Please leave it to George W. Bush to misrepresent the facts concerning the Iraq War he started 20 years ago to get to the truth.
He denounced Vladimir Putin’s “wholly unjustified and savage invasion of Iraq” in a speech he gave in May about Ukraine.
Instead, Iraq is a textbook example of American imperial amnesia: you don’t have to think about the lessons learned from a war if it doesn’t finish, much less make up for the people you killed, tortured, and uprooted.
The success of the Kurdish-led ground troops in Syria and Iraq in driving out ISIS confirmed the imperial tradition of using proxy wars instead of major US engagements.
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan stated in his memoir that the Iraq war is primarily about oil.
Please leave it to George W. Bush to misrepresent the facts concerning the Iraq War he started 20 years ago to get to the truth. He denounced Vladimir Putin’s “wholly unjustified and savage invasion of Iraq” in a speech he gave in May about Ukraine.
While stammering, Bush hurriedly corrected himself and mumbled, “And Iraq, too. Anyway…” The former commander-in-chief, who was 75 then, could make a senility joke as his audience awkwardly smiled.
This demonstrates how the United States has avoided facing the barbarism of invading, occupying, and privatising Iraq. Had they done so, Putin’s war might have taken on an uncomfortably familiar hue. Instead, Iraq is a textbook example of American imperial amnesia: you don’t have to think about the lessons learned from a war if it doesn’t finish, much less make up for the people you killed, tortured, and uprooted.
Although many variations exist between Ukraine and Iraq, their attackers’ imperial aspirations are identical. The US and Russia used force to encircle a resource-rich nation, and both countries overestimated the citizens’ will and ability to resist. Whether it was phantom WMDs or phantom Nazi regimes, the invading power turned to paranoid justifications to support an aggressive war in clear violation of the UN Charter. Putin, who is not constrained by global hegemony and its imperative posture of lawfulness, didn’t bother with such ludicrous claims, unlike Bush, who claimed that violating the UN Charter would strengthen the international order.
Other significant distinctions include Ukraine’s support from NATO and Russia’s inability to conquer Kyiv. However, hawkish voices in the metropole demanded an escalation as Putin and Bush found their militaries in a dangerous situation. It’s understandable why Bush could not recall which war he was referring to.
Bush’s escalation, the 2007–8 troop surge, never produced the promised political reconciliation among Iraqis. Instead, it entrenched Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who persecuted the disempowered Iraqi Sunnis. But because it substantially reduced US troop deaths, the surge produced something subtler: a narrative that the Iraq War, after five agonising years, had been functionally resolved—although to stay determined, US troops, paradoxically, needed to remain in Iraq. That was a beneficial contradiction, forestalling not just an apparent defeat but the prospects for reviewing what Obama once called “the worldview that drove us into war in the first place.” The only remaining lessons from the conflict would be tactical. Thus, Obama carried out the surge in Afghanistan and launched a new competition in Libya while keeping troops in Iraq.
Obama ordered the troops to be recalled after the fractious Iraqi parliament rejected to grant legal protections to the remaining US military in 2011. Many in the US national security community criticised the pullout as a result of Obama’s poor diplomacy rather than as a reflection of the willingness of the Iraqi government to cooperate with Washington. America blamed the Islamic State’s 2014 conquest of Mosul on the retreat, not the conflict that gave rise to ISIS’s parent organisation, Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Any consideration of how the first US aggression, exacerbated by the everyday brutalities of occupation, produced adversaries worse than its initial ones was preempted by the atrocities of ISIS. US policymakers believed the departure, not the invasion, was the main mistake. The success of the Kurdish-led ground troops in Syria and Iraq in driving out ISIS confirmed the imperial tradition of using proxy wars instead of major US engagements. The American foreign policy establishment’s main takeaway from Iraq may be that preference.
President Joseph Biden, one of the key Democratic supporters of the war, has secured a residual force without a specific mission until 2021. Over 2,500 US soldiers are stationed in Iraq, while 900 more are in Syria. They are supposed to act as a buffer against a rebirth of ISIS, but Iranian proxies are after them. This is seen by Biden, his Republican detractors, and the security agencies as being more responsible than calling an end to an imperial misadventure. By doing this, they can continue to believe a necessary illusion of their hegemonic project: that America is the pin and the rest of the world is a grenade.
No one may ever know how many Iraqis were killed due to our invasion. According to conservative estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of them, and millions more have become refugees. For Western energy businesses, the war turned very considerably better. As the surge concluded in 2008, the US State Department assisted the Iraqi government in giving ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Total no-bid concessions of the nation’s oil resources. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan stated in his memoir that the Iraq war is primarily about oil. He claimed to have advised Bush to invade because it was “vital” to securing the world’s supply, as reported by The Washington Post. In the meantime, according to the planning ministry of Iraq, 25% of the nation now lives below the poverty line.
If you attempt to analyse US foreign policy through a logical consistency lens rather than by its distinctive blend of material interest and exceptionalist fantasy, you’ll drive yourself insane. There is no requirement to abandon Ukraine to Russian fate despite the similarities between the Iraq War and the conflict there. Instead, admitting it sets the stage for reevaluating what America owes Iraq—and the rest of the world.
The Iraqi people are entitled to compensation from the United States for the harm it caused. It owes it to the world and itself to give up the right it gained after the Cold War to oversee world affairs. That would show that the US is motivated to understand the key lessons from its 20-year-old crime. Unfortunately, it cannot even evoke George W. Bush’s self-awareness, who mutters under his breath an uncomfortable realisation that he is exactly like the thing he despises the most.