Tag: Al Qaeda

Missing Morals: How a Single Story Leads Us Towards War

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

When crafting important documents and speeches, leaders have the difficult task of unifying a country around them. Some notable and widely successful examples of such include Nelson Mandela’s famous “I Am Prepared to Die” speech, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In both cases, ordinary citizens took the words to heart, seeking radical change to an oppressive system.

However, leaders are also capable of using this influence for negative events. President Obama’s speech at MacDill Air Force Base, “Remarks by the President on the Administration’s Approach to Counterterrorism”, serves as a sinister example of how a single story can be used for the sake of harm. By taking advantage of his platform as president, Obama was able to reach an audience unlike any other; even the most popular news networks and nongovernmental figures have a cap on ideologues supporting them, but President Obama was able to truly reach all of America. Without a doubt, the president is guilty of the same concept: creating a single story. By painting Middle Eastern countries as aggressors, and the United States as a bringer of justice, the president created a story that dangerously ignored the real truths of American imperialism.

The Danger of a Single Story

Recalling her past in a brilliant Ted Talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes an excellent note of the risk of a single story. She defines a single story as defining a group of people as “only one thing, over and over again”. This means that a single story exists when an individual applies one stereotype about a group to the whole group, thus making often-faulty generalizations about that group as a whole.

In her case, existing biases and prejudices led to fundamental misunderstandings about critical parts of her identity and that of those around her. In college, for example, her roommate believed her to be very misfortunate due to her African origins. This, of course, was not the case, as Adichie came from a middle-class family that had seen some exposure to Western culture. Though not catastrophic in nature, the misunderstandings present, such as these stereotypes, clearly inhibited her roommate’s ability to make an informed judgment about her. The concept of a single story and subsequent dangers thereof are clearly present in the words of President Obama’s speech.

Misleading Information

To begin, the president outlines some particularly alarming, and often misleading statistics about his time in office. Specifically, he declares that in his tenure, there “has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans.” On a purely technical level, this is not a lie. But as Adichie explains, a single story deals with incomplete, rather than false, information. In this case, the single-story present here is incredibly biased towards American interests and fails to take into account American flaws. Specifically, it leaves out the important moral distinction that the United States was, in many cases, the source of violence.

At the time of this speech, in 2016, the United States had ground troops actively fighting in five countries. President Obama had recently authorized drone strikes in an additional three. Is it any wonder that, when the American government is actively killing civilians and soldiers alike across eight countries on two continents, some of them would want to fight back?

Acting in Self Defense

After all, not one of these outbreaks of war is in the United States. In the history of the world, seldom has a people simply laid down their weapons and allowed a foreign aggressor to take full control of their land. Rather, they fight back when invaded. Yes, that means that they may have a desire to kill Americans, which is morally reprehensible in and of itself. However, the fact that the Americans were in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place significantly takes away the ethos of President Obama’s implicit suggestion that the United States was the real victim.

Considering that Iraq was not behind 9/11, and the military never found any weapons of mass destruction in the country, it is more than apparent that, in this case especially, the United States was an aggressor, not a defender.

An Opponent of War?

On the contrary, some may state that President Obama, unlike President Bush, who approved the war in Iraq, opposed the Iraq War. Yet, this point similarly portrays the same single, incomplete story. Upon further scrutiny, both dissolve. As for the first point, it is entirely true that Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War in 2002. The important distinction to make, however, is that he opposed it as a private citizen, and upon entering the Senate in 2005, and eventually the Presidency in 2009, his opposition quickly faded.

By 2007, then-Senator Obama voted against a measure that would give $120 billion in funding for the Iraq War, but then supported a bill that gave the same amount of money towards it with a troop withdrawal timetable. By now, his tolerance of war, even temporarily, begins to become more clear. And as stated above, the president actually increased the number of Middle Eastern countries in which the United States military was present, despite the fact that none of those additional countries had attacked Americans on their home soil. Thus, his temporary opposition to one particular war, while in a position of no power, is entirely inconsequential when compared to his actions in office, which overwhelmingly supported and furthered wars.

Not All Muslims

Admittedly, President Obama’s speech also incorporates what appears to be a call to avoid a single story of Muslims. Explaining how important it is to ignore the stereotype that Muslims are terrorists, he brilliantly states, “If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative.” This point is without any structural or moral flaw and therefore is perfectly valid.

