Iraq: The West's colonial misadventure
On the third anniversary of Britain and America's decision to invade Iraq, few in the West let alone Iraq have anything to celebrate. Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, in May 2003 George Bush triumphantly declared, "Turns out this is our hundredth day since major military operations have ended in Iraq. And since then, we've made good progress. Iraq is more secure. The economy of Iraq is beginning to improve. I was interested to note that banks are now opening up and the infrastructure is improving. In a lot of places, the infrastructure is as good as it was at pre-war levels, which is satisfactory, but it's not the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region. And the political process is moving toward democracy, which is a major shift of system in that part of the world." Three years on, what is the current situation in Iraq and have any of Bush's stated aims actually been achieved?
"Iraq is more secure". Although no official figures on civilian deaths exist because the Pentagon says it "monitors" civilian casualties but doesn't keep count, independent observers put the death toll at well over 100,000. The US-supervised interior ministry has tortured and killed more than 7,000 Iraqis alone, not counting those tortured and killed directly by British and US forces in prisons such as Abu Ghraib. US second-in-command in Iraq, Lieutenant-General Peter Chiarelli, said only a few days ago that "The possibility of civil war may be higher today than it has been in the last three years..." and added that Iraqi security forces only control about 50 per cent of the country.
"The economy of Iraq is beginning to improve." After the invasion, America appointed Paul Bremer as the interim de-facto leader of Iraq. It is he who authored the "100 Orders" which control the Iraqi economy. Antonia Juhasz, a project director at the International Forum on Globalization wrote in the Los Angeles Times in August 2004, that the Bremer Orders "lock in sweeping advantages to American firms, ensuring long-term US economic advantage while guaranteeing few, if any, benefits to the Iraqi people." He writes that one of the Bremer Orders in particular - No.39, effectively allows for, "(1) privatization of Iraq's 200 state-owned enterprises; (2) 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses; (3) "national treatment" - which means no preferences for local over foreign businesses; (4) unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds; and (5) 40-year ownership licenses."
"The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region." In January this year, the Washington Post published an article where it emerged that America had scaled back its ambitions to rebuild Iraq and did not intend to provide further funds for reconstruction. At least $2.5bn earmarked for Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure and schools was diverted to building up a security force. And funds originally intended to repair the electricity grid and sewage and sanitation system were used to train special bomb squad units and a hostage rescue force. The US also shifted funds to build 10 new prisons to keep pace with the insurgency, and safe houses and armoured cars for Iraqi judges. Brigadier General William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the reconstruction work, contradicted Bush's stated aim when he said, "The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq...This was just supposed to be a jump-start."
"And the political process is moving toward democracy." It's been three months since the Iraqi elections took place and a government is yet to be formed. Abu Yasser, a taxi driver in Baghdad summed up the feelings of many Iraqis, "I thought we would have real freedom after Saddam," he said wearily, "but now if you criticise a politician or a party, you can be killed the next day. I cannot relax; I suffer tension all the time. If civil war comes I will lock myself in my house and rot there. I would rather die than kill someone. I hate to say it, but we were better off under Saddam."
Three years on, and after witnessing the devastation Britain and America have caused in Iraq, Tony Blair remains unrepentant and said last week "I'd do it all again". Blair's arrogant colonial mentality is no different to his predecessors who during the 19th and early 20th century colonised much of the Middle East, subjugating it's people and their resources for the benefit of the British Empire. This second attempt at colonising Iraq will ultimately fail as did the first attempt after the First World War when Britain ruled Iraq under a British mandate. There was immediate resentment to this mandate by Iraqis and in 1920 a strong revolt spread throughout the country. This revolt was put down only with great difficulty and by brutal methods. The situation was so bad that the British commander at that time, General Sir Aylmer Haldane, called for supplies of poisonous gas.
However, of greater damage to the West than its failure to produce a post Saddam Iraqi society of its choosing has been the damage inflicted upon western secular values in the quest to occupy and subdue Iraq. Freedom, democracy and the rule of law have all been contradicted and compromised during the occupation.
Western forces were supposedly going to be embraced by Iraqis as they ushered in a new era of secular rule. This has not been the case. In fact at every stage US and UK leaders have undermined the very ideals that underpin western civilisation. From the outset, lip service to democracy has been the norm. Every part of the Iraqi political process has seen the US hand pick those individuals who it felt would serve its interests best. Usually, western based stooges who had not even lived in Iraq for the past thirty years with close ties to the intelligence services. The elections of January and December 2005 saw no commitment to genuine representation. Notwithstanding the presence of 130,000 US troops, many parts of Iraq were unable to profess their opinions due to the security situation and key areas that opposed the US occupation were simply bombed into submission such as Fallujah. The Iraqi constitution saw a number of iterations until the U.S were happy with the final version with Iraq being effectively partitioned along an ethnic and sectarian basis. The role of Islam was limited to being the official religion of the state only. And the role of the media in Iraq has been tightly controlled to rival anything that happened under Saddams tyranny. Anti-occupation radio stations and newspapers have been closed down, the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Iraq were once infamously bombed. Whilst the rest of the media has had US friendly stories fed to them by embedded journalists.
The irony of the West's Iraq misadventure has been that it has hastened the momentum for a new political era within the Islamic world. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has brought about unprecedented unity amongst Muslims worldwide. No longer are Muslims worldwide prepared to live under the brutal dictators that have governed them for the past century. They are certainly not embracing western values either; the very values the West appear to be trammelling on in Iraq. History will judge the occupation of Iraq as a monumental failure; it remains to be seen whether it will also chronicle Iraq as the final stage that ushered in a new era of political self rule for the Muslim world.
Source: KCom Journal