by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1434)
This month marks the tenth anniversary of the US-allied invasion and occupation of Iraq. The attack was launched on a complete lie. While the Americans have gone, the legacy of toxic weapons they used is affecting Iraqi civilians in horrible ways.
On the tenth anniversary of their country’s invasion and occupation by the US, Iraqis can be forgiven if they do not see the benefits of “liberation” even if American troops have left. The Americans left behind a bitter legacy of devastation, killings and destruction. Prior to US troop withdrawal in December 2011, the Americans had hoped for a deal that would allow some of their forces to remain in Iraq. In anticipation, the US built the largest embassy in the world, complete with nuclear bomb-proof bunkers, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The agreement fell through because the Iraqi government refused to grant immunity to American soldiers if they committed crimes in Iraq. America would not allow its soldiers to be prosecuted in foreign courts even if they are guilty of the most heinous crimes.
“The image of the American soldier is as a killer, not a defender. And how can you give a killer immunity?” said Sami al-Askari, an Iraqi parliamentarian and close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,” on the eve of US troop withdrawal in 2011. Most American officials took offence at such remarks calling the Iraqis ungrateful after liberating them from the clutches of the tyrant, Saddam Husain. The people of Iraq, however, have a very different perception borne of the day-to-day reality of life under US occupation. For them, American presence meant the torture chamber at Abu Ghraib, killings, rape and humiliation, as well as the massacres in such places as Falluja, Haditha, al-Basrah and other cities across the country. Iraqis see their country’s infrastructure devastated, their economy in ruins and their oil industry shattered. They experience on a daily basis the devastating effects of depleted uranium shells in the grotesquely deformed babies that are born to Iraqi families.
Most Americans remain blissfully unaware of the crimes their government perpetrated in their name — although there is no justification for such ignorance — but the Iraqis do not forget. The US attack on Iraq was launched on a massive lie: that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. George W. Bush and his civilian and military officials should be tried for war crimes. Last October, the findings of a detailed study on birth defects, miscarriages and toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination in Iraqi women and children were published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Bulletin. The mainstream US media ignored these findings even though one of the lead authors of the report was an American professor, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. The study found that more than half of all Iraqi babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010, compared to one in 10 before the US-led invasion in March 2003. Further, over 45% of all pregnancies monitored ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10% before Iraq was invaded. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The most common abnormalities discovered in Fallujah children were congenital heart defects found in 24 out of 26 children born there. These are daily reminders of US crimes in Iraq.
The country has been devastated in other ways as well. Its healthcare system, one of the best in the Muslim East prior to US invasion, was destroyed. Many of its ancient treasurers and artifacts were plundered by the Americans and hauled away. The plunder continues in other ways: by sucking Iraq’s black gold — oil — by American companies striking unilateral deals with Kurds in the north who have virtually declared an independent state. Even Turkey is in on the pillaging. While signing separate deals with Iraqi Kurds, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan is busy trying to crush the Kurds in his own country. Concurrently, he has joined the two evil Arabian regimes, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — the trio is also in the forefront of financing terrorist outfits in Syria — by stoking sectarianism in Iraq. The aim is to destabilize it. No less a person than the Iraqi vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi was behind many terrorist attacks in the country; the news shocked Iraqis. Al-Hashemi fled the country and was warmly received in Doha, Riyadh and Ankara. He continues to evade arrest by being protected by his Arabian and Turkish allies while sectarian conflict rages in Iraq, aided, abetted and financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. True, Iraqi politicians also cannot be completely absolved of responsibility for growth in sectarianism, but ultimately the Iraqis are just pawns in a sectarian power game being managed from the outside.
Maliki’s “crime” is that instead of remaining in the Arabian camp, as Iraq was even with the tyrant Saddam Husain at the helm, he has gone over to the Iranian camp. This is an unforgivable sin and he is being made to pay the price through sectarian conflict. There have been massive Iraqi casualties in recent months with car bombings blowing up people, mainly Shi‘is, while attending religious ceremonies. Sectarianism is the only game the Saudis know but it is a poisonous one. Given the Muslims’ tendency to fall for petty fiqhi squabbles ignoring the larger issues of legitimacy, subservience to foreign masters and aligning with unsavory characters, this is a recipe for disaster.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are joined in this criminal enterprise by the Zionists while Uncle Sam oversees the project both through Iraqi Kurdistan and from Washington. The Zionists have a long history of using the Kurds against the countries in which they reside. Thus, in the early-1970s, the Zionists used the Kurds against Iran and Iraq. Today, the same game is being played against Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish clan leader, is not averse to such deals. He has the mentality of a feudal clan lord and views events through this prism. This also suits the external players so long as they can continue to destabilize the central government in Baghdad. Barzani’s bazaari mentality was evident during his visit to Washington last April where President Barack Obama received him in addition to a number of other US officials. The US-Kurdistan Business Council was also formed during this visit to promote US “investments” in the areas of northern Iraq under Barzani’s control. ExxonMobil’s chief executive officer Rex Tillerson was another important player that met Barzani. Only six months earlier, Barzani had awarded lucrative contracts to ExxonMobil to explore six oil fields in Kurdistan, with large sums given to him in bakhsheesh. This was a direct attack on Iraqi sovereignty and did not go unnoticed in Baghdad.
The twin cards — sectarianism and Kurdish nationalism — being used against al-Maliki are meant to pressure him to abandon his close links with Iran. It says a lot about the players involved in this sordid game: the US, Zionist Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Barzani.