Two years ago this week, the United States launched an unprovoked
invasion of Iraq.
It is pointless, at this juncture, to rehash the reasons why the
invasion was launched: except to note that democracy didn't figure into
public consumption, of course, there were the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction
and the nonexistent links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda and 9-11; privately, of course, there was oil, the chance to
enrich friends through privatization, the geopolitics of the Middle
and the "we're the boss" message intended for the world.
None of it can excuse what has happened in the last two years.
The so-called "liberation" of the people of Iraq has resulted,
to the conservative estimates of the British medical journal Lancet, in
the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians in the last two years. The
entire population of Peoria. Gone. Most of them women and children.
That's out of only 24 million people in Iraq; an equivalent loss in the
U.S. would be 1.2 million people, the population of Dallas or San
Four hundred World Trade Centers.
Everyone in Iraq knows somebody who has died. Most families have been
touched. The war, meanwhile, has tormented everyone. From one city
alone, the entire population of Fallujah, 400,000 -- minus the deaths --
are now homeless or refugees. The health care system is in crisis; it
cannot handle the sick and wounded. Unemployment is endemic, reaching
percent. The economy is in tatters. Reconstruction is at a standstill
(and the money appropriated for it is disappearing down well-lined
pockets of Bush Administration friends.) Electricity is available
perhaps a couple of hours a day. Prisoners continue to be randomly
arrested and abused. People cannot leave their homes; the security
situation in much of the country is a nightmare: not only the war's
random shootings, car bombs, and IEDs, but the roving criminal gangs
nobody has the power to curtail.
One hundred thousand dead.
Among Iraqis, America gets the blame for this. We should have, in their
minds, gotten rid of Saddam, secured the peace, and then left Iraqis to
govern themselves. Instead, we tried to set it up as some sort of
colonial outpost, trying to ensure that any election would only be
trusted exile puppets who would do Washington's bidding. The vast
majority of Iraqis want the U.S. out. Now. They see it as the only
practical way to stop the bloodshed, the war, the madness: remove the
target of American troops and an American-run government, and the
for the insurgency will evaporate. Naturally, the Bush Administration
will do no such thing.
But that doesn't stop people from hoping, and it is in this context
the Jan. 30 elections must be understood. Iraqis -- Shiites and Kurds,
anyway -- voted because they saw the elections as a last nonviolent
opportunity to force Dubya into a timetable for withdrawing troops.
has been a firm stance of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's United Iraqi
Alliance, the slate widely expected to get a majority in the elections.
But the UIA didn't get a majority, a result that Scott Ritter, Dahr
Jamail and others have charged (and many Iraqis believe) is the result
of cooked returns. Six weeks out, there has still not been a new
government formed between the UIA and the second-place Kurds. Kurds are
negotiating for the presidency, and for the inclusion of the major city
of Kirkuk in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. They want, ultimately, an
independent Kurdistan -- something Turkey (among others) will never
allow. Meanwhile, negotiations between the Kurds and Shiites over a new
government threaten to shut out the Sunnis, who already comprise the
bulk of the insurgency -- a prescription for civil war.
In other words, it's a mess, and getting worse. The bombings and
shootings continue to increase; the suffering continues to increase.
Amazingly, many Iraqis now pine for the un-liberated days of Saddam.
They are clear on one thing: the United States must go. Even civil war,
they say, would be preferable to the current nightmare.
The Iraqi war has its costs in the United States, too: soldiers killed,
or maimed physically or mentally. Anecdotal evidence already suggests a
new Gulf War syndrome, more pervasive, caused, perhaps, by the
heavily-used depleted uranium shells. PTSD, spousal abuse, and even
suicides are common among returning soldiers.
But this isn't about Americans. It's about the suffering (aka
"liberation") of the people of Iraq, who, after 35 years of a brutal
dictator, 20 years of war, and 10 years of crippling economic
had already suffered quite enough.
People in Iraq need to know that people in the U.S. oppose this war.
That, as much as any changing of Bush Administration minds, is why the
demonstrations scheduled across the country next weekend are so
important. Go. Make your voice heard. Remember that war is not an
abstract game. Remember that democracy cannot be installed at the
of a gun. Remember that this country belongs to us -- not to a tiny
And remember the 100,000 dead. And counting.
For more information on the upcoming anti-war protests, go to http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=2688.
© 2005 Working Assets