Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On a completely different subject . . .

My partner in the world girdling journalist enterprise Iraq Today is on vacation in the gamma quadrant so I have an extra blogitory burden this week and may have to scrimp a bit on Stayin' Alive.

Since I have Iraq on the brain, like it or not, let me say something about it. You, like the vast majority of Americans, have probably forgotten all about Iraq, but in March of 2003 the U.S., joined by a significant British force and a few camp followers from hither and yon (Don't forget Poland!) invaded a sovereign nation in what by all definitions and standards in effect up until that time was an illegal war of aggression. The ostensible justification for the crime against humanity was given by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council. Mainstream European newspapers and broadcast news services reported within two days that every single non-trivial factual assertion in Powell's presentation was demonstrably false; but in the United States, it was universally portrayed as incontrovertible proof that Iraq was amassing Weapons of Mass Destruction™ to give to Al Qaeda to use to massacre Americans.

At the time of the invasion, Iraq was under the compulsion of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which compelled it to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. Iraq was doing so. According to Head weapons inspector Hans Blix, it would require only a few weeks to complete verification that Iraq did not possess banned weapons, but the U.S. ordered the U.N. mission out of Iraq and invaded anyway.

While the U.S. and British administrations had given various rationales for the war, all of them evaporated after the invasion. The Iraq Survey Group the U.S. sent in to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction™ concluded that Iraq had suspended its banned weapons programs in 1991. Iraq had no links, operational or otherwise, with al Qaeda, and in fact al Qaeda and the secular Iraqi regime were enemies -- as were the regime and the Kurdish Islamist organization Ansar al Islam (now called Ansar al Sunna) which George W. Bush frequently invoked as an example of "terrorists" harbored by Saddam Hussein. (The organization was actually based in Iraqi Kurdistan, protected from Saddam Hussein by U.S. aircraft.)

As for spreading "democracy" to the Middle East, democracy does not issue from the barrel of a tank or a 500 pound bomb. To have a democracy, nations must have a political culture in which democracy can flourish. Iraq does not, but its chances got a lot worse as U.S. troops stood idly by and watched civil society dissolve, mass looting destroy what was left of Iraq's infrastructure, already badly damaged by a decade of sanctions, followed by the U.S. Viceroy dissolving Iraq's military and banning all of its former civil servants from employment.

Today, Iran is the most influential foreign power in Iraq, China is the most active foreign nation in exploiting Iraq's oil resources, and Iraq remains physically devastated; without a functioning parliament or an elected government; it's military and police forces controlled by sectarian parties close to the Iranian regime that routinely torture prisoners; with millions of refugees both internally displaced and living abroad; hundreds of thousands if not more than a million excess deaths from violence; disease, and lack of medical care; severe shortages of electricity, clean water and sanitation services; and daily bombings, assassinations, and mass murders in most of its major cities.

Oh yeah, it's cost the U.S. a couple of trillion dollars, more than 4,000 military lives and tens of thousands of permanently disabling injuries. And done severe damage to the country's image and reputation around the world.

So the obvious question is, "why"? Invading Iraq wasn't just a Republican obsession, by the way. Jonathan Schwarz notes that the Clinton administration was looking for a fake pretext to invade, as the Bush and Blair administrations continued to do. They needed a fake pretext because, duhhh, they didn't have a real pretext. So why was it so important to do?

Inquiring minds still want to know.


Tom said...
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roger said...

follow the money. we all know who made the big bucks on that war and who is still raking in our tax dollars. i can't imagine any of your readers demanding names, but here are two: halliburton (cheney) and blackwater (eric prince).