Two decades ago, on March 19, 2003, then President George W. Bush ordered the United States to invade Iraq. A week later, near Najaf, a city in the south of Iraq, the then American Major General David Petraeus turned to the American journalist Rick Atkinson and asked a simple question: “Tell me how this ends.” That continues to be an excellent question..
The Amna Suraka Museum, which was once a prison and torture facility used by dictator Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agents, in Sulaymaniyah, in Iraq, is a good place to try to contemplate the legacy of the US invasion and, perhaps, make another one auxiliary question: Is so all worth it?
I visited the former prison earlier this week, which is located in a pleasant residential neighborhood in Sulaymaniyah, in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. The location of the prison in the center of the city was not by chance: Saddam wanted the local population to rise up or that he expected them to oppose him, or that he thought they would oppose his regime.
The museum is a chamber of horrors that shows the cells where the prisoners were tortured by electric shocks and kept only two feet apart so that they could not walk. The minors are taken to the detention center and their identities are altered for more than 18 years so that they can be “legally” executed, according to an official of the museum with whom they spoke.
The prison cells are small, almost without light. During the Saddam era, they were full of prisoners who shared equally full banheiros.
In the museum, there is a long corridor – known as “Salão dos Espelhos” – made up of glass fragments that each represent 182 thousand people killed by Saddam’s men during his 1988 “Anfal” campaign (which is the estimated total number of deaths committed by Kurdish officials). Small twinkling lights on the roof represent the 4,500 villages in the region that Saddam’s forces also destroyed.
Two worst tyrants of the century
Three decades and a half ago this week, on March 16, 1988, Saddam committed two of the most notorious crimes of his assassination, killing thousands of Kurds using poison gas and nerve agents.
There are few doubts that Saddam was two of the worst tyrants of the century. 20 He killed 290,000 people on his own, according to Human Rights Watch. He also launched wars against two of his vizinhos – either Iran during the 1980s or Kuwait in the 1990s. Conservative estimates suggest that at least half a thousand people were killed during those wars.
So, when Saddam Hussein was overthrown by Americans two decades ago, few but a few Iraqians were happy. Today’s Iraq takes some steps towards a more responsible political system compared to its vizinhos from the Middle East. Iraq has held several elections since the American invasion in 2003, followed by peaceful transfers of power.
And, not so long, after Saddam was overthrown by the USA, the incompetent American occupation of Iraq contributed to a civil war that divided the country, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqians. More than 4,500 American soldiers also killed.
The war also gave Al Qaeda a new life. The group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, later became the Islamic States, which seized large amounts of Iraqi territory in 2014 and instituted a reign of terror.
You feel uncomfortable with the invasion of Russia
The Iraq war also set a precedent for unprovoked wars we see happening in Ukraine today, which the Russians are already using to good effect.
At a conference in India at the beginning of this month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, called what he calls the “double standard” of the USA, saying: “[Você] Does it prove that the United States fears the right to declare a threat to its national interest, in any place on earth, like fizeram… not Iraq?
This message may not resonate much in the West, but not in its global similitude, where the US-Iraq war and the Russian war in Ukraine are seen by many as wars of choice and not necessary.
It is clear that the conduct of the war in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin is much more brutal than the American war in Iraq. Furthermore, Putin’s forces are attacking a democratic state, while, not Iraq, Bush ordered an invasion that brought down a dictatorship.
Said isso, it is worth highlighting some of the similarities of the wars: both the wars were started because of false allegations – the war between the USA and Iraq was launched based on the fact that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and links with Al Qaeda.
Most of the American media repeated these statements. As a result, months before the US invaded Iraq, most Americans believed that Saddam was involved in the September 11 attacks, but there was no evidence to be found.
Putin justifies his war in Ukraine by claiming that it is not a “real” country and should be annexed to Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian media claims that its soldiers are fighting against “neo-Nazists” in Ukraine. Despite these false allegations, most of the Russians support the war, according to independent inquiries.
Além disso, nem a guerra do Iraque nem a guerra en Ukraina tiveram mucho internacional apoio. Contrary to the case of the war led by the US in Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, which has a mandate from the UN Security Council. As far as this is concerned, neither the American invasion of Iraq nor the Russian invasion of Ukraine have the support of the UN Security Council.
What is the next step for Iraq?
A museum dedicated to Saddam’s crimes against his own people, you feel the weight of his brutality. The removal of Saddam by the US was something to be commemorated by many Iraqians, but what followed, since the civil war tied to the rise and fall of the Islamic State, inflicted great additional suffering on the Iraqi people.
For those who say: “Is it worth taking down Saddam, given what we know about how the last two decades have unraveled?”, you may be losing focus today. O Iraq has a new government and possesses the third largest oil reserves in the world.
It should be one of the richest countries in the Middle East, but, instead, the cancer of endemic corruption corrodes the intuitions of the government and international companies, many times hesitant to invest in Iraq.
If the Iraqi political class can find a way to nurture institutions that are not corrupted, or Iraq will have a chance to stay ahead.
The 2,500 US soldiers who remain in Iraq today provide not only aid to the Iraqi military, but also make a political statement that the United States plans to remain engaged in Iraq for the foreseeable future – rather than abandon the country as fez in Afghanistan in no summer 2021, when all remaining American troops are withdrawn. And we saw how well this ended.
*Editor’s note: Peter Bergen is a National Security Analyst for CNN, Vice President of New America, and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of “The Cost of Chaos: The Trump Administration and the World”. The opinions expressed in this article are given only. See more opinions on CNN.
Source: CNN Espanol