A series of photographs of Patrick Baz published in ABC News capturing daily life in Iraq confirms the British political journalist and the coauthor of a biography of Ed Miliband Mehdi Hasan's averment that Iraqis are worse off today than they were before the invasion ten years ago. Yet another picture of an Iraqi mother cradling her dead daughter, smeared in blood, bolsters the assertion. The girl has been killed in one of the terror attacks which have become almost a daily occurrence in the country today. Patrick's pictures are telling and are telling us the reality of Iraq today — 'a country that is still struggling to rebuild'.
The US, UK-led invasion has left Iraq utterly destroyed. But more than this all-pervading destruction death, sudden, premature and unexpected, is the worst reality with which Iraq and Iraqis are living today. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters are getting bereaved almost daily cradling bodies of their dearest. These deaths have created serious demographic imbalance in Iraq. Population between 15 and 35 has dwindled by over thirty per cent. Number of men in the country too is falling short of women and the number of orphans and widows are rising at alarming pace creating serious social problems.
Ten years ago in 2003, contemporary British prime minister Tony Blair responded to one of the most historic protest march of over a million Britons saying "if we do have to act (invade Iraq), we should do so with a clear conscience." Over a million, "students, toddlers, Christians, Muslims, nuns" and others converged at Hyde Park in London "to denounce the impending invasion of Iraq."
They were not listened to nor were their concerns heeded. After a decade of the invasion we the million have only one question to ask the hawks of 2003 — are your conscience clear? Of the hawks who partook in the invasion neither George W. Bush nor his poodle Blair has yet come up with an answer yet. But we know that their conscience was not clear then in 2003 and their conscience is not clear now. In fact and on the contrary the invasion smacked of "a farrago of lies and half-truths, of delusion and doublethink."
All of us knew too well that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All of us knew with certitude that there existed no links between secular Saddam Hussein and sectarian terrorist Osama Laden. Mehdi Hasan is right. The greatest weapon of mass destruction was the invasion itself: over the past ten years, Iraqis have seen the physical, social and economic destruction of their country.
Neither did the Western power have any moral standing in invading Iraq. Therefore, the incursion was a strategic disaster and this has lately been admitted by a Tory minister Kenneth Clarke. In a recent interview with BBC radio this minister came forth with his admission, "the most disastrous foreign policy decision of my lifetime . . . worse than Suez".
West's invasion did not redeem the world of any weapon of destruction but has left a nation ruined — turning an otherwise secular country into one of the most dangerous theatres of sectarian warfare between the Shias and Sunnis. The invasion did not liberate Iraqis from the dragnets of a dictator but pushed them from frying pan to fire. West's gift to Iraq was not democracy but terrorism which was not known in Iraq before 2003.
"Between 2003 and 2006, according to a peer-reviewed study in the Lancet medical journal, 601,000 more people died in Iraq as a result of violence – that is, bombed, burned, stabbed, shot and tortured to death – than would have died had the invasion not happened."
The Mesopotamian misadventure made Iraq what the US general Ricardo Sanchez said "a terrorist magnet . . . a target of opportunity." Between 2003 and 2008 "1,100 suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the country" killing thousands of their brothers and sisters, children, fathers and mothers. Religious extremism and sectarian animosity found fresh lease of life as the war motivated more and more young angry Muslims from across the world joining Jihad.
Iraq will not progress. Not at least in next fifty years because it is a nation which the war had raped inside out and left it divided into countless fragments. Society too is divided almost vertically across the middle. And a divided nation cannot progress.
Sunnis in Iraq no longer consider the country as their home. Many have fled and many more are ready to flee. And Shiites too are in no comfortable state of existence. They are being killed at will like sitting ducks by Sunni terrorists like Al Qaeda.
We are not surprised but are certainly pained and angry to see what the war has done to an ancient civilisation on the banks of Tigris. Noted Iraqi novelist and activist Haifa Zangana, is inconsolably anguished to see how the Mesopotamian civilisation has now been "consumed by sectarian, ethnic division, but above all by corruption."
Mehdi Hasan has referred to Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics who in his book, Iraq: from War to a New Authoritarianism, has documented how the war has produced an Iraqi system of government not so different from the one it replaced. "Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, Dodge argues, is leading his country towards an 'incredibly destructive dictatorship'. The establishment of a liberal democracy on the banks of the Tigris (thus) remains a Neocon pipe dream.".
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman