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Iraq showed that military power alone isn’t enough to change a country Image Credit: AP

The month of March this year heralds a new Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayers for more than 1.9 billion Muslims the world over. And yet it also celebrates the sordid 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

It was also a month that Ayesha, a young and fragile Iraqi girl was looking forward to her seventh birthday. Those aspirations were quickly snuffed out by a bomb that killed her.

It was those first images we witnessed that truly reflected the operation that then US President George W, Bush dubbed as ‘Operation Freedom’. Yes, Ayesha was free from further tyranny, and countless other innocent souls followed her path toward freedom from the display of shock and awe that followed.

Many world leaders were appealing for restraint against this very forthcoming disaster. People with conscience spoke against the war.

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There were less catastrophic options on hand. Those dead today were living souls then; men, women, and innocent children, and with no inkling of the weapons of mass destruction already set in motion to be unleashed on them. And yet the chorus of Bush and Tony Blair, the British PM at the time, insisted on doing what they said was right.

In their pursuit of the senseless destruction of living human beings, they expedited the urgency and phoney necessity of this atrocity. They sold it to a willing public as an obligation to combat the dangers of the weapons of mass destruction about to be unleashed on them. The US media eagerly lapped it up.

When markets and hospitals were bombed, and lives had brutally ended, Rumsfeld smirked that these were casualties of ‘war’. Not an expression of concern, but one of conceit. And other members of the administration scurried about, in a pathetic attempt to explain the ethics of this campaign to the rest of the disbelieving and disturbed world.

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President George W. Bush and his administration rationalised the need for war by claiming that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The claim was later found out to be incorrect and misleading. Image Credit: AFP

And when the slaughter of the Iraqi people began, the media sanitised the fare presented to their viewers. The carnage caused by cluster bombs dropped by B-52s on civilians, killing, maiming, or injuring scores of helpless people was blissfully withheld.

An illegal occupation

Instead, to justify the invasion, the media shifted its focus to events of faults and abuse by the Iraqis. Or short personalised segments about the brave men and women carrying out this task. And those within the profession that dared speak the truth were quickly replaced.

The late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia condemned the aggression by US forces calling it an illegal occupation. Today those very words are used by western media to describe Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court which to date has not brought any censure over the killings, destruction, and war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan said last Friday that it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President.

Ironic! When over a million innocent Iraqis are senselessly killed and millions more injured and rendered homeless, not a peep out of the ICC!

The then White House National Security Advisor John Bolton called The Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States and said any probe of US service members would be ‘an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation. If the court comes after us, we will not sit quietly,’ he warned.

Just a couple of decades ago, Ayesha was sapped of her short life and the last of her blood on that plot of dirt has dried a long time ago. Today is no end in sight that justified the means, morally or otherwise.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena