By Ali Al-Sarraf ICH 3/26/07

The war on Iraq was not carried out on the basis of mere strategic interests. No strategies or interests could explain the level of death and destruction that Iraq had undergone ever since the Gulf War in 1991. If one were to assume that the US led invasion in 2003 is a continuation of that war, then Iraq could be said to have suffered more horrors than any country had, including the countries that were involved the WWII.

We are talking about at least two and a half million Iraqi civilians who had met their fate, where 750,000 of them were killed during the last four years. That figure represents 10% of Iraq’s population. In addition, you have over three and a half million Iraqis displaced (two million of them fled outside the country while the other1.5 million lost their homes and became displaced inside their own country). That is 14% of the population.

Even when the Nazis brought destruction to Europe during WWII, no country alone suffered such human losses. Although the Soviet Union at the time, who suffered the biggest number of victims, had lost 20 million lives (military and civilian), that figure represents only 10% of the population which was 197 million in 1941.

The tight sanctions that Iraq had faced for over 12 years were also unprecedented in modern history, affecting such basic needs as food and medicine. The aim of those sanctions was not only to strangle the country’s economy but also to pressure Iraqi society, too. The sanctions, which reduced many segments of the population into poverty, were meant to make the country easier to invade, after creating a public desperation for change. But it has also created internal resentments and divisions between the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots’, which naturally led to organised crime and armed gang formations.

It was like some sort of a ‘social nuclear bomb’. If you accept the findings of Johns Hopkins University team which estimated that 650,000 Iraqi civilians had died during the first three years of the US-led invasion, and compare that figure to the number of victims who have died by the Hiroshima bomb, then you could say that Iraq has suffered the effect of four nuclear bombs. Combining all the losses that Iraq has endured ever since 1991 as a direct result of US involvement, one could conclude that Iraqis would have witnessed more mercy had they been besieged and invaded by the Nazis.

Causing such genocide cannot be attributed to perusing interests only. The mass killings in Iraq, like the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, had been met with great indifference from citizens from around the globe (and not just their involved governments). Inaccurate media coverage has helped creating a sense of hatred in some societies against ‘the other’.

The Nazis had their own ideology of superiority when they were committing genocide and ethnic cleansing, but the people of Iraq are facing destruction in the name of ‘democracy’. After 12 years of sanctions that tore apart Iraq’s society, tight sanctions that even banned pencils from entering the country, causing the death of over one million children due to shortage of food and medicine, the US-led coalition started its war campaign.

But how could the peoples of the invading countries support such immoral bombardments? If you were fighting a ‘dictator’ in the name of ‘democracy’ then somehow it was made acceptable to endure the needless loss of so many innocent civilians. The cheapness of the blood of ‘others’ is nothing new; just remember the millions of Germans calling out Hitler’s name as his forces commit crimes against humanity.

Instead of democracy, the US-lead has only built mountains of dead Iraqi bodies. Bodies that have become too many to even count accurately. Even the ‘Iraq Body Count’ organisation, which gives the lowest estimates, has failed to keep up the count. As for the US military, they don’t have a figure for civilian deaths. In the words of General Tommy Franks, “We don’t do body counts.”

Such indifference to the deaths caused as a direct result of the US-led invasion is not exclusive to the governments of the invading countries. Unfortunately, it is shared by many of the peoples of those governments. However, seeking self interest alone cannot explain the level of inhumanity involved, especially when many of those interests could have been served without shedding blood. Only in a system of fascism would such actions be tolerated, where hatred of the other holds priority.

During the 12 years of sanctions, Iraq’s oil production had been reduced to less than 1.5 million barrels a day (as opposed to its pre-sanctions 3.5 million) in the so called ‘oil for food’ programme, causing a loss of about 262 billion dollars from the country’s oil revenues.

Under that inappropriately named programme, Iraq witnessed the death of half a million of its children. “We think the price is worth it”, said the former US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, when asked by the media if the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children dying because of the effects of sanctions is worth it.

Never in modern history has a country, who is also one of the founding members of the United Nations, faced such aggression under so many false pretexts. Even as one excuse after another for the war becomes exposed as a lie, the pubic insists on believing the next lie. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction, there were no links whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and the whole idea of regime change was not to bring about democracy. Even the human rights propaganda by the US has become a joke after the Abu Ghraib scandal (among many), and the rise of death squads and sectarian bloodshed under the nose of US forces.

After reducing Iraq’s infrastructure to ‘ground zero’, a state of lawlessness was encouraged. The result is a state of civil war where people are facing death, rape, or kidnapping for no other reason sometimes than having a certain name.

Never in modern history has country been forced to pay for its death, torture, and destruction with its own money – its own oil revenues. A country where thieves are entrusted with its richness and where murderous gangs are entrusted with its security.

Not even Iraq’s heritage has been spared. Instead of protecting the country’s museums, which is a legal obligation of occupying powers according to international law, former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “Stuff happens” when asked about the chaos that has befallen the country’s institutions.

Ever since the US-led invasion, Iraq’s academics have been mysteriously targeted. Key figures in the county’s science and research fields, as well as other fields, have been assassinated with no claim of responsibility.

In whose interest must a country’s past, present and future be threatened in such violent manner? In whose interest were the Jews led to their death in Nazi camps? No one; because it is simply not about interests. The neo-fascism of our age goes far beyond some of the West’s leaders or their governments. It goes beyond the hidden biases of some of our so called ‘free’ media. Neo-fascist sentiments have reached deep into the collective subconscious of Western societies. It is a new sense of ‘social imperialism’ in which almost everyone, knowingly or not, is an accomplice and beneficiary.

During the times of Hitler, you would see Germans gathered in perfect cohesion, chanting slogans in fervour. Today, those who support fascist leaders do not make such an effort. They can simply show their support by going to the ballot and voting for them once every four years instead. What happens later, which could include genocide or torture, they would watch calmly on TV.

Ali Al-Sarraf is the Editor of Al-Arab Weekly and a former dissident of Saddam Hussein’s regime. He can be reached at:

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