Iraq: A criminal war the US lost

January 14, 2012
Private security on a Baghdad. Photo from

It took about 20 minutes after the last official US combat troops crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait for the Potemkin village of “Iraqi stability and democracy”, carefully built by the occupation, to fall apart.

The regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought a terrorism indictment against the vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, who promptly headed north to autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, where the central government’s hand doesn’t reach. Purges of university professors and arrests of political figures not favoured by the Maliki regime have begun.

Sunni and independent Shia political figures now accuse Maliki of organising a new dictatorship. He has the support of the US, which is shipping billions of dollars in advanced weaponry to Iraq — ostensibly to defend against a possible Iranian threat. This may be slightly incongruous since Maliki’s adversaries accuse him of acting as Tehran’s agent.

In possibly related developments, suicide and car bombings resumed — signalling that some of the “Sunni Awakening” tribal leaders may be pulling their “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” hats out of mothballs. With this kind of democratic stability, who needs chaos?

Whether Iraq’s fragile political system will collapse entirely is hard to predict, but the people of that “liberated” country are probably pretty realistic about what they’re facing.

After hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the devastation of war and the humiliation of an eight-year occupation, the hideous tyranny of Saddam Hussein has been replaced by the prospect of endless sectarian war in which, among other ruinous developments, Iraq becomes a proxy battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

That’s a long way from the hopes that the Arab Spring has brought to other countries in the region.

Among the war’s other losers, however, are those from whom the truth is being systematically hidden — the people of the US.

Although we obviously haven’t suffered anything resembling the physical destruction and the mass death that imperialism inflicted on Iraq, the deaths of more than 4000 soldiers and the horrific lifelong injuries suffered by more than 30,000 are a sickening enough waste.

But it goes beyond that. One of the worst things that can happen after a losing war is for the people to be told it was a victory. That prevents the necessary conclusions from being drawn and paves the way for even worse debacles. So it’s necessary for the anti-war movement to state the truth clearly: this was a criminal war, which the US lost.

To see the truth of this, it’s only necessary to compare the results with what the administration of then-president George W Bush promised at the outset: a liberated democratic Iraq, allied with the US and its war partners, whose reconstruction would be self-financed by its oil money.

And perhaps the biggest lie of all wasn’t the Weapons of Mass Destruction fraud. After all, imperialist adventures of the past have also been launched on lying pretexts from “Remember the Maine” (1898) to the mythical Gulf of Tonkin incident (1964).

Rather, it was telling the US population that it didn’t have to be paid for, that in fact we could have a tax cut in wartime.

We’ve paid for it, and we’ll be paying for decades to come — US$4 trillion by some estimates. But neither Bush and neoconservative gangsters who launched the war, nor the Barack Obama administration that inherited it, are going to tell the population the truth about this defeat, let alone the war’s criminal nature.

In fact, the war was lost not last year but much earlier, between 2004 when US forces destroyed the city of Fallujah and 2006, by which point the reality of civil war among Iraqi factions couldn’t be denied.

Juan Cole wrote on October 16: “It turns out that the day on which the US military lost Iraq once and for all was September 16, 2007, when Blackwater private security guards, all decorated ex-military, opened fire in Nisoor Square under the mistaken impression that they were under attack by the ordinary civilian motorists there.

“Seventeen were killed, dozens wounded, and the incident became a cause celebre for Iraqis eager to see an end to a foreign military presence in their country. That the US courts declined to punish the perpetrators of the massacre was a nail in the coffin for extraterritoriality. The Iraqis wouldn’t grant it after all that …

“The US will receive no benefit from its illegal war of aggression, no permanent bases, no bulwark against Iran, no new Arab friend to Israel, no $14-a-barrel petroleum — all things Washington had dreamed of. Dreams that turned out to be flimsy and unsubstantial and tragic.”

Then came “the surge”, which was billed as the new strategy for victory — in reality a salvage operation to halt the slide toward the complete disintegration of Iraq. And it worked, in the sense that “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” was suppressed (before the US invasion, of course, it had never existed) and the cooperation of Sunni forces was purchased.

US political-military strategy essentially switched gears, away from the post-invasion scheme of forcing huge “de-Baathification” and dissolving the Iraqi army that plunged the country into chaos, toward a more classic “colonial” mode of buying the support of the indigenous (so-called tribal) elites.

That strategy brought about a rough political compromise — the coalition government that is now disintegrating.

So who won? The only clear winner was the regime in Iran, which saw its enemy Saddam Hussein disappear from the map.

The Iranian regime, we now know, quietly offered back in 2003 to deal with the US for a comprehensive regional bargain. The Bush regime, which intended to make Iran next on its hit list, contemptuously refused. That opens another chapter and a road to an even greater tragedy and imperial disaster.

In the coming year, Obama who was elected in part because he had opposed the Iraq war, and once in office embraced it will take the Republicans’ heat for “losing Iraq”. Is this a crock, or what? Of course it is — but that was president Obama’s deal with the devil.

Most dangerous of all, perhaps — because the truth of the US defeat in Iraq is hidden by the bipartisan agreement of the Republicans and Democrats, and because the entire destructive record of intervention in Afghanistan is conveniently all but forgotten, there is far too little public understanding today of Washington’s slide toward confrontation with Iran.

The pretext for sanctions and a threatened embargo of Iranian oil, of course, is the Iranian regime’s alleged drive for nuclear weapons.

But make no mistake: the real objective would be the destruction of Iran’s conventional military capability that makes it a strong regional power. If the US people understood the real outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, popular opposition to this looming new adventure would be overwhelming. Getting those truths into the political debate could hardly be more critical now.

[Reprinted from]


Some correction and amplification is required for this otherwise excellent article. 1. The website icasualties (see: ) reports 4484 US deaths in Iraq (4802 US Alliance total) as compared to 1878 US deaths in Afghanistan ( 2863 US Alliance total). However the US death toll is much greater than this. Thus the US News Tribune reported (19 January 2012: ) "While the government keeps no official tally of veteran suicides, the VA last year said that veterans account for roughly 20 percent of the estimated 30,000 suicides annually in the United States". It has been estimated from this that about 50,000 US veterans have committed suicide in the last decade. In addition there is a huge further burden of physical and mental trauma afflicting many of the survivors. According to the White House (see: "More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. More than 30,000 troops were wounded in the fighting, and 4,500 lost their lives." 2. According to the 2006 Revision UN Population Division data, medical literature data, and other authoritative sources, the Iraqi Holocaust has been associated with 1.2 million post-invasion non-violent avoidable deaths; 1.5 million violent post-invasion deaths (see Just Foreign Policy: and 0.8 million post-invasion under-5 infant deaths (90% avoidable and due to gross US Coalition violation of the Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War which demands that an Occupier supplies food and medical requisites to “the fullest extent of the means available to it.” In addition, avoidable deaths under Sanctions (1990-2003) totalled 1.7 million, violent deaths in the Gulf War totalled 0.2 million and under-5 infant deaths under Sanctions totalled 1.2 million. Iraqi refugees (both inside and outside Iraq) total 5-6 million. War-related deaths in Iraq (1990-2012) have totalled about 4.6 million an Iraqi Holocaust and Iraqi Genocide commensurate with the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed) (see "Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide": ). War-related deaths in Afghanistan (2001-2012) total 5.0 million (1.2 million violent deaths, 3.8 million avoidable deaths from war-imposed deprivation, 2.4 million avoidable under-5 infant deaths; there have been 3-4 million refugees; see "Afghan Holocaust, Afghan Genocide": ) . 3. About 1 million Americans die potentially preventable deaths each year but the Iraq War has been associated with an accrual cost of about $4 trillion (up to $2 trillion for the Afghan War) , money that could have been used to minimize this appalling carnage of ordinary Americans in the world's richest country. The Australian Coalition and Labor (Lib-Lab) politicians who variously supported war against Iraq over the last 21 years are not just complicit in genocidal war crimes in Iraq (for which they should be arraigned before the International Criminal Court), they have also utterly betrayed the American people and Humanity as a whole. . Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne.
Thankyou Dr Gideon Polya, that is an excellent post. I wish the madia(media) of this country had the same decency as you and others fighting for truth and humanity then the world would be a much more decent place. I will be emailing and disseminating that post as much as I can and it has made me even more determined to see the political criminals behind bars. An interesting quote from H.G.Wells "A time will come when politicians who have willfully made war and promoted dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homocide. It is not unreasonable that those who gamble with mens lives should not stake their own" If tyranny and oppression comes to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy" James Madison. And further still in relation to other elements of your post are these pertinent quotes, "The west won the world not by the superiority of it's ideals or values, but rather by it's superiority of applying organised violence." Samuel.P.Huntington. And this from Dwight.D.Eisenhower "Every gun that is made,every war ship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,those who are cold and not clothed. Those few quotes show how nothing ever changes and how generation after generation are enthralled by what Roosevelt described as a "Manufatured and restricted reality" as another author said "my heart is breaking"

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