When the US was Putin twenty years ago


When the US was Putin twenty years ago

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090


  • Even though since 2003, Iraq should have received $500 billion in oil earnings, the state treasury is currently empty.

  • Since 2018, Shia religious parties have dominated the fragile U.S.-installed government with three prime ministers.

  • Iran came out on top in the Iraq War.

  • The right developed a great intolerance of dissent and difference in the zeros of this century, just like Russia does today.

  • A Senate resolution sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) demanded that Russian leaders be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction the United States doesn’t even acknowledge.

Who can recall that we were Vladimir Putin in 2003? Our social media and cable news feeds are currently overrun with criticisms of the president of the Russian Federation for his illegitimate and brutal invasion of Ukraine. On March 2, Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly met with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and told him emphatically, “Stop this war of aggression.”

Putin, on the other hand, has a better recall.

He harshly criticised the United States for “the invasion of Iraq without any legal grounds” in the address that marked the beginning of his “special operation.” Then he continued, “We heard lies spoken from the top U.N. rostrum and made at the highest state level. As a result, there has been a massive increase in terrorism, damage, and human life losses.

On the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, our country has long since forgotten that conflict. Nobody in the Biden administration today thinks that it destroyed the little credibility America had in the developing world as a pillar of international law and provided Putin with cover for his crime. Now have a seat, and let me take you on a brief journey through a long-forgotten all-American world.

The mission was unsuccessful.

President George W. Bush was flown to the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier stationed just off the coast of San Diego, on May 1, 2003, while decked out in Top Gun garb. The only justification for this expensive trip was the images his publicity team intended to produce.

Then, from that ship’s deck beneath a flag that declared, “Mission Accomplished,” he made a broadcast statement about the invasion of Iraq he had ordered less than two months ago. Primary combat operations in Iraq have concluded, Bush bragged. The United States and our allies have won the battle in Iraq. Of fact, neither claim would even come close to being accurate. Approximately 2,500 American soldiers are still present in Iraq today, supporting operations against former Baath Party government officials who have now reverted to the ranks of fundamentalist guerrillas. And remember that despite the Iraqi parliament’s request for the troops to depart, they are still present.

The remainder of Bush’s speech merits more incredible notoriety than it has received. “Now, we have the greater capacity to free a people by toppling a dangerous and hostile regime,” the president proclaimed. We can achieve military goals without targeting civilians using innovative strategies and precise weapons. Dream on, but of course, Bush used his “Mission Accomplished” statement to excuse an aggressive conflict as a standard component of the presidential strategy. The use of hyperbole to characterise the impoverished, third-world nation of Iraq at the time as “dangerous” and “aggressive” was comparable to Putin’s description of Volodomyr Zelenksy’s Ukraine as a “Nazi” state.

Nevertheless, one word—”international law”—was conspicuously absent from Bush’s Napoleonic rant about using the new tactic of “precise warfare” to forcibly spread “democracy” and “freedom” During World War II, at the Nuremberg trials, the International Military Tribunal had noted,

“War is fundamentally a bad thing. Its effects extend beyond just the belligerent states and impact the entire planet. So, starting an aggressive war is not only an international crime; it is the worst transnational crime, which is different from other war crimes in that it contains the collective evil of the entire world.

Of course, military aggression is prohibited by the United Nations charter. It only permits war in self-defence or with the Security Council’s approval.

But, Bush dared to claim, while standing on the deck of that aircraft carrier, that “Iraqi citizens looked into the faces of our servicemen and women and saw strength and decency and friendliness.”

It’s no surprise that so many Iraqis didn’t find such attributes in the forces that invaded their country in 2003, given that they had spent a substantial portion of the 20th century battling to drive away British colonialists. The U.S. military troops I spoke with on the ground frequently described the sullen, angry looks of the Iraqis they met. Lieutenant Kylan Jones-Huffman, one of my acquaintances, sent me a message that summer in which he recalled being in the rear of a troop vehicle with other American personnel on the road in southern Iraq when a truckload of armed Iraqis passed by while they were there. One of them gave them a bitter look while threateningly raising his firearm. Kylan claimed he had just returned the threat by patting his M1 gun.

