The Invasion and Occupation of Iraq: Two Years Later
The invasion and occupation of Iraq have taken a devastating toll on the people of Iraq. While estimates vary, between 15,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the invasion and occupation. The primary reason for the occupation, Iraq’s alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), did not exist, resulting in a war that was largely fought for imperial gain of economic resources. Over the past two years the United States has conducted itself as an occupying power, and by all accounts, will continue to do so for many years to come.
Each week the news out of Iraq is largely the same; more civilian casualties, more abuses of detainees, more soldiers killed, more corporate takeovers of Iraqi resources, and more attacks by the growing Iraqi resistance. This week has been no different. News has come out that US troops are making videos in which they use firefights and Iraqi prisoners as the backdrop for heavy metal songs. The corporate media has been reporting on newly uncovered abuses at Abu Ghraib involving the torture of children. Greg Palast had a new report this week in which he writes about the administration’s “secret” plan to sell off Iraq’s oil fields in order to destroy OPEC. Moreover, while commentators in the United States discuss how the occupation has harmed ordinary Iraqis, new reports from Iraq indicate that many Iraqis feel that no changes and improvements in their conditions will be forthcoming from the new Iraqi government. This should come as no surprise; talks have repeatedly broken down between factions of the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi insurgency has gained legitimacy over the past year.
The invasion and occupation have also taken a lesser toll on the United States. Over 1,500 soldiers have been killed and 25,000 wounded in a war and occupation that has cost the country over $150 billion. Numerous administration officials have admitted that the war has not made the United States safer nor has it lessened the threat of terrorism, but rather, it has greatly diminished the United States standing in the world while recent polls have indicated that 70% of US citizens consider the current level of casualties “unacceptable” and that 53% of US citizens think the war was not worth fighting.
Democrats, the Antiwar Movement, and Ending the Occupation of Iraq
Two years after the invasion of Iraq there has been relatively little organized opposition to the occupation of Iraq. While the widespread civil disobedience at the start war seemed to indicate widespread resistance to the invasion of Iraq, this resistance has thus far failed to take a form capable of challenging the administration’s capacity to wage war. There have been numerous large demonstrations against the war and occupation, yet there has generally not been the type of day-to-day organizing and long-term strategizing that is needed to move from generally disconnected protests into organized resistance.
While there are a number of reasons why this has happened, one of the major reasons is the antiwar movement’s relationship with the Democratic Party. During 2004, many of the antiwar movement’s more “mainstream” elements were silent or working for John Kerry and other electoral efforts under the assumption that a Kerry presidency would end the occupation of Iraq. Of course, this was never the case; in many instances Kerry promised the status quo in Iraq at best, and at worst, actually promised to place more troops in Iraq. Unfortunately, this focus on the 2004 election was a setback for the antiwar movement, costing a year in which increased political interest could have been used to create a renewed push for ending the war.
On the eve of the anniversary of the invasion, the Democratic Party has once again shown that it has relatively little interest in ending the occupation of Iraq, with some 162 Democrats in the House of Representatives voting for Bush’s $81.4 billion spending request . Meanwhile, “liberal” opponents of the war such as MoveOn.org have decided against pushing for an end to the occupation. After looking at the Democrats indifference as well as that of some groups involved with pre-invasion mobilizing efforts, many are making the second anniversary of the war a point to refocus efforts and build a renewed movement. Antiwar organizers have recently begun to focus their efforts on challenging military recruiting and working to create a soldier movement to end the war.