The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago this week triggered a bitter civil war, which destroyed the fabric of the country, killed hundred of thousands of people, and embedded sectarian politics into the heart of the Arab world. The tragedy of Iraq is all the more poignant because all the reasons that US President George W. Bush presented to justify toppling Iraqi president Saddam Hussain turned out to be false.
At first, Bush blamed Saddam for supporting Al Qaida after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. In fact, Saddam had nothing to do with Al Qaida, and was brutal in suppressing any kind of radical Islamist activity. This did not stop the nest of neoconservatives in the Bush administration like Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from lining up Iraq as a target within a few weeks of the attack on the World Trade Centre.
Bush then used weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that Saddam was alleged to have as a justification for invading Iraq. For some time this was the dominant justification, and the Bush administration won a variety of UN resolutions that insisted that Saddam had nuclear and chemical weapons. But all this rhetoric was later exposed as vacuous when the Americans found no WMDs after the invasion. This gave both Bush and his close ally British prime minister Tony Blair a lot of domestic political problems since they had certainly exaggerated the intelligence, and apparently lied, to justify the unpopular war.
At various times, Bush also claimed that the purpose of the invasion was to promote democracy in the Middle East, and he added that Saddam’s terrible human rights record was another justification for regime change. But what finished any remaining credibility of America was the miserable failure to have any plan for the rebuilding of Iraq after the invasion.
The State Department had planned to put in 50 Arabic-speaking former diplomats to ease the process of rebuilding Iraqi civil society, but all of a sudden Bush gave that responsibility to the Defence Department, which had no plans. As a result, Iraq had to endure the disastrous pro-consuls of Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, who had no idea of that to do the with the country they were given.
Sectarian politics took off, and the years of civil war started very soon after. The only people who have profited from all this are the American security companies and military suppliers, who made fortunes out of the billions poured into the US military effort in Iraq. Ironically, one other entity that has benefited from the Iraq debacle was the Iranian government, which saw its major rival in the region destroyed by the Americans, and its proxies taking a dominant place in Iraqi politics.