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A World in Disarray; Still No Accountability

The invasion of Iraq was the most controversial and momentous foreign policy decision in recent history. Fifteen years ago, in March 2003, Bush along with his UK slavish ally Blair illegally invaded Iraq, standing virtually alone in their false claims that Baghdad had amassed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, which led to years of military occupation, imposition of a US-controlled sectarian political system, and years of death and devastation for the Iraqi people. Over 1 million people died in the US war and occupation, in addition to the hundreds of thousands already dead from the 12 years of brutal sanctions that preceded it. Although the deception practised by the Bush administration has been since exposed, it is rather ironic that its chief architects remain not just free but celebrated members of society, proving we are living in a sociopathic world.

The starting point for understanding the invasion of Iraq is the grand strategy of the US under Bush—to undertake a coercive assertion of global hegemony. The 9/11 terrorist attack on the US is central to understanding the war on Iraq, even though Iraq was in no way involved in it. This attack exposed a terrible, but sub-state, threat to the US, originating in the Middle East and Muslim world, for which retaliation was necessary if American opponents were not to be emboldened. At the same time, hardliners in the Bush administration who had advocated an attack on Iraq even before 9/11 saw it as an opportunity to mobilize support for a war they thought would be decisive in transforming the Middle East to suit US interests. Robert Jervis,[1] in an article, concluded that ‘the only thing that made deterrence appear inadequate for US purposes was the overweening ambition of the Bush administration to dominate and overthrow any regime it disliked.’ Crucial to the war was also the backing of the administration by the alliance of the Zionist and the right-wing ‘Christian Zionist,’ lobbies, the latter a movement who viewed Islam as ‘a very wicked and evil religion.’

To understand the real motives behind the war and why the Bush administration saw an attack on Iraq as the solution to US problems, we need to shift the focus from security threats to the US, per se, toward threats to its strategic situation in the Middle East and its hegemony over the oil market, as Raymond Hinnebusch explains.[2] First, US oil vulnerability was on the rise. Second, US hegemony in the Middle East required that US support for Israel was balanced by alliances with Arab clients and this, in turn, required US leadership in the Arab – Israeli peace process. Third, Saudi Arabia traditionally had played an effective ‘swing’ role in securing oil and moderating oil prices at the US behest, but the US was dissatisfied with its dependence on the Saudis. US hegemony in the Middle East rested on its unique ability to balance special relationships with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, but this balance was being destabilised. The conquering of Iraq was envisioned as enabling the US to acquire a new compliant swing producer, thus ending dependence on Saudi Arabia. The conquest of Iraq would also allow the US to achieve privileged access to Iraqi oil at the expense of its economic competitors in Europe and Asia and its emerging global rival, China. Further, it would also allow the US to secure access to Arab oil without Arab alliances and consent and to remove the last remaining constraints on total US commitment to the achievement of ‘Greater Israel’. Equally important, the war on Iraq was expected to assert decisively the military dimension of hegemony; smashing Saddam Hussein, who famously had defied the US, would send the message that the limits of American military power had been overcome.

Another underlying reason for the US invasion of Iraq appears to be a response to the threats against their petro-dollar monopoly. In the 1990s, OPEC, Russia, Iran, and Iraq began negotiating future oil contracts in Euros and Roubles. In 2003, the Financial Times reported, “Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq’s oil be sold for Euros.” The ability to buy and sell oil in Euros, Roubles, or Yuan would reduce worldwide demand for US dollars, expose the inflated dollar, and begin the inevitable decline of value in US assets. US bankers and elite investors wanted to avoid this. After the Iraq invasion, the western bankers and oil companies got what they wanted, for a while. They overturned the Iraq/Russia oil deal in Euros and retained their petro-dollar monopoly. Some analysts also believe the Iraq war is an offspring of pre-emption and has dealt a heavy blow to the principle of sovereignty and worry that the Iraqi case will be a dangerous precedent that could have negative consequences on the world order, because there are some countries that have already asserted the right of pre-emptive strike in state-to-state conflicts.

