I’ve found myself in conversations about the differences and similarities of the US invasion of Iraq and Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. Usually in the context of who are we to tell Russia what to do in the name of their own national security. Or is what we did in Iraq really as bad as what’s happening in Ukraine? That seems to be the spectrum. The differences are complex but to me both of these wars should be considered illegal. And let’s just hope that Putin’s illegal foray into Ukraine turns out to be much less damaging in the long run than Bush’s illegal foray into Iraq.
If it wasn’t obvious I opposed the first Iraq war, the sanctions, and the second Iraq war. If better people write our history, the meddling in Iran and Iraq affairs, the coup in Iran, the military build up of Saddam, Desert Storm, the immoral and devastating sanctions and the invasion of 2003 and its aftermath will go down as one of the most egregious and deadly assaults on a population in recent history. Instead it’s barely acknowledged in America. Most Americans don’t even remember the sanctions or thought much about them at the time. And while the invasion should have been illegal, and while it also created the largest worldwide anti-war movement since Vietnam, the western powers basically allowed it to happen. Very much unlike Ukraine it seems.
In a better world it’s possible that the western governments might have reacted to American aggression in Iraq with the same force they are now able to muster against Russia. But not likely. Years of indifference to the Iraqi population, once considered the most secular and modern of middle eastern states at least by western standards, was a sign that the same racism that brought us colonialism still existed in the western powers enough to think reducing a country to rubble was somehow justified.
It’s also important to note that we’ve lost the information war at home when it comes to our treatment of Iraq. There was no intelligence failure. That’s a myth repeated endlessly in our national rhetoric. The truth is our intelligence agencies knew Iraq was not involved in 9/11 and was also not a real threat. The Bush administration bullied our own intelligence agencies into releasing enough cherry picked assessments to give them cover for war. And then Team Bush turned around and pinned the blame on them for their cooperation. Of course the selling of the Iraq war and it’s rebranded history required the help of FOX News, this was the genesis of the FOX News/Republican party partnership that has caused so much trouble ever since. So the next time you hear the invasion of Iraq being called America’s biggest foriegn intelligence failure just remember that’s a homegrown myth put in place to give cover to our own war criminals. And a great example of taking control of the narrative and erasing history, practically in real time.
People have also largely forgotten the Iraq war protests. While the western governments mostly lined up behind America to sanctify the invasion of Iraq, there was a significant amount of every population, including here in America, that fiercely opposed that war and took to the streets in protest. In the last few months leading up to the March 2003 invasion tens of millions of people took to the streets in thousands of cities across the world. Unfortunately, that was not enough to stop America from setting off the worst refugee crisis since WWII, at that time anyway. As well as beginning a series of wars that would lead to half a million civilian deaths. Already Putin has caused the quickest mass migration since WWII, let’s hope the death toll doesn’t also surpass the numbers we saw in Iraq.
So it’s comforting to see people all over the world speaking out against Russia. And while I think there’s a rather disgusting reality to why Ukraine is viewed more sympathetically by western governments than Iraq was, I still welcome it. Just because our government was able to get away with something as heinous as the Iraq war, and the war on terror, doesn’t mean we should look the other way when Russia does something atrocius. And yes the hypocrisy of the rhetoric coming from American officials is so thick you can cut it with a knife. I had hoped that one day it would be common knowledge that we allowed our elected officials to cause so much death and mayhem that we would vow to never let it happen again. But that didn’t happen. And I’ll endlessly point it out until it does, or more likely, I’m not able to anymore. But I’ll also speak out against any government that does the same.
So yes, let’s stop Putin before he causes the level of chaos, death and destruction the Bush administration was able to get away with. The world would be better off today if we had stopped Bush then and it will be better off tomorrow if we stop Putin now.