He had a PhD in history and was a Middle East expert in the Navy Reserve. He intended to go into academia after leaving the service. Kylan promised to be an exciting coworker for me because he is wise, laid-back, and a master of superb haiku poetry. He informed me that he had been dispatched from Bahrain to advise the military leadership in the southern Iraqi city of Hillah. On August 21, 2003, I was watching CNN when I noticed an American had been shot and killed in Hillah on the scroll at the bottom of the screen. This made me apprehensive. The following day I discovered that Kylan had indeed been the victim, having been murdered by a young Iraqi while he was waiting in a jeep at a crossroads. I was brought to tears by an elbow to the stomach, and recalling the incident still stings.

He was one of over 7,000 US service members and 8,000 Pentagon contractors who lost their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other “War on Terror” locations. Not to mention the more than 30,000 veterans of those wars who later killed themselves. At the University of Michigan, I enrolled in my course on the contemporary Middle East. Although intelligent and pleasant, he could not finish the semester due to whatever demons his time spent there had left him with. The gut punches of the Iraq War never end for people still thinking about it.

Don’t forget the more than 53,000 US soldiers who suffered severe enough injuries during combat to require hospitalisation in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a National Institutes of Health study, 10% had wounds that scored a nine or higher on the injury severity scale. These wounds included burns, open wounds, chronic blood clotting, and traumatic brain damage.

Body Patrols

And all of it paled compared to what U.S. forces in Iraq did to civilians.

It shouldn’t be shocking that the architects of one of America’s worst foreign policy failures in its 246-year history, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Under Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, could support the blatant lie that they had developed a new form of warfare that didn’t result in significant civilian casualties or deaths. But, they also spread numerous lies about Saddam Hussein’s purportedly active biological and nuclear weapons programmes and his fictitious connections to the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda.

Despite President Bush’s glib claims, the number of fatalities in Iraq increased as the war continued. U.S. aircraft frequently attacked objectives in Iraqi cities with a high population density. Massacres were committed by American soldiers and mercenaries from Blackwater who worked for the American military. The Baghdad police had to set up a regular corpse patrol during the 2006–2007 civil war that resulted from the U.S. occupation of the nation, dispatched at the start of each workday to load up carts with human remains dumped in the streets overnight by competing sectarian militias.

One Iraqi widow from the southern port city of Basra told me in the years immediately following the Bush invasion that her family narrowly escaped being attacked by members of a poor, dispersed Marsh Arab clan who was then operating a protection racket in the city. They spent all the money they had on the family’s escape and had to prepare a feast for the tribe members. The man of the home ran for office, determined to try and change things. He was about to leave for a campaign stop one day when a masked assailant suddenly materialised and shot him in the head. His sobbing widow confided in me that she would never recover from the experience. Such occurrences were also not unusual at the time.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University calculates that by the time the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist organisation that grew out of the U.S. occupation of the region, was finally defeated in 2019, roughly 300,000 Iraqis had perished “from direct war-related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces.” Several times that many were injured or rendered disabled. Hundreds of widows who lost their family’s primary provider were forced to live the rest of their days as beggars. Many more children suffered the loss of one or both parents. But keep in mind that these numbers do not account for Iraqis who perished due to indirect war-related causes, such as the failure to provide access to electricity and drinkable water due to American bombing strikes and damage to the nation’s infrastructure.

Iraq: The American Example

Four million Iraqis were internally displaced during the Bush administration’s initial phase of the war, with 1.5 million leaving the nation. Many couldn’t possibly go back home. I had supper with an architect and a doctor one evening in the summer of 2008 while interviewing Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan. I said it appeared like the worst of the civil war was gone and enquired if they intended to return to Baghdad. The husband was a Shia, and the wife was a Sunni. She added that they feared returning to their former home since so many neighbourhoods had been ethnically cleansed of the rival sect. It was located in a wealthy Shia neighbourhood.

