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Iraq 10 years on

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An 'Absolute Will To Forget': Iraq Casts Shorter Shadow Than Vietnam

Alan Greenblatt, NPR
Sometimes the whole country wants to forget.

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. The last U.S. troops didn't leave that country until the end of 2011.

But Iraq, which dominated much of the nation's political discourse over the past decade, already seems largely forgotten.

"The Iraq War casts a shadow, but not a very large one," says Richard Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Iraq still matters in policymaking circles. Its lessons help explain why President Obama waves off calls for a military intervention in Syria.

"There does seem to be an Iraq syndrome, at least in the foreign policy establishment, in showing virtually no commitment for something that might morph into an Iraq or an Afghanistan," says William Wohlforth, a government professor at Dartmouth College.

But Iraq has not led to a wholesale restructuring of the U.S. military, as the Vietnam War did. And as controversial as it was at the time, Iraq did not trigger the sort of political and cultural convulsions that Vietnam did.

Vietnam remained a difficult subject for years, if not decades, after the fighting stopped, while Iraq has already just about disappeared from political discourse.

"When a bad war ends, the inclination is not to think about it and move on," says William Schneider, a public policy professor at George Mason University...
(19 March 2013)


David Frum, the Iraq war and oil

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, author of the infamous "Axis of Evil" claim in Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, has a Newsweek column this morning announcing that "all of us who advocated for the [Iraq] war have had to do some reckoning". His column is an attempt to provide such a reckoning, and contains numerous revealing assertions...

Frum's most interesting revelation comes from his discussion of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile whom many neocons intended to install as leader of that country after the US took over. Frum says that "the first time [he] met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens's apartment". He then details the specific goals Chalabi and Dick Cheney discussed when planning the war:

"I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those 'others' was Vice President Cheney, it didn't matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to US dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia."

Wars rarely have one clear and singular purpose, and the Iraq War in particular was driven by different agendas prioritized by different factions. To say it was fought exclusively due to oil is an oversimplification. But the fact that oil is a major factor in every Western military action in the Middle East is so self-evident that it's astonishing that it's even considered debatable, let alone some fringe and edgy idea.

Yet few claims were more stigmatized in the run-up to the Iraq War, and after, than the view that oil was a substantial factor...
(18 March 2013)


Bombs kill nearly 60 on Iraq invasion anniversary

Patrick Markey and Kareem Raheem, Reuters
More than a dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore through Shi'ite Muslim districts in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda are regaining ground in Iraq, invigorated by the war next door in Syria and have stepped up attacks on Shi'ite targets in an attempt to provoke a wider sectarian confrontation.

One car bomb exploded in a busy Baghdad market, three detonated in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City and another near the entrance of the heavily fortified Green Zone that sent a plume of dark smoke into the air alongside the River Tigris...

Now a decade after U.S. and Western troops swept Saddam from power, Iraq still struggles with insurgents, sectarian friction and political feuds among Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions who share power in the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

In a sign of concern over security, the cabinet on Tuesday postponed local elections in two provinces, Anbar and Nineveh, for up to six months because of threats to electoral workers and violence there, according to Maliki's media adviser Ali al-Moussawi. The polls will go ahead elsewhere on April 20...
(19 March 2013)


Hawks Defend War on Low-Key 10th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Jim Lobe, IPS News
Ten years after President George W. Bush launched his “shock and awe” campaign to overwhelm Iraq – and the rest of the world – with the futility of resisting Washington’s military might, the public and much of the foreign policy elite appear remarkably uninterested in marking the anniversary, let alone assessing the results.

The lack of interest may be explained by the fact that media attention to Iraq dwindled rapidly after 2008 as President Barack Obama instituted a rapid drawdown – ultimately withdrawing virtually all U.S. troops from Iraq by late 2011 – the same time that he more than doubled the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

“The only way Americans learn about the rest of the world is when we get involved in foreign wars,” noted one Washington veteran.

The lack of interest may also be explained by the fact that the war was an experience that many – even some of its defenders – would prefer to forget...
(20 March 2013)


Search and Destroy: The rape of Iraq

Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
First thing we do, let's kill all mythographers (lawyerly or not): the rape of Iraq is the biggest, man-made humanitarian disaster of our times. It's essential to keep in mind this was a direct consequence of Washington smashing international law to pieces; after Iraq, any freak anywhere can unleash preemptive war, and quote Bush/Cheney 2003 as precedent.

And yet, 10 years after Shock and Awe, even so-called "liberals" have been trying to legitimize something, anything, out of the "Iraq project". There was never a "project"; only a dizzying maze of lies - including a posteriori justifications of bombing the Greater Middle East into "democracy"...

The overwhelmingly Shi'ite south of Iraq remains very poor. The only possible source of employment is government jobs. Infrastructure, all over, remains in tatters - direct consequence of UN and US sanctions, then the invasion and occupation. But then there's the shining city on a hill; Iraqi Kurdistan, a somewhat warped development of Pipelineistan.

Big Oil never had a chance to fulfill its 2003 dream of lowering the price of a barrel back to $20 - in line with Rupert Murdoch's wishful thinking. But there's a lot of action all over the place. Greg Muttitt has been unmatched following the new Iraq oil boom.
(20 March 2013)


Death and Dollars in the New Iraq

Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch
Iraq is the first Arab country to be ruled by a Shia government since Saladin overthrew the Fatimids in Egypt in 1171. But Shia rule is deeply troubled, and Shia leaders have been unable to share power in a stable way that satisfies the Sunni, the Kurds and even the Shia community.

This is not wholly the leaders’ fault. They fear the Kurds want independence and the Sunni hope to regain their old dominance. Qusay Abdul Wahab al-Suhail, the Sadrist deputy speaker of parliament, says “the problem is that the Sunni do not accept power in the hands of the Shia”.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s response to all this has been to grab as much authority as he can, circumventing agreements that would parcel out power in a nominally fair way, that, in practice, paralyses the state machinery. The government in the Green Zone, the great fortress it inherited from the Americans, is not shy about its sectarian allegiance. Shia banners and posters of Imam Ali and Imam Hussein decorate checkpoints and block-houses in the Green Zone and much of the rest of Baghdad, including prisons and police stations... 

After visiting the cities of southern Iraq on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers I was left with the impression that in the Shia heartlands, development is painfully slow even if it is more evident than in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein’s wars and UN sanctions mean that very little was built for 30 years. People need jobs but lack skills. Slums in Basra looked terrible before 2003 and they still do. Heaps of rotting garbage line the streets often with empty garbage trucks mysteriously parked beside them. Herds of goats graze on them. A local official in Basra explained “the minister knows about this but can’t get his director generals to do anything.”

Iraqi politicians say the Sadrists may lose some votes in the local elections in April because of Muqtada’s openly expressed sympathy for the Sunni protesters. “But in the long term I expect they will be kingmakers who decide what happens after Maliki,” said one leader.

Yet, all these calculations may become obsolete if Iraq is destabilised by the reverberations from the war in Syria. The moderation of the Sunni protesters in Anbar and the sympathetic response of Sadrists is important because these were the two main protagonists in the sectarian civil war six years ago. But suspicions run deep and people fear the ingredients are there for a new sectarian war, however much the thought horrifies them...
(9-10 March 2013)

US soldier with oil rigs image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

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