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Common Dreams

Remembering Those Responsible on the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War

This March 19 marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. war and occupation has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600,000 orphans.

More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile.

Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received serious physical and emotional injuries which will plague them for the rest of their lives.

Iran has advanced its influence in the region since the overthrow of its arch-enemy Saddam Hussein, and is now the most influential foreign power in Iraq.

Sectarian and ethnic tensions remain high and violence and terrorism -- despite being less pervasive than a few years ago -- are endemic.

A whole generation of Salafi extremists in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world have been radicalized and gained experience in urban terrorism by fighting U.S. forces. Combined with the unprecedented wave of anti-Americanism that resulted from the war, the invasion -- according to U.S. intelligence agencies -- has resulted in a backlash that could threaten the United States and other countries for decades to come.

The war has cost U.S. taxpayers close to $1 trillion dollars, contributing greatly to the national debt, which has resulted in the sequester and is being used as an excuse to cut back vital social programs. Counting interest (since money to pay for the war was borrowed), care for wounded veterans, and other residual costs, the final tally could be close to $3 trillion dollars.

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The Iraqi government, a bastion of secularism prior to the U.S. invasion, is now dominated by sectarian Shiite parties that have shown little regard for human rights, particularly evident in their brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in recent months. Offices of pro-democracy groups have been raided and shut down, intellectuals and journalists -- along with other supporters of the nonviolent anti-government protests -- have been rounded up.

Torture of suspects continues on an administrative basis, government-backed death squads have murdered suspected regime opponents, and the current Iraqi government is categorized by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth.

To claim that invading Iraq was to support democracy, then, was as big a lie as the claim that Iraq still had "weapons of mass destruction." And, though Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, subsequent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have demonstrated there are better ways to oust Arab dictators than for foreign troops to invade a country and occupy it.

Furthermore, invading a foreign country on the far side of the world that was not an imminent threat was clearly illegal under international law as well as the U.N. Charter, which, as a signed and ratified treaty, the U.S. government was obliged to uphold under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. It will be hard to expect other countries to abide by their international legal obligations if the United States -- despite the enormous military, economic, and diplomatic power at its disposal -- believes it is somehow exempt.

The Bush administration is no longer in office, but they were not the only ones at fault. While the majority of congressional Democrats voted against authorizing the war, a significant right-wing minority sided with the Bush administration. The Democrats controlled the Senate at the time of the vote and could have stopped it, but a sizable number chose to support Bush instead, including current Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, as did three senators who later became top Obama administration officials: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and current Secretary of State John Kerry.

They did not, as many now claim, make a "mistake." In scores of policy reports, newspaper articles, academic journals and other sources -- as well as briefings by arms control specialists, former U.N. inspectors, Middle Eastern scholars, former State Department and intelligence officials -- these senators and their staffs had ample opportunity to recognize that the Bush administration claims about "weapons of mass destruction" and Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda were false and that a U.S. invasion would likely result in a bloody insurgency, a rise in Islamist extremism and terrorism, increased sectarian and ethnic conflict, and related problems.

It is highly disturbing that politicians and pundits who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq are still taken seriously when it comes to U.S. Middle East policy and that those of us who told the truth are still ridiculed and ignored.

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Stephen Zunes

Stephen Zunes

Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, a contributing editor of Tikkun, and co-chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

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