Ten Years after: a misguided policy which has wrought havoc

Iraq & The US’s WarMD

By Murli Dhar


Many will still recall when Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN Assembly in early 2003, phials in between his fingers purporting to contain a chemical poison despatched to America by its adversaries. In tune with George W Bush, the American president at the time, he stated that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD: understand nuclear and/or chemical weapons) lying in Iraq, which needed to be dealt with by the international community before they were employed to wreak havoc. A vote was accordingly being sought at the level of the UN in favour of military intervention in Iraq.

The UN did not give the sanction sought. Despite the media hype surrounding this event, few were convinced that the allegations were founded in fact. Many suspected that there was no case for such action, despite world opinion being outraged at the barbaric act perpetrated by extremists hurling two planeloads of innocent victims into the twin towers of NY’s World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001 (9/11). George W Bush, the American president, and Tony Blair, then prime minister of the UK, were however convinced that nothing short of launching a full scale war against Iraq (which actually was not involved in the  9/11 act of terrorism) could be contemplated to assuage frayed feelings in America and the West.

It was on 20th March 2003 therefore that US and British warplanes abruptly started pounding the land of Iraq with tons and tons of bombs with the objective to bring down their avowed arch enemy, Iraq’s minority and dictatorial Sunni ruler, Saddam Hussein, who had been running this apparently ungovernable country with an iron fist. That was despite warnings by a few voices in the US not yet drowned by the largescale advocacy of war by the country’s elite media and political establishment. Those dissenting voices warned that however vile the political leadership of Iraq was, it had nothing to do with the attack of 9/11. The case for war was weak and even fraudulent. They stated that far from yielding the supposed easy victory, it could possibly have dire and grievous consequences for both countries.

Exaggerated reverence for authority

Nevertheless, an illusion of consensus was fabricated with huge assistance by a pro-Israel American media and the war went on. An exaggerated reverence for authority was flogged up to suppress all those who thought differently. Ten years down the road on Wednesday last, Iraq is no better off than what it was in 2003. Needless to add, no WMD was found and the most dramatic act of recovery done was the pulling down on 9th April 2003 of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad in front of a cheering anti-Saddam crowd gathered for the occasion. Saddam himself was captured, displayed publicly, tried and killed.

Iraq is in a worse plight than it was in under dictator Saddam Hussein. In reality, in this whole affair, America has succeeded to turn the scales against itself. It went there to establish democracy. It ended up putting power into the hands of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite leader affiliated with the Iranian regime which, on its part, has made no secret of its aversion for Israel-friendly America. There is no indication America has learnt the lesson from having ventured out into a self-defeating enterprise of warfare.

It has been a total waste of lives, both Iraqi and American, over this decade, hundreds of thousands of them, and of huge amounts of money poured into a useless war of attrition which President Barack Obama decided to exit thankfully. The main legacy of the strife lasting over nearly ten years is that the people of Iraq are torn apart as never before. The spoils of power under the now-Shiite leadership are currently shared under a semblance of peace along sectarian and ethnic lines – Kurds in the northern part, Sunnis and Shias fighting it out further south. Iraq has become a fractured state.

On Tuesday last, bombs exploded in the streets of Baghdad, as it happens quite often, killing down another fifty. There is little public governance. Even things like street lighting and garbage collecting are not kept up on a regular basis. There is no notion of national identity; this notion is superseded by notions of sectarian belongings. The dream of an Iraq for all Iraqis as was initially sold out when the Americans embarked on the war, has turned into a daily nightmare for many of Iraq’s citizens.

Confrontational melting pot

This war may have assuaged the frayed feelings of Americans and of the numerous peoples from the entire world who condemned the terrorist horror of 9/11. But it also launched a new era of extremism, the very idea it had gone on to fight against. It appears to be spreading out. For example, Afghanistan that the Americans went into with an international force and which they will exit from in 2014, looks set to become another tribal and ethnic confrontational melting pot in the near future, if it has not headed to it already in anticipation of the forthcoming departure of the Western troops.

The war launched against Iraq ten years ago has brought unpalatable extremism back to life almost along the entire Middle East by becoming one of the main planks on which hostility to outside interference has been skilfully fostered by a new wave of dictatorships of various types. The Middle East today is a far cry from what the war ten years ago was supposed to have achieved. Hundreds of thousands have laid down their lives or fled from their countries as repressive regimes have spread out their hands despite what at one time was called the ‘Arab Spring’. One is nevertheless left to wonder whether the West has learnt any useful lessons from this episode and whether it will not keep propping up those who will again turn against it sooner or later.

* Published in print edition on 22 March 2013

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