The enduring shame of Iraq War anniversary
Bobby Naderi
U.S. soldiers stand while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq, January 13, 2020. /AP
U.S. soldiers stand while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq, January 13, 2020. /AP

U.S. soldiers stand while bulldozers clear rubble and debris at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq, January 13, 2020. /AP

Editor's note: Bobby Naderi is a London-based journalist, guest contributor in print, radio and television, and documentary filmmaker. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The staggering impact of the U.S.-led war on Iraq has once again come to light in a damning report by the Cost of War Project. The report, "Blood and Treasure," was released on Operation Iraqi Freedom's 20th anniversary by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

According to the research, between 185,000 and 208,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the U.S. launched the Iraq War in 2003 without a significant cause. Tens of millions more have also been affected by the nightmarish chaos and post-war trauma.

No less sadly, Washington is still playing a very harmful role, an unacceptable role after all these years. The nightmarish invasion continues to create a vicious cycle of violence and instability. Today, Iraq remains far from stable, as U.S. engagement continues to cause greater suffering for the Iraqi people.

No post-war plan

The lack of a defined post-war strategy is one of the main causes of the U.S. invasion of Iraq's failure. The post-war strategy has been roundly condemned for being hasty and insufficient, leaving the nation's institutions and infrastructure exposed. Because of this lack of preparation, a power vacuum has been exploited by various extremist groups, causing widespread division and misery.

Moreover, corruption and poor administration have hampered international participation in reconstruction projects. The corruption by U.S. military contractors has rendered much of the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction useless, while the Iraqi people have not reaped any real rewards. This has increased hostility and rage towards the U.S. government, making it more challenging to accomplish political harmony or public participation. 

It should come as no surprise that many Iraqis believe their divided country would be better off without military occupation and political interference. The occupation regime hasn't done anything to enhance their lives. On the contrary, it has exacerbated division across the political spectrum where Iraqis are yet to be given the freedom to decide their own future without interference from outside sources.

To prevent making similar bad choices in the future, it is imperative to learn from this war. The problem is that after the Iraq war, the U.S. attacked or threatened to attack other countries as well. It didn't take any steps to help prevent such a bad choice from being made again. To be a reliable international partner in regional foreign policy initiatives, the U.S. is yet to comprehend what went wrong in Iraq.

Oil pipelines burn near Nasiriya in southern Iraq, March 22, 2003. /CFP
Oil pipelines burn near Nasiriya in southern Iraq, March 22, 2003. /CFP

Oil pipelines burn near Nasiriya in southern Iraq, March 22, 2003. /CFP

No progress under the Americans

The use of force and occupation to advance political goals is another factor in why U.S. intervention in Iraq failed. The U.S. military has been accused of abusing human rights and disproportionate forces, which has fueled resentment and anti-American sentiment among Iraqi groups and factions. It is hardly surprising that it has been challenging for Washington to win over the general public.

The erroneous policy demonstrates Washington's continued tendency to perceive others as the issue rather than itself as the cause of it. A more or less permanent U.S. militarism means Iraqis will continue to suffer and die.

The evidence is overwhelming that the U.S. has chosen to continue its current course, extending the war and occupation while hiring private contractors to handle the grubby work. Each time the belligerent country needs to provide support for its occupying troops, the Pentagon offers these businesses specific "task order" contracts. The morally repugnant and unlawful atrocities that Blackwater mercenaries committed, such as death contracts for "excusable, reasonable and praiseworthy" assassinations and "accidental shootings" cannot be overstated.

In the post-truth era, Iraq's wounds won't heal anytime soon. The U.S. government refuses to concentrate on reflecting on its errors, see itself as the problem and take ownership of its actions. The mission "to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy" has been a glaring example of the U.S. failure to accept accountability for the consequences of its terrible deeds and the results of its terrible choices.

In retrospect, there is no security and certainly no progress for Iraq under the Americans. The U.S. has no business wielding power over Iraq and its people, and certainly not over its government that wants to pursue a better life for its people. The lack of a defined reconstruction plan, overreliance on military forces and mercenaries, corruption and poor political management are all to blame if there have been no signs of progress in forcibly spreading "democracy" and "freedom" in Iraq.

Let us not forget that the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding that the government set a timeline for the withdrawal of the remaining U.S. troops from the country. The Iraqi people have a right to chart their own course towards shared peace and prosperity. They are against permanent war and occupation with every fiber of their being. This leaves the U.S. with no choice but to repeal its war authorizations and leave, so that the people of Iraq may start to salvage whatever can be recovered from the wreckage of this malaise.

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