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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Iraq War: the illegal and imperial legacy of Bush and Blair

March 19th, 2013, marked ten years since the U.S. and its allies, especially Britain under Prime Minister Tony Blair, who continues to justify the war as necessary and right, illegally attacked, invaded and occupied Iraq - a nation that had not attacked the USA or Britain or posed any threat to their security.

It has also been ten years since the world rose up to proclaim its opposition to a threatened war in Iraq, as tens of millions of people poured into the streets of dozens of cities across the globe in what was the largest political demonstration in recorded history. 

Bush and his co-conspirators did not heed the will of the people because they were listening to other voices - of oil and other corporate executives, generals, arms manufacturers, their lobbyists, and their wealthy patrons, political cronies and privileged friends.  
Greed, hubris, arrogance and empire spoke louder than millions of people in the streets.
Nearly 5000 American, British and other allied troops were killed in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Tens of thousands were wounded and tens of thousands more bear the unseen pyschological scars of war as evidenced by the epidemic of suicides among veterans and active service members.  The war cost the American taxpayers more than $812 billion in direct costs and another four to six trillion dollars when indirect and future costs are tallied up.

Whitehall (UK) figures released in June 2010 put the cost of British funding of the Iraq conflict at £9.24bn ($14.32bn), the vast majority of which was for the military but which also included £557m ($861m) in aid. 

But the cost to the people of Iraq has been far greater.  Estimates of Iraqi dead range from several hundred thousand to in excess of a million, overwhelmingly civilians.  Civilian infrastructure - water treatment and power plants, hospitals, schools - were destroyed, and ten years later have yet to be rebuilt.  Millions were turned into refugees, most of whom still have not been returned to their homes.

Because of the extensive use of depleted uranium weapons, the war continues to take its toll on those born years after most of the armed conflict ended.  Not only those immediately exposed but a new generation suffers with the consequences of radiation poisoning.  And among those victims are also thousands of U.S. troops and their children.
Iraq's economy has been turned into a giant yard sale, as multinational corporations move in to privatize every enterprise in which they see the potential for profit.  It's public heritage, resouces and sovereignty have been put up for sale to the highest bidder.  Corruption is epidemic.

The psychological wounds of war will haunt Iraqis for decades to come, but so too will they afflict U.S. and British troops who participated in and witnessed the horrors of battle, the barbarity of war.  War claims innocent civilians and combatants alike as its victims.
Iraqis too live with the political and social legacy of U.S. policy that divided the nation along religious, sectarian, tribal and ethnic lines and spawned violence that continues to claim victims more than a year after U.S. troops departed.

Iraqi trade unionists still don't have the legal right to organize and are targeted for discipline and repression when they act collectively in defense of their interests.  Some, like Federation of Oil Union President Hassan Juma'a, have been criminally charged for allegedly organizing strikes, and face stiff fines and possible incarceration. 
Meanwhile Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice (to name but a few) enjoy the luxuries and privileges that their class and wealth provide while those who sought to expose their crimes, like Bradley Manning, are persecuted, prosecuted and incarcerated.