March 21, 2023 Editor

Reflection on: How the U.S. broke Iraq

By Ishaan Tharoor with Sammy Westfall | Email

image above: A U. S. marine checks the bag of a man, who was temporarily detained with other Iraqi civilians for a security check on the road north of the town of Basra, Iraq on March 24, 2003. (Oleg Popov/Reuters)

WN: We read in the article highlighted below:

With little doubt, the United States broke Iraq.

There it is, baldfaced. We all knew this at the time, 20 years ago, when over a million people demonstrated around the world to prevent the U.S. from doing their “shock and awe” number on that country to create regime change.

Now jump ahead to Putin just over a year ago. Iraq back then did not have an equivalent power to step in to stop the high crimes of the American invasion. The United States was the aggressor, which, like the trumped-up charges that turbocharged the Vietnam War1, claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–while knowing it was a baldfaced lie.

In my Reflection on: John Mearsheimer on why the West is principally responsible for the Ukrainian crisis 2022/03/15, after drawing in much related material, I write:

America, the West just don’t get it! As wrong and tragic as the war in Ukraine is; as wrong and as tragic 9/11 was–at very minimum this is blowback from wrongs for which the West historically, America and the West currently, are fully to blame. It’s called “Empire.”

So we read below:

But what followed turned into a debacle for U.S. grand strategy, and a traumatic nightmare for much of Iraqi society.

War is never just/justified. A great swath of those who claim so imagine they have God’s perspective on the matter. Just War doctrine was developed in the West beginning with Saint Augustine with this perspective. It is wrong! It is sin.

We read in Isaiah 55:

8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways My ways,”

declares the LORD.

9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

10For just as rain and snow fall from heaven

and do not return without watering the earth,

making it bud and sprout,

and providing seed to sow and food to eat,

11so My word that proceeds from My mouth

will not return to Me empty,

but it will accomplish what I please,

and it will prosper where I send it.

The choice to go to war is the ultimate in human hubris; the apotheosis of sin; the destructive inversion of God’s creative act in calling into existence humanity in his image.

excerpts:

“You break it, you own it.” That’s the so-called Pottery Barn rule, famously invoked two decades ago by Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W. Bush ahead of their administration’s decision to launch its invasion of Iraq. In February 2003, Powell staked his considerable reputation on a presentation he delivered at the U.N. Security Council, offering to the world “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence” about the Iraqi regime’s possession of so-called weapons of mass destruction.

In later years, he would lament the defects in the U.S. intelligence process that led him to that moment, which preceded the Bush administration’s decision to launch its invasion. Critics contend that figures in the Bush administration deliberately lied to get the war they wanted, but, whatever the case, Powell, who died in 2021, voiced more remorse than many of his immediate colleagues. And he was at least partially right about the Pottery Barn rule.

The United States suffered major loss in Iraq. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died there, while countless more returned home, wounded and traumatized.

With little doubt, the United States broke Iraq. U.S. forces succeeded in the campaign to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, shocking and awing their way to Baghdad in a matter of days. But what followed turned into a debacle for U.S. grand strategy, and a traumatic nightmare for much of Iraqi society. An oppressive regime was ousted, but the initial glimmers of hope and optimism felt by some Iraqis faded as a dysfunctional, unstable status quo took root, shaped far too often by sectarian enmities and kleptocratic elites.

The war, driven by the hubris of the Bush administration and a supportive Washington establishment — as well as what has to be described at this point as a vengeful post-9/11 bloodlust that permeated American society — is now widely seen as a generational American mistake. Iraqis paid the biggest price: According to Brown University’s Costs of War project, as many as 306,000 Iraqi civilians died from “direct war related violence” between the 2003 invasion and 2019, a span of time that saw Iraq convulsed by waves of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, and its cities ravaged by terrorist attacks and airstrikes.

The consensus now, even among formerly hawkish Republicans, is that the United States should never have invaded Iraq 20 years ago.

But while the United States broke Iraq, it never quite owned it. A kind of curious amnesia has already set in about the conflict. Because of the extremes of the Trump presidency, Bush has been rehabilitated in the national imagination as a sympathetic figure almost worthy of nostalgia. Washington policy elites pin many of the failures in Iraq on the Iraqis who took power, with former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki singled out as a leading villain in the piece. Few Americans now pay attention to the active security role still played by hundreds of U.S. “military contractors” operating in the country the United States invaded two decades ago, and technically fully withdrew from in 2021.

The war, driven by the hubris of the Bush administration and a supportive Washington establishment — as well as what has to be described at this point as a vengeful post-9/11 bloodlust that permeated American society — is now widely seen as a generational American mistake. Iraqis paid the biggest price: . . .
The United States suffered major loss in Iraq. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died there, while countless more returned home, wounded and traumatized. Many veterans now question the purpose of the war and the sacrifices they were asked to make. According to a 2014 study, an estimated fifth of all U.S. veterans who served in Iraq came back with PTSD.

And yet the wounds for ordinary Iraqis are far greater. My colleagues reported this week on the hidden toll of the toxic burn pits the United States left behind Iraq, as soldiers in U.S. military bases incinerated their waste out in the open. The legacy of these pits is as visceral as it may seem metaphorical — leading to a long record of illness and disease for those exposed to them.

Recent U.S. legislation signed by President Biden acknowledges the harm caused to some 200,000 U.S. service personnel suffering from burn-pit-related illnesses, and dramatically expanded benefits to them. But it does nothing for the ordinary Iraqis who lived downwind of America’s smoldering debris.

Please click on: How the U.S. broke Iraq

Views: 123

Footnotes:
  1. See Gulf of Tonkin incident[]

Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.