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Pay the Teachers, Please

They've been working for nothing in Iraq.

by Barnabas
November 5, 2003

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Pay the Teachers, Please_Barnabas-They've Been Working for Nothing in Iraq Sunday was bloody for the U.S. troops in Iraq, the worst day of the operation for loss of life to hostile fire. It was a day for the Administration to remind us of how difficult and complex the Iraqi occupation is, in contrast to the Coueism that is their usual staple: “Every day in every way we are getting better and better.” The strategy by which we are getting better and better is invisible to our eyes, so we wonder whether the assurances are the strategy. A day like Sunday doesn’t help. I had been thinking that the strategy was merely incompetent. Now I wonder whether it is non-existent.

It wasn’t the violent deaths that caused my doubts to rise, though. Violent death is a primary goal in warfare, whether on our side or theirs. Rather, the story on ABC’s World News Tonight that caught my attention was about two thousand Iraqi teachers demonstrating at the Education Ministry in Baghdad because they had had been back at work for several months without being paid.

We are the richest nation on earth, occupying Iraq with military force and claiming as our goal the restoration of civic order. Teachers returned to their classrooms was an encouraging step. Yet we are not paying the teachers. To have necessary personnel unpaid for more than a week is morally scandalous and strategically stupid. (Barnabas uses few adjectives and adverbs, but in this case they are warranted.) Why would the teachers trust the United States when they are treated like that? I wouldn’t in their shoes.

It takes money, but we have money — and teachers are cheaper than ammunition. Congress has already created 87 billion dollars out of nothing to stabilize Iraq. To give you a sense of how much money that is, it would take less than one percent of it to pay 2000 teachers for ten years the same salary that physicians in Iraq are getting now. Since a single round of ammunition (one shot) for a rapid-fire weapon costs anywhere from one to five dollars, the annual salary of one teacher can be fired off on a practice range in the space of a few minutes.

I wonder how many other necessary workers are working without getting paid. If we cannot afford sanitation workers and teachers, to name just two public-sector necessities, we certainly cannot afford war. If we can afford them, then for heaven’s sake (literally) let’s pay them. We get more bang for our bucks from them than we ever will from the bullets we buy.

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