Most of us in the United States have a vague awareness of a Second Iraq War. There was invasion, devastation, death, “victory”, and the catharsis that seemed to flood over the nation after the lynching of a Third World dictator. Satiated revenge, finally, for 9/11, was the implicit mood of many. Even after enough people shouted that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the Twin Towers, there still remained the belief that that war just had to happen. Saddam had to go, because he was a bad guy, because he murdered his own people, et cetera. Regardless of rationalizations after the fact, the 2003 Iraq War was an act of nationalistic revenge. As was Afghanistan. There was an attitude that we were entitled to our own bloodbath, since one had been visited upon us. The attackers died in their attack, so no one was left in our immediate vicinity to quench our bloodthirst. The Iraq War solved that problem, at least temporarily. But while many are aware of the war, and aware of Saddam’s broken neck, few care about what really happened since the invasion, and what negative consequences may have arisen because of the invasion.
The reality of what happened has been the total destruction of Iraq as anything resembling a nation. The Iraq War has been directly responsible for the displacement of 3.5 million to 5 million or more Iraqis, according to MIT’s Iraq: the Human Cost. These are lives that, while not snuffed out, have been completely destroyed by the disintegration of Iraqi society following the invasion. The Iraqi refugees spread out to neighboring states, like Jordan and Syria, but since the U.S.-backed destabilization of Syria, the Iraqis were forced to find a new refuge. Iraq was indeed Ground Zero for the beginning of the refugee crisis, as Al Jazeera correspondent, Imran Khan, noted in a September 5th column:
“What no one talks about is the invasion and occupation of Iraq…
March 2003 was the pivotal point. Based on controversial evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the war drums beat loudly.
What the Iraq war did was allow space for anger at the unjustified actions of the Western coalition to be moulded into a hardline movement of fighters who would join al-Qaeda in Iraq and other groups.
Before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, radical and violent movements were tiny in number. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were the only real threat.”
Ignoring the self-evident long-term consequences of an Iraq invasion has proven costly.
The Syrian conflict, where the United States claims the conflicting goals of ousting Assad simultaneously with defeating ISIS, is driving a devastating explosion in the number of refugees. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the number of internally displaced Syrians is upwards of 7,600,000, with 3,975,842 more considered refugees. Half of the migrants to Europe are Syrians fleeing the chaos of the Syrian conflict in what has become the largest migration of refugees to Europe since World War 2.
Libya has been utterly ruined by the coalition airstrikes rationalized according a bunk UN standard dubbed “responsibility to protect” apparently designed to legitimize the invasion or preemptive attack of a sovereign nation. That destabilization created over 400,000 internally displaced people, and half a million refugees eager to reach Europe.
It’s starkly clear that, despite the professed intentions of the architects and apologists for the endless wars on the Arabian Peninsula, millions of refugees, fleeing from their destroyed homelands, has been the result, along with the millions of corpses of both innocent civilians and participants in the bloodbath. United States policy has been the root cause of the entire bloody melee, and now the longer-term consequences are spiraling out of control. Destabilization is like a wildfire, it can get out of hand very quickly, and before long there won’t be a thing that can be done except to wait until there’s nothing left in the vicinity to burn. As Syria burns to the ground, Russia ramps up airstrikes, the U.S. funnels weapons and “Special Forces” into Syria, and Turkey continues to buy ISIS oil and fund the rebels, the stage has been set for a massive, destructive conflict that could generate untold millions of refugees, millions dead. Turkey, as one of NATO’s loose cannons, could drag the United States into such a conflict if another Russian jet is downed.
The Great Refugee Debate has raged, almost fact-free, in the major media outlets. The participants, from presidential candidates to pundits, fail to acknowledge the main cause of the existence of these refugees in the first place: the United States’ policy of destabilization of countries they deem ripe for it. It may be too late to save Syria, but it’s not too late to learn the chief foreign policy lesson of the last fourteen years. It is beyond tragic how manmade the chaos is in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and the other countries that have been touched by US intervention. If we are not to descend into a far larger conflict, the US must withdraw completely from Arabian Peninsula, dismantle NATO, and let the fire the United States started burn itself out.
Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.