With the invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003, the US-led predatory war against Iraq commenced under the code name ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Eight years, eight months and twenty five days later, on 15 December 2011, the Stars and Stripes were lowered in Baghdad to mark the ‘end’ of the war. Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary, flew in to witness the flag-lowering ceremony a day after President Barack Obama had officially declared the withdrawal of the remaining 4,000 US troops – down from a peak of 170,000 in 2007 – from Iraq.
Leaving “with heads held high”!
Mr Panetta insisted that the war, despite the high levels of sacrifice and cost, had been worth it.
“After a lot of blood spilt by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real”, said Mr Panetta lying through his teeth. “To be sure”, he said, “the cost was high – in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain.”
Held under tight security at Baghdad’s international airport, the date and timing of the ceremony had been kept secret so as to prevent the Iraqi resistance from rudely interrupting it with armed attacks.
Along with Mr Panetta, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Lloyd Austin, the Chief US Commander in Iraq, watched as the flag of the US Forces in Iraq was folded and put away, before its return to the US.
“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride … secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to the country’s future generations” said Mr Panetta without even a hint of a sense of guilt or shame. He added that although the war had been a “source of great controversy”, the US forces had helped to build “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.
A day earlier (14 December), President Obama declared the end of the war in Iraq with a speech in which he paid a tribute to the American armed forces as well as accepted some of the alleged aims of a war he was opposed to at one time. Addressing the soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he said that it was “harder to end a war than to begin one”, adding that they were leaving Iraq with their “heads held high”. Iraq, he said, “is not a perfect place”, and the decision to wage the war had been controversial, with “patriots on both sides of the debate”. However, continued the president, who during his campaign for the presidency had characterised the conflict in Iraq as a “dumb war”, “… we are leaving behind a sovereign stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”, under the shadow of the guns of the imperialist occupation forces, he ‘forgot’ to mention.
Yes indeed! So stable and self-reliant, that the flag-lowering ceremony had to be kept a dead secret, while Mr Panetta had to fly in and out of Baghdad airport like a thief. So stable and self-reliant that in November 2011 alone, 200 people were killed and more than 560 injured, while in early December there was an attack inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on the eve of a visit by US vice-president Joe Biden. Even the US State Department has been obliged to admit that there is still more daily violence in Iraq than in Afghanistan – that is saying something. The flag-lowering ceremony, held behind blast walls and security checkpoints that are dotted around Baghdad airport, speaks eloquently and gives the lie to the assertions of Messrs Obama and Panetta.
Within 24 hours of the ‘end’ of the Iraq war, the Iraqi capital experience a suicide bombing, a bomb under a car and an assassination, while the northern town of Tal Afar witnessed two car bombs, with more shootings and bombings reported in Kirkuk, Mosul and the north of Basra.
Within a week of the so-called end of the war, on 22 December, Baghdad was the scene of a series of bomb blasts, which left at least 63 dead and more than 190 wounded. At the same time the bitter infighting within the camp of puppets, and disintegration of the dispensation put in place by the US occupation regime, accelerated as Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, called for the arrest of Tariq al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice-president, on charges of organising bombings and assassinations. Mr Hashimi, a senior Sunni, has fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, is refusing to surrender, and has in turn charged al-Maliki with an attempt to monopolise all power. Maliki has also asked parliament to sack Saleh al-Mutlaq, his Sunni deputy, after the latter likened the prime minister to (no joke) Saddam Hussein, the late president of Iraq – murdered by the US on 30 December 2006. It is clear that the attempt at reconciliation between the various stooge factions through a power-sharing government is practically over. All the signs are that the Maliki government would fall soon, making room for genuine Iraqi patriots and upholders of Iraqi sovereignty and national interests to come to the fore. Such patriotic elements are bound to include, though not exclusively confined to, Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, which has been vehemently opposed to any continued US presence in Iraq and which stepped up armed attacks this year. Attacks by other sections of the resistance, mainly led by Ba’athists, have also been stepped up. It is these two sections which have forced the US army of occupation out of Iraq with a bloody nose; it is they who have prevented the Maliki government from accepting the continued presence of 14,000 to 18,000 American troops (as lobbied by General Lloyd Austin) in Iraq after the ‘end’ of the war under a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA); it is they who hold the future of a democratic, stable and sovereign Iraq in their hands.