Furthermore, he mentions the importance of recognizing that there are “over a billion Muslims around the world” who are not violent, which is also true. But, it is still not an adequate refutation, as it addresses an entirely different issue. The president was not guilty of stereotyping Muslims as terrorists; rather, he is guilty of stereotyping all who shoot at American troops in the Middle East as terrorists.

The president still defines the term ‘terrorist’ too broadly, but instead of including all Muslims in the definition, he includes all Middle Eastern citizens acting in self-defense against American imperialism. However, one cannot logically consider someone acting in true self-defense to be a terrorist. Following that measure, we would have to define the Founding Fathers as terrorists, too. By failing to exclude this defining factor from his statement, President Obama once more does not take into account the immoralities of his actions and those of his troops.

American Interests

Surely, it would run diametrically opposed to the interests of President Obama, and of his country, for him to use such harsh words against America. It is understandable, though not excusable, that he crafted language in this particular way, in order to get Americans to view his actions through the American stereotype of defending freedom. Nonetheless, it is absolutely essential, when seeking to avoid more casualties than are absolutely necessary, to recognize that a single story does not hold all of the information necessary to make full judgments.

Unfortunately, the above example is not the sole occurrence of the president’s reliance on a single story to mask the true nature of events. Throughout the speech, he uses the same strategy multiple times. The next major occurrence relates to a clear contradiction on the function of both the presidency and the institution of war. In the speech, President Obama states, “The most solemn responsibility for any president is keeping the American people safe. In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way.”

There is a quite clear, albeit likely intentional contradiction in this statement. Simply put, sending American people in danger does not keep American people safe. Going beyond this, however, the narrative of a single story once again becomes clear. As President of the United States, it was his job to guard the interests of his own people. However, it was also his role to follow the outlines of the Geneva Convention, which critically condemn the killing of civilian lives, regardless of national origin.

Were We at Fault?

In order for Obama’s words to paint an accurate picture, rather than one diluted side of the story, then the averted civilian death toll resulting from his actions must surpass the actual one that followed them. In Iraq alone, the civilian death toll from 2009 to 2016 was over 82,000. Admittedly, some of these deaths were due to suicide bombings, but such a factor does not begin to account for every casualty. Once again, it is critical to note that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that the nation played no role in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Thus, it is extremely improbable, given the clear military superiority of the United States by both budget and nuclear capability, that the Middle Eastern country could have possibly inflicted anywhere near the same number of civilians casualties as America did to it. It, therefore, follows necessarily that these words, though not untrue, are incomplete and rely once more on the American stereotype. Where he may have been looking out for American interests (though even this much requires rectifying a glaring contradiction), he fails to mention the equal interests of the lives of those who suffered under the might of the United States. In doing so, morality simply slips away from the discussion.

The Fight Against Al-Qaeda

Additionally, President Obama created a single story when speaking of his efforts to fight Al-Qaeda. Later in the speech, he boldly claims that “core Al-Qaeda – the organization that hit us on 9/11 – is a shadow of its former self.” Obviously, this is meant to portray Al-Qaeda, the group legitimately responsible for 9/11, as the enemy, and he is absolutely correct in placing this blame here. But do his actions regarding the group match this sentiment? Appallingly, such is not the case. Not only does the United States not unilaterally oppose Al-Qaeda, but instead, in Yemen, the two effectively fight on the same side.

Since 2015, towards the end of President Obama’s second term in office, war broke out between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels, who sought to overthrow it. Not long after, Saudi Arabia joined in with a multinational coalition to fight on the side of the incumbent Hadi government. This coalition has since bombed hundreds of civilians, including children on a school bus. Among one of the countries giving the coalition aid in the form of money, weapons, vehicles, and mid-air support on drone strikes is the United States.

Teaming Up with Terrorists

However, this is not the only form of assistance that the United States has given. Beginning in 2016, Al-Qaeda entered the conflict, also on the side of the Hadi: the same side as the United States. Over a span of two years, the American military, first under the direction of President Obama, arranged agreements with Al-Qaeda.

On numerous occasions, according to an Associated Press study, the United States paid the terrorist group to leave cities in Yemen. In other instances, they allowed them to keep looted weapons and money while retreating, even calling off drone strikes against the militants. President Obama, as well as any other government official, has yet to justify these actions. In fact, he has yet to speak out about them. His actions, without a doubt, only strengthen Al-Qaeda, allowing them an increased presence in the Middle East and an increased ability to attack the United States. But, in the address, President Obama makes no mention of this.

