Ten Reasons the Iraq War Was No Cakewalk
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Inspired by the mass actions that took down U.S.-backed strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest the al-Maliki government – only to be greeted with live ammunition. On February 27, UPI reports that more than 29 protesters, including a 14-year-old boy, were gunned down by the Maliki-run security forces in Iraq. Meanwhile, four journalists in Baghdad report that they, along with hundreds of protesters, were “blindfolded, handcuffed, beaten and threatened with execution” for being insufficiently pro-regime.
The charges of abuse come after WikiLeaks revealed further evidence that Maliki has been using the power of the state – and Shia death squads – to torture and murder his political opponents. Sadly, life in the “new” Iraq isn't a whole lot different than life under Saddam. Given the protests sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, it seems invasions and foreign military occupations just aren't as effective at promoting reform as nonviolent protest.
9. A Recruitment Ad for al-Qaeda
When it wasn't being sold as a humanitarian mission, the Bush administration cast the war on Iraq as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks, scaring the American public into submission with vials of faux-anthrax and concoted tales about Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda. Yet as even U.S. intelligence agencies recognized after the invasion, “the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” in the words of one American official. Indeed, there was no better recruitment ad for terrorists than the images the Bush administration and its allies provided of foreign troops destroying Iraqi society. And there's no better way to create a committed enemy than to kill their family.
10. Legitimizing Violence, Rewarding War Criminals
Once you get past all the fanciful lies, rhetoric and rationalizations, the invasion of Iraq was just like any other war: it was about killing – and teaching young men and women to believe that it's morally acceptable to take the life of another human being, that the supposed ends justify the homicidal means. And a 2007 Army investigation spurred by the massacre of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha said as much.
"Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes,” wrote Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell in the report .
People typically don't want to kill other human beings. They must be taught to do so; taught to dehumanize the enemy and believe that murdering another is not just okay, but just. That's what basic training is about: destroying a person's ability to empathize with the “other” for the good of the nation (or rather, its rulers). But that ability doesn't just suddenly reemerge when the war is over. And unfortunately, that's evidenced by the alarming incidents of domestic violence committed by returning veterans.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq will continue to affect lives decades after veterans of the war rejoin civilian life as police officers and husbands, as foremen and fathers. The lesson that violence is an acceptable means to achieve one's ends is not one soon forgotten.
But violence isn't just legitimized at base camp: it's legitimized by the Obama administration's failure to hold accountable those who took the country into an illegal war of aggression. Those war criminals – the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Karl Rove – are all enjoying successful book tours and hefty speaking fees, while the man who allegedly exposed war crimes, Bradley Manning, is behind bars being tortured . There's a lesson there – one that doesn’t speak well for our system of government. And it suggests that our political establishment will continue to drag us into wars of choice in the future. After all, they won't be fighting it. Or paying the consequences for it.