A Predatory War
The US-led war against Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the ‘reasons’ proffered by the Bush administration and its chief accomplice, Tony Blair’s Labour Government in Britain, for the waging of it. These were mere pretexts for waging a predatory imperialist war against Iraq for the sole purpose of overthrowing a legitimate government, which had incurred the wrath of imperialism by pursuing economic and foreign policy goals not to the liking of imperialism – a war for domination of Iraq and grabbing its vast mineral resources.
For public consumption, however, Anglo-American imperialism’s rationale for the war continued shifting as each pretext in turn was demonstrably shown to be a lie. To begin with, it was the alleged possession by Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which, it was claimed, presented a danger to the security, not only of the Middle East, but also of the US and Britain. In parallel, it was also asserted by the US and British governments that the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein was somehow connected with al-Qaeda, whom the US blamed for the 9/11 events in New York and Washington. The weapons inspectors – before and after the invasion of Iraq – found no evidence of their existence, not that their presence would have justified war against Iraq. Likewise, the claim concerning the link between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda proved to be groundless – in fact a deliberate fabrication put out by the White House and Whitehall, to frighten their populations into acquiescing with this criminal war.
Finally, with no other excuse left, the Bush and Blair administrations retreated to their last scoundrelly refuge, namely, ridding the Iraqi people of the allegedly tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and bringing in the blessings of democracy, human rights, rule of law and suchlike guff, to them at gun point.
‘Achievements’ of this war
Let us cast a brief glance at the ‘achievements’ of this ‘humanitarian’ war for ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’. Here briefly are they:
● 2.35 million Iraqis were killed up to March 2009 as a result of the imperialist occupation of Iraq; since 19 March 2003, Iraq has been the most dangerous country in the world;
● There are 36 prisons in Iraq, other than Abu Ghraib prison which was, despite its scandalous treatment of detainees, with torture, sexual humiliation and summary executions practised routinely, relatively humane as compared with the others; these prisons housed at any time 400,000 detainees, with the period of detention varying from 3 months to 4 years, with a hundred per cent incidence of torture in all of them;
● In addition to the publicly known prisons, there are 420 secret centres of detention, notorious for their abuse of human rights;
● 2,770,000 Iraqis have been internally displaced consequent upon the occupation, while another 3,000,000 Iraqis have fled the country – mostly to Syria and Jordan;
● With 3 million widows and 5 million orphans (of whom 500,000 are homeless), Iraq has been transformed into a country of widows and orphans;
● Whereas before the war, Iraq had the best health system in the Middle East, now 90 per cent of its 180 hospitals suffer from a critical shortage of doctors, equipment and medicines; Iraq needs 100,000 doctors of all specialities, but it has presently only 20,000, leaving a shortage of 80,000; there are presently 67,000 Aids cases – a disease which was practically unknown in pre-occupation Iraq; 140,000 Iraqis suffer from cancer consequent upon exposure to depleted uranium used by the imperialist armies and burning of chemicals during wholesale bombardment;
● Whereas before the occupation, Iraq’s education system was the pride of the Middle East, today it is in shambles; there are presently 5 million illiterate Iraqis in a country that had eradicated illiteracy by 1980. In an effort to destroy the flower of Iraqi science and higher education, more than 5,500 academics, scientists, philosophers, atomic scientists, chemists and physicians, were kidnapped and detained and many murdered by the occupation regime; a fifth of the academics killed through targeted assassinations were holders of doctorates;
● Iraq has achieved the dubious reputation of being the foremost country in killing of journalists, of whom 247 have been killed and 64 kidnapped during the past 9 years;
●70 per cent of Iraqis have no access to potable water;
●42 per cent of the demand for electricity remains unmet, as compared with 15 per cent before the occupation;
