Iraq: Sectarian violence the legacy of West's war


Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on the people of Falluja to rise up on January 6 and drive out armed groups affiliated to al-Qaeda.

News accounts reported that Falluja had “completely fallen” to the Islamist fighters. The Iraqi army was poised to retake the city, said Maliki. He asked Sunni tribes to help.

Sunni fighters had already taken to the streets, the BBC said, not to help expel the Islamists, but to resist any assault by Maliki's forces.

For many of Falluja's mainly Sunni residents, BBC Arabic correspondent Ahmed Maher said, the Iraqi army was not a national force striving to protect the people, but the sectarian army of a Shia-dominated government.

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Jay Carney promised the US was “accelerating our foreign military sales deliveries [to Maliki] and ... looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring”.

From any perspective, this is an appalling mess. For the 350,000 inhabitants of Falluja, it is also an unmitigated disaster. Or, more accurately, the latest phase of a disaster that has been ongoing since the invasion in 2003.

One justification given for the invasion was that Saddam Hussein was harboring al-Qaeda terrorists. Then-British prime minister Tony Blair claimed the connection was “unquestionable”.

There was as little truth to this as there was in the claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What is true, however, is that al-Qaeda has since become well ensconced in the country.

Political — mainly sectarian — violence now affects virtually every part of Iraq. Last year, 7818 civilians perished in the violence. In December alone, nearly 1000 people were killed — the highest monthly total for years.

This situation cannot reasonably be characterised as a battle with terrorism — albeit there are actors on all sides who could be so described. Civil war is a more apt description.

It would be a stretch to say this is entirely due to the 2003 US-led invasion. But the invasion was certainly the detonator that set off the explosive material that existed in the region.

Yet the most enthusiastic advocates of invasion not only refuse to concede that they were wrong, but are among the most vociferous supporters of more of the same now.

Blair, who continues to argue that the invasion of Iraq was a splendid idea, was calling for air strikes against Syria a few months ago. He has decried suggestions that the option of attacking Iran should be “taken off the table”.

One of the most belligerent US advocates of invasion, Bush adviser and neo-con Richard Perle, when asked on National Public Radio last year whether he would admit now that the invasion was a mistake, replied: “That is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation.

“You can't a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn't have done that.”

Matter of fact, you can. And should, as should the media elements who championed the invasion. This is so there can be an assessment of the ways in which it was wrong and a discussion to ensure we don't fall for Blair/Perle war propaganda again.

[Abridged from US Socialist Worker.]

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