Next week, on Tuesday 19 March, many of us will remember how, precisely
ten years ago, in another and dreamlike existence, we incredulously
watched the beginning of the invasion of Iraq.
I remember so well sitting in a hotel room in London, feeling
overwhelmingly sad at the images of the relentless bombing of Baghdad.
I could not quite understand the correspondents’ references to the
“awe” at seeing such cataclysmic bombing of a defenceless nation that
had suffered years of swingeing and murderous sanctions. I kept
thinking, “But there are ordinary people under, and in, these balls of
As the war quickly came to a victorious end, I could not possibly join
in commentators’ surprise at the speedy victory of the world’s most
sophisticated technological army against a starving and oppressed
people. Neither could I remotely accept that the removal of the
dictator Saddam Hussein was worthwhile – the reason disingenuously
given after Bush and Blair realised that there were no weapons of mass
destruction and that Hussein had nothing to so with the attack on New
York on 11 September 2001.
I will admit to a momentary feeling of elation when Iraqis queued for
hours to vote for the first time ever in a free election. That elation
did not last long as reality dawned. This was particularly so when right
wing Israelis rejoiced at the destruction of yet another Arab country.
I remember receiving a phone call from a contractor inviting me to join
them in Iraq to help bring peace and democracy through education now
that the war was over. I declined explaining that Bush’s “Mission
Accomplished” was an optimistic economy with the truth since infinitely
worse was yet to come as anyone, even with myopic eyes, could see. And
those poor people who did accept to go to work in education paid a
heavy price for the contractor’s greed.
Ten years later and where are we?
Saddam Hussein’s regime abused prisoners – both innocent and guilty.
Amnesty International’s report Iraq: A Decade of Abuse, published 11
March 2013, details the continuing torture of detainees in Iraq by its
Saddam Hussein persecuted the Shi’a majority of the population. In the
“de-ba’athification” of Iraq, the US military government marginalised
the Sunnis whom they have now cynically embrace (part of the infamous
“Surge”) as the country plunges into virtual sectarian civil war.
Saddam Hussein accumulated a personal fortune off Iraq’s oil wealth.
American and British companies are accumulating a series of personal
fortunes off Iraq’s oil wealth, arms purchases and rebuilding
Saddam Hussein murdered Iraqi citizens at will. The invasion forces
killed hundreds of thousands and the Iraqis themselves have engaged in
a murderous internecine orgy of killings. The present Iraqi government
had hanged 129 prisoners only last year. It has also detained thousands
of Iraqis without charges, without trials or with grossly unfair trials
with evidence obtained under torture.
Iraq as a country has been badly fractured into provinces that are
highly unlikely to reunite in the near future.
Furthermore, Iraq’s sectarian horrors are being replicated in Syria and
elsewhere. The Arab world is in a mess – again.
Finally, that much vaunted belatedly discovered reason for invading
Iraq – suddenly discovered after it was actually invaded – Islamic
extremism, has been given a second lease of life as we have seen in
Somalia, Mali, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia,
Libya… The list grows each day. The Muslim extremists that barely
existed before are now arriving aplenty from Pakistan, Afghanistan and
other Muslim states. Muslim revolts are taking place in Bahrain,
eastern Saudi Arabia and, recently, the United Arab Emirates. Worse
still, the heart of the grievance feeding Muslim anger, Palestine, is
still unresolved as the USA colludes with Israel’s settlement construction
and the Israeli oppression of Palestinians living under continued
I recently met a dear friend of my youth (and we all know what the
expression “dear friend of my youth” means) after over forty years of
not seeing each other. I walked into her London hotel and a woman
approached me with her niqab obscuring all but her eyes.
I politely stood whilst averting my gaze out of respect for her
religious sensibilities and wished that my friend would appear quickly
and save me such social awkwardnesses.
“Faysal. It’s me” said the still familiar voice bringing a flood of
happy memories back.
“Oh! Oh! What’s with the covered face? Found religion at last?” Amazing
how old friendly and rude habits of talking to each other quickly
“No!” She said laughing as she removed her niqab and revealed her still
beautiful face with its gentle eyes. “This is just an ‘up yours’ to
America, Israel and Britain…”
That, “dear reader”, is the legacy of Iraq… One childish gesture is
laughable. Over three hundred million childish gestures are terrifying.
Thank you so much Bush. Thank you Blair. May God forgive you. We Arabs,
on the other hand, are finding it hard to do so.
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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi