The social Matrix

The social Matrix

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lessons Learned from Iraq

   Last Wednesday the media marked the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war. Numerous news organizations chronicled the war's unfolding over the last decade. The Iraq war was set out to become the crown jewel of neo-conservative ideology, but  instead turned into one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history.

  The united states invaded Iraq on march 23, 2003 under the pretense that Saddam Hussein possessed  weapons of mass destruction and that he might use terrorist groups like AL Qaeda to launch attacks against America. Moreover, Saddam needed to be removed from power because he was a threat to his people as a dictator and a threat to his neighbors including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and Israel.

   Evidence eventually surfaced that proved these accusations were false. The liberal narrative that emerged from the war was that Bush purposely misled the American public to legitimize war with Iraq to secure lucrative oil contracts. Another liberal view is that Bush was behind 9-11.

Liberal commentators salivated with rage at the motivations for invading Iraq 

   It's easy to criticize the former president George W. Bush without knowing all the facts.

   Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Intelligence community prepared a National Intelligence Estimate which investigated the former Iraqi dictator's WMD programs and concluded that "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons." In the 90s UN inspectors had stumbled upon thousands of bombs, shells and warheads containing "chemical agents."  The report stated that Saddam had a nuclear weapons program. Moreover, in 1995 Saddam admitted that he had a weapons program that included anthrax and botulinum toxin. 

   It was not just the American government who believed that Saddam had WMDs but numerous countries' intelligence agencies arrived at similar conclusions including Germany China and Russia. Huessin even confessed to FBI agents that he was pretending that he had WMDS to deter Iran. 

   I encourage skeptics to look at the testimony of Swedish diplomat Hans Blix to the United Nations in early 2003.  

   The intelligence community prepared the National Intelligence Estimate which investigated the former Iraqi dictator’s WMD programs and concluded that “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons” and could potential obtain nukes.

   On October 11, 2002 the Senate (77 to 23) and the House (296 to 133) passed the resolution to invade Iraq, voting in favor of the resolution including politicians  such as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. These are the same politicians appointed by the same president who opposed the Iraq war. Looking at the historical record it appears as if the left has a bad case of political amnesia when president Clinton made the same argument for overthrowing Saddam as his successor.  in 1998, Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox . A four-day bombing campaign along with Great Britain to curtail Saddam's WMD capabilities. 

    Clinton, executed the attacks unilaterally without UN permission. Noble Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, criticized Clinton for this action. 

"The message they're sending is that any country which fears a veto from the UN can take unilateral action. that means they're introducing chaos into international affairs" 

Ironically, one of the countries opposing U.S. intervention in Iraq was Israel. 

The international and congressional consensus gave the impression that Saddam Huessin had WMDs.

  Of Course WMD's was not the only reason why the United States decided to invade Iraq. In the aftermath of 9-11. A fictitious relationship between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Huessin emerged, even though Saddam was a secular nationalist leader and Al Qaeda was a pan-jihadist terrorist network. However, Saddam did support other forms of regional terrorism including Abu Abbass, and Abu Nidal who killed 19 people in Europe.   Still, the 9-11 terrorist originated from Saudi Arabia, NOT Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq became a magnet for terrorists. 

  The third reason why the United States invaded Iraq was because Saddam was a brutal dictator. A Dictator's dictator. Saddam has a laundry list of human rights abuses including 

  •  Killing more than 140 Shia Muslims after a failed assassination attempt in 1982.  
  • Numerous prisoners were subjected to electrical shocks 
  • Women were raped by Iraqi police
  • In one case a women giving birth in prison was denied medical attention, which caused the baby to suffocate One women was denied medical care, the baby got stuck between the women's legs and died from suffocation. 
  • Saddam gassed thousands of Kurds. In 1988 as many as 10,000 Iraqis were gassed. 
  • Saddam scalded Iraqis with acid and cut out the tongue of political dissidents 

Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was in violation of 16 Security Council resolutions. 

  Still, many political observers are skeptical of this rational because much of the human rights abuses carried out by Saddam were during the Iran Iraq war, when the historical record shows U.S. government favoring Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. 

   Reading the news reports would seam to suggest that Saddam and the United States government are eternal enemies. a Cursory glance at history shows otherwise. During the Kennedy administration, the Central Intelligence Agency used Saddam Huessin's anti-communist party to overthrow Abdul Karim El-Kassem. 

  Unfortunately the usurpation of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist party did not produce a more justice and equitable society. The Shia and Kurdish forces that took control in a post-Saddam Iraq have been accused of engaging in abductions, assassinations, and other "acts of intimidation." 

   Moreover, one of the reasons why Bradley Manning released classified documents to the public was because of the rampant police brutality. The Guardian reported that detainees were "shackled blindfolded, and hung by writs or ankles and whipped punched kicked and shocked." 

   Ayad Allawi, secular Shia Muslim, told the London newspaper the Observer, that the de facto Shia security forces have initiated "Death squads" and "Secret torture centers." At one time 173 detainees were found in a government building, some had been tortured or malnourished.

  Of course, the proliferation of WMDS, the spread of terrorism and the oppressive force of a dictator are global issues that require an international solution. In some cases military force can work to eliminate these problems. History has shown that an interventionist foreign policy can have mixed results. Notwithstanding  the international concerns over Iraq, the reckless and excessive use of force has deepened fault lines and made the Iraqi public more skeptical over the United States intentions.  


 The first example of this occurred before the Iraq war officially started when the London Times stumbled upon a government document known as the Downing Street Memos. The Downing Street memos,  reported that the United States in conjunction with the UK used 22,000 sorties to strike Iraq, hitting 391 targets. The Iraqi public vociferously protested the attacks to the UN. 

   Additionally, incidences such as the capture of Fallujah  (which was a target of a U.S. hell-fire missile killing 140 civilians during the Gulf War) Haditha and the murder of two Reuters reports as revealed in Wikileaks cables, severally damaged the United States reputation for providing security. 

   Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why it was difficult for Iraqis to take the U.S. government serious as a provider of security was because of private mercenaries. Journalist, Jeremy Scahill, chronicles the rise of private mercenaries in his book "Blackwater." 

   The problem with mercenaries reached its apex during the Nisour massacre which resulted in the death of 17 Iraqis by Blackwater operatives. Eyewitnesses said that Blackwater opened fire without being provoked. Although Blackwater denies this, there is other evidence suggesting this claim is true. Indeed, according to an investigation by representative Henry Waxman, member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, from 2005 until the time of the Nisour Square shooting, black water had "opened fire first" 80 percent of the time. 

   What makes it worse is the fact that there are many mercenaries fighters in Blackwater that are recruited from countries with horrendous human rights abuses. Employees at Blackwater can also avoid prosecution, because John Bremer has issued a decree known as Order 17 which absolves any blame or punishment the contractors might receive for their actions. 

   However, it should be noted that it is difficult to engage in combat operations when the majority of the population is located in urban areas (66 percent).

   The death of innocent civilians was just one of the obvious effects of war. The invasion of Iraq produced numerous unintended consequences.  Malnutrition doubled within less than two years after the occupation. Numerous checkpoints spread across the country has caused delays in the transportation of food and medical supplies, which caused inflation.

 According to a study from Brown University, the number of Iraqis living in slums had skyrocketed to 53 percent in 2011 from 17 percent before the war. In 2008 the UN  World Food Program issued a report that details concerns over food insecurity as well as other health concerns.

   Not all the social economic problems facing Iraq are a result of the Iraq War. Much of these problems stem from 12 years of sanctions.   The sanctions has led to a humanitarian crisis and a struggling economy. This has led numerous Iraqis to take refugee in religious institutions. Some of the consequences of the sanctions included: 

  • The downgrading of Iraq's ranking in the UN Human Development index from 126 to 174
  • a serve deterioration of the healthcare system
  • rise in the cost of imported goods 
  • UNICEF reported in 1999 that Iraq was ranked 188th out of 188 countries for having a high-rate of child mortality. 
  • These are just some of the ways the sanctions impacted Iraq

  In the book "Three Trillion Dollar war" Joesph E. Stiglitz describes the Humanitarian crisis: 
 "The Country's roads, schools hospitals homes and Museums have been destroyed and it's citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war."

  Still, the UN Human Development data for Arab States has shown mixed results for Iraq in the last decade. The GDP has fluctuated greatly.

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Interestingly, despite the mass exodus of the Iraqi Middle Class, the number of physicians to citizens has remained relatively the same (.6 per 1,000 citizens). 

Additionally the data shows that women's participation in society is mixed while the participation of women in the labor force has increased, Women have not increased their representation in politics as reflected in the Iraqi Parliament despite a 25 percent increase of the female population from 2000.

   Lastly, NGO workers should be careful lest they be seen as embedded with coalition forces. 


 Iraqis are not the only ones bearing the cost of the war. The Iraq war has caused U.S. tax payers over two trillion dollars. In fact, tax payers are stilling paying over $4.3 billion dollars in benefits, to more than 200,000 veterans from the last Iraq war. The current war has been largely financed by borrowing from other countries rather than through revenue. 

National Priorities Projects has outlined different ways the money could have been used domestically: 
  1. 8 million more housing unites 
  2. 15 million additional public school teachers 
  3. 530 million children receiving healthcare for one year
  4. 43 million students receiving a four-year scholarship to attend a state university.  

The cost of the war continues to grow

   For the last ten years news about the Iraq war was ubiquitous. Everyday it seamed as if there was an article about a bomb exploding in an Iraqi city. Although the world worked together to overthrow a brutal dictator, it created chaos in the process. While libertarians and Liberals continue to question Obama's drone policy it is important that the American public should question the politics of war and the culture of violence associated with it so that the country does not get tied down from another military quagmire.

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