Mar 18, 2013
U.S. public officials and the news media have barely mentioned the fact that this is the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They still try to pretend that the official U.S. pull-out in December 2011 put an end to the war.
Nothing is further from the truth.
The U.S. military presence in Iraq remains massive. The U.S. Embassy is the biggest in the world. This embassy controls over 36,000 private contractors, or mercenaries, as well as a steadily beefed up number of agents from the CIA and other intelligence agencies, who work closely with elite Iraqi units, specially trained by U.S. forces.
These forces are first of all guarding the big international oil companies now operating in Iraq. These companies’ profits from Iraqi oil increased tremendously after the U.S. war and occupation, a war that was very much “for oil.” Over the last few years, these companies have ramped up oil production in their frenzied quest for more profits. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Iraqi oil production reached output of 3 million barrels per day, its highest output since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Iraq now has surpassed Iran as OPEC’s second largest producer for the first time since the 1980s. The IEA also found that Iraq’s natural gas reserves offer huge potential for these companies.
To safeguard the flow of these profits, the U.S. has helped boost the Iraqi dictatorship of Nouri al-Maliki, along with the million-man security force, the army and secret police and their secret prisons and torture chambers. But given how the U.S. played the different ethnic and religious groups off against each other to gain domination over Iraq, the country remains very much torn apart by rival gangs, tribal chiefs and religious leaders. These rivalries operate both inside and outside the government.
The conflict between the three main communities – Shia, Sunni and Kurd – is deepening to a point just short of civil war. What’s more, the war in Syria next door is feeding into Iraq’s sectarian divisions. The opposition Syrian rebels are largely Sunni, while Bashar al-Assad’s regime is dominated by Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam. At the beginning of March, 42 Syrian soldiers loyal to Assad who had fled into Iraq were ambushed and killed, along with 11 Iraqi policemen, by Sunni gunmen.
Thus, Iraq is one of the most violent places on earth, in terms of bombings, assassinations and kidnappings. This violence is not just political. All the years of war and deprivation have steadily eroded civil society. The slightest misunderstanding or altercation can escalate into a tribal or gangland fight.
Iraq remains in ruins. More than 60 billion dollars in U.S. reconstruction funds were spent in Iraq, as were tens of billions more from the oil revenues. But little or nothing has been rebuilt – except for fortress-like police stations and military installations. The rest of the reconstruction money disappeared into the pockets of big international companies and their Iraqi lackeys. The streets of Basra, the center of the Iraqi oil industry, and Baghdad, the capital, are still flooded by raw sewage. Goats pick at garbage strewn in streets and vacant lots.
The country continues to lack the basics: drinkable water, electricity, sanitary provisions, health care, education.
Most of the population remains mired in abject poverty. Officially, one-half of the workforce remains either unemployed or underemployed. Even those with a job often obtain it by bribery. According to Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement, there are still over one million internally displaced people in Iraq, a product of the massive sectarian violence from the 2006-07 period, with another 100,000 still in Syria and Jordan. Most of them live on almost nothing, with no support from the government or international agencies.
In other words, the U.S. war and occupation have turned Iraq into a typical oil state, similar in some ways to Nigeria, with vast amounts of wealth coming out of the ground siphoned off by big international companies, surrounded by corruption, impoverishment and war.
Yes, officials in the U.S. have every reason to avoid mentioning the tenth anniversary of its deadly quest.