(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that Iraq is in danger of losing one of its most valuable resources – one that would be critical to any rebuilding effort.
(SEAMANS) One of the most significant stories about the crisis in Iraq has not received the journalistic attention it deserves. It’s a story that bears directly on Iraq’s capability to eventually restore its economic and social infrastructure so that we the people – the U.S. taxpayers – can be relieved of that burden.
The headline is that Iraq’s best and brightest have fled or want to flee the violence that engulfs their nation. As of last July the U.S. Committee for Refugees estimated that forty percent – that’s forty percent! – of Iraq’s professional class had left the country and tens of thousands more were planning to leave. Most have migrated to Jordan and Syria – the rest scattered mostly among the Arab emirates, Britain and the U.S..
The Iraqi Association of University Lecturers says that more than three hundred academics have been killed and other professional groups charge that more than two hundred leading medical doctors and scientists have been assassinated by insurgents seeking to destabilize the highly educated level of Iraqi society. The BBC reports that most of the senior doctors and leading medical technicians have fled the country at a time when hospitals are being overwhelmed by insurgency casualties. A committee of intellectuals and artists called the Brussels Tribunal, which is critical of Bush’s policies, said that “with thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.”
And the brain drain is impacting another critical area – Iraq sits on the biggest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran – but senior oil men are being murdered by insurgents. Thus many of the men who run Iraq’s vast oil industry are packing up and joining the legion of elite technocrats fleeing for their lives – taking with them Bush’s plan for Iraq’s petroleum power to pay for rebuilding the country.
While President Bush has said our military forces must remain in Iraq until its army can “stand up so we can stand down” he has yet to mention the hemorrhage of Iraq’s professional and middle classes needed to run the country. His political critics say that again the Bush regime is not adequately planning ahead, if at all.
In perspective, it looks as if President Bush will be handing off the problem of a postwar and, hopefully, a post-insurgency Iraq to the next keeper of the Oval Office. The optimist will say that putting Iraq back together again is not impossible – but the pessimist asks how can Iraq be fixed when most of its fixers have moved away?
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.