A big PR story this week was the withdrawal of the last US combat troops from Iraq after a 7 1/2 yr combat mission. I say PR because there remain over 50,000 armed US troops in the country backed up by a huge military power. The big deal made of the final departure of 4th Stryker Brigade has more to do with political image management than a definitive US withdrawal from Iraq.
I think it was Gareth Porter at The Huffington Post who first said Iraq was a ‘war conceived and executed in deceit’.
Such a war, has in my humble opinion profoundly damaged the integrity and standing of the US and the UK. The jubilation of soldiers crossing the border into Kuwait was understandable (who wants to face the prospect of violent death every day?), but the cry ‘We’ve won! We’re going home’ from one soldier was surreal.
What has been won?
Yes, Saddam is gone. It’s far too soon to say ‘democracy’ has arrived, especially since it has been stalemated since the elections.
Over 106,000 Iraqis have been killed (and innumerable injured) along with over 4,400 US troops. The horrors of Abu Ghraib will remain etched in the memory of generations in the Middle East long after they are forgotten in the West.
But it was reading admiring reviews of Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick (just published in the UK and Ireland) that sums up for me the moral, political and military black hole at the heart of the US invasion.
The book tells the awful story of the murder of the Janabis, an Iraqi family, and the rape of their 14-year-old daughter by four US soldiers. The descent of members of B Company’s 1st Platoon into casual brutality and heinous war crimes brings Vietnam to mind. Edward Wilson in his review puts it this way
The soldiers did it because they had the power to do it; they didn’t need a reason why – almost the invasion of Iraq in microcosm.