This March marked ten years since the United States invaded Iraq in the name of Iraqi freedom. Ten years later, potentially over one million Iraqi civilian deaths later, where are we now? What are the people of Iraq left with? Aside from extreme instability and near genocide, Iraqis are now dealing with a legacy of cancer and birth defects as a result of our country’s military aggression. A few weeks back on Democracy Now, journalist Dahr Jamail discussed this harrowing reality. He stated:
“[The birth defects] are extremely hard to bear witness to, but it’s something that we all need to pay attention to … What this has generated is from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II.”
What follows is the clip from the news program. Note that the images in the clip are horrific. This is reality. This is our tax dollars at work.
In the midst of such terror, the Iraqi people have resisted. Mass protest movements for worker rights, women’s rights, and regime change have been growing over the years, which you can read about in this great piece by Ali Issa here. He states, “Given the extreme lack of security, particularly between 2005 – 2009, these protests are remarkable to have existed at all.”
For many in the US, Iraq is old news, it was Bush’s war. Some well meaning people even considered it a necessary evil to bring “democracy” to the Iraqi people. Regardless, now things are different, right? Obama brought the troops home, right? A recent statement by Phyllis Bennis, Bill Fletcher, Laura Flanders, Medea Benjamin, and other high profile American activists reminds us:
About 16,000 State Department-paid contractors and civilian employees are still stationed at the giant US embassy compound and two huge consulates, along with unacknowledged CIA and FBI agents, Special Forces and a host of other undercover operatives. The US just sold the Iraqi government 140 M-l tanks, and American-made fighter jets are in the pipeline too.
While the majority of US troops are indeed gone, Iraq is far from free. We Sikhs have a particular understanding for a people’s quest for sovereignty. Iraq is a country still in shackles, led now by a dictator who is backed by the US government instead of one who annoyed the US government.
The US has left hundreds of thousands dead (including thousands of US soldiers), countless injured, and these epidemics of birth defects and cancer which will likely remain for years to come. Yet there is no discussion of reparations. Ten years later under the Obama administration, we are only hearing more threats of military aggression from our political leaders targeting Iran and Syria, not to mention over 3,100 dead in Pakistan due to US drone strikes.
The statement by Bennis et al. concludes:
The US war in Iraq may be over, but we owe an apology to all those who suffered from the war. And that apology must be grounded in recognition of our enormous debt to the people of Iraq, a debt for which compensation and reparations are only a start. Our real obligation, to the people of Iraq and the region and the rest of the world, is to transform our government and our country so that these resource-driven wars, shaped by lies and fought for power and for empire, whether in Iran or somewhere else, can never be waged again.