Though the total influence of Al-Qaeda may have lessened in recent years, the full story reveals that the president himself oversaw, or at least failed to prevent, his own military arming and protecting the very terrorists he alleges to fully oppose. This, clearly, avoids the full story of American intervention, instead only focusing on the common belief of Americans as victims, and those in the Middle East as aggressors. In reality, though, it is vice versa in this situation.

A Dangerous Story

Certainly, President Obama’s 2016 remarks on counterterrorism create a dangerously one-sided story, creating additional, undeserved sympathy for Americans due to a lack of the full story. Where Adichie suffers due to the creation of single stories, so do tens of thousands of Middle Eastern civilians. Perhaps, with a full representation of the story, and a path away from unjust stereotyping and overgeneralization, some of these individuals would not need to perish.

Yet, there is still hope. Full stories exist in multitudes, and can often rectify biased or prejudiced accounts of events. In a world of war, rejecting single stories, seeking many perspectives, and fairly applying them may truly bring peace.


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Remembering the Consequences of Tyranny on 9/11

By Josh Hughes | United States

Today is the 17th anniversary of one of the most tragic events to take place on American soil: The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 men and women lost their lives that day, and over 6,000 more were injured. The world after that day would never be the same. Americans and foreigners alike fell under new abuses of power that had never seen.

The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001

In reaction to the attacks, the Bush administration signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law in October of 2001. Officially the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, the bill greatly strengthened the surveillance power of the federal government. It allowed for credit card purchases to be tracked, extended the use of wiretapping, and monitored emails and Web searches. It also, under Section 216, states that probable cause was not needed to obtain this information. The government simply had to state they’d likely use it for a criminal investigation. Section 218 said that the government no longer had to certify that the surveillance was for foreign intelligence. They only had to say it was for a “significant purpose.”

The big issue most people had with this bill was that it allowed for seizures of information without warrants. This is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Section 215 stated that the target did not have to be notified of seizures either. Another issue was the fact that documents and records could be seized based on keywords. People could be surveilled based off what they searched or said. Opponents of this claimed this was a violation of the First Amendment.

The main point of controversy came in 2013, with Edward Snowden’s release of the NSA’s overstep. He uncovered that secret courts gave the NSA permission to take the phone records of millions of Americans in the form of metadata. He also uncovered that the NSA could request access to the servers of tech companies. These companies technically don’t have to, but are legally compelled to comply. This information was shocking to the world, as the public didn’t know this was happening. This sparked the reform debate in 2015.

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet-level branch of the federal government that began as a direct result of 9/11. Its job is to “secure the nation from [any] threats we face.” With such an ambiguous duty, it’s no surprise that they have often come under scrutiny. They are notoriously wasteful, as audits have revealed they’ve wasted nearly $15 billion in failed contracts. They have even been accused of misusing government credit cards. This doesn’t begin to touch on its civil liberties overreach, however.

The DHS also is responsible for the TSA, one of the worst subdepartments in American history.

Homeland Security uses a system called ADVISE as a data mining tool. This first came under fire after being used on regular individuals without proper privacy measures in place. It was also discovered that it’s not very effective, and usually misidentifies people as terroristic threats. Hand-in-hand with the last point, centers of terrorism prevention called Fusion Centers are notorious for misidentifying people as terrorist threats. They have also been known to be used for unintended purposes, mainly spying on individuals that don’t need to be spied on.

All in all, the DHS is not only a threat to the civil liberties of Americans. It’s also a prime example of government bureaucracy and wasteful spending. It’s an unnecessary branch of the federal government that was only put in place because of 9/11.

Guantanamo Bay and the Abuse of Enemy Prisoners

Guantanamo Bay was set up as a detention center for terrorists in early 2002. The executive branch of the federal government claims the camp was set up in a part of Cuba. This would mean it’s not subject to typical American laws, the laws of the prisoners’ respective countries, or the Geneva Convention. They claimed the prisoners were receiving fair treatment. However, they came under heavy criticism when reports surfaced that prisoners were being both physically and sexually abused.

The main controversies surrounding the facility were not only where the prisoners unlawfully abused. Some were held without ever being charged for a crime. Prisoners were waterboarded, beaten, forced to engage in sexual activities, and force-fed. President Obama called for the detention center to be shut down in 2009. Yet, it’s still open today.

Modern Day Tyrannical Government

Historically, dictatorships have arisen in times of crisis. From the Romans to Abraham Lincoln to FDR, the strength and size of the government drastically increase during difficult times for the country. September 11 was not an exception. The government took new measures and violated technological rights of the people. This was a practice that hadn’t been seen before to this point. While the effects of government spying are always present in our lives, the ones that are a result of 9/11 are probably the most prevalent in this age of technology.

