10 Years Since the US Invasion/Occupation of Iraq: Part II – Iraq was not a mistake, but part of the Imperial Plan
This is the second article in a series of three centered around the 10th anniversary of the US Invasion/Occupation of Iraq. The first article dealt with media lies and misinformation.
There has been a fair amount of stories on liberal news blogs about the 10th anniversary of the US invasion/occupation of Iraq. In most of these articles, along with numerous memes, the pattern has been to call Iraq the worst crime the US has ever committed and to lay the blame at the feet of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld.
First, lets be clear, US foreign policy is riddled with a whole array of brutality, including torture, murder, occupation and even genocide. There is a long list of evidence to support such crimes, but I will limit that documentation to a few books and declassified US government documents.
There are several books by Noam Chomsky that I would recommend, but perhaps a recent book that deals with US war crimes and US imperialism is Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. Another excellent book is by foreign policy analyst William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II. Along with books likes these I would highly recommend the declassified US government documents collected and analyzed by the National Security Archive, which provides a look at what US policy planners have said about US foreign policy for decades. There is plenty of declassified documentation as it relates to Iraq, even documents on Iraq and WMDs.
Secondly, while the Bush administration did push for the US invasion/occupation of Iraq beginning in 2002, they were only able to complete this goal because of the overwhelming support by the Democratic Party.
Many Democrats also voted for initial legislation in October of 2002 and while many have objected to the misinformation on WMDs, virtually all of them continued to vote for annual funding for the US occupation of Iraq. For example, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, while critical of the Bush plan early on, voted for every funding bill on Iraq after the invasion/occupation began.
The larger issue that we ought to focus on for the 10th anniversary of the US invasion/occupation of Iraq are both the crimes committed and the imperialist nature of the US plan.
In order to look at the totality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation, we need to first provide some historical context. The US supported Iraq with weapons during the Iran – Iraq war between 1980 – 1988. This was took its toll on the Iraqi people and the economy, with thousands of lives lost.
In January of 1991, the US began a bombing campaign against Iraq that devastated much of Iraq’s infrastructure, killed thousands more and was followed by the most severe form of international sanctions ever imposed on a country. The sanctions were so severe that the United Nations estimate that roughly 500,000 Iraqi children died during the sanctions years (Clinton years) from preventable causes. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when asked whether the death of half a million Iraqi children was worth it, she said, “we think it was worth it.”
Now that we have established that Iraq had been suffering in part from US policy for nearly two decades before the 2003 invasion/occupation, we can more honestly assess the human and monetary cost of this policy.
The US invasion and occupation was devastating to Iraqi civil society in ways that numbers cannot fully reflect. However, statistically, the human cost of the US invasion/occupation has been catastrophic.
Number of Iraqi Wounded – this number has been hard to quantify, since people are still being wounded at high levels, from unexploded bomblets that the US used during the invasion/occupation. Most of the wounded have been children.
Number of Iraqis Displaced – millions of Iraqis were displaced throughout the US invasion/occupation, with some returning once the occupation decreased, but one source puts the number of displaced at this moment to be 2.8 million.
In addition to the human cost of the war, the economic cost has been tremendous. Iraq may never recover from the devastation and has been left in a state of chaos. On the US end, we know that the cost of the war has been astronomical, based on the research by the National Priorities Project (NPI). The NPI puts the current cost at over 812 billion dollars, but the new report from Brown University puts the cost at $2.2 Trillion.
Iraq: Part of the Imperial Plan
Many US politicians refer to Iraq as a “mistake,” which is a constant term that President Obama uses to describe what happened. However, such a term is not only inaccurate, it is dishonest.
The US invasion/occupation of Iraq was not about WMDs, getting rid of Saddam or bringing democracy to that country. The US invasion/occupation of Iraq was about geo-political and economic hegemony in the Middle East.
Besides the human cost of the invasion/occupation, the US plan from very early on was to engage in an economic restructuring of Iraq. Within months of the occupation, the US had plans to restructure the economy of Iraq, by rewriting the country’s constitution, which would allow for more foreign investment and privatization of previously public services. This push to implement a neoliberal economic plan for Iraq is well documented in Naomi Klein’s book, Shock Doctrine. Part of this Shock Doctrine was to have US-owned reconstruction companies get the Pentagon contracts to “re-build” Iraq, even though much of that money was wasted and redirected due to corruption.
However, the largest benefit to restructuring Iraq’s economy was the push to privatize Iraq’s oil reserves, which was successful and open the floodgates for foreign oil companies to take over, as you can see from this map.
Lastly, it is important to note that the US occupation of Iraq is not over. The SOPA agreement worked out by the Bush administration and put into effect under the Obama administration would allow for 20,000 US troops to remain in Iraq, along with the tens of thousands of private mercenary forces that are being employed to protect US interests. The US also maintains numerous military bases in Iraq and is not likely to dismantle those, considering the geo-political importance of Iraq, particularly as the US continues to be antagonistic towards Iraq.
While it is understandable and easier to lay the blame for the US “war” in Iraq at the feet of the Bush administration, it completely ignores the bi-partisan nature of US imperialism and hides the fact that the US occupation and exploitation of Iraq continues.