Iraq is flourishing, or so you’d think based on increasingly sanguine analysis from U.S. financial media outlets. A recent article in Bloomberg News, describing the economic successes of an Iraqi government employee, captures this trend: “Damiaa Saadi likes taking her friends out for an evening on the town in her new Kia Sportage. The fact that she can do that in Baghdad is a sign that life in Iraq is gradually emerging from the wreckage of war.”
Armed with such anecdotal evidence, Bloomberg has joined the growing salvo of voices announcing Iraq’s economic triumph. Missing from these declarations is the irreparable damage done to the country’s infrastructure by the U.S. occupation. Instead, Bloomberg and other financial media titans have exhibited a troubling reliance on economic development indicators in opining on the quality of life in Iraq.
Attempts to paint the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a success are as old as the botched adventure itself (cue to Bush’s iconic 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech delivered less than a year after the war’s onset). Success, of course, can mean many different things, and to say the term has been used loosely throughout the United States’ decade-long incursion in the region would be an understatement. Pundits and academics alike initially pointed to the rise of multi-ethnic representation in Iraq as a sign of a flourishing democracy, an unequivocal ‘political’ success. As sectarianism became a hallmark of Iraqi society, the meaning of success soon shifted. Eventually, diminished casualties gave us the yearned for military successes. When it became all too clear that Iraqi civilians comprised the majority of these casualties, success was soon redefined as the absence of U.S. casualties. All of these victories have, for the most part, rung hollow for both the American public and an increasingly disillusioned international community.
For Iraq, the narrative of success is now steeped in the vocabulary of investments and economic development, a language oblivious to casualties, politics and moral quagmires. Against the backdrop of a rattled market driven by fears of inflation and saber rattling about the Straits of Hormuz, Iraq will become increasingly flush with petrodollars. This “prosperity” will undoubtedly strengthen investor confidence and further extend the myth of an affluent Iraqi populace (absent from this narrative are discussions of the social and ethnic groups who benefit the most from this wealth).
There is something to be said about this declaration of victory emerging not from the hallowed halls of Washington or the U.N, but from the heart of Wall Street. Never mind the continued water shortages, climbing poverty rate (23%) and unrelenting violence; cooler heads will prevail, and right now, they’re telling us to celebrate.