Next week marks 10 years since the US invasion in 2003. It is a good time to look back on the past to better understand future challenges.
“This is a choice we know will have enormous and tragic consequences – many as yet unimagined – for the Iraqi people, for our nation and for the world. It is a choice we believe was unnecessary, immoral and unwise…” - Quaker Statement On Launch of War, March 2003
"Iraq since 2003 represents everything that we want to avoid in the Arab world – foreign invasions, simplistic American political engineering, sharp internal polarization, ethnic cleansing and warfare…” - Rami G. Khouri
"There is no victory and no victors in the 20-year war. Except for a few war profiteers, everyone has lost." - Raed Jarrar
“So many of Iraq's contracts were blocked that, from the time the program began operating in 1996 until March, 2003, a total of only $27 billion in humanitarian goods were actually delivered to Iraq. That amounted to about $204 per person, per year for all goods; this includes food, medicine, and the reconstruction of the infrastructure, since the program began operation -- or about one-half the per capita income of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” - Joy Gordon, regarding the Oil-for-Food Program
Click here for the AFSC background paper, and here for a timeline.
For 30 years the Iraqi people have endured three wars and for 20 years suffered under some of the most severe and comprehensive economic and political sanctions ever imposed against a nation and its people.
A war of choice starting in 2003 destroyed the infrastructure, left hundreds of thousands dead, opened the way to civil war/ethnic fighting, and created the largest movement of refugees and internally displaced in the region since the creation of Israel in 1948.
“In April of 2003, the country lay in ruin. The infrastructure had been decimated. As we drove from Baghdad to Mosul, we passed miles of high tension electric wires that were lying on the ground as the towers that held them were melted by stinger missiles. Bomb craters dotted the countryside with clear evidence of the use of cluster munitions littering agricultural fields. Ministry buildings and cultural centers like the national theater were bombed out shells. Ministries which had not been bombed were empty carcasses looted completely bare. Communication centers were rubble leaving much of the country without phone service. The streets were full of tanks and military vehicles but they were empty of people. Stores were closed, boarded up, burned out or looted. Schools were bombed or looted. Hospitals were overflowing with injured but depleted of medical supplies. Electricity was scarce or nonexistent.
The neighborhoods were no longer safe for women and children. With the first waves of lawlessness, the children who flew kites in front of our house were locked away in their homes. A child in our neighborhood was kidnapped and held for ransom. A family in the neighborhood was robbed at gunpoint in their home. Women stopped driving and going to the store. Barricades went up at the ends of our street to keep bandits out. The wife and children of our landlord and neighbor, fled to Amman among the first wave of refugees to flee the violence. There was no law and order as there was no government. As life became more insecure, people armed themselves and looked to groups that might protect them. Group identification, by tribe, religion or political affiliation, became increasingly important as a means to security. Armed militias were formed.” - Mary Trotochaud
"In 2004, following the hanging of 4 Blackwater contractors in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, the US commanding officer, who would lead the siege on Falujah stated: The enemy has got a name. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja and we are going to destroy him.
The Lt. Col was good to his word: all males between 15 and 45 were denied safe passage, while ¼ million people became refugees. Of the 50,000 who stayed 6,000 died, including those whose skin was melted from their bodies from the illegal use of phosphorus bombs. 3 of the city’s water plants were destroyed the fourth crippled. 70% of buildings were damaged or destroyed. Studies have traced the use of enriched uranium in US weapons systems. US forces believed they had to destroy Fallujah to save it, while the international relief community in Iraq tried to figure out how to get emergency medical supplies, food and water to the besieged people." - Rick McDowell
Rick McDowell and Mary Trotochaud were AFSC Iraq Country Representatives from 2004 – 2007. Upon returning to the US, they worked for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington DC where they brought their war experience to bear on policy makers.