● The youth unemployment rate stands at 30 per cent – double the overall national rate;
● 43 per cent of Iraqis live on less than $1 per day;
● Iraq is presently the third most corrupt country in the world;
● Since the occupation, the position of minorities has become intolerable, with 1969 Christians, 504 Mendaien and 500 Yazidis murdered and several thousands forced to flee abroad in a systematic campaign of terror directed against them;
● The smashing of the Iraqi state by ‘humanitarian’ imperialist predators, the wholesale destruction of Iraq’s institutions, has created a vacuum which has been filled by 550 political parties and other entities, 11,400 NGOs, 126 security companies, in addition to the 43 militias attached to political and religious parties, 220 newspapers financed by foreign powers, as well as 67 radio stations, the majority of which are financed by the secret services of various foreign countries;
●Whereas before this war, Iraq was a proudly secular state, in which religious affiliation hardly played any part, where Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds and Arabs all lived together in harmony, since the overthrow of president Saddam Hussein’s regime the whole country has been turned, thanks to the deliberately divisive divide and rule policy of the occupation regime, into a sectarian hell hole, where different religious factions, each one with its own militia, engage in endless turf wars for political power and material gain;
● Whereas before the invasion and occupation, Iraqi women enjoyed an honourable and relatively equal status with men, since then they have been subjected to violence, rape, prostitution and increasingly to obscurantist oppression by the religious establishment.
(Almost all the above bullet points are based on information in the excellent pamphlet ‘Iraq after seven years of occupation – facts and figures, issued by the Ikram Centre for Human Rights. Every piece of information in it relies on impeccable sources. The Centre can be contacted at Ikraam2006@yahoo.com)
In view of the forgoing frightening summary of the cruelty, barbarism and genocide practised by the imperialist occupation regime over a period of nearly nine years, one can gauge the moral depravity and degeneration of those who attempt to defend imperialism’s predatory war against the people of Iraq in the name of some abstract democratic principle completely divorced from reality. On such degenerate and revoltingly devilish character in a human frame is a certain Nigel Biggar, Regius professor of moral and pastoral theology – no less – at the University of Oxford. Writing in the Financial Times of 11 March 2010, this weighty authority on moral and pastoral theology says: “The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to prevent a sufficiently great evil”. He goes on to say that “Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians [which] amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people.
“Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard, and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum?” (‘Do not be so sure invading Iraq was immoral’)
Even if everyone of the professor’s accusations against Saddam Hussein’s government was to be founded in fact, which they are not, it will still not constitute justification – moral or legal – for the predatory imperialist war which has totally destroyed a wonderful country, displaced a quarter of its population, killed well over 2 million people, and plunged the remaining population into a state of utter destitution and misery. But our professor of moral theology is so lacking in any sense of morality that he sticks firmly to the mantra, learned by him by rote from his imperialist masters: Saddam Hussein was an evil man, who had to be removed at any cost. Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus (Let justice be done, even though the whole world may perish). Such is the staggering accumulation of corruption and filth at our most prestigious universities that professorships on moral philosophy are held by such morally degraded and repulsive creatures as Mr Biggar.
After this sage has spoken thus, can one complain about the members of the mercenary journalist fraternity, who argue, like ‘our’ professor, along the following lines: “The moral arguments are more finely balanced than the anti-war movement ever acknowledged. Iraq paid a terrible price for the conflict but it was freed from a vicious regime that was up to its elbows in blood” (‘Farewell to a dumb war in Iraq’, Gideon Rachman, Financial Times, 20 December 2011).
So, there you are. Saddam Hussein’s regime was vicious and immersed in blood, but those who ‘freed’ the Iraqi people (2.35 million of them ‘freed’ from life itself), the imperialist bandits, are squeaky clean. While pretending to be a dispassionate and disinterested observer of the horrendous war in Iraq, striking a pose and going through the motions of balancing the arguments for and against the war in Iraq, Mr Rachman, without any hesitation and twinge of conscience, firmly comes down in favour of the ‘dumb war’ against the people of Iraq. Obviously without imperialist brigandage and loot there will be no fat salaries for its ink slingers.
Having referred to the nauseating arguments of the Biggars and Rachmans of this world, it is truly refreshing to recall the following words, full of moral indignation at the devastation of Baghdad by Anglo-American imperialism, written on 22 March 2003 by Brian Reade: “Closer to home, you wondered how every member of the Labour Cabinet, and every careerist Labour MP which backed this unethical bombardment, was feeling.
“Hopefully, as the mushroom plumes rose over Baghdad, they saw their life as socialists flash before them. A life lost forever. And I hope the realisation that they had authorised this outrage made them feel as repulsed with themselves as most of the rest of us do”
With such passion, candour and courage did Mr Reade report from Baghdad for the Daily Mirror of 22 March 2003.
Cost to US imperialism
While unleashing death, destruction and devastation of Nazi proportions on the Iraqi people, US imperialism has emerged from this war badly mauled and much weakened. Here briefly are the losses of US imperialism:
● 4,500 US soldiers lost their lives in this war, while another 100,000 were injured (Britain lost 172 soldiers, while several thousand suffered injuries);
● At its height the war was costing the US treasury $12 billion a month. In their book entitled The Three Trillion Dollar War, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize winning economist, and Linda Bilmes, a senior official during Bill Clinton’s presidency, estimated that the Iraq war, the most expensive in US history, with the exception of the Second World War, cost the American taxpayer close to 3 trillion dollars, taking into account the disability compensation and benefits paid to soldiers airlifted home after being injured or falling seriously ill; the extra costs to the defence budget; loss of productive capacity of those killed or wounded; and higher costs deriving from higher oil prices. Even according to the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress, in the first five years (up to 19 March 2008) the Iraq war cost $16,900 to an average American family of four – much more by December 2011. In comparison the British taxpayer spent £6.6 billion in the Iraq war;
● As a result partly at least of this war, the US trade, fiscal and foreign debt have risen inexorably. Already, writing in the Financial Times of 18 August 2004, Martin Wolf felt compelled to write: “Let us be blunt about it. America is now on the comfortable path to ruin”. America’s economic position has since then become far more precarious; the near meltdown of the imperialist financial system undermined the belief in the free market as well as the ability of the governments to control the destructive powers unleashed by the deepest ever crisis of overproduction faced by capitalism. It knocked the stuffing out of the Chicago consensus. No longer could imperialist governments and their financial institutions lecture to the rest of the world about the best way to run their economies;
● Consequent upon this war, US standing in the world has plummeted; everywhere – from Europe to the Middle East, Asia and Latin America – there is a surge of anti-American sentiment; George W Bush had made the launch of the Iraq war as a supreme test of American military and political strength, but the actual course of this war has shown the US to be a colossus with feet of clay;
● While the American prestige and power, in the Middle East especially, has emerged much reduced, that of Iran has come out much stronger; by invading Iraq, and overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime, the US willy-nilly empowered Iran by removing from the scene Iran’s most formidable rival in the region; Iran maintains very close relations with the Iraqi government as well as with Moqtada al-Sadr. On Sunday, 2 March 2008, Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian president, became the first head of state to visit Iraq since the 2003 US invasion – almost in a symbolic show of defiance. While there, Ahmadi-Nejad blamed the fragile security on the “occupation forces” seeking justification for a long-term presence in Iraq. What is more, his visit was open and announced in advance, as opposed to the clandestine visits of the spokesmen of Anglo-American imperialism. Serious observers of the Middle East scene are of the view that the failure of the US administration to persuade the Iraqi government to allow several thousand troops to stay in Iraq after the ‘end’ of the war is largely attributable to the pressure exercised against such an outcome by Iran through the Iraqi government as well as Sadr;
