Friday, February 15, 2013

Making Sense of Iraq, Ten Years On

The Hawks were wrong.  That's the view of Huffington Post UK political director, Mehdi Hasan, about Iraq ten years after the Anglo-American conquest.   Hasan concludes that, contrary to neo-con mythology, post-Saddam Iraq isn't better off.

Over the past ten years, Iraqis have witnessed the physical, social and economic destruction of their country – the aerial demolition of schools, homes and hospitals; the siege of cities such as Fallujah; US-led massacres at Haditha, Mahmudiyah and Balad; the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

Between 2003 and 2006, according to a peer-reviewed study in the Lancet medical journal, 601,000 more people died in Iraq as a result of violence – that is, bombed, burned, stabbed, shot and tortured to death – than would have died had the invasion not happened. Proportionately, that is the equivalent of 1.2 million Britons, or six million Americans, being killed over the same period. In a typically defensive (and deceptive) passage in his memoirs, Blair described the Lancet report as “extensively challenged” and said its figures were “charged with being inaccurate and misleading”. Sir Roy Anderson, the then chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, told ministers in an internal memo that its methods were “close to ‘best practice’” and the study design was “robust”.

Presumably, denialism is how hawks sleep at night. They dispute the studies that have uncovered the human cost of the war – whether it be the civilian casualties across the country, or the torture and abuse inside Iraq’s prisons (which a UN investigator described in 2006 as “worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein”), or the fivefold increase in birth defects and fourfold increase in cancers in and around Fallujah. Or they try to blame the violence and turmoil in Iraq exclusively on terrorists, “jihadists” and “Islamofascists”. Few would dispute that most of the killings in Iraq have been carried out by the sadistic monsters who fight for al-Qaeda and its affiliates. But to focus only on the crimes of AQI (or “al-Qaeda in Iraq”) represents a gross moral evasion.
First, according to the Lancet survey, 31 per cent of the excess deaths in Iraq can be attributed to coalition forces – about 186,000 people between 2003 and 2006. Second, most studies show that only a minority of Iraqi insurgents were card-carrying members of AQI. The insurgency kicked off in Fallujah on 28 April 2003 as a nationalist campaign, long before the arrival of foreign jihadists but only after US troops opened fire on, and killed, 17 unarmed Iraqi protesters. Third, there were no jihadists operating in Iraq before our Mesopotamian misadventure; Iraq had no history of suicide bombings. Between 2003 and 2008, however, 1,100 suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the country. The war made Iraq, in the approving words of the US general Ricardo Sanchez, “a terrorist mag­net . . . a target of opportunity”.

The post-Saddam government, observes the noted Iraqi novelist and activist Haifa Zangana, is “consumed by sectarian, ethnic division, but above all by corruption”. The Human Rights Watch 2012 report shows how the rights of the Iraqi people are “violated with impunity” by their new rulers. In his book Iraq: from War to a New Authoritarianism, Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics documents how the war has produced an Iraqi system of government not so different from the one it replaced. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Dodge argues, is leading his country towards “an incredibly destructive dictatorship”. The establishment of a liberal democracy on the banks of the Tigris remains a neocon pipe dream.

So, Saddam is gone – but at what cost? Iraq has been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, as the direct result of an unnecessary, unprovoked war that, according to the former chief justice Lord Bingham, was a “serious violation of international law”. “It was worse than a crime,” said the French diplomat Talleyrand, responding to the execution of the Duc d’Enghien by Napoleon; “it was a blunder.” Iraq turned Talleyrand’s aphorism on its head – it was worse than a blunder; it was a crime.


kootcoot said...

Dickhead Cheney was interviewed by Charlie Rose, broadcast on PBS yesterday afternoon. A full hour long display of DENIAL to the nth power. He simply ignored questions he didn't want to answer and continued to push his flawed agenda of world conquest for the Amerikan Empire!

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, I watched parts of it. Enough to confirm that Cheney is only interested in his own fanciful version of reality. What a chump. And to think someone else had to go without a heart transplant so they could keep that rotten prick alive.

crf said...

The situation in Iraq was getting worse every year Saddam was in power. That's unquestionably true, and was the biggest argument for doing something, like invasion, to make things better. It turned out intervening in Iraq made the situation go worse even faster.

One of the interesting things about Mali is that there are hints in the discussion that invading will make things worse, but worse more slowly than not invading. Therefore invading to make things worse is the most moral choice.

That's a more honest discussion than the binary "things are getting worse, we must try something to make them better". But it's not very comforting, and hard to sell to the public. Sometimes there really are only two doors open to you and you have to pick one: worse, and even more worse.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Chris. What was really plaguing Iraq during the final years of Saddam? From what I've read it was the sanctions imposed largely at the insistence of Washington under Clinton. It was said that massive numbers of Iraqi children died due to the blockade and sanctions.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to what is said to be a US State Dept. cable from one of the Wikileaks dumps. It has some answers on the state of things in Iraq prior to the first Gulf War plus other interesting items.

If it is what it's supposed to be, it offers a picture of Iraq after the war with Iran that most people wouldn't have been aware of.

Read Saddam's words to the US Ambassador then add the sanctions during Clinton's time, and it paints a pretty grim picture.

There has also been a lot of opinion given on what the Ambassador said to Saddam in this item;


That has been interpreted by many as something Saddam could have seen as the US taking no position on border disputes with Kuwait. Others think it might simply have been a colossal blunder that the Bush administration either didn't recognize or simply didn't react to in a timely fashion. Another possibility is the US didn't take him very seriously and thought he was posturing and their goal was cheaper oil anyway so playing Arabs off against Arabs was certainly within the realm of the usual tactics.

If it was the later, one has to wonder if the cost of the whole debacle was ever weighed against the potential gains they sought? Not that any of those responsible would ever discuss that.