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Who Won Iraq?

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Posted on Jun 19, 2014

Photo by Poster Boy NYC (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

The Busheviks entered Iraq with a powerful sense that they were building an American protectorate.  So why wouldn’t it be a snap to carry out their ambitious plans to privatize the Iraqi economy, dismantle the country’s vast public sector (throwing another army of employees out of work), and bring in crony corporations to help run the country and giant oil companies to rev up the energy economy, lagging from years of sanctions and ill-repair?  In the end, Washington’s Iraq would—so they believed—pump enough crude out of one of the greatest fossil fuel reserves on the planet to sink OPEC, leaving American power free to float to ever greater heights on that sea of oil.  As the occupying authority, with a hubris stunning to behold, they issued “orders” that read as if they had been written by officials from some nineteenth-century imperial power.

In short, this was one for the history books. And not a thing—nothing—worked out as planned.  You could almost say that whatever it was they dreamed, the opposite invariably occurred.  For those of us in the reality-based community, for instance, it’s long been apparent that their war and occupation would cost the U.S., literally and figuratively, an arm and a leg (and that the costs to Iraqis would prove beyond calculating).  More than two trillion dollars later—without figuring in astronomical post-war costs still to come—Iraq is a catastrophe.

And $25 billion later, the last vestige of American Iraq, the security forces that, in the end, Washington built up to massive proportions, seem to be in a state of dissolution.  Just over a week ago, faced with the advance of a reported 800-1,300 militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the opposition of tribal militias and local populations, close to 50,000 army officers and troops abandoned their American weaponry to Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis, shed their uniforms by various roadsides, and fled.  As a result, significant parts of Iraq, including Mosul, its second largest city, fell into the hands of Sunni insurgents, some of a Saddamist coloration, and a small army of jihadis evidently funded by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both U.S. allies.

The arrogance of those occupation years should still take anyone’s breath away. Bush and his top officials remade reality on an almost unimaginable scale and, as we study the region today, the results bear no relation to the world they imagined creating.  None whatsoever.  On the other hand, there were two dreams they had that, after a fashion, did come into existence.

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Many Americans still remember the Bush administration’s bogus pre-invasion claims—complete with visions of mushroom clouds rising over American cities—that Saddam Hussein had a thriving nuclear program in Iraq.  But who remembers that, as part of the justification for the invasion it had decided would be its destiny, the administration also claimed a “mature and symbiotic” relationship between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda?  In other words, the invasion was to be justified in some fashion as a response to the attacks of 9/11 (which Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with).  Who remembers that, the year after American troops took Baghdad, evidence of the nuclear program having gone down the toilet, Vice President Dick Cheney, backed by George W. Bush, doubled down on the al-Qaeda claim?

“There clearly was a relationship. It’s been testified to,” said the vice president on CNBC in June 2004. “The evidence is overwhelming.  It goes back to the early ‘90s. It involves a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts with Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials.” Based on cherry-picked intelligence, such claims proved fraudulent, too, or as David Kay, the man assigned by the administration to hunt down that missing weaponry of mass destruction and those al-Qaeda links, put it politely, “evidence free.”  By then, however, 57% of Americans had been convinced that there was indeed some significant relationship between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaeda, and 20% believed that Saddam was linked directly to the 9/11 attacks.

Be careful, as they say, what you wish for.  More than a decade after its invasion and occupation, after Cheney made those fervent claims, no administration would have the slightest problem linking al-Qaeda to Iraq (or Syria, Yemen, or a number of other countries).  A decade later, the evidence is in.  Sunni Iraq, along with areas of neighboring Syria, one of the countries that was supposed to bow down before American might, now houses a rudimentary jihadist state, a creature birthed into the world in significant part thanks to the dreams and fantasies of the visionaries of the Bush administration.  Across the Greater Middle East, jihadism and al-Qaeda wannabes of every sort are on the rise, while terror groups are destabilizing regions from Pakistan to northern Africa.


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