This Veteran’s Day will be the second since the Iraq war ended in 2011. For millions of American veterans and civilians alike, the specter and shame of that terrible war still looms over them to this very day. For the people of Iraq, the aftermath of our occupation is still a daily nightmare, a place where life is fraught with peril and strife. But in the corridors of power and America’s media complex, the Iraq War might as well have ended a century ago, and have about as much relevance to current international affairs as our own Revolutionary War did to the Roman Republic.
When it comes to Iraq, few stories of any real consequence make it to mainstream American audiences.
When it comes to corporate media coverage of postwar Iraq, what started out as comprehensive, though biased, reporting has now become an exercise in complete abstraction. Few stories of any real consequence make it to mainstream American audiences, and the ones that do are disjointed and lack a coherent narrative. Given what we now know about the symbiotic relationship between the journalism and political classes, this hardly seems coincidental, especially in the wake of Obama’s controversial call to end our “boundless global war on terror” in May of this year.
Any coherent media narrative regarding the massive destabilization of postwar Iraq requires that we talk about America’s role in their decline, while also admitting that the War On Terror is and always has been an exercise in futility. The whole truth cannot be shown, as the War On Terror lies at the foundation of America’s modern national security state. But the situation in Iraq is dire, and will spiral out of control into the rest of the region if measures are not taken.
Bolstered by their alliance with Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, “al-Qaida has still been active [in Iraq] and has grown more active recently,” Obama was forced to admit during a recent meeting with Iraqi officials. In addition, wave after wave violent religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims has have blasted the nation ever since the end of the U.S. occupation, placing their “nascent and fragile” democracy in grave peril, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A deeper look behind the headlines reveals that before things get better, they’re going to get a whole lot worse.
“The Deadliest Year … Since 2008.”
Russia Today reports that 2013 has been “the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008.” Over 7,000 civilians have lost their lives so far, with the number rising daily. The report goes on to say that “[f]ollowing the withdrawal of US troops… Iraq has been with each day plunging deeper into inter-ethnic violence, prompted by ever-growing tensions mostly between the country’s majority Shiite community and the Sunni minority.” While these tensions existed long before the occupation, there was an uneasy peace between the groups until Saddam Hussein was ousted. This places the blame squarely upon the U.S. for much of the conflict that exists in Iraq today, according to Hamit Dardagan, co-founder of Iraq Body Count.
“The invasion was not just some kind of mistake. The invasion and occupation were a serious crime. That was a crime of aggression under the UN charter. Iraq is still suffering from the destruction of its regime, its government and its society by the United States. The US employed classic divide and rule strategy pitting people of different sects against each other, inciting violence that is completely unprecedented in that country and now has instilled a sectarian based government. And this is just a reign of terror. And in that sense some of the worst aspects of the US occupation are still continuing today.”
A recent report from AP entitled “Iraqi PM: Terror ‘got a second chance’ in Iraq” gives Dardagan’s claim considerable merit. The report states that “[w]ithin months of the U.S. troops’ departure, violence began creeping up… as Sunni Muslim insurgents, angered by a widespread belief that Sunnis had been sidelined by the Shiite-led government, lashed out.” Dismantling Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-backed regime required no small amount of assistance from the Shiites, so it’s no surprise that in our absence the Sunnis would attempt to regain power. What is surprising is the failure of our military to adequately train and equip Iraq’s domestic police forces to deal with these groups in our absence, a mistake which practically assured that a rise in violence would go unchecked.
Exit Strategy? What Exit Strategy?
“Our methods of trying to bring the rule of law to Iraq…were shoved aside by military and civilian leaders who…had no understanding of the role of law enforcement in a democracy,” writes Army Colonel Ted Spain in his book “Breaking Iraq: The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq”, released on the invasion’s 10th anniversary earlier this year. In hindsight, it seems America’s occupation of Iraq was never meant to be temporary, at least not in the hearts and minds of those who waged it. After all, why not establish and support local police forces unless you believed you were there to replace them?
While America’s occupation of Iraq is long since over, the chaos and instability left in our wake is every bit our responsibility, and we owe them our support. Iraq may be gone from the headlines, but by her people she is not forgotten. Those in the media-Congressional complex who would have you believe otherwise have a deliberately selective memory, or fail to realize that the rose-colored glasses through which they view history are in fact tinted with blood.