At that time, a different guy, “Mustafa,” was living in exile in the East Amman shantytowns. His Sunni Iraqi family members survived from their meagre funds after being denied work visas. To make ends meet, his wife considered starting a sewing business. Mustafa claimed that a hardline Shiite militia had sent him an envelope informing him they would be killed if he and his family lived in their old Baghdad apartment in 24 hours. He and his wife afterwards woke up the kids, grabbed all they could into their car, and drove the nine hours to Amman. Mustafa paused. He turned to glance around and quieted himself. He claimed to have received threatening correspondence even in Jordan, prompting him to change apartments. The militia was still watching him and most likely had infiltrated the Iraqi community living abroad. So, no, he and his wife couldn’t return to Baghdad, he assured me.

No one had any security under the Americans. Bush appointees disbanded the old Iraqi army two decades ago but failed to create a competent new one or implement professional policing. In May 2013, between the two American wars in Iraq, I travelled to Baghdad to attend an international conference. Our gracious Iraqi friends took us to the National Museum and upscale dining establishments. Nevertheless, to accomplish this, we were forced to board white vans surrounded by Iraqi army vehicles, which caused all other traffic to get out of the way and made sure that our convoy never came to a complete stop, protecting it from becoming the target of an attack.

The disastrous Bush campaign of aggression was a lasting gift. Its invasion ultimately made it possible for ISIL to seize 40% of Iraq’s territory in 2014 because it upended both the country’s society and governance. A million and a half of Iraqis remain displaced after fleeing the vicious cults. Some of them went to Turkey, where the earthquakes in February 2023 had only lately wreaked havoc on their way of life.

Even though since 2003, Iraq should have received $500 billion in oil earnings, the state treasury is currently empty.

The new system is increasingly characterised by corruption and incompetence. Since 2018, Shia religious parties have dominated the fragile U.S.-installed government with three prime ministers. Writer Jonah Goldberg was mistaken in his expectation that Iraqis would grow to adore the new constitution drafted in 2005 while under American authority. He served as an example of the pro-war intellectuals who thought their support for right-wing politics gave them greater insight into a nation they knew little about.

Young people have often taken to the streets in Iraq in recent years to demand that the government resume providing basic amenities. Mohammad Shia al-Sudani, the current prime minister, has ties to the militias supported by Iran that currently dominate Iraqi politics. Iran came out on top in the Iraq War.

Before the ISIS campaign of 2014–2019, economists projected that the cost of the Iraq War to the United States had already surpassed $6 trillion after you factored in treatment for wounded warriors for the rest of their lives. Our national debt would still be less than our annual gross domestic product without the money wasted in Iraq, placing us in a considerably better economic position in 2023. The right developed a great intolerance of dissent and difference in the zeros of this century, just like Russia does today. This intolerance is still growing today.

The promotion of “the United Nations Charter” and a “rules-based international order” is one of the guiding principles of the U.S. government today in response to Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine. Of course, that contrasts with Putin’s Russian Federation, which Washington now considers the real global outlaw on Earth. . a. a….. … ….. A Senate resolution sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) demanded that Russian leaders be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction the United States doesn’t even acknowledge.

Graham was a leading supporter of the similarly illegal Iraq War. Such a degree of hypocrisy is scarcely impressive for a nation that still aspires to be the world’s superpower. In retrospect, we’ve lost more than our standing in the Global South or a genuine dedication to international justice on the 20th anniversary of the nightmare choice to invade Iraq. We as a nation lost our moral compass, and in the wake of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, it appears that we have also forgotten the precedent we established in Iraq, the route we blazed, and the crimes that went along with it.

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