On an anniversary – Alissa J. Rubin in NYT:
‘As Iraq marks the 20th anniversary on Monday of the American-led invasion that toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein, an army of ghosts haunts the living. The dead and the maimed shadow everyone in this country — even those who want to leave the past behind.
The United States invaded Iraq as part of its “war on terror” announced by President George W. Bush after the Al Qaeda attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Bush and members of his administration claimed that Mr. Hussein was manufacturing and concealing weapons of mass destruction, though no evidence to back up those accusations was ever found. Some U.S. officials also said Mr. Hussein had links to Al Qaeda, a charge that intelligence agencies later rejected.’
‘About 200,000 civilians died at the hands of American forces, Al Qaeda militants, Iraqi insurgents or the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Brown University’s Cost of War project. At least 45,000 members of the Iraqi military and police forces and at least 35,000 Iraqi insurgents also lost their lives, and tens of thousands more were left with life-altering injuries.
On the U.S. side, about 4,600 troops and 3,650 American contractors were killed in Iraq, and countless others survived, but bear physical and mental scars.’
‘Today, Iraq is a far different place from the one the Americans found in 2003.
Roughly half the population of nearly 45 million was born after 2000 and did not experience the strictures and frequent brutality of life under Mr. Hussein, who was captured by U.S. forces in late 2003 and, after an Iraqi trial, executed.
Young Iraqis’ perceptions are shaped by the violence that followed the U.S.-led invasion and, at the same time, by disappointment that their country still falls far short of the hopes raised by a more open society.
“Saddam Hussein was the Hitler of our times. He was the most brutal dictator, tyrant, that we have experienced,” said Barham Salih, Iraq’s president from 2018 to 2022 and a longtime member of the Iraqi opposition who, like many others, saw up close the torture and executions that Mr. Hussein used to keep political opponents in check.
“Once he was gone, suddenly we had elections,” Mr. Salih said. “We had an open polity, a multitude of press. Those things had not been seen in a long, long time in a place like Iraq.” Such things are certainly rare in the Middle East, where dictators and autocrats rule in most countries and there is widespread repression of media freedoms and individual rights. More recently both have started to come under threat in Iraq as well, largely from Shiite Muslim parties linked to Iran.
“If you put things in context, there have been a lot of positive developments,” Mr. Salih said.
Among those developments is a better relationship with the U.S. military. Its troops returned in 2014, this time at the request of the Iraqi government, and played a vital role in the fight to defeat the Islamic State. About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in the country.’
‘The U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation upended the social order that had existed under the dictatorship by marginalizing the Sunni Muslim sect, which had formed the core of Mr. Hussein’s power base, his military and his intelligence services. That benefited the country’s Shiite Muslim majority and the Kurdish minority.
This backfired, however, by fueling a tenacious Sunni insurgencyagainst the U.S. occupation that began soon after the 2003 invasion. It was led initially by former officers in Mr. Hussein’s military and intelligence services, who were quickly joined by Islamist extremists connected to Al Qaeda.
The conflict soon morphed into a sectarian war, targeting Shiites who, in turn, formed fighting groups of their own. Those groups, rather than dissolving once the fighting stopped — as the Sunni groups did — evolved and expanded over time into the numerous Shiite militias that hold sway today.’
‘Injustice is a word that comes up in almost every interview with ordinary Iraqis.
They use it to describe not only the system of paying for jobs, but the difficulty of getting any official document without paying something extra to the person giving it to you; they use it when they describe how some neighborhoods have polluted water — or no water at all. It expresses their sense of outrage at the privilege of a very few Iraqis and the desperation of the many.’
‘In one corner of Falluja’s cemetery lie the 27 members of the Dhahi family who were killed when a U.S. aircraft bombed their house on April 6, 2004, during heavy fighting. One of the smallest graves bears three names, those of three infants who died in the bombing and were buried together.
One family member who survived, Waleed Dhahi, now 23, was found alive in the rubble. His immediate family — both parents, three brothers and a sister — were not so lucky. He lost an eye and has shrapnel deep in his leg.
For him, the United States invasion was a crucible of loss.
“My opinion of the Americans is negative, because if someone comes and kills my family and I don’t have any power to fight them, it leaves a hatred,” he said. “Of course life continues and we must start again. But I lost my family and that has affected me, and sometimes I wish I had died with them.”’
Read the article here.
It’s good that at least an attempt was made to remember to Iraq war that started twenty years ago.
The winner of the war was Iran and the shia in Iraq.
In the US Iraq (and Afghanistan) paved the way for new isolationism.
After reading this article, people might understand why many Iraqis try to leave their country.
The hope of getting international protection in the EU are minimal, other ways of legal migration to the EU or the US almost non-existent.
Another failed state, after some nation building done by the US and its allies. This is not say that Saddam’s Iraq wasn’t a failed state, from one failure to the next.