Published on
by

After 30 Years of War Against Iraq, Americans Must Make Reparations

Americans owe a debt to the people of Iraq that can never be repaid in full. However, it is incumbent and imperative that we try.

Nasariyah residents protest 15 April, 2003 the presence of US troops in Iraq. The rally of around 20,000 mostly Shiite Muslims, unthinkable just a week ago under Saddam's Sunni Muslim regime, chanted: "Yes to freedom ... Yes to Islam ... No to America, No to Saddam." (Photo: Cris Bouroncle/AFP via Getty Images)

Nasariyah residents protest 15 April, 2003 the presence of US troops in Iraq. The rally of around 20,000 mostly Shiite Muslims, unthinkable just a week ago under Saddam's Sunni Muslim regime, chanted: "Yes to freedom ... Yes to Islam ... No to America, No to Saddam." (Photo: Cris Bouroncle/AFP via Getty Images)

This Saturday—March 20th, 2021—is the 18th anniversary of the United States invasion of Iraq. However, the American war against that country did not begin in 2003. The U.S. has been fighting a war against Iraq since 1991. 

Thirty years of conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and injured many times more. 

"Reparation funding must be allocated to provide individual Iraqis with monetary compensation for the extreme pain and suffering we have caused them and to (re)build their lives however they see fit."

Millions of people have been displaced directly by American bombing and invasion and indirectly by the rise of militia and paramilitary groups that flourished after the U.S. dismantled the Iraqi state. Extensive bombardment has destroyed thousands of homes, mosques, schools, and hospitals. 

The use of weapons such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium has contaminated the landscape with dangerous and toxic unexploded munitions and heavy metals. Bombing, battles, and careless military occupation have damaged and destroyed an unknown number of priceless artifacts and world-historical monuments. 

Americans must also remember—or learn for the first time—that their CIA helped the Iraqi Ba'ath Party come to power in the 1960s. This set in motion the events that led to Saddam Hussein's rise to the presidency in 1979. 

Despite, or perhaps because of his brutality, the U.S. allied with Saddam in his war against Iran in the 1980s. It supported and enabled his use of internationally banned chemical weapons. American companies supplied the technologies to build those weapons. 

It was only after Saddam's usefulness had been exhausted that George H.W. Bush turned on his former ally and launched the war that continues to this day. Six American presidents—George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden—have continued this conflict. 

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

Americans owe a debt to the people of Iraq that can never be repaid in full. However, it is incumbent and imperative that we try. 

First and foremost, Biden must end the American war against Iraq without precondition or caveat. This means withdrawing all of the troops, stopping the bombing, and dismantling the structures of permanent occupation. 

Second, we must bring the leaders and participants in this devastating war to account. Starting with the bombing of Iraq in 1991 that United Nations investigators called "near apocalyptic," the U.S. has continued to commit atrocities and war crimes for three decades. We must bring the planners and perpetrators of these crimes to some measure of justice. 

"No amount of money can ever fully heal the physical and psychic wounds that the American war against Iraq has caused. But, on the inauspicious 30th anniversary of this conflict, Americans can demonstrate contrition, and work to ameliorate, if only partially, the suffering their government and military have caused."

Third, the United States must vastly expand its financial support for refugee resettlement. Those still leaving Iraq because of instability and violence should have the option to resettle in the United States or elsewhere as they so choose, and the U.S. should facilitate those processes. 

Fourth, reparation funding must be allocated to provide individual Iraqis with monetary compensation for the extreme pain and suffering we have caused them and to (re)build their lives however they see fit. The U.S. must also dedicate resources for rebuilding infrastructure and environmental remediation. The toxic remains of weapons such as depleted uranium need to be safely cleaned up. 

No amount of money can ever fully heal the physical and psychic wounds that the American war against Iraq has caused. But, on the inauspicious 30th anniversary of this conflict, Americans can demonstrate contrition, and work to ameliorate, if only partially, the suffering their government and military have caused by making that government make reparations to the people of Iraq.

Jared Keyel

Jared Keyel, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a scholar of war and displacement based in Virginia. His work focuses on Iraqi refugees' resettlement in the United States after the 2003 American invasion.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:



Share This Article