Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Iraq: 5 years on, no end in sight

When an incompetent clique of corporate elitists grabs power in a wealthy and powerful nation, it is everyone’s worst nightmare, like an enraged bull in a shop of priceless porcelain. Five years after the launching of one of the most flagrant breaches in international law history has seen, the government of the United States of America continues to hail its victory. The naked truth however, is that five years on, there is no end in sight.

Five years ago to this day, this column was being written with a sense of foreboding, sadness and a sullen acceptance that the Bush regime had indeed made the United States of America the pariah of the international community. As the time wore on, and the horrific predictions made here proved not only to be right, but painfully so, the military and civilian casualties on all sides rose as the tragedy unfolded before our eyes.

They would be welcomed like heroes. The people would greet them with open arms. Flowers, even. A new democratic government would be swept into power on a wave of popular euphoria and the entire population of Iraq would rise up, place their hands on their hearts and sing God Bless America.

Only a half-wit OD’ing on pink magazines and who believed that in the Westerns the cowboys were the good guys and the “injuns”, the baddies - would swallow such bull, hook, line and sinker.

After five whole years of war crimes, criminal mismanagement, breach of the UN Charter, breach of the Geneva Convention, mass murder, torture, rape, deployment of weapons of mass destruction in civilian residential areas, destruction of civilian structures with military hardware, Iraq continues in chaos.

Five years on, there is no end in sight. The process of state-building was delayed by sweeping out of office anyone and everyone connected with the Ba’athist Party, the very people who were trained in governing the civil service which kept Iraq running. In their place, a mottley bunch of wannabe politicians on the fringes of Iraqi society were hurriedly gathered together in a London hotel and told to their disbelief that they would be the new candidates in a democratic election, so democratic in fact that the most-heard question outside polling stations was “Who are we voting for?” The result? The government of Iraq does not dare venture out of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Five years on, there is no end in sight. Vast areas of Iraq remain outside the control of the invasion force and the few that have been given back have fallen into the hands of gangs of criminals and militia. Under the invasion force, western-style discotheques were opened in several cities, among these Basra. Today, the British contingent sits like an outcast at Basra airport dreaming of the coming of aircraft to take them home while the city itself has descended into Bedlam. Those who enter a discotheque at night know they may not come out alive. During the day, women can be raped or decapitated for venturing outside without wearing a veil.

Five years on, there is no end in sight. The vast majority of the Iraqi population have no stable water or energy supply. Over 50% of the workforce has no job stability. There are two million Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries and a further three million internally displaced.

Five years on, there is no end in sight. Nearly four thousand US military personnel have lost their lives in this illegal conflict, for what? Nearly 30.000 others have been wounded, some maimed for life. This is not some statistic from 2004. The latest casualty was yesterday, March 19th. Another life wasted, another family in tears. The total of military personnel from the invasion force tops 4.300...and the means by which casualties are accounted for are debatable (where are the casualties among the nationals of other countries fightng with the USA recorded?) At least 85.000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives as a direct result of this catastrophe, and at most, the figure is up to three quarters of a million.

Five years on, there is no end in sight. The much-vaunted “surge” has only had an effect because the US military command was forced to integrate its former enemies (Sunni and Shia militia) into the desperate attempt to reduce casualties (not win the war). As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. Methods to account for deaths have changed numerous times since 2003 but the fact remains that in January 2008, the number of US military casualties was identical to that of December 2003 (DoD statistics). As for the success of the “surge”, in January 2008, there were over 2.000 atacks from insurgents. Hardly a victory...

Five years on, there is no end in sight. The estimated 60 billion dollar price tag has reached 600 billion (600.000.000.000 USD) in direct costs and up to two trillion ( USD) in indirect costs. And it is rising. And will continue to do so. And it will go on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Meanwhile, how to explain this to the US citizen whose son needs an operation, but is denied it because there isn’t any money?

Five years on, there is no end in sight. The criminal clique of war-mongering corporate elitists have grown richer and fatter from this “war”. It has been a disgrace to the military image of the USA (cohorting with the enemy, unable to defeat a badly-trained and scantily-armed force of volunteers), it has been a disgrace to the humanitarian image of the USA (Abu Ghraib) and it has been a disgrace to the public image of the USA (breach of international law, war crimes).

That George W. Bush and the members of his regime can look the people of the United States of America and the citizens of the world in the eye and state unflinchingly that this escapade is a victory for America surprises nobody. However, let this article be a tiny contibution to the countless millions which will write their political epitaph. They cannot say they were not warned. They were too arrogant to listen.

Five years on, there is no end in sight.