● The predatory war in Iraq also gave a spur to quite a few countries to at least consider the question of developing their own nuclear weapons, for they realised that Iraq would hardly have been attacked had it possessed nuclear weapons. That is precisely what the DPRK has done. If more countries follow that path, it deprives US imperialism of the power to intimidate them with the threat of use of nuclear weapons. It is precisely the realisation of such a scenario that is causing the US to take such a hostile stance towards Iran, which has a nuclear programme of its own, albeit for peaceful purposes;
● Last, but not least, while the US has been busy waging wars against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya recently, almost unnoticed as it were, China has been steaming ahead with its industrial development, strengthening its economy and defence capability, and into the bargain become the largest manufacturer in the world and America’s major creditor. Belatedly realising the challenge that China’s rise poses to the US’s global hegemony, for no other reason than that China exists as a powerful country, US imperialists has been lately busy with its hostile attempts to organise an anti-China coalition in the Asia Pacific region (see elsewhere in this issue);
For all the horrors inflicted by imperialism on the Iraqi people, it must be said in the latter’s honour that they gave a fitting rebuff to arrogant predatory imperialist forces. Nothing epitomises the indomitable courage, the self-sacrificing heroism and revolutionary perseverance of the Iraqi people, more than the battle for the City of Fallujah in November/December 2004, a battle during which imperialist forces were attempting to stuff democracy into the city by the simple medium of obliterating it. For more than two months, the mightiest military machine in the world was unable to overwhelm a small force of urban guerrilla fighters armed with no more than RPGs, IEDs AK47s and a few shoulder-held missiles. Instead of capturing the city, the Americans were confronted with an opposition that broke the back of their assault. Instead of “breaking bone by bone” and breaking the backbone of the resistance, it was the resistance that managed to smash the assault.
The battle of Fallujah and the battles in the rest of Iraq since April 2003 have proved to be a gigantic successful experiment in asymmetrical warfare, truly a turning point in warfare as practised by the Americans, that is, the application of overwhelming force to achieve victory. What the Iraqi resistance lacked in equipment, it more than made up for through ingenious intelligence, a burning hatred for the aggressors, an ardent patriotism and a passionate belief in the justness of its cause. The war in Iraq has given demonstrable proof that a mighty imperialist power is powerless in the face of determined resistance by people waging a people’s war, that in the final analysis it is people, and people alone, not weaponry, that determine the outcome of the kind of war which has been taking place in Iraq since march 2003.
Despite, or perhaps because of, it vilest interests, imperialism through its predatory war has aroused the people of Iraq, and beyond, to rise up in defence of their sovereignty and fight for their liberation; it has acted as the “unconscious tool of history” in bringing about a revolutionary change in the consciousness of the people of Iraq and the wider Middle East.
The Iraqi people have given the imperialist predatory armies a bloody nose and forced them to withdraw almost all their forces. Almost all, because the Americans are leaving by way of ‘embassy staff’ 16,000 people, of whom 5,000 are security personnel, for their embassy (the largest diplomatic mission anywhere built at a cost of $1 billion) and a 700,000 strong puppet army trained and equipped by them. Several thousand US soldiers have simply been transferred across the border to Kuwait ready to return to Iraq at a moment’s notice. If the 170,000 American army in Iraq could not overpower and crush the Iraqi resistance, neither will the ‘embassy’ personnel nor the puppet army be a match for the resistance.
The US is withdrawing almost all its forces from Iraq much humiliated and much weakened. This being the case, for all the suffering, torture and misery inflicted on the Iraqi people, for all the death and destruction rained upon them by the imperialist bandits, progressive humanity has the right, “in point of history”, to be satisfied with the result and exclaim with Goethe:
“Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?”
(cited in Karl Marx, ‘The British Rule in India’, 10 June 1853).