The US Has Lost the Iraq War

NOTE: The Dallas Morning News this week solicited from various people 250-word responses to the question of what will happen if the United States pulls out of Iraq. It’s frustrating, of course, to try to articulate an argument in such a short space. But it’s an interesting exercise in stripping one’s position to the basics and trying to state things clearly. Below is my submission to the paper.

The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that’s a good thing.

The Bush administration invaded not to liberate but to extend and deepen U.S. power. The goal was a client regime that would follow U.S. direction on oil, allow permanent U.S. military bases, and open the Iraqi economy to exploitation by primarily U.S. companies.

In short, the Iraq War was empire building, and empires are never benevolent. To recognize that it’s a good thing the United States fails to achieve imperial objectives is not to wish harm on U.S. military personnel or Iraqis, but simply to observe that aggressors should not prevail in war. And the United States is the aggressor.

A majority of Iraqis are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. A majority wants the United States gone. A year of occupation has made clear what empire building means, and Iraqis don’t like it. When we pull out, the fate of Iraqis depends in part on whether the United States (1) makes good on legal and moral obligations to pay reparations, and (2) helps regional and international institutions in the task of creating a truly sovereign Iraq.

History teaches us that we shouldn’t expect politicians to do either without pressure from citizens. An anti-empire movement must force U.S. officials to meet those obligations. Failure will add to the suffering in Iraq and the Middle East, and mark the United States as a rogue state and serious impediment to a more just and peaceful world.

ROBERT JENSEN is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of “Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity.” He can be reached at


Robert Jensen is an emeritus professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin and a founding board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He collaborates with New Perennials Publishingand the New Perennials Project at Middlebury College. Jensen can be reached at To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to Follow him on Twitter: @jensenrobertw