Lessons from Iraq
The ‘shock and awe’ campaign that began with the US and UK’s illegal invasion of Iraq may have ended many years ago, but Iraqis who bore the brunt of this aggression are still in a state of invisible shock.
Their country, which was once described in a UN report issued in October 1991 as a state that was rapidly approaching the standards of the developed world in the 1980s, now lies in shambles. Iraqis still wonder what happened to their country that once had one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the Middle East and witnessed high rates of literacy in the 1980s. So, how did they get to this stage?
Alerted by the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Baghdad was lured into waging war on Tehran, which spelt disaster for the oil-rich country as it resulted in the loss of over 250,000 people. Money was also squandered on a conflict that benefited its Arab neighbours rather than the country itself. A sense of betrayal prompted Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, creating a ripple of excitement in Western capitals that were eagerly awaiting this moment. In the aftermath of the attack, the vultures of the Western capitalist world started descending on the desert to spread their pernicious tentacles across the Arab world.
Operation Desert Storm in 1991 pushed the country towards a conflagration, destroying its civilian infrastructure and imposing harsh sanctions that crippled the economy of the Arab state. According to a UN report, there were more than four million people – one-fifth of Iraq’s population – who were at severe nutritional risk by 1995. As per the report, this number “included 2.4 million children, about 600,000 pregnant/nursing women and destitute women, heads of households as well as hundreds of thousands of elderly without anyone to help them”. The report added that 70 percent of the population had little or no access to food and almost everyone seemed to be emaciated. Even this catastrophic situation did not deter Saddam from unleashing the reign of terror that claimed thousands of lives. His brutal regime turned the lives of Iraqis into hell. But the worst was yet to come.
Former US president George Bush and his poodle across the Atlantic planned a terrible war against the people of Iraq. Their tedious acolytes were selling concocted stories about the imagined weapons of mass destruction that Saddam was apparently hell-bent on making in addition to seeking the capability to target the UK within 45 minutes.
Millions of people took to the streets of Western capitals and asserted that this war sought to grab Iraq’s oil resources. But gullible Western citizens were lured into believing that the Iraqi dictator was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Even the frank statement issued by Dick Cheney, vowing not to allow Saddam to control ten percent of the world’s oil reserves, could not convince the most conscious and educated people in the world about the real intentions of the invasion.
The corporate media ratcheted-up a war frenzy by according unlimited coverage to the rhetoric of the warmongers while paying little attention to the millions who thronged prominent places in several Western cities to vent their anger against the possible invasion of Iraq.
The collusion between the military-industrial complex, corporate media, Western oligarchs and oil companies – which could go to any extent to satiate their gargantuan appetite of profit – not only destroyed Iraq but also all those states that fell prey to this war-on-terror plot. According to some reports, more than 2.4 million Iraqis died in the war.
Around four million became refugees. One-third of Iraq’s population was pushed into the merciless world of abject poverty. By 2016, more than 3.6 million children were at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence and recruitment into armed groups. Over 11 million people were forced to rely on humanitarian assistance from international bodies. These were the effects of an illegal war imposed on the hapless Iraqis.
The war could be described as one of the biggest plunders in modern history. It opened Iraq’s entire economy to the risk of corporate plunders. The vultures of the capitalist world, on the one hand, planned to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure and, on the other, hatched conspiracies to fund reconstruction through oil revenues. Contracts were doled out to American and other Western firms that made a great deal of money out of Iraq’s destruction.
Even the country’s artefacts were not spared and over 1,500 priceless items were stolen by corporate plunderers. From hospitals, roads and water facilities to bridges, schools and colleges, nothing was spared from strafing and blitzkrieg. Despite all the destruction, plundering, massacres and bloodshed, the corporate media termed the Iraq invasion a “blunder [and] strategic error [that involved] bad planning”, evidently still reluctant to call it an outright war crime.
It is distressing to note that the war on terror, especially Iraq’s invasion, did not serve Americans in any conceivable way. The ruling elite pumped more than $5.6 trillion into the war on terror from the hard-earned money of Americans. This means $32 million was directed towards the war every hour. It can be concluded that every American paid $24,000 for this ever-expanding-war on terror that has resulted in anti-terror operations all across the world – in at least 76 nations or 40 percent of the world. Despite all the funds that went into this war, Western capitals are not safe from sporadic attacks by religious fanatics who use American invasions on Muslim countries as an excuse to target innocent civilians in advanced capitalist states.
According to some statistics, the war claimed over 8,000 lives of American soldiers and military contractors and wounded more than 32,226 others. The people of Iraq are not the only ones who will bear the brunt of this illegal invasion. The families of American soldiers have also been affected because these wounded soldiers need round-the-clock care for which their family members might even have to quit their jobs. So, they may have to pay at least $300 billion over several decades to pay for their injured family members. This doesn’t include the income lost from the jobs that they have quit to care for their relatives.
Since people in the West, especially Americans, have failed to rein in their ruling elite, they have opened more fronts to wreak death and destruction. Western-sponsored jihadis have imposed a war on Syria that killed over 500,000 people, turning 11 million people into refugees and leaving 13.5 million at the mercy of humanitarian assistance. The war also cost $226 billion to the Syrian economy. The policy of the Western ruling elite didn’t just bring destruction to Syria but also affected Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Egypt and several parts of the world. How is one going to be able to live in peace if one goes around the world destroying countries, turning millions of people into refugees and sowing the seeds of hunger and starvation?
No amount of argument or persuasion can stop warmongers from wreaking havoc in various parts of the world. Only the people of the West can rein in such agents of death and destruction by exercising their democratic rights. They should simply vote out those who seek to wage war and create misery, hunger and starvation. They should demand bans on any party or individual that advocates an illegal war. War is a form of xenophobia. If hating foreigners can be described as abnormal, then there is no reason why such wars and invasions should not be treated in the same way.