Who’s to blame for Iraq’s ruin?
BEIRUT - Paul R. Pillar, a former CIA officer now with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, observed in July: “Even though the invasion of Iraq… was such a monumental blunder that all except for a few diehard supporters of that war now acknowledge it was a mistake, American attitudes and discourse are still distorted by that departure and not primarily in a reactive, Iraq-War syndrome sort of way.
“With the United States having taken just 12 years ago the extreme step of launching a major war of aggression, it is now accepted as respectable to talk about overthrowing other governments in the region by force if we don’t happen to like them.”
With the Americans throwing in the towel, supposedly in resignation that 25 years of incursions into Iraq, starting with the 1990-91 war over Kuwait and other bad decisions that have thoroughly upended the Middle East, perhaps the prospects of more regime changes are fading.
But they are doing so without offering remorse for what many would describe as war crimes and simply leaving Iraq to a fate that the United States played a large part in shaping.
No US leader has had to answer for this. Since 2009, the British, stalwart allies of both Bushes over Iraq, are at least seeking answers, although the prospects of the truth behind the 2003 invasion in particular, with all its hidden objectives, becoming known in the near future are slim. Too many prominent figures do not want their secrets exposed. But their generation is now out of power and in the long run it is likely such secrets will come out.
The George W. Bush administration justified the 2003 invasion by claiming Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and that he possessed nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The British, ever the faithful ally, propagated the same falsehoods.
But this was the agenda drawn up by pro-Israel neo-conservatives who infested Bush’s administration and exercised immense power within it and saw this as an opportunity to take out a brutal enemy of the Jewish state. During the 1990-91 war, Iraq had fired 36 Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and its environs, under the banner of taking democracy to the Arab world.
The lies and fabrications, based on heavily doctored intelligence, with which the administration cloaked its justification for another war against Saddam would be revealed as essentially a neocon plot to eliminate one of Israel’s major Arab foes. US and UN weapons inspectors found no WMD programmes in Iraq, which London and Washington insisted were there despite intelligence reports that there were not.
No US official has been brought to book for the death and destruction the 2003 invasion caused and the deadly jihadist onslaught that grew out of it.
That move has upended the Middle East and plunged it into unparalleled sectarian violence in which hundreds of thousands of people have perished and millions have been driven from their homes in the largest refugee crisis since the second world war.
In Britain, publication of a judicial inquiry into the country’s involvement in the 2003 disaster has yet to be released, even though it was wrapped up in 2011. Under growing public pressure, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has demanded Lord John Chilcot, who conducted the investigation, name a date for publication.
But there are powerful political figures in Britain who do not want to see their machinations exposed. Nor do the Americans.
British opponents of the war say Labour’s Tony Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister in 2003 and George W. Bush’s closest foreign ally, should stand trial on war crimes charges if the Chilcot report finds that British leaders deliberately doctored intelligence to support the administration of Bush the younger in its obsession to crush Saddam. He was a brutal and megalomaniac dictator with the blood of countless thousands on his hands but certainly no threat to the United States or Britain.
“It’s hard to believe that in a society supposedly governed by the rule of law, its leaders can escape any penalty for using blatantly false information… to launch a pre-emptive attack on a country that posed no threat to the United States,” observed longtime anti-war activist Ron Paul, a former Republican congressman from Texas.
“The fact they got away with it simply makes it all the easier for Washington’s interventionists to try the same tricks again.”
But the fallout from these repeated interventions into Iraq, which have reduced a state that was once one of the most powerful in the Arab world to a disintegrating ruin that happens to sit atop one of the planet’s greatest oil reserves, has been a critical element in the collapse of order in a volatile region grappling with unparalleled chaos.
Now US President Barack Obama, who pulled out US troops in December 2011, is starting to send them back in again to fight an enemy his predecessors to a great degree created. Iraq’s troubles seem far from over.