How U.S. Policy Has Failed In Iraq
Last week outgoing President Donald Trump granted presidential pardons to four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater—a private security company, has since changed its name to Academi—who were serving jail sentences for killing 14 civilians including two children in Baghdad in 2007, a massacre that sparked an international outcry over the use of mercenaries in war. The youngest was a nine-year-old boy named Ali Kinani.
In a 2010 documentary, the journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed Ali’s father, Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, who spoke of how he’d welcomed the American invasion of his country and brought along his son to greet U.S. soldiers. “The first day the American Army entered Baghdad, I handed out juice and candy in the street to celebrate our liberation from Saddam,” said Kinani. Scahill called him “that rare personification of the neoconservative narrative about the U.S. invasion.”
On Sept. 16, 2007, Kinani was driving toward the traffic circle at Nisour Square with his sister, her children and Ali when guards from Blackwater opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers. Ali was one of 17 people killed. The U.S. government said in a memorandum filed after the sentencing: “None of the victims was an insurgent, or posed any threat to the Raven 23 convoy.”
According to The Washington Post, a U.S. military report found that there had been no provocation. “It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” a military official told the paper. An F.B.I. investigator reportedly described it as the “My Lai massacre of Iraq.”
Regrettably, the aforementioned has been part of a “colonial” apparatus of the United States in the Middle East. As Lieutenant General William Odom, who served as director of the National Security Agency under President Ronald Reagan from 1985 to 1988, said: “Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world.”
Background of U.S. Intervention in Iraq: Colonial Period
- Roots just after the end of the First World War in 1918 when the British opted to follow in the Ottoman’s footsteps by centralizing their regime at Baghdad.
- The same British officials who had been successful in governing India were to be found in Iraq where they intended to govern as they had in India–directly, as overlords, and tolerating neither meaningful input nor opposition from locals.
- Arnold Wilson: British Commissioner in Baghdad from 1918–1920; believed that Iraq should be administered by an Arab government under the influence of British officials who would retain real control.
- After the 1920 Revolt of the Great Iraqi Revolution, the new British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill pushed for a new administration in Iraq.
- Decision to appoint Faisal Ibn Husayn as king in 1921 and the creation of the Kingdom of Iraq.
- The Red Line Agreement of 1928—together with the French, the United States begins to monopolize oil production for decades. The British knew they could not develop Iraq’s fields on their own, and the Americans understood that they had to rely on the British to maintain a strong stabilizing presence in Iraq if they equally wanted to exploit their oil fields.
The U.S. supported Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran solely to restore the peace and stability the Carter administration destroyed.
- U.S. intelligence helped Saddam’s Ba’ath Party seize power for the first time in 1963. Evidence suggests, however, that Saddam was on the CIA payroll as early as 1959, when he participated in a failed assassination attempt against Abd al-Karim Qassem.
- In the 1980s, the U.S. and Britain backed Saddam in the war against Iran, giving Iraq arms, money, satellite intelligence, and even chemical & bio-weapon precursors. As many as 90 U.S. military advisors supported Iraqi forces and helped pick targets for Iraqi air and missile attacks.
- U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and exploited that nation’s oil fields, which essentially opened to door to ISIS.
Funding Saddam’s Tyranny
- American intervention in Iraq resumed in the 1980s under the Reagan administration. According to then-Senior Director for Political-Military Affairs Howard Teicher, the CIA secretly dispersed armaments and hi-tech components to Iraq in its war with Iran (1980–1988) through false fronts and friendly third parties such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait.
- It also clandestinely encouraged rogue arms dealers and other private military companies to do the same.
- Despite reports that then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iran as early as 1983, the White House chose not to disclose them.
- Further evidence suggests that the CIA had even helped the Iraqis use mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on US satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.
The End Result:
- U.S.-backed assaults were pivotal in bringing Iran to the negotiating table: End of the Iran-Iraq War.
