News & Events

ARTICLE: Who is to blame for Iraq’s problems?

By Sinan Antoon and Zaid Al-Ali,  July 22, 2014

THE WASHINGTON POST: The rise of the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and its recent military gains in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq have refocused attention on the situation in the country as it faces the threat of disintegration and the outbreak of another bloody civil war. But the debate, especially in U.S. mainstream media, is obsessed with individual culpability and finding a convenient villain (preferably an Iraqi). The most recent manifestations of that debate were the accusations and counter-accusations that were leveled against each other by two former U.S. officials, Ali Khedery and James Jeffrey, as well as a series of perverse statements by former vice president Dick Cheney.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been the target of choice. He is certainly responsible for the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, and there is much to fault and criticize in his policies. However, to understand the current situation’s genealogy one ought to look beyond individuals and consider dynamics and trends that predate the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Focusing on Maliki alone obscures the real culprit of Iraq’s woes: The pure and undiluted self-interest of long-standing U.S. policy toward the country, and the contempt for the right of Iraqis to live in their own country with dignity. In fact, that disregard runs so deep that U.S. policymakers have for decades failed to engage in adequate planning with regards to Iraq and to admit to any form of culpability when their actions on the ground destroyed countless lives.

To be sure, Saddam Hussein and his entourage are clearly principle culprits. The institutionalized militarization of Iraqi society and culture and the establishment of popular militias started as far back as 1980 and continued throughout the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). But even at that time, despite gross human rights violations and the use of chemical weapons in the battlefield and against civilians, the United States had already clearly chosen to sacrifice humanitarian interests at the altar of its own (perceived) security interests by providing generous financial and military support to the Iraqi regime.

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