Fourteen Aprils ago, the world witnessed a giant statue of Iraq’s ousted dictator Saddam Hussein being toppled by a group of people at Baghdad’s Firdos Square. The crowd was surprisingly small. To support them in the task were the invading American soldiers and, of course, the presstitutes — the embedded media personnel who were apparently prostituting journalism and producing bastardized news.
The scene was fake news in the making, as the present United States President Donald Trump would say. It was perhaps the only dramatic event that the then imperial US administration had in its possession to show the war’s opponents back home that the Iraqi people were supportive of the invasion.
Reporting about the controversial event, the Associated Press said: “Joyful Iraqis helped by an American tank retriever pulled down their longtime dictator, cast as 16 feet of bronze. The scene broadcast live worldwide became an icon of the war, a symbol of final victory over Saddam Hussein.”
But reports filed from Baghdad did not say that the the April 9, 2003 event was organised by a US Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians. A year later, the Los Angeles Times reported: “It was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.”
Despite this under-reported correction, the toppling of the statue is cited by war advocates as symbolic of Iraqi people’s support for the invasion codenamed “Operation Iraq Freedom”. The operation was initially named “Operation Iraq Liberation” but the name was changed because its acronym – OIL – seemed to expose the secret objective of the war.
The Firdos Square fake news was rather emblematic of the massive lie with which war-loving US President George W. Bush misled the American people into believing that he was launching a just war.
The war was launched on the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which were a threat to America’s security and world peace. To add flesh to their bony lie, the war party created more lies. These lies included claims that Saddam Hussein tried to obtain uranium from Niger and that Iraq possessed the capability to assemble its long range missiles and attack London within 45 minutes. The US even presented satellite images claiming that they showed mobile WMD laboratories.
Award-winning war reporter John Pilger asked Charles Lewis, the distinguished American investigative journalist: “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims, instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?”
Lewis replied that if the journalists had done their job “there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq.” There is blood on the hands of the so-called free media of the west. The very media institutions which swallowed Bush’s lies wholesale — probably due to the media outlets’ blind patriotism, racism or support for the neocon policy to dominate the world through intimidation – are now questioning every statement President Trump makes.
Firdos in Arabic means Paradise. But the Iraq war based on lies after lies opened the gates of hell. Months before the Iraq war began, the then Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa warned Washington that the war against Iraq would “open the gates of hell” in a region already “angry and frustrated” at Israel’s actions against the Palestinians.
As a result of trigger-happy Bush’s mad war, the Iraqi people paid a huge price and they are still not out of the hell they have been pushed into. Saddam Hussein was a monster, but the horror they have been going through since the US launched its Iraq colonisation project has made the Iraqi people to see the former dictator as a benevolent statesman. During Saddam’s time, the people had little or no religious and political freedom, but they had security, water, electricity and peace. There was no sectarianism in secular Iraq. The Sunnis and the Shiites were not only neighbours but they also intermarried. There was no al-Qaeda or ISIS.
Since the US invasion, more than one million Iraqis have died in war and sectarian violence. Also nearly a million Iraqis, half of whom were children, died due to the US-led economic sanctions which preceded the war. When asked, the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was a price worth paying. Such was the racism-driven indifference that the leaders of the so-called civilised world had for Iraqi lives.
Iraqis die by the thousands even today, as their government together with the US forces prosecutes a major operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second most populous city, from the clutches of ISIS. Urban wars are fought and won by destroying buildings with scant regard for the trapped civilians. Thousands of Mosul’s civilians have died, especially in air strikes. On Wednesday, Iraqi troops removed 300 bodies from the site of an apparent Coalition air strike carried out on March 17.
Although some 350,000 civilians have fled Mosul to camps where basic facilities are a luxury, still some 400,000 people are trapped in the city. They are being used by the ISIS as human shields. If they try to flee, they are shot dead; if they manage to escape and reach the Iraqi troops, they are grilled, even subjected to torture or killed because of their suspected ties to the terrorists.
The world is today certainly not a better place than what it was prior to the US invasion designed and promoted by neoconservative architects of the Project for New American Century – a think tank which advocated a policy of total global military domination to control the world’s strategic resources.
To the living hell that is Iraq, where suicide blasts have become a daily occurrence, came a visitor on Tuesday – Jared Kushner, son-in-law and special advisor of US President Trump. If a matter so serious like Iraq is to be left in the hands of less experienced people like Kushner, it could mean that the Iraqis will have to wait longer to see peace at least on the distant horizon.
During his campaign for the White House, Trump claimed he was opposed to the Iraq invasion. He said America was not going to be the world’s policeman. But since taking office, he was displaying both hawkishness and indifference to the wars in Iraq and Syria.
In what he claimed as a bold new strategy to “defeat ISIS,” he has intensified US military involvement in Iraq and Syria.
But the Iraqi conundrum is much more complicated than the ISIS issue. It involves the Kurdish problem, the power games that regional players like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Israel play, the superpower interests in the region and the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The Iraqis have been going through hell long enough. Since 1979, they have been living with devastating wars – first the nine-year Iraq-Iran war, then the Kuwait war, then the US invasion and now the ISIS. Iraq, the cradle of civilisation, needs a comprehensive peace package. But where are the peacemakers?