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20 Mar, 2010 09:40

Seven years of mayhem in Iraq

It is seven years to the day since the US and its allies launched their invasion of Iraq. Initially hailed as a decisive coalition victory, that view was quickly dispelled as the insurgency spread.

Although US forces are now talking about leaving the country, unrest remains a grim reality there.

Seven years after United States forces invaded Iraq on the premise of finding weapons of mass destruction and toppling the infamous dictator Saddam Hussein, critics of the war are calling Operation Iraqi Freedom a failure.

“Basically, in Iraq today the entire nation is really suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. How can they not be?” asked Bill Hackwell, national organizer for the coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER). “After continuously having to live in an occupation, where the war is surrounding you, where you or your family has known somebody or a member of your family has been killed.”

The US-led invasion has come at a high price, with some reports putting the figure of civilian deaths at over one million since the war began in 2003.

While many Iraqis on the ground say they are happy Saddam Hussein’s regime is over, there is concern over how the US government handled the situation.

Iraqi writer and political analyst Nazhm al-Kasaab told RT that “Everything points to the fact that the occupation resulted in complete disappointment. It particularly concerns Baghdad, which used to be secure and which is an important city both for the Arabs and for the entire world. The war made the Iraqis flee the country in search of security.”

Since 2003 war has taken its toll on the capital city of Baghdad, but with recent elections promising a new government, the Obama administration has declared that it is time to pull out.

“I think the ultimate success of Iraq is going to depend on the people,” declared Lt. Darryl Frost of Joint Area Support Group in Baghdad. “Obviously we are still here in the middle of the election, it has taken a little while to count these votes, but as long as the Iraqi people feel their voices were heard in this latest election, then I would consider that a success for us as we continue to draw down.”

At the forward operating base Prosperity in the center of Baghdad, right in the heart of it all, things are different to what they were seven years ago when the US first got involved in Iraq. In fact, the people there say their mission is entirely different.

“Right now we are really just transitioning and the Iraqis really are in control,” Lt. Darryl Frost stated. “Here in the International Zone where we are today, they are in charge of the entry control points, the access points that actually come into this place, there is still a little bit of US presence on those checkpoints, but we are continuing to draw down as we speak today.”

While areas like the International Zone in central Baghdad are fortified and secure, there are scattered areas on the outskirts of the city and in the disputed borders between Arab areas and Kurdistan where violence is still prevalent. Because of this, not all Iraqis believe the Americans should leave so quickly, hoping that US money will help stabilize the country after the troops have gone.

Security and intelligence chief of Kurdistan Masrour Barzani believes that “Some sort of US presence in the country may be necessary. I am not talking about numbers, but the symbolic presence of the US in the country so that will help and give confidence to the Iraqis to build up their capacity.”

However, there is skepticism as to whether the US will be able to let go of Iraq at all.

“Americans brought to the Iraqis only suffering, destruction and political mayhem,” blamed writer and political analyst Saadi al-Sabah. “It is absolutely obvious that the Americans will not pull out from Iraq. Iraq boasts vast riches; that is why the Americans will stay in Iraq for a long time.”

Meanwhile, Zayd Alisa, political analyst, believes the situation in Iraq is slowly changing and thinks American troops “will move out of Iraq.”

“The security situation in Iraq is actually slowly but surely improving, the real power – political power – is slowly but surely shifting from the hands of Americans to the hands of Iraqi politicians,” he added.

The intertaining war

Mainstream media coverage of the conflict in Iraq has received almost as much criticism as the war itself in the US.

Independent filmmaker and blogger Danny “The News Dissector” Schechter says American TV channels often just provide the official version of events, forcing viewers to give up on the news and turn to entertainment.

“The networks tend to march in lockstep with the government. In America they used to criticize soviet television for a ‘party line’ – this is a [sort of] ‘party line’ too. They narrow the range of the debate,” Schechter exclaimed.

“We saw during the dramatic Iraq War almost everybody selling war, rather than [talking] about the war,” he said.

“It is dangerous because the Americans are not learning from the television; they get their views reinforced,” evaluated Danny Schechter, also adding that “in that environment, a cartoon network seems like a pretty good idea.”

Texas-based journalist and author Dahr Jamail shared with RT that the US mainstream media's coverage of the occupation of Iraq fails to draw people's attention to the real cost of the invasion.

“It is easy for people [in the US] to forget about those wars, because American corporate media does not keep those wars in people’s consciousness.”

For them, Dahr Jamail said, the war ended with the “Mission Accomplished” speech George W. Bush gave on an aircraft carrier.

“There is no attention paid to the cost of the war, to the people of Iraq, to the US military, financially, economically and in numerous other ways. For a lot of that, the corporate media is to blame,” Jamail added.