U.S. invasion of Iraq — For better or worse?

August 18, 2008

iraq.jpg(Posted by: Khalid al-Ansary)

The Iraqi government says it is negotiating a “time horizon” with the United States for withdrawing its troops from Iraq.

That has Iraqis like me thinking back to how the Americans giraq1.jpgot here in the first place, and whether the U.S. promises of peace and democracy after the fall of Saddam Hussein five years ago have been fulfilled.

To sum it up in a phrase: Saddam, for me, was not a good leader but what we have witnessed in the following years has not been any better.

Back in 2003, despite the bellicose rhetoric on both sides of the conflict, never in my wildest dreams did I believe U.S. soldiers would be patrolling Baghdad’s streets. We had seen plenty of war under Saddam, the unforgiving leader who ruled Iraq for nearly a quarter of a century from 1979. But Iraq had never been overrun.

Between 1980 and 1988, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in a war with Iran over pockets of southern territory. Two years later, Saddam ordered his Republican guard to advance on Kuwait, only to see his forces humiliated by a Western-led alliance. Afterwards, he showed little mercy as he crushed an uprising across Shi’ite-dominated provinces and from the northern Kurdistan region, killing tens of thousands.

Through the bloodshed, we Iraqis came to accept that Saddam and his family would rule Iraq until its dynasty died out.

In 2003, as the drumbeat of war grew louder in the West, Saddam assured us that our military would resist attack. At the time, I was confused about Saddam’s bravado. Did he
think we would get away with defying the United States? Did he think we could really win a war if one occurred?

Despite my skepticism an invasion would ever happen, we took precautions. The women in my family took refuge at my grandfather’s house in northern Baghdad and my brothers and I hunkered down to defend our home against any looters.

Even as ground forces drew closer, Iraq’s Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf assured residents in news conferences that Iraq was giving the Americans a thumping. We had heard rumours that Baghdad’s international airport had been taken by U.S. troops, but Sahhaf insisted that Iraq had regained control of the airport. In fact, it was a bloody battle but U.S. troops ultimately prevailed.

Afterwards, black market videos sold in a Baghdad market showed Iraqi soldiers during the airport battle slitting the throats of wounded U.S. soldiers.

The city fell to U.S. forces on April 9th. A friend who lives in western Baghdad told me about the ferocious battles there between U.S. soldiers and Saddam’s Fedayeen fighters.

By the time U.S. tanks reached my neighbourhood, people were rushing into the streets to cheer them. I needed to see it with my own eyes. I ran out of my house dressed in my pajamas. When I saw U.S. soldiers’ helmets peeking out of the top of the tanks passing by, I was overwhelmed with a mix of elation and despair.

What did this mean for my country? Would it bring the democracy and prosperity promised by the United States? Or would it be a new stage in Iraq’s long oppression?

(Khalid al-Ansary is an Iraqi reporter in the Reuters Baghdad bureau)

6 comments

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Personally, I think the invasion of Iraq really serves no purpose. Besides Big Oil & Friends gaining access to the rich Iraqi oil fields. What has Iraq or even America gained out of this?

Maybe the common Iraqi now have some form of democractic system in place to represent their government, being able to vote for officially US-sanctioned parties (Not much difference: Different branches, same corporation) and can protest without being shot at, (Did protesting really solved anything meaningful?) but the fundamentals are the same; cripping economy, poor social integration and security.

There are definitely improvements in these aspects, but its going at too slow a rate for anybody to appreciate. And the seemingly slow bureaucratic system installed by the US have left many Iraqis frustrated in a seemingly lack of action.

And for the US? 4000 military losses and an insurgency in their hands and billions of US taxpayers money being burned in the engines of their M1 tanks. Pre-invasion fears and reports of WMDs went unfounded thus far. So mabye is just for the oil? Terrorism can come from nearly anywhere in the globe and not just Middle-Eastern countries

Even the Russians know when to secure a pullout after a successful military campaign, so what is the US still doing over there?

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

I cannot believe this is still being subject to debate. After 5 years of destruction and wholesale death, ruin, displacement ,ethnic strife and terrorism there are still people out there considering the ‘worthiness’ of this macabre farce?
This really is the limit. The Iraqi people have paid a very high price for this uncalled for military fiasco. They are still paying it. The US government’s vigilante-style witch hunt for what turned out to be nonexistent WMDs – assuming that really was the reason – has completely destroyed a country already laid prostate by long years of crippling sanctions and provided a haven for Al qaeda and other extremist groups from all sorts of stripe. The way this same government has the gall to pat itself in the back for the way the so-called ‘surge’ allegedly helped curb the violence that is its own fault after five long years is disgusting.
Now that this government has set the precedent, we can expect regional superpowers that has claimed to put such actions behind them to take matters in their own hands with complete disregard to the United Nations and the international community. It is happening already in the Balkans. That such blatant disregard for international law and will and nonchalant carelessness for human lives came from a permanent member of the UN Security Council that is supposed to be the tool for global justice and peace is a disaster that beggars us for words to describe it. I can only hope that the American public will choose wisely and not ever again elect people like G W Bush to sensitive positions of power where they can add to the world’s misery.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I personally consider the invasion and the subsequent occupation of my country to be the crime of the century. The US has demonstrated throughout the duration of Iraq’s occupation its utter disregard to human life and to the country and its future generations. Iraqis have been agonising and suffering under this brutal and barbaric and no one seems to care and the irony is that some people want to find some positive aspects in the killing of a nation. I am confident that the US will ultimately pay an extremely high price and will not get away with the crimes committed against my country and fellow Iraqis and our agony will haunt America for decades to come.

Posted by alazzawi29 | Report as abusive

There is are no such people as Iraqi. Irag is an anachronism from the European colonial period. Ask anyone within the present boundaries of Irag who they are and the reponse you will get is Shi’ite, Sunni, Kurd, etc. There will never be unity among these neighbors. They refuse to embrace their commonalities and prefer to hate each other because of the 1% difference they choose concentrate on.
No hope here. More hate. More revenge, More war.
Only universal free education through college/university
will change this environment.

Posted by Nicola A. Parisi | Report as abusive

to Bill: Did you even read the blog or did you just see the word Iraq and your “flame America” light turned on? When you think rationally it wouldnt have mattered if GW was there or if the idiot Kerry or Gore was there. The president is a focal point, but has no real power. You can blame him all you want, but it would be better to try thinking of some alternative.

As to the first poster siting Russia as the “good example” how to run a war… they HAVEN’T pulled out, officially they are still digging in. For a fight that lasted 6 days they have been there nearly 2 weeks… that seems good? think realistically, you can’t use their policy as anything until that conflict actually ends.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

To Ben:

Ohh…so what you’re saying is, since the Ruskies have not pulled out of Georgia, America has ample reason to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan to “fight terrorism”.

When the Iraq War started in 2003, who mediated a ceasefire with Saddam Hussien and America? Nobody. When America invaded Afghanistan, who helped secured a peace treaty between the Taliban and the US government? Nobody. If you notice, America invaded these countries on the justification of WMDs, a point that has not been proven at all. And America is in Iraq for 5 years already, not just 2 or 3 weeks. Sparodic fighting and mass bombing are still prevalent in the region.

Whereas the Russians got the job done in a week to protect their citizens, agreed to a French-mediated ceasefire (which they didn’t really needed to accept, Russia could have just rolled in, replace the government with a Pro-Russian one, just like America did with Iraq) and even shown signs of withdrawal from Georgia proper. And what did US do in Iraq instead? Approved a surge of troops to occupy the country further.

So if you think about it, the Russians show more restraint than the Americans.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive