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26 Mar, 2013

10 CATASTROPHES: IRAQ 10 YEARS AFTER by Chandra Muzaffar


Kuala Lumpur – 10 years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq a number of analysts have come to the tragic conclusion that the most immoral and unjust war in recent years has generated nothing but a series of catastrophes.

The 10 catastrophes that we have outlined below represent only a small portion of a horrendous tragedy that continues to unfold to this day.

Catastrophe no. 1

While the figure on the total number of deaths associated directly or indirectly with the invasion varies, it is held that there were 1.5 million deaths from 20 March 2003 to 31st December 2011 when US and allied combat brigades withdrew from Iraq. If we included the number who died as a result of the earlier Kuwait War in 1991 and the sanctions imposed upon the people of Iraq from August 1990 to March 2003, the total would increase dramatically by 1.9 million. Of these 3.4 million deaths, a huge percentage would be children killed by the sanctions in the first phase of the assault on Iraq and those that died after the invasion from occupation related causes.

Catastrophe no. 2

The death of children in Iraq correlates strongly with “contamination from depleted uranium (du) munitions and other military related pollution — suspected of causing a sharp rise in congenital birth defects, cancer cases, and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq.” According to Iraqi government statistics, prior to the Kuwait War of 1991, “the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000, and by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.”

Of particular significance in this regard is the situation in Fallujah which was subjected to a massive bombardment by US troops in 2004. A 2010 study has shown “a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks.” The study has also revealed that “ the sex ratio had become skewed to 86 boys born to every 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage ― similar to, but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.”

Catastrophe no. 3

Though there are some improvements here and there, the average Iraqi continues to struggle to make ends meet. It is estimated that 27 to 60% of Iraqis are unemployed or under-employed. Inflation hovers around 75%!

Catastrophe no. 4

The invasion destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. A nation which once had superb amenities from clean water and regular supply of electricity to excellent hospitals and well-run schools has now been reduced to shambles. The US has made good the threat that the former US Secretary of State, James Baker, conveyed to the then Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, in 1991 that the US would bomb Iraq back to the stone age.

Catastrophe no. 5

The invasion and occupation could have cost the US and its allies over 3 trillion dollars. This does not include the money spent on the treatment of injured soldiers or the rehabilitation of war veterans. In a sense, the 6,000 veterans from the Kuwait and Iraq wars who commit suicide every year also constitute a cost factor.

Catastrophe no. 6

Many companies have also profiteered from post invasion Iraq. Oil corporations from a few countries have been given access to Iraq’s oil fields. Other companies have been involved in providing support services to US and allied military operations. One such company is the Houston based engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc, which was spun off from its parent firm, Halliburton Co. KBR, it is alleged, was “given 39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade.”

Catastrophe no.7

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was, right from the outset, a blatant violation of international law. The United Nations was pushed aside and the US, Britain and some of their other allies embarked upon a war of aggression whose real motives were to advance their imperial interests vis-a-vis oil, strategic routes and Israel. For Israel itself, the war fought on its behalf decimated a leadership vehemently opposed to its occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands and was therefore a bonanza.

Catastrophe no. 8

This illegal war is the principal reason why law and order has broken down in many parts of Iraq today. Gangs and hoodlums control various cities and villages. Crime is rampant. Kidnappings and murders have become routine. Fear and a general feeling of insecurity grip many Iraqi citizens.

Catastrophe no. 9

The occupation of Iraq was inextricably intertwined with the manipulation and exploitation of sectarian sentiments. In the initial phase, the occupiers and their underlings manipulated the resentment of the Shia majority against the Sunni minority. Later, when influential elements within the democratically elected Shia government demonstrated that they were inclined to the Shia leadership in Iran, Sunni feelings of deprivation were exploited to the hilt. Playing Sunnis against Shias and vice-versa has become a dangerous and violent game. Thousands have been killed in these sectarian conflicts which feed upon centuries of distrust and suspicion. They continue to this day even though formal military occupation ended in December 2011. Indeed, observers of Iraqi politics are beginning to wonder whether the Sunni-Shia conflict will lead very soon to an all-out civil war.

Such a prospect has unfathomable regional implications since there are Sunnis and Shias in different proportions in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait and a few other Arab states. The two sects are also found in Turkey and Iran — apart from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Catastrophe no. 10

The culprits behind all these catastrophes, those who were at the helm of the US and Britain in 2003 — George Bush and Dick Cheney, on the one hand, and Tony Blair, on the other — have not been convicted in any court of law as war criminals. It is only NGO sponsored tribunals in different parts of the world who have found them and others guilty of invading and occupying Iraq and condemned them on behalf of humanity. 10 years after committing an unconscionable act of wanton aggression, they remain free — a shameful blot on the collective conscience of the human family.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

Malaysia, 25 March 2013.