This week marks ten years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
But the devastation for the people of Iraq is incalculable: hundreds of thousands have been killed, over a million remain refugees and U.S. weapons used in the country, such as depleted uranium, have left a haunting legacy far past the drawdown of U.S. troops.
While many mark March 19, 2003 as the day the U.S.-led invasion of the country began, crippling sanctions against Iraq began more than a decade before. And while the George W. Bush administration launched the war, it found willing partners in the Democratic party and corporate media. Below are some voices offering perspective on the anniversary and lead-up to the invasion:
On the invasion:
Arundhati Roy, writer and global justice activist, speaking on Democracy Now! Monday:
When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported al-Qaeda. None of this opinion is based on evidence, because there isn’t any. All of it is based on insinuation or to suggestion and outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known as the "free press," that hollow pillar on which contemporary American democracy rests. Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a multitiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S. government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.
Hans Blix, head of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion, writing "Iraq War was a terrible mistake and violation of U.N. charter" in CNN on Monday:
The war aimed to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, but there weren't any.
The war aimed to eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq, but the terrorist group didn't exist in the country until after the invasion. [...]
The Bush administration certainly wanted to go to war, and it advanced eradication of weapons of mass destruction as the main reason. As Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has since explained, it was the only rationale that was acceptable to all parts of the U.S. administration.
U.N. inspectors were asked to search for, report and destroy real weapons. As we found no weapons and no evidence supporting the suspicions, we reported this. But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield dismissed our reports with one of his wittier retorts: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
Rumsfeld's logic was correct, I believe, but it was no excuse for the American and British governments to mislead themselves and the world, as they did, by giving credit to fake evidence or assuming that if weapons items were "unaccounted for" that they must exist. They did not exist.
Christian Parenti, investigative journalist, giving author Belen Fernandez his response to John Bolton's admission that the Iraq invasion "was never about making life better for Iraqis, but about ensuring a safer world for America and its allies."
That sort of honesty, spoken like a true war criminal, would be refreshing if it didn't reveal such an appalling disregard for the value of human life and happiness. The US has destroyed Iraq and in doing so broken the hearts and ruined the lives of millions of people… That sort of psychopathic lack of empathy belies a deep bigotry towards other cultures and a general alienation from the life of our species.
A group of progressives including Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice write Monday
The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity. And it was all based on lies: about non-existent links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with sweets and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.
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And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead.
Sam Husseini, director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, in a statement Monday:
It’s common to simply blame Bush and Cheney for the Iraq war, but it’s not accurate. Many voted for or otherwise backed the Iraq war — including Obama’s entire foreign policy team from Kerry to Hagel; from Clinton to Rice to Biden. Even among those who voted against the war, many facilitated it, like Pelosi, who claimed during the buildup to the Iraq invasion that ‘there was no question Iraq had chemical and biological agents.’ None of these individuals have ever seriously come clean about their conduct during this critical period (and I’ve questioned most of them) — so there’s never been a moment of reckoning for the greatest foreign policy disaster of this generation. The elevation of Democrats who did not seriously question the war likely facilitated Bush and Cheney never being held accountable for their conduct.
2003 or 1991?
Raed Jarrar, Communications Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, speaking on Up with Chris on Sunday:
Unlike the perception that we have in the U.S. that the war started in 2003, the war started in 1991 and Iraq was pretty much destroyed by 2003. ... When the 2003 invasion happened, it came on the top of another 13 years of destruction, very destructive sanctions and semi-daily bombing campaigns.
Norman Solomon, author, co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, writing in Common Dreams:
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, don’t expect the vast numbers of media hotshots and U.S. officials who propelled that catastrophe to utter a word of regret. Many are busy with another project: assisting the push for war on Iran.
Millions of Iraqis have been killed, injured or displaced. One of the most developed countries in the region at the time of the invasion, Iraq now is among the worst in terms of infrastructure and public services. Baghdad ranks lowest in the quality of life of any city in the world, according to a recent global survey from the consultant group Mercer. Moreover, the Iraqi national identity has been replaced by ethnic and sectarian affiliations.
Danny Muller, formerly of Iraq Peace Team and Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign that broke US law to resist economic sanctions and prevent further warfare in Iraq, stated Monday:
The Iraqi people, especially children, have suffered and been brutalized by US troops, mercenaries and multinational corporations to such an extreme extent that a decade later, the US has managed to make a brutal dictator look tepid compared to the level of horror that the US has inflicted on civilians.
Epidemics of cholera after the 2003 massacre, to take one example, speak volumes to the level of destruction that the US caused to the water, sanitation and electrical grids in 1991 and 2003—those basic systems that provide for the public's health have still not been repaired. The ensuing corruption, inefficiency and outright theft still leave most Iraqis without basic access to the most human of needs.
This war lives on in the blood of US soldiers, in the birth defects of stillborn Iraqi infants, in the skyrocketing cases of cancer and toxicity countrywide. The US people saw an entire country of 25 million Iraqis as disposable and less than human. America seems to have developed the collective memory and historical consciousness of a dead moth, but what we have done is downright unforgettable and unforgivable. And as much as we choose to pretend otherwise, most of us know what we did in Iraq: our money, our weapons, our boys in uniform, were sent to kill kids for lies and greed. It's as simple and horrific as that.