The Savoyard philosopher Joseph de Maistre died almost 200 years ago, having expressed many opinions, including the observation that “Every country has the government it deserves.” He was an inflexible monarchist who approved of the Spanish Inquisition so his philosophy was not on the lines of Plato, John Locke or Immanuel Kant, and one can question his aphorism about deserved government if only because no country deserved or will ever deserve a political leader as disastrous as George W Bush.
It was Bush who led (to use the word loosely) his country to war on Iraq and thus created the current terrorist-dominated crisis in the Middle East. The Afghanistan Papers recently disclosed by the Washington Post “reveal that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable” — and there has been a parallel run of this in the Iraq debacle.
On November 13, 2019, the US State Department announced that “Following the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq, the United States increased efforts to stabilize liberated areas as Iraq continues to develop as a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant country. Iraq is now a key partner for the United States… as well as a voice of moderation and democracy in the Middle East.”
This garbage was published concurrently with an Amnesty International report that “at least six protesters were killed in central Baghdad today [November 9] amid a police operation to clear demonstrations from several bridges and streets near Tahrir Square… Dozens more protesters were injured in the capital, while media reported that up to 12 protesters were also killed in Basra in recent days.” This is the country that Washington tells us is a “voice of moderation and democracy” while the thugs of its US-trained military forces have slaughtered over 460 of its own downtrodden, desperate people.
Washington blames Iran for the shambles. On December 6 CNN reported that Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker directly censured Iran for its alleged intervention, “decrying what he also described as Tehran’s increasing aggression” for which, he said, “Iraqis have played a step and bloody price.”
The New York Times, which strongly supported Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq (and, to give it its due, later acknowledged its shameful misreporting), is much concerned about the state of affairs and in late December went so far as to note that “for 12 weeks, the Iraqi government has foundered in its response, alternating vague promises of reform with brutal treatment of protesters by its security forces.” But then the Times went overboard and wrote that “The political crisis that now confronts Iraq is as serious as any since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein 16 years ago, and its leaders appear ill-equipped to reckon with it.”
The reason there was a political crisis 16 years ago is that the United States invaded Iraq, following years of “no fly zone” provocation which had no basis in international law, and a vicious sanctions regime that amongst other things caused the deaths of half a million children. We must never forget the statement of then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who was told by an interviewer that these children died as a direct result of the US-inspired sanctions and asked “Is the price worth it?” Albright emerged briefly from her gutter and replied “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”
Certainly, the barbarians of Islamic State took advantage of the US-induced collapse of governance in Iraq by spreading their evil tentacles throughout the region, and the situation in Iraq went from bad to catastrophic, but it is plainly the fault of the Washington Establishment that Iraq’s present leaders are “ill-equipped” to cope.
Washington tried to wash its hands of Iraq on 21 October 2011 when President Obama announced a complete pull-out, meaning that “after nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.” His Deputy National Security Adviser said that thorough assessments of the effectiveness of Iraq’s military forces showed “these guys are ready; these guys are capable; these guys are proven; importantly, they’re proven because they’ve been tested in a lot of the kinds of threats that they’re going to see going forward. So we feel very good about that.” And off America went, leaving the region open for Islamic State to move in and expand.
Obama was worried, and in June 2014 told the media “I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq. We’ve been meeting regularly to review the situation since ISIL [Islamic State], a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria, made advances inside of Iraq.” He emphasised that “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq” but “we’ve positioned additional US military assets in the region” so there could be “targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.” So they weren’t going to return to combat, but they were prepared to take (and have taken) “military action” which is Newspeak for engaging in combat.
And so it has staggered on from year to year, with confusion being intensified by the weird attitude of President Trump who declared many times that he had been against the war on Iraq (“I’m the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq”), but has been shown to have been mendacious about all such claims.
Trump spoke with Iraq’s President Saleh in New York in September 2019 and rejoiced that “we’ve captured thousands of ISIS fighters and taken back 100 percent of the caliphate. And when I first became President, it was a mess. It was a big mess. And we — we all worked together and we got it done, but it was a great achievement, so we appreciate that.” But the White House has been reluctant to make statements about the slaughter of unarmed protestors other than observing in early November that it is all the fault of Iran and of Iraq’s “ill-equipped” leaders. The line is that “Iraqis won’t stand by as the Iranian regime drains their resources and uses armed groups and political allies to stop them from peacefully expressing their views” with a mild reminder that it was “calling on the Iraqi government to halt the violence against protesters.”
Iraq is close to collapse and while it is undeniable that neighbouring Iran is deeply concerned about Iraqi affairs, the Iraqi people’s displays of dissatisfaction with their government are essentially domestic. Washington is obsessed with Iran, however, and will continue to blame Teheran for all that goes wrong in the Middle East. But it was Washington who destroyed the stable (albeit ruthlessly autocratic) government in Iraq and replaced it with a political system that begged for the corruption that fell upon it.
The only way forward is political change in Iraq, fostered internationally. Washington should stay right out of it, as it has already done enough damage for this century.