Why the US Can’t Repair Iraq

by

Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, “I told you so.” This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one’s stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father’s war on Iraq in 1991 and the sanctions enforced through the administration of Bill Clinton — were right.

The noninterventionists predicted a violent unraveling of the country, and that’s what we’re witnessing. They agreed with Amr Moussa, chairman of the Arab League, who warned in September 2002 that the invasion would “open the gates of hell.” There was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before the U.S. invasion.

Once again, the establishment news media have ill-served the American public. In the buildup to the 2003 bipartisan war on Iraq — which was justified through lies about weapons of mass destruction and complicity in the 9/11 attacks — little time and ink were devoted to the principled opponents of intervention.

Maybe war builds circulation, ratings, and advertising revenues. Or maybe corporate news outlets fear losing access to high-ranking government officials. Whatever the explanation, far more media resources went toward hyping the illegal aggressive war than to the case against it.

No one can grasp the complexity of one’s own society, we noninterventionists said, much less a society with Iraq’s unique religious, sectarian, and political culture and history. Intervention grows out of hubris. Nonintervention accepts the limits of any ruling cadre’s knowledge. The war planners had no clue how to reform Iraqi society. But there was one thing they did know: they would not suffer the consequences of their arrogance.

You’d think that with the noninterventionists proven right, the media would learn from their folly and turn to them to analyze the current turmoil in Iraq. But you’d be mistaken.

With few exceptions, the go-to “authorities” are the same people who got it wrong — not all of them neoconservatives, because interventionists come in different stripes. The discussion today is almost exclusively over how the Obama administration should intervene in Iraq, not if it should intervene. Even Paul Wolfowitz, one of the wizards of the original invasion, gets face time on major networks. He was part of the crowd which said that American invaders would be greeted with rose petals, that regime change in Iraq would spread liberal democracy throughout the Middle East, and that even peace between the Israelis and Palestinians would take place.

These “authorities” were wrong about everything — assuming they believed their own words — but that seems not to matter.

They have their own story, of course. It’s not the 2003 invasion that has brought Iraq to disintegration, they say. It is Barack Obama’s failure to leave U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011. This argument doesn’t work.

First, Obama (wrongly) asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow troops to remain beyond the deadline negotiated by Bush, but al-Maliki insisted that U.S. personnel who commit crimes be subject to Iraqi law, a reasonable demand. Obama would not accept that.

Second, why should we believe the advocates of the original invasion when they say a residual U.S. force could have prevented the offensive now conducted by ISIS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Levant)? It’s far more likely that if American troops were in Iraq today, they would be killing and dying.

Al-Maliki is everyone’s favorite scapegoat now, and the ruler known as the Shi’ite Saddam certainly is a villain. He has arrested respected Sunni figures and ordered troops to shoot peaceful Sunni demonstrators. But recriminations against the Sunnis, who were identified with Saddam’s secular Ba’athist party, started with the American administration of Iraq.

U.S. intervention now would be perceived as taking the Shi’ite side in the Iraqi sectarian war. (Obama is intervening, though on the opposite side, in Syria, which helped build ISIS.) The conflict is complicated — not all Sunnis and Shiites want sectarian violence — but that’s all the more reason to think that neither American troops nor diplomats can repair Iraq. The people themselves will have to work things out. As for terrorism, it is U.S. intervention that makes Americans targets.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog “Free Association” and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria