By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Ten years ago yesterday March 20, the US led the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US Bush administration then justified the military action against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein government by claiming that Saddam – who was later executed by the US – has connections with Al Qaeda and therefore, the invasion of Iraq is part of the borderless war on terror. Second, the US intended to replace the Saddam regime with a democratic government. And third, Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
Well, the US never found any weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. Actually, the biggest stockpile of such weapons of mass destruction are in the US and Israel. Likewise, the link between Al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein government was never established.
What about the democracy project? Surely, the US is wont to say, the Iraqi people are better off now than during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
Iraq today is being rocked by factional strife. Sunni Muslims and Kurds have been conducting massive demonstrations against abuses by the government and the emerging “new authoritarianism.” There is also an armed group of Sunni insurgents that is challenging the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki .
On the other hand, Toby Dodge, the author of “Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism,” calls Maliki as a “threat to democracy.” Maliki reportedly worked to take control over the armed forces, intelligence services and special operations forces by appointing officers loyal to him and dismissing those whom he perceives as not. He also reportedly deployed an increasingly pliable judiciary.
Worse, human rights abuses such as killings, torture, and rape are widespread. An Amnesty International report read: “The removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003 should have been followed by a process of fundamental human rights reform but almost from day one the occupying forces began committing torture and other serious violations against prisoners, as the Abu Ghraib scandal involving U.S. forces and the beating to death of Baha Mousa in the custody of British soldiers in Basra graphically demonstrated.” Iraq today, according to the report, is enmeshed in a “cycle of human rights abuses.” There are around 30,000 Iraqi prisoners being held without trial or charges and 1.1 million internally displaced persons.
Meanwhile, the United Nations reported that seven million Iraqis are living in poverty. Al Jazeera reported that on the average, Iraqi households receive only eight hours of electricity a day. “Four out of every 10 people in Iraq do not have access to clean water. And despite improvements, most Iraqis only have limited primary healthcare.”
“Health care in Iraq deteriorated greatly over the last decades as a result of the repeated wars, sanctions and the generalised violence and conflict since 2003. This deterioration in health services also resulted from the exodus of qualified professionals, a severe shortage of medication and equipment, and damage to medical facilities.” (IDP Working Group, 27 June 2008)
The quality of life of the Iraqi people was better off before the sanctions in 1990 and the 2003 invasion. “More than 93.9% children were enrolled in primary school before the sanctions. Also pre- war, over 90% of the population had access to safe distributed water. Extensive health surveillance ensured a high quality of drinking water, and efforts to eradicate malaria, leishmaniasis and other water-borne diseases had saved Iraq from the epidemics found in many other developing countries. (source :Report on Humanitarian needs in Iraq prepared by a mission led by Sadruddin Aga Khan, executive delegate of the Secretary-General, UN, 1991).
Thus, the 23 years of US intervention in Iraq – the bombing of Iraq in 1990 and the crippling sanctions thereafter, and the 2003 invasion – have brought nothing but hardships and sufferings for the Iraqi people.
What did the US gain from it?
The US reportedly spent $800 billion – based on official estimates, which tend to be conservative – for the war and $60 billion for the reconstruction. Other estimates deem that the costs could reach $1.7 trillion. For the American people, this is a lot of money that could have been spent for social services; but for the military-industrial complex, this translates into a lot of profits. Add to the cost the 100,000 Iraqis and the 4,486 US soldiers killed from 2003 up to 2012.
All of these were sacrificed in the name of corporate America, control over Iraq’s oil resources, and the projection of US military power in the region.