Twenty years on, Iraqis seek to escape the shadow of invasion and war

Twenty years on, Iraqis seek to escape the shadow of invasion and war
Many Iraqis still struggle to understand the lack of justice and accountability for the US-led occupation.
3 min read
20 March, 2023
A whole generation of Iraqis has grown up in the aftermath of invasion and chaos [Getty images]

Twenty years after the launch of the US-led ground invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003, Iraqis are still processing the legacy of the war and looking to emerge from its shadow.

The assault saw thousands of civilians killed in US bombing, along with unleashing a horrifying sectarian civil war, political corruption on a massive scale, and economic stagnation in the oil-rich country.

On Monday, Iraqis and others remembered the bitter legacy of the illegal invasion by the US, UK, and others, the repercussions of which are still being felt today.

"To this day Iraqis are suffering from the devastating impact of war crimes and other atrocities perpetrated by the United States-led coalition in its invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq," said Elizabeth Rghebi of Amnesty International on Monday. 

Many Iraqis still struggle to process what happened and have shared their anger widely on social media. 

"Where is the International Criminal Court now? Will George Bush and Tony Blair ever face justice for their crimes in Iraq?" asked Nabil Mohammed about the US president and UK prime minister behind the devastating assault on Iraq. 

"I curse the day George Bush was born," wrote one anonymous user. 

Alongside the chaos and destruction left by the US invasion, Iraq has also endured a mental health crisis with millions left scarred by the traumatic events of war and occupation.

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To this day, mental health issues remain in Iraq's five most common medical complaints, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported, warning that the country's crumbling healthcare system is ill-equipped to confront the scale of the problem. 

In 2014, Iraq was further scarred by the takeover by the Islamic State group of massive swathes of territory - which set loose massive rights abuses and war crimes, particularly against minority groups

The US is widely blamed for creating the conditions that led to the IS's emergence, not least the corrupt and sectarian policies of the Iraqi government established after the invasion. 

"Although minority citizens in Iraq are experiencing lower levels of armed violence based on their identity, discrimination against them seems to have worsened in the wake of the Islamic State occupation," tweeted Iraqi researcher Dr. Alaa Tartir. 

The commander of the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said militants from the group were still carrying out "opportunistic attacks" on security forces and civilians despite their territorial defeat. 

Iraq's troubled political system is yet to recover - but some believe Iraqis will manage to lead the country down a better path if only left alone by its neighbours and other global powers. 

"The legacy of the invasion still runs through many of the challenges that Iraq faces, but no longer defines them. Gradually, Iraq is shaping its own destiny - hopefully to the benefit of all its citizens," said Dr. Tartir.