'Freedom's victory' still haunts Iraq

'Freedom's victory' still haunts Iraq
Analysis: Today marks the 12th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. That occupation has left a country rife with corruption and splintered along sectarian lines.
4 min read
19 March, 2015

Today marks the anniversary of the American-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. It was an event that over the course of 12 years mutilated life, decimated Iraq's archaeological riches, and encouraged the spirit of vengeance. The moment of destruction tells its own story.

"We meet here during a crucial period in the history of our nation and of the civilised world. Part of that history was written by others, the rest will be written by us.”

     We speak not in the language of equality but the language of sectarianism.

- Mustafa, 25

These were the opening remarks delivered by former US President George W. Bush – words that would lead to the de-civilisation of the birthplace of human civilisation. It is 12 years since America trudged through Iraq under the pretext of the 'war against terror': but the country at large remains haunted by the traces of a belligerently fought war as remembered by many.

The imposition of democracy, quite noticeably, secured anything other than Bush’s assurances, namely "freedom's victory". America, rather, proved ill-equipped to furnish its fictional principles of 'democracy' against the maelstrom of violence they set in motion subsequent to Saddam Hussein's fall. The decision to invade, in the words of London-based Iraqi lawyer Sabah al-Mukhtar, was "from the onset a 'non-starter', regardless of [America's] intention".

The move towards military intervention, particularly in absence of UN Security Council backing, in any event, defies just about everything on which the global system of governance was founded and predicated. The messy realities plaguing the country at present, it seems, echo motives similar to those during the British invasion of Mesopotamia in 1914. Yet the idea of an instant democracy failed in both instances.

While it may have appeared reasonable for America to swoop down into Iraq and provide stability to an otherwise chaotic political environment, less reasonable is the rape of Iraq's oil and populace. As US foreign office records expose, plans for the distribution of Iraq's natural energy resources and petroleum fields were illegally drawn up well before 2003. Corporate deviance of the scale and nature suffered by Iraq evidently trumps other policy considerations such as democracy promotion. Actions, after all, as Mukhtar said, "are judged by their results...if post-invasion Iraq was to be objectively tested against pre-invasion Iraq, one would see how everything is worse: health, education, water sanitation, waste management, and utility services."

He did however state that Iraq after Saddam has been enjoying greater availability of mobile phones, freedom of press in the guise of dozens of satellite television stations fomenting and stoking sectarian tensions by vilifying the faith of others. In a conversation with Mustafa, a 25-year law graduate living between Baghdad and Diqar, in spite of greater freedom for expression, "we [Iraqis] speak not in the language of equality but the language of sectarianism".

While language may seem to most merely a medium of communication, in Iraq, language is one of the many things underpinning sectarian violence. Mustafa explained how he and his friends avoid sectarian attacks, through the procurement of fake ID cards: "Omar for when in Sunni areas and Sajid or Ali for when in Shia areas.”

The picture in Iraq today, as is only to be expected, is an image of barbarism. Many continue to gloss over the fact that former Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki was installed with American help, adding to the superpower’s collection of "friendly tyrants". Cushioned by the gains of America's war and unrelenting bloodletting, Maliki and members of his inner circle sat comfortably in power. The country, as Mukhtar said, was recreated into a neoliberal-friendly business environment, not only since Maliki's ascendancy to power, but as far back to America's policy of de-Baathification that ultimately cultivated a fertile environment for corruption in defiance of the will of the people.

Those I spoke with expressed doubt that even the smallest window of hope remains open for the leap towards a healthier Iraq. The present Iraq, for now at least, remains caught between past and present. While America's troops officially withdrew back in 2009, their presence still remains.

More concerning is that Iran, as a result of Iraq's tumultuous climate, has been able to gain a large foothold in the country. This is the lasting legacy of US-backed democracy that wasn't even attempted to be abandoned. And however convincingly America's justifications of war were spun, the facts, no longer withheld by the invading force, speak loudly for themselves.