Ultimately, even the great rhetorical skills of Barack Obama could not hide the fact that the US military had been defeated in Iraq. American troops sneaked out of the country into Kuwait on December 15, a full two weeks ahead of the stipulated deadline.
Ultimately, even the great rhetorical skills of Barack Obama could not hide the fact that the US military had been defeated in Iraq. American troops sneaked out of the country into Kuwait on December 15, a full two weeks ahead of the stipulated deadline. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Baghdad unannounced to preside over the last ceremonies before the troops retreated. His visit was kept secret for fear of an attack. At the departure ceremony at Baghdad airport, Panetta said: “After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real.” He went on: “To be sure, the cost was high in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain.”
These utterances belie the grim reality of life in Iraq. It is neither free nor secure. A country whose infrastructure was comparable to Italy’s not 30 years ago has been reduced to rubble, its infrastructure destroyed and its soil and water poisoned with uranium-tipped shells used by American troops. The effects will last for millions of years keeping in mind that radioactive uranium has a half-life of 4.2 billion years. Incidents of cancer and leukemia have increased alarmingly since the US invasion.
The people of Iraq could not see the back of US troops soon enough. There were celebrations in many parts of the country. Iraqis of all stripes remembered the Americans as murderers and rapists, not as “liberators” — a label the Americans are fond of applying to themselves. Despite the horrors — war crimes under International Law — perpetrated by US troops in Iraq and the murder and mayhem they indulged in, Obama had the gall to talk up the defeat as “victory.” Americans never lose wars; they simply declare victory before getting the hell out of there. This is what they did in Iraq. Addressing troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina on December 14, Obama said the troops were “coming home”. Where else could they go, but to what kind of a welcome? The unemployment rate among war veterans is twice the national average. A large number suffer from post- traumatic stress disorders; many have murdered their spouses and other loved ones.
The real question we should be asking: is Iraq safer or better? Further, did the US achieve its objectives, dubious as they were, in Iraq? The answer to all these questions is a resounding “no”. Iraq has been left deeply divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. Ethnic cleansing in neighbourhoods where people of different sects lived peacefully including inter-marriages, have left families at odds with and distrustful of each other.
It is, however, the human cost to Iraq that is so overwhelming. According to the website, JustForeignPolicy.org, as of November 2011, Iraqi deaths totalled 1.456 million. When compared to other studies, these figures appear correct. For instance, in early March 2008, the British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, put Iraqi deaths at 1.3 million. The John Hopkins University Public Health Services as well as Lancet, the British medical journal, also reported similar figures. Thus, the most recent available figures of 1.456 million Iraqi deaths appear realistic.
Coupled with more than two million Iraqis displaced internally and another 2.5 million forced to flee to Syria and Jordan, there are nearly five million Iraqis displaced from a total population of 20 million. The displaced comprise 65% women and children. At least 80% of the children are under the age of 12. Nir Rosen, an American journalist who has followed the Iraqi tragedy closely, lamented as early as March 2008 that “Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century” (“The Death of Iraq”, Current History, 3-2008).
Despite these grim statistics, Obama still insisted in his December 14 speech to 3,000 troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina that the effort was not in vain. “Of course, Iraq is not a perfect place,” Obama acknowledged, perhaps as an afterthought. “But we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We are building a new partnership between our nations.” The overwhelming majority of Iraqis would question such categorization. A country that had the best medical facilities in the entire Muslim East prior to US invasion, is now virtually at the bottom of the list. Infant mortality rates have skyrocketed, and easily preventable and treatable diseases — cholera, diarrhea, tetanus, typhoid, etc. — are rampant because of lack of clean drinking water and medicines. Water treatment plants have been destroyed or remain idle because of lack of spare parts. Raw sewage flows in the rivers and streams, adding to the problem.
The war has been no less costly for the US. According to figures compiled by two leading US economists, the Nobel-laureate Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, and Linda Bilmes of Harvard, in their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War (published 3-2008), the US war cost in Iraq will exceed $3 trillion. If payments to disabled veterans are included, the costs would surpass the total spent during the Second World War ($5 trillion), adjusted for inflation.
Iraq was supposed to be a war of choice. Richard Perle, chairman of the US Defence Policy Board, had enthusiastically told the US Congress on November 8, 2002, that Iraqi oil would pay for America’s war costs. Together with other Zionist fellow travellers as well as the neocons — Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld et al — the Iraq war was planned two days after the attacks of 9/11 (so they say; however it is well known that it was in the works a decade earlier). George Bush had his plans ready to attack Saddam Husain even before he entered the White House. For Bush, it was driven by revenge; “this guy tried to kill my dad,” as Bush put it. For the Zionists, Iraq had to be destroyed in order to make Israel, their favourite country, safe.
Seen in this context, the US and Israel have indeed achieved their objectives. For the people of Iraq, America will forever be linked with the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Samarra and Haditha.