As regards to the disastrous after-effects of the war in Iraq, it caused many more problems than it resolved. Diplomatically, to the US, the Iraqi Invasion showed that the cost of unilaterally forsaking diplomatic channels can be enormous, with the world opinion of the US today being at its nadir. It is also a fact that the Middle East today and the instability spreading across the continents find their origins in the Iraq War, with the US led so-called ‘War on Terror’, expanding beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to envelop Yemen, Libya, Syria, and beyond. The Iraqi war created the conditions for terror groups like ISIS to emerge. As the ‘War on Terror’ transformed into a ‘War of Terror’, drones, air strikes, and special-operations forces are today replacing the massive numbers of ground troops, while the UN is being systematically relegated to side-lines as a spectator in a Machiavellian world controlled by the dictates of US Exceptionalism.

In his book about the history of the Iraq War, Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, British journalist Nicolas Davies writes,

“As a whole, the world has made great strides toward peace, with a steady decline in conflict since the Cold War. Yet America continues to play a destabilizing role. American militarism spreads chaos and undermines the framework of international law and cooperation.”

The report by the Royal United Services Institute, a military think-tank at the heart of the British establishment, on ‘Wars in Peace: British Military Operations Since 1991’, concluded,

‘Far from reducing international terrorism […] the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it.’

‘The rise of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was a reaction to this invasion, and to the consequent marginalisation of Iraq’s Sunni population (including de-Ba’athification and army disbandment).’

‘Today, AQAP and other radical jihadist groups stretching across the Iraqi-Syrian border, pose new terrorist threats to the UK and its allies that might not have existed, at least in this form,’ without the 2003 US-led invasion’.

The cost of all this goes beyond Iraq.  It is therefore the responsibility of the international community not to allow such Iraq-type invasions and US Exceptionalism to triumph to their detriment. Furthermore, in the hierarchy of the world’s international crimes, the top three are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is hardly in question that the American and British states committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. And yet, what penalties are their leaders paying? The enormity of their crimes seems irrelevant. For both Bush and Blair, impunity is their ultimate entitlement.

More importantly, those of us at the grass-roots, the bystanders, should not take our eyes off the ball and should remember this US/UK invasion, because the war’s goals still remain in place: expanding US military domination, controlling oil and pipelines, building an empire of military bases and also the wars raging across the world. Before the war, across the globe, some millions of people, in hundreds of cities and dozens of countries all over the world including US, rose up embracing the same slogan; “the world says no to war!” The call came in scores of languages and the cry “Not in Our Name” echoed from millions of voices. Although it did not stop the war — and almost everyone knew that it could not and would not stop the war — it sent the message to the rulers that, for once, citizens were not just apathetic in the face of their governments’ resort to the use of mass violence. For once, populations showed that even if it did not affect their immediate lives in their cities and countries, they cared. Even when the matter at hand was the lives of people far away, they cared. We must therefore, in the ways we can, help the world to understand profoundly and intuitively what the Iraq invasion was; what it did to humanity; how much suffering it caused, and for how little justifiable reason. We can help build grass-roots level human chains to prevent such lying, warmongering empires from playing war-games and ruin people’s lives in the future, in the way they did fifteen years ago.



[1] Robert Jervis, ‘Understanding the Bush Doctrine,’ Political Science Quarterly, 118(3) (Fall, 2003), pp. 365 – 388;and Edward Rhodes, ‘The imperial logic of Bush’s liberal agenda,’Survival 45(1) (Spring, 2003), pp. 131 – 15; ‘The confrontation between Iraq and the US: implications for the theory and practice of European Journal of International Relations  9(2) (2003), pp. 315 – 337.

[2] Raymond Hinnebusch (2007) The US Invasion of Iraq: Explanations and Implications, Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 16:3, 209-228, DOI: 10.1080/10669920701616443

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