- Under the guise of defending against a potential strike of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein—weapons he no longer had, let alone had anything to do with 9/11—President George W. Bush started a war in an apparent attempt to occupy Iraq and profit from its oil fields. By removing Hussein and the Ba’athist’s thirty-five years of rule, the full force of U.S. military could be displayed in one of the most important states in the region, thus the rest of the Arab regimes could be made to submit fully to US hegemony.
- Lawlessness, social disharmony, and a theocracy ousting an American-imposed democratic government with ISIS.
- At the height of ISIS’ rampage through Iraq in the summer of 2014, over 5,000 Yazidis were massacred. Yazidi children were forcibly converted to Islam and taught Arabic, banned from speaking their native Kurdish. Thousands of Yazidi boys were starved, tortured and forced to fight for ISIS. Many former child soldiers today live with missing arms or legs.
- As many as 10,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State.
- ISIS has been essentially deposed, but it has become an international terrorist group with affiliates sponsoring terrorism—according to former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats: “ISIS…has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.”
- Fewer than half of the Christian families displaced who lived in the Nineveh Plain surrounding Mosul to the north and east have returned.
- The biggest prize of the Nineveh Plain is the provincial capital of Qaraqosh. By far the largest Christian town, it was home to over 11,000 Christian families before the ISIS invasion, nearly 60,000 people. Today, an estimated 25,650 have returned, less than half.
- U.S.-led reconstruction efforts have not been able to eliminate the main security threats to the Yazidi and Christian populations that come from the Iranian-backed Shi‘ite militias who ostensibly are supposed to protect them.
- As personally told to me by a young Yazidi student, Basma Alali, who studies English at the Catholic University of Erbil: “Arabs Islamists still see Yazidis as infidels, even some official members of the Iraqi government see us as infidels. Some of the ruling parties in the Iraqi government are Islamic extremists and they neglect Yazidis on a continuous basis.”
Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were still well over 1.5 million Christians in the country; today that number has fallen to less than 500,000 Christians due to persecution at the hands of ISIS and other Islamists. Not to mention, with the unprecedented economic crisis that has materialized in high unemployment rates and low paying jobs, Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities have found it more challenging that to live with dignity than their Muslim co-nationals.
In January of this year, the Iraqi parliament approved a draft bill “requiring the government to ask Washington to withdraw” American troops from the country. Despite the decision, the Washington is yet to remove all of its forces from Iraq. Recently, U.S. servicemen have been in fact moved, in small numbers, from bases in Iraq to Syria. However, these forces are actively replaced by staff from U.S. Private Military Companies providing armed combat or security services for financial gain.
The Iraqis I have come to know all tell me that they were not fans of Hussein. Yet it seems that after the U.S. intervention, going from an oppressive regime to a state of anarchy has not made matters any better.
This is not a criticism against the brave men and women who answered to call to help oust Islamic terrorists, nor is this an absolution of corrupt Iraqi government officials. Nevertheless, one cannot circumvent the American government’s “colonial” policy for the past decades, which is to fleece the country’s oil and its geographical position, which borders Iran, at the cost of Iraqis’ human dignity. And Trump’s pardons of the Blackwater war criminals is reflective of not just his administration but the overall U.S. stratagem in Iraq and the Middle East.
In fact, as reported by Middle East Monitor in September, Iraq has become increasingly important for U.S. operations since it is through Iraqi territories that it continues to loot oil from Syria’s Al-Jazeera region with the aim of depriving the Syrian state and Syrian people of the basic revenues necessary to improve the humanitarian situation, provide for livelihood needs and reconstruction.
Will the incoming Biden administration put a halt to some of these covert operations? It remains unclear what policy the president-elect will adopt on Iraq. He has, however, a long history of involvement in the oil-rich country, not to mention a controversial track record since the early 2000s that includes voting for the 2003 invasion when he was in the U.S. Senate., though during the presidential debates in January he acknowledged it was a mistake and has since then apologized to the Iraqi people.
N.B. I had mistakenly stated prior that William Odom was National Security Adviser to Ronald Reagan. He was director of the National Security Agency under Reagan.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University.
Sources not cited may be found in my book Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.