10 myths about the war in Iraq
A decade ago in March 2003, 300,000 foreign troops, led by the US began the invasion of Iraq. A decade on the occupation still remains. Whilst many lies were concocted and have now disappeared into oblivion, to justify the invasion, they have merely been replaced with other justifications. Hence on the 10th anniversary we highlight 10 of these myths:
1. The Invasion was to spread democracy
America’s pre-text for invasion has now been proven to be a myriad of lies. The US continued to change the reasons for its invasion of Iraq, from the moral right to remove Saddam Hussein to Saddam’s possession of WMD’s to the fact that the Muslims of Iraq wanted to be liberated. The real reason the West and its allies went to war in 2003 is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US vice-president Dick Cheney, which warned that Iraq posed a risk to the security of global energy supplies. Noam Chomsky, considered the world’s eminent intellectual encapsulated America’s agenda: “Take the US invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.”
2. The West intervened in Iraq to remove the tyrannical Saddam Hussein
George W Bush and Tony Blair continue to argue that they went to war in Iraq to rid the world of a brutal dictator who was a threat to regional peace, stability, and democracy. Both have regularly cited the gassings of the Kurds, and the Iran-Iraq War in the 80s, as examples of his brutality.
According to the infamous Project for a New American Century document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
So Saddam’s WMD’s was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.
3. Invasion was right as legitimate parliamentary process was followed
The reality was the decision to go to war was made jointly by senior American and British officials prior to any democratic process, behind closed doors, and irrespective of evidence or international law. This has been exposed by a range of declassified official documents.
A leaked policy options paper drafted by officials in the Cabinet Office’s Overseas and Defence Secretariat (8th March 2002), records that: “The only certain means to remove Saddam is to invade and impose a new government… [No legal justification] currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult. We should therefore consider a staged approach.”
The memorandum of a meeting on the 23rd July 2002 between key members of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and the heads of MI6 and the JIC, amongst others – the notorious Downing Street memo – concludes by urging those present to “work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action.”
The evidence that an intelligence system was politicised, and was cherry-picked to justify the invasion has now become ever more clear. The opposition to the war led to the political elite in both he US and Iraq to manipulate their respective systems for their own ends. Parliamentary approval does not fundamentally make a crime right, irrespective of how many people voted.
4. War was not a lie, intelligence was just faulty
The invasion of Iraq was ignited on the basis of lies about Saddam’s WMD’s. Those false claims were promulgated by senior American and British officials precisely to manipulate public opinion, to go to war, and irrespective of whether WMD really existed.
Amongst the intelligence available to the allies was the testimony of defector General Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law and head of Iraq’s WMD programmes. He provided crates of documents to UN weapons inspectors, as well as authoritative testimony on the precise nature of the WMD programmes that Saddam had embarked on in preceding years. He was even cited by senior officials as the key witness on the threat posed by Saddam’s WMD’s. What these same officials conveniently omitted to mention is that Gen. Kamel had also confirmed to UN inspectors in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and banned missiles, in 1991, shortly before the Gulf War – exactly as Saddam had claimed.
Senior intelligence officers in MI6 and the CIA have confirmed that intelligence was being deliberately politicised to support “the opposite conclusion from the one they have drawn.” One MI6 officer said: “You cannot just cherry-pick evidence that suits your case and ignore the rest. It is a cardinal rule of intelligence. Yet that is what the PM is doing.” A CIA official concurs: “We’ve gone from a zero position, where presidents refused to cite detailed intel as a source, to the point now where partisan material is being officially attributed to these agencies.”
5. Iraq is a better place after the invasion
The Bush administration planned from the outset to dominate Iraq by pursuing the de facto ethnic partition of the country into three autonomous, ethnically divided territories for Sunnis, Kurds and Shi’ah respectively. This division is at the heart of the current violence and fracture that has gripped the country. The democratic parliament and legislative assembly the US set up in Iraq turned the nation into a factional state with an everlasting factional infighting becoming a permanent state of affairs. Iraq’s first parliamentary elections in 2005 institutionalised sectarian and ethnic differences.
