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The Lose-Lose War
Posted on Jun 14, 2007
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi joins Robert Scheer and James Harris to discuss the past, present and future of the Iraq war. Wasfi, who has twice visited Iraq during the occupation, says it is only a matter of time and casualties before the U.S. leaves: “It’s really simple: You bring the troops home, they stop dying there.”
Click here to listen to the entire interview.
James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris sitting down with Mr. Robert Scheer and in-studio guest Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, who has just spoken here in San Francisco at the UCSF Medical School, giving them a lecture, and they’re calling it the Iraq War Teach-In. The primary topic of discussion is the health effects of the Iraq war. I want to get right to the brass tacks because the thing that’s been on my mind as I’ve considered history and perhaps the future when we look back on this war—will we consider the fact that we overexerted our authority? That we were there in a country where we weren’t wanted? And I heard you speak on YouTube recently, and you were quite clear in saying we need to get the hell out of there. Tell me about that.
Dahlia Wasfi: Absolutely. Our invasion of Iraq was an illegal invasion. We did not have the sanctions of the international community. The “coalition of the willing” had a handful of states that are dropping by the day, and the reality is that we were lied to. The American people were lied to. We were told that it was about weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was responsible for what happened on September 11th and he [Saddam Hussein] had nuclear weapons and could strike us in 45 minutes. And we know that there were many people questioning at the time the validity of those allegations and we now know they were false. Because the real reason for sending American kids in the military to kill and be killed was to control the oil, the resources of Western Asia and in support of Israeli national security. And from these angles, those are not selling points for the American people, but Homeland Security and the fear that was invoked in this nation following September 11th: that brought us to war.
Robert Scheer: Most people now know it was a mistake and we were lied to, but the compelling argument for the surge for supporting the president on the part [of] the people who do, and even the ones who don’t, support the president ... are reluctant to say, “Let’s get out,” because we broke it; we have to fix it. We can’t just abandon the Iraqi people.
You witnessed some of the reconstruction/occupation efforts. You were there I believe, in what?, ‘54 and ‘56? So why don’t you just take us through it and why you think—I gather you do feel the U.S. could get out. On the basis of what you observed, why do you think the Iraqis could get along and why do you think we should get out?
Wasfi: Absolutely. In the 1,400 years since the Sunni/Shia split happened in Islam, in the region that is modern-day Iraq, there has never been a war fought on that basis. There have been imperial wars. There have been colonial wars. But not Sunni versus Shia. This is the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. This is why, when the British carved the country out of the sand in 1921, they put three distinct groups together. But the reality is, in this day and age, everybody is “mixed.” My grandmother was Sunni. My grandfather was Shia. My grandmother also came from the north, so she had some Kurdish blood. So the reality is, if you ask my cousins, they will tell you. ... If you ask them, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” they will tell you, “I am Iraqi.” That’s it.
Harris: So are you telling me it’s a gross fabrication that exists in American media? Because I bet [one out of two Americans would say] they’re Sunni and they’re Shia ... and they’re fighting.
Harris: You’re saying that’s not the case.
Wasfi: The reality is that those distinct sects occur, but the actual sectarian strife is being driven by the occupation. So there was never a war between Sunni and Shia before 2003. Was there something else that happened in 2003 that may have triggered a conflict? And typically, if you look at [U.S.] history, especially in Latin America ... El Salvador ended up in a civil war in the same way that Iraq is now in civil war. Society became characterized by torture and assassination, and today that is what Iraqi society is characterized by. And the very important factor to understand is that we have invoked what is called the “Salvador option” in Iraq, which are American Special Forces training Iraqis to be death squads. Many military-aged men are targeted, and so that taps into the pool of who might join the resistance. This destroys Iraqi families. It destroys the fabric of Iraqi society. And as long as that continues, Iraq remains weak, and we can pursue our agenda in the region to steal the oil, which is counter to the interests of the Iraqi people.
Harris: This is a mouthful. I’m sure Dick Cheney would have a lot to say if he were sitting in front of you.
Wasfi: Can he call in?
Harris: [Laughs.] Call up, if you’re listening, Mr. Cheney.
I’m almost shocked because I was led to believe something entirely different.
Wasfi: Right. And it’s important to keep in mind that we have reason to doubt what’s being said now, because the same people who are telling us that it’s a civil war and sectarian strife are the same people who told us, “Saddam has WMDs and has ties to al-Qaida.” Three and half years after the invasion, the Senate Intelligence Committee determined that there were no ties to al-Qaida. And this is what many people were saying. It didn’t make sense because Iraq was a secular government, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader, and al-Qaida, led by Bin Laden—at least his coverage of it—was an extremist, a religious extremist. We actually used Saddam Hussein during the 1980s to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran. So the history did not even make sense, but the American people were terrified after September 11th, and their government, whom they wanted to trust, told them, “This is who is responsible.” But we had as much right to invade Mongolia as we did to invade Iraq.
Scheer: Your relatives, I guess your family is basically centered in Basra, right?
Scheer: And these are supposed to be the people who have most benefited from the invasion. These are the people who were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. These are the people that it is argued, “We can’t just abandon them.” You’ve traveled. You went back to that area, right?
Scheer: Without claiming to speak for every individual there, what is your sense of the people there? How has the occupation affected them? What did you observe? And why do you think they might want us to leave, if that’s what you think?
Wasfi: I believe that probably—and this is something my dad will say—probably at the time the regime fell, maybe 99 percent of the Iraqis were happy to see it go. It was a brutal regime. With the [U.N.] sanctions, people were starving to death. Between 1.2 and 1.8 million Iraqis died during the sanctions period. They were happy to see Saddam go. But they wanted their freedoms. They thought any change would be for the better. And if you ask Iraqis now, “Is your life better now than under Saddam Hussein?” they will tell you, “No way.” Because first and foremost there is no security now. People used to stay out to the late hours, having a social life, meeting at the tea cafes, coffee cafes. From the day of the invasion, “Everybody inside by 6 o’clock!” Because it was our responsibility, American forces’ responsibility, to establish law and order, and we failed miserably. In addition, the infrastructure continues to deteriorate. The services, as has been documented by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, even in 2004, the services had already deteriorated to be worse than under Saddam Hussein. So you have a population whose government, the puppet government in the Green Zone, is not providing security, is not providing electricity, is not providing potable water. What are they doing? They’re working on oil laws that will privatize Iraq’s oil and give up ownership to foreign companies. Unless you have a government in place that will serve the people, it will not last. If you need a military force to maintain a government in power, what does that tell you? I ask myself that when I visit Washington, D.C., and I see the snipers on the roof. The reality is that Iraqis wanted a better life. But a very telling statement comes from a Baghdadi in a report by Dar Jamel, and he said, “The student is gone. The master has arrived.” Meaning, Saddam Hussein, the CIA operative, has left, and now the Americans are here. Between Abu Ghraib and the desecration of the Quran, the disrespect for the humanity of the Iraqi people and the deaths of, now, over 700,000 Iraqis—could be close to 1 million if not over 1 million—this is the freedom we brought them, the so-called liberation. Every increase in the death toll of Americans and British is the Iraqi people telling you, “Get out.”
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