It is important on this day of reflection and remembrance to realize that we the people cannot allow our rights to be given up in times of hardship. As Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We live in a reality where we are always subject to be watched or listened to. It’s scary and troubling to think about a constant state of government monitoring, yet most accept it without batting an eyelash. A common phrase we hear is “if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.” This simply isn’t true. We shouldn’t be okay with giving up our rights in order for “protection” from the government. We must remember the American values in times of crisis, and refuse to relinquish our essential liberties.


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The Endless War – Iraq 15 Years Later

Spencer Kellogg | @TheNewTreasury

What I recall is a camera perched high above the desert city of Baghdad. Rattling from a ground that quaked beneath heavy artillery, the early morning images showed a nation I had never set foot in, being bombarded by our military.

I was 16 then. We have been in an endless war ever since.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 12.59.58 PM

Source Washington Post

7,000 miles and a world away from the terrifying consequences of another costly interventionist war on behalf of ‘peace and freedom’, we all sat glued to our television sets. It was March of 2003 when we invaded and only weeks later, Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square.

We had won.

On May 3, 2003, less than 90 days after the first rockets struck Baghdad, George Bush triumphantly stood atop the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared our troops the victor.

It is 2018 and we are still in Iraq

Veteran and US Senate candidate from Michigan, Brian Ellison, described his experience serving in Iraq as such:

I remember the time I had to go out and help clean up the mess after a massive car bomb exploded just outside the gate killing dozens and wounding many many more. It was devastating. I’ll never forget the callousness of the American contractors that were responsible for removing the human remains and the pictures that they relished sharing. And the smell of burnt flesh. It was awful. These people were simply waiting in line to come to work for the occupying forces one minute, and their bodies were ripped apart and burnt the next minute. The death that we caused, that’s what I remember.

*****

The official narrative surrounding the Second Gulf War has dramatically changed over the years. Labeled an “Axis Of Evil” terror threat by the Bush oligarchy, Iraq was a war justified by the lies of war-hungry government who willingly preyed on the fear of a psychologically depressed public after the events of September 11th, 2001. It didn’t matter that 11 of the 15 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia (and that none of the hijackers were Iraqi). It didn’t matter that asleep at the wheel taxpayers had supported Hussein’s reign for whole decades of the 20th century. And it sure as hell didn’t seem to matter that Bush’s father had made the same ghastly and arrogant mistakes only 12 years prior when a US-led coalition attacked Iraq in the First Gulf War.

In the months that followed the Saudi-led terrorist attack on 9/11, Bush would reach an incredible 85% approval rating and few seemed spirited enough to question his serpent-like gaze at the oil-rich desert kingdom across the Atlantic. Bush officials pounded the proverbial desk as they lectured Americans about the catastrophic ramifications facing our nation if we did not act swiftly.

The leader and nation that we propped up and aided were now made the spear end of our bayonet. Hussein, once seen as an ally and treated as a King, was now pointed to as an example of a brutal modern dictator. The Bush administration adamantly suggested there was cold hard evidence proving that Hussein had developed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s). In the wake of the deadliest terror attack in our nation’s history, Americans wanted blood and were passive enough to accept any middle eastern sounding country that our officials labeled dangerous.

In reality, our misadventures in Iraq (and the Middle East at large) date much further back. In a long-standing dispute between Iraq & Iran that boiled over in the summer heat of 1980, The United States sent billions in economic and military aid to Hussein. It was during the US-funded proxy war that Hussein used chemical weapons to murder over one million Iranian troops and citizens. Whether they knew it or not, the American taxpayer provided the cash for that terrorism.

Hussein, since his first murderous day in office, was always known to be a ruthless, tyrannical dictator. He was a man that was willing to use torture as a device of control and his psychopathy led to untold death and misery throughout the region. The late Christopher Hitchens, a surprising proponent of the invasion, detailed just how terrifying Saddam’s regime was in his narration of video footage from the Ba’ath led coup in 1979.

Four years later, in 1983, Ronald Reagan would send a special envoy to meet and broker deals with the Hitler-like authoritarian. Included in that convoy was Bush’s Secretary of Defense to be, Donald Rumsfeld, who smiled eagerly for cameras as he shook hands with the Iraqi leader. 20 years later, Rumsfeld would be a leading advocate for war with the man he once glowingly shared greetings.

What changed?

As with most of The United State’s 20th-century expansionism, it revolved around oil. By the time George Bush Sr. took office, Iraq owed close to 15 billion dollars in debt from the war with Iran. Meanwhile, Kuwait had become a major producer of petroleum and threatened Hussein’s tight grip on the economic reigns of the Middle East. Over two days in early August of 1990, Iraqi forces swiftly captured Kuwait.

The coup was condemned by world leaders. Outside of Palestine, every traditional Iraqi ally demanded Hussein remove his troops from Kuwait. He refused. After the UN Security Council passed Resolution 660, Hussein’s army faced the consequences of a unified global army. The Iraqi Air Force was destroyed and within two months, a US-led coalition had driven Saddam back across the border.

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Ground Invasion of 1st Gulf War

Sensing Hussein’s weakness, George Bush SR pitched a coup from an ocean away. Speaking on February 15, 1991, Bush called for an uprising within Iraq to overthrow the Hussein regime:

There is another way for the bloodshed to stop: and that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations’ resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations. – George Bush SR

In the year that followed, US officials would stoke the fire of revolution but never fully commit to defeating Saddam on his own lands. While Bush SR and his administration helped fund the rebellious factions within Iraq, our military stood down as Hussein decimated the poorly organized revolution in the South. As Saddam defeated the revolutionaries, Bush SR distanced himself and The United States from any perceived involvement with the uprising:

I made clear from the very beginning that it was not an objective of the coalition or the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. So I don’t think the Shiites in the south, those who are unhappy with Saddam in Baghdad, or the Kurds in the north ever felt that the United States would come to their assistance to overthrow this man… I have not misled anybody about the intentions of the United States of America, or has any other coalition partner, all of whom to my knowledge agree with me in this position. – George Bush SR

In the aftermath of war, an international embargo was placed on the Kingdom in 1993 after Hussein refused to comply with disarmament demands. Over the course of the next decade, the elite members of Iraqi society remain wealthy while the majority of the nation’s people grew poor and turned to radical sects of religion. During the next 10 years, a dark cloud permeated the country and Hussein ruled with an iron fist as the world watched from afar.

*****

Astute historians will note that intervention without concrete ideas for a controlled state’s future inevitably leads to chaos and destruction. It is said that FDR’s administration spent over three years planning what do with Germany after WWII. What is most striking about the Bush administration was their lack of foresight in organizing a post-war Iraq. The poor oversight was indicative not only of a leadership hell-bent on war but a salivating public. Outside of a small opposition that included Ron Paul & Bernie Sanders, most citizens of the United States were blood hungry, ready to fight and willing to ask questions later.

In the chaotic aftermath of the initial strike, Iraqis freely looted the cities of Iraq as US military stood down on orders from the Pentagon. It is estimated that over 12 billion dollars of antiques, art, and building material were stolen or destroyed by the Iraqi public. The administration did not care about the historical or artistic nature of the Iraqi people and this lack of foresight paid dearly as Iraqis lost trust in our mission. The Iraq National Museum contained some of the earliest artifacts in the history of mankind and we did nothing to stop the destruction.

Rumsfeld joked about the startling images that showed the museum and city in chaos.

Meanwhile, US officials were lining up their chosen replacement for the governance of Iraq. Ahmed Chalabi, a founder of the Iraqi National Congress was selected. Chalabi was a well-known asset in Iraq and in the run-up to the war, it was his information on WMD’s and Al-Qaeda insurgents that was relied upon to stoke the fire within the American populace. In the years that followed the war, much of this information was proven to be fabricated and many believe Chalabi was working as an informant for the Iranians.

If it wasn’t obvious already, soon the US military came to find out that there was a decades-long civil war brewing beneath the surface of Iraq. By April, US forces were caught in the middle of a bloody war between Sunni and Shiite that boiled over in the lawlessness of post-Saddam Iraq. With no police force and 100,000 criminals released from jail before the invasion, Iraq quickly deteriorated into a complete mess. Our army was caught in a free for all without the proper intelligence about the society and how to help.

Although Hussein was condemned for the brutal tactics his regime instituted, the power structure of his grey empire kept warring factions in place during the 30 years he controlled Iraq. Without a dictator in charge, Iraqis turned to the mosques and Muqtada Al-Sadr rose to power. Against the ‘well-laid plans’ of the United States Military, Al-Sadr created a militia and took over the southern part of Iraq. The war had gotten wider.

To make matters worse, the Bush Administration placed Paul Bremmer in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremmer did not speak Arabic, had never served in the military and had no prior experience with middle east or post-war reconstruction. Bremmer’s decisions while in charge of the CPA had massive unintended consequences that furthered the war and entrenched the enemy.

