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Over the years, Iraq, home to a diverse variety of ethnic groups, including the Kurds and Arabs, has been ruled by many different powers. However, once the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, following Iraq’s independence from the UK in 1932, the Iraqi Republic was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. In 1979, Saddam Hussein took power of Iraq and ruled for several decades. For the duration of his rule, Saddam inflicted different forms of terror upon the Iraqi people, such as mass murders, ethnic cleansing, and torture. Thus, the people of Iraq wanted change. After the September 11th attacks in New York in 2001, the United States believed they could be the ones to make that change happen. After deeming Iraq a threat to international security for possible possession of WMDs, support to al-Qaeda, and Hussein’s dictatorial government, the United States led an invasion of Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein. Although the United States made a justifiable decision to get rid of Saddam Hussein, they should still be held accountable for the Iraq War because the impacts of their lack of knowledge about Iraq’s history and culture and poor judgements in use of policies to bring about change ultimately led to the war.
Once they had invaded Iraq in 2003, the United States had a plan to rebuild the Iraqi government. This process of “De-Ba’athification”, launched by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), consisted of removing all current positions of Iraqi government, in an effort to smoke out the Ba’ath Party’s power, and replacing it with a new Iraqi political system. The idea was to model the de-Nazification of Germany after World War II. In theory, this seemed like the right decision to make in trying to rebuild the Iraqi government, but what the United States failed to recognize was that they were removing the only people that held the country together. This process completely wiped out all of the people who had been running the country and it was doubtful that there were even reliable Iraqi leaders who could take power. On another note, far more Iraqis were affected by the policy than the CPA had originally intended; the order was impacting the lives of the Iraqi people in ways that the United States couldn’t understand. For instance, many families in the province of Kirkuk were even struggling to feed their families and pay rent. “However, what the American authorities could not forecast was that, once a repressive regime is removed, the ethnic and religious tensions boom with unprecedented violence. Although these tensions dated back to the beginning of modern Iraq, the chaos created after the invasion, the frustrations accumulated during the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as the influx of Jihadis from neighboring countries led to their exacerbation”. Due to the United States’ lack of foresight on the issues that their new policy would create in Iraq, their effort to rebuild the Iraqi political system had already begun to turn sour. In addition, with no replacements to the removed positions of power, the new Iraqi government had no room to grow from the moment it was conceived.
When The United States set out to help the Iraqi people rebuild their government, they immediately began acting without any prior knowledge of the history of the area or the cultural values of the people who lived there, and with a lack of interest to learn more about the Iraqi people. The lack of interest to learn and failed rebuilding attempts hurt the president’s image because “the president, as the commander in chief, is ultimately responsible for managing a war successfully”. With this immediate lack of regard for influential aspects of Iraqi culture, it is completely understandable why many Iraqi people wanted the United States out of their land. The United States also showed signs that they were not aware of certain aspects of Iraqi history. For example, Dr. Arrington, a history professor proves the example of when the Coalition forces allowed the arrival of a group of Kurds into Kirkuk to fill top positions in the town and protect infrastructure, they should have known that the Arabs would have an issue with this form of “Kurdification” of Kirkuk and rebel, due to the past history of the Kurds being driven out of Kirkuk to make room for Arabs. This absence of prior knowledge led to some intense attacks from hundreds of armed Arabs on the Kurdish sectors of Kirkuk on May 17th. Aside from the fact that the United States showed signs of little knowledge about Iraq’s history and culture, they also seemed to show a lack of interest in the Iraqi peoples’ issues. For example, during a visit to Iraq from Hillary Clinton and another US senator, Hillary Clinton spent her time asking Iraqis astute questions, taking a genuine interest in their issues, while the other senator continually asked the Iraqi Provincial Council members, “Have you seen Sad-dam”. From this particular example, it is evident that the United States not only had little knowledge of what would actually benefit the Iraqi people, but also didn’t really seem to care. To further explain this point, many American soldiers considered themselves to be righteous warriors, killing evil and bringing justice, but this mindset brought terror and disruption and it “seems never to be a concern about Iraqis who are killed and maimed by US troops” in order to make America safer. They were so caught up in ‘bringing justice’ and ‘serving their country’ that they failed to take into account what would actually benefit the people of Iraq. They were more worried about how to benefit American citizens back home than the actual people they were supposed to be helping.
The United States sent the CPA to Iraq to help them rebuild their society. What they didn’t understand, however, was that the Iraqi people did not have the same vision for their new society as the US did. The US believed that the best thing for Iraq was to implement a democratic government, when in reality, the Iraqi people had little to no interest in becoming democratic society. What they really wanted was to be freed from Hussein’s oppression and given security. The Coalition had spent so long trying to build a democratic society through de-Ba’athification that the majority of capable military personnel had been removed. With little to no effort in replacing the military personnel that had been removed, the people of Iraq had minimal security. With an increasing amount of attacks from various ethnic and terrorist groups, and levels of security below zero, Iraqis were becoming fearful that they could be killed at any moment. Some even wished for Saddam’s return because the United States had handed problems in a way that was “ranging from ignoring contradictory data and dismissing alternative perspectives to oversimplifying issues and applying circular reasoning”. Thus, many Iraqis who had praised the United States for liberating them now wanted them out of their country. Even Provincial Council member Sheikh Wasfi admitted that he would prefer that the Coalition forces leave, “If the current resistance could succeed in pushing Coalition forces out of Iraq, I and my family would join in”. Furthermore, many Iraqi generals began to scold Bremer and the CPA for creating this environment of violence, “The Coalition promised regime change but instead brought about state collapse”. Because of the CPA’s lack of attention to the Iraqi army, Iraq now had uncontrolled borders, a lack of security inside the country, and the economy was suspended, causing many families to be left without income. By exclusively focusing on reconstructing Iraq’s government organization through the mold of a democratic society, the United States quickly began to lose the trust and loyalty of the Iraqi people. They failed to realize that at the end of the day, what the people of Iraq really cared about was feeling protected and safe.
The United States initially went into Iraq with a solid plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power and good intentions to help the Iraqi society rebuild their system of regime. However, due to their lack of knowledge about the history and culture of Iraq, a poor use of policies to execute their plans, and inability to understand what it was that the Iraqi people really wanted in order to benefit from the actions of the United States, Iraq began to collapse and was left in a state worse than what they had initially been in under Hussein’s regime. Thus, the United States should be held accountable for the Iraq War, not because of their intentions to extract Saddam Hussein from power and reconstruct the Iraqi administration, but rather through their attempt to transform Iraq into something it didn’t want to become, kindling the fire of aggression and hatred in Iraq that still affects us to this day.
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