19 March 2013

Find the cost of ‘freedom’

There is a country with a population of thirty million people. Half lived in slum conditions two years ago, and nearly a quarter live below the global poverty line. In nine years of war, anywhere between 150,000 and 400,000 innocent civilians died violent deaths. Four and a half million are orphans; six hundred thousand of these are homeless. One million people fled the country to Syria, where another today threatens to displace them yet again. Still again as many are internally displaced, wayfarers within their own homeland. It is a country which remains mired in corruption, violence, dependency and terrorism.

This country is Iraq.

Ten years ago today, this country was invaded by the United States. My country. Four thousand five hundred of my countrymen were killed and over thirty five thousand were wounded in the invasion and its aftermath, lives squandered on the basis of their government’s lies. That is not to mention the goodwill of the world and the moral capital of the United States on the world stage, which were likewise squandered in the murderous folly.

Today, al-Qaeda in Iraq essentially has free run of the country, in a way it simply did not under Saddam. The ‘democracy’ which has been brought to Iraq is run by crude systems of party patronage which make Tammany Hall look like a beacon of transparency and fair play. The weapons of mass destruction which were supposed to be in the country simply failed to materialise.

All facts and figures. Sobering enough, but they still do not carry the true impact of the war. Instead, one must always bear in mind that under each statistic there are hidden as many stories as that figure recounts. Mark Shea links to one such story, of an Army psychologist who saved many lives and sanities during a completely insane war, and yet succumbed himself to PTSD and depression, which in the end robbed him of his life. The story is heartbreaking and enraging, but it should be read and reflected upon.

Other stories abound. Humanitarian workers shot. Places of worship bombed. Iraq’s native Christian women raped or disfigured because they do not wear the veil. Most of Iraq’s Christians have by this time fled to Jordan or to Syria, crippling perhaps forever one of the oldest and most venerable congregations in the Middle East.

Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman is right. As terrible as Saddam was, Iraq is nevertheless worse off without him. This is no apology for Saddam, but rather a serious indictment of a failed foreign policy stance that neither party in American politics has fully learnt from.


  1. It is striking that virtually none of the politicians, journalists or “experts” have been discredited in the mainstream political universe by the war. They still hold important public office, work at lofty institutions or think tanks, still make the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows and get paid handsomely to engage in public speaking or write books.

    On the other hand, many of those who opposed the war are still marginalized as radicals or hippies despite the fact that they were right about the entire debacle.

    There is also the sad fact that many Americans don’t seem to care and want to just forget about the whole thing. Perhaps it is because they realize nothing can be done because our elite class has become so entrenched and immovable or perhaps it is the fact that without a draft only a relatively small segment of the population suffered directly from the war. I honestly don’t know.

  2. Yup. Completely agree.

    I made a contribution to the combox on Gil Grundy's blog, essentially to this effect. The response - well, you can read it yourself - was essentially that we shouldn't have taken seriously the arguments against war because they had been made by the likes of John Pilger and George Galloway. You know, the 'non-serious' folks out on the Loony Left. And Hans Blix, even though he was vindicated in the aftermath, was not to be believed at the time because 'everybody knew' (including, apparently, members of the Ba'athist government) that Saddam had WMDs.

    To be fair to Gil, though, he did say that there should now be some big question marks sitting over the names of the people that advocated this invasion. And he's pretty much dead-on right about Robin Cook (may he rest in peace).

    But at the same time, it seems that the question marks over the war hawks do not have the same credibility-destroying effect amongst the general public that they obviously had for him with regards to Pilger and Galloway. I would be rather remiss not to point out the double standard there.