First, Bremmer set out to destroy Saddam’s Ba’ath party of Iraq. His method of De-Ba’athification created immediate instability as almost all of the government and infrastructure of Iraq was built through the Ba’ath party. To live in Hussein’s Iraq was to be a Ba’ath member and Bremmer’s move turned middle-class families into an impoverished class without the means to find work or make money. This sewed resentment and anger towards our army.

The policy destroyed the Iraqi government, education, and economy. It purged men and women who had joined the Bath party just to survive during Saddam’s regime. Within only months of occupation close to 30,000-50,000 people that were exercised from life. If that wasn’t enough, Bremmer made the mess worse by disbanding the Iraqi military full stop.

Under CPA #2, Bremmer and council decided to disband the Iraq military. 500,000 men were made unemployed overnight and instead of helping to prevent an insurgency, these men created one. Ten’s of thousands of Iraq families depended on the military for their salary and unemployment quickly skyrocketed to over 50%. Before they knew it, US military wasn’t so much fighting a war that could be won but surviving a war that couldn’t.

Danny Wolf, Founder of The Sentinel, served during The Iraq War:

I remember being 18 years old and scared shitless in Fallujah. And I remember learning a hard lesson at a young age…there aren’t always good decisions. Just decisions.

*****

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Map Of Bahgdad Source BBC

With or without the United State’s involvement, Iraq was prime for a catastrophic disaster. Quasi-ruling over disparate peoples became the work of private contractors outsourced to American third-party mercenaries. In 2007, the private military company Blackwater indiscriminately murdered 17 Iraqi citizens in Nisour Square. The disaster set back already strained Iraqi and American relationships.

While officials nor the media could ever find evidence of the alleged WMD’s, there was plenty of evidence that showed the feudalist methods American soldiers were using to gain information from prisoners. The news media centered on the detention centers and torture policies administered that ran markedly against our own country’s faith in justice and dignity. Videos leaked of guards humiliating and attacking innocent prisoners and the debate regarding Iraq quickly turned to our own undemocratic values.

As the administration fell under the watchful gaze of a critical media and a now frustrated American public, all hell broke loose in Fallujah. One of the largest cities in Iraq, Fallujah became the major point of the Sunni Insurgency.  In the fighting that ensued, over 70% of the city was destroyed and nearly 100,000 citizens displaced.

On December 15, 2005. Muktada Al-Sadr’s and his United Iraqi Alliance win nearly half the seats in Iraq’s national government. Rumsfeld is replaced by Robert Gates and the staggering number of killings and kidnappings rise into the hundreds per day. The country we had once called friends had been reduced to rubble and confusion.

By the time Obama was elected in 2008, the war had shifted and Iraq was now the central front of Al Qaeda terrorism. Whatever gains had been made in the valleys of Afghanistan no longer seemed to matter. It was Iraq, all or nothing. After an estimated $500 billion spent on war and more than $1 trillion spent in economic overhead, Iraq became the war we lost both ideologically and economically.

Linda Lyons, a retired security manager, watched the war from afar:

What comes to my mind is the Chapel at our college. He was outraged when it happened. I remember having a long conversation with him about it. He thought that you couldn’t change countries like that and that it had gone on for 100 years. He thought we didn’t have any business going into Iraq.

I thought we were going to go in and help. Maybe I was stupid.

*****

During the ripple effect years that cascaded throughout the Middle East as we plundered Iraq, old enemies were empowered. Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia both benefited economically from the war while growing their ideological reach in a region of the world that had no reason to trust the Americans. As the mosques filled, terrorists found refuge in the divisive ideology of radical Islam and whatever communication we had attempted to build was lost.

Today, the circus continues. We are still lingering on the deserted plains of Iraq and just this past month, President Trump attacked Syria after Assad allegedly poisoned rebels with chemical weapons. At some point, the American citizens will come to realize that these are wars not meant to be won. They are corporate wars that are meant to be endless with the individual taxpayer footing the bill.

Iraq is not a singular lesson but the continuation of wartime policy that has seen our country buck its anti-interventionist foundations for the policing of others in places thousands of miles away. Morally and strategically these wars harm our perception as the beacon of freedom for the world to aspire to and The United States has become known today as a hawkish war power that treads on the lives and sovereignty of others without a second thought. We have failed to preserve the enlightenment envisioned by our founding fathers and the painful recognition of our lost wars will be a history we cannot undue.

Image Source Wikimedia