1960s until the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s when militarization became the primary concern for the central government, drastically curbing any attempts at modernizing the civil infrastructure of Iraq. With the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, and the subsequent 13-year imposition of a ruthless regime of sanctions, the modernization process was brought to a complete halt. The collapse of the Iraqi socio-economic fabric under the sanctions regime, and the chaotic living conditions under the Anglo-American occupational forces (which followed the invasion in March 2003), contrast sharply with what the Iraqi people had enjoyed prior to the Gulf War in 1991, despite all the atrocities and the oppression of the Saddam Hussein regime. This paper argues that the modernization of Iraq took place within the confines of Ba'athist ideology, which ultimately built a society that was increasingly dependent on the Iraqi state. Moreover, the Iraqi state increasingly marginalized all political forces except the military and the Ba'ath Party, the embodiment of which was a Stalinesque paternalistic dictator, Saddam Hussein. …

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