6. The various troop surges ended the insurgency
It was not the troop surge that ended the violence but America’s enlisting of both Iran and Turkey. Iran initiated its proxy the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) a group created in Tehran with full backing in 1982. Abdel Aziz al-Hakim its supreme leader until his death in 2009, gathered the major Shi’ah factions to partake in Iraq’s US constructed government, this left the US with an insurgency around Baghdad only to contend with. Turkey played a central role in ensuring the US constructed architecture came together. Turkey brought the different groups together in forming the governments in the elections that took place. As one analyst put it: “Turkey has long facilitated the political stability in Iraq and hereafter Ankara would play a more critical role in Iraq’s political process because Ankara’s role in Iraqi politics balances the impact of Iran on Iraq.”
7. Allied forces were very careful in collateral deaths using precision ammunition only
The US and its allies carried out the total destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, whether this was conducted using accurate missiles or not led to untold deaths. Signs of carnage, bombed buses, pulverized homes, incinerated markets, flattened civilian structures and bombed neighbourhoods still exist in Iraq today
The most rigorous epidemiological study of the Iraqi civilian death toll was published in the leading peer-reviewed British medical journal Lancet, and undertaken by John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. It estimated 655,000 excess Iraqi civilian deaths due to the war, employing standard statistical methods widely used in the scientific community.
8. The two parliamentary elections that have taken place vindicate the West
The current tensions in Iraq have been growing since the 2010 elections where sectarian alliances and divisions were central to the outcome. Whilst the Iraqi National Movement, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, gained the most seats it was unable to form a coalition government. The State of Law alliance, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the National Iraqi Alliance, composed of mostly pro-Iran groups formed the government. The ethno-sectarian differences were so strong to overcome it took over 8 months for the fractious government to take its place in Iraq’s leadership. Ever since, al-Maliki has accumulated more power. He appointed those close to him in the oil ministry and military and intelligence services. To further solidify his control, al-Maliki began eliminating potential rivals. In December 2011, al-Maliki reportedly banned Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Salehal-Mutlaq from Cabinet meetings and issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi; both men were members of the Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya List. Al-Maliki’s consolidation of power is leading to all factions utilising their militia’s in order to gain influence over the central government, which all want to use to enrich their own factions.
9. Without foreign intervention sectarianism would have destroyed the country.
The US has replaced a brutal system in Iraq, which was headed by a dictator that the US for so long propped up, with a corrupt system that recognises the ethnic and sectarian breakdown of Iraq. This has kept Iraq divided forever and as the constant jockeying for political power has shown democracy has created fertile ground for polarised politics instead of dictatorial politics. Democracy rather than solve nationalism, tribalism or sectarianism, in reality recognises such corruption and incorporates it into a system of parliamentary politics allowing various factions to fight and jockey for their petty interests. This means in the long run violence will continue as a means to settle ethnic differences.
10. The West has remained committed to Iraq through continued investment
A number of countries participated in Iraq order to benefit from its energy spoils. The Australian defence minister admitted in 2007 that securing oil supplies was a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq. American and British firms won early lucrative contracts in oil and gas, in a bid to develop Iraq’s largest oilfields. Beyond energy, however, investment is at most modest and Iraqi officials have expressed disappointment. All sectors of Iraq’s economy need to be rebuilt, from housing and industry to telecommunications and financial services, in order to restore basic services to the country. There is growing anger that the ruling elite is stealing or embezzling much of the country’s $2bn (£1.3bn) a week in oil revenues, depleting funding for electricity, water, health care, housing, education and even rubbish collection. Transparency International says that in 2012 Iraq was the fourth most corrupt country in the world, out of 178 countries surveyed. Whilst there has been some investment in Iraq this has overwhelmingly been in energy, which will in the long term only benefit the west who consume most of the worlds oil.