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Opinion

Terrorism: The legacy of US war in Iraq

The US, as global policeman, is no different from any other imperial power when asserting its influence.

Last updated: 31 Mar 2014 08:26
Haifa Zangana

Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi novelist, artist and activist. Among her books are "Dreaming of Baghdad" and "City of Widows: An Iraqi woman's account of war and resistance". She co-authored "The Torturer in the Mirror" with Ramsey Clark and Thomas Ehrlich Reifer.
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In Iraq today, security means lawlessness and the rule of law means the rule of sectarian militias, writes Zangana [AFP]

"The defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way," said George Orwell in "Politics and the English language", highlighting a pattern of statements that "are almost always made with intent to deceive".

Orwell's words could not be truer than in Iraq today where the conscious intent to deceive continues to be the US policy, 11 years after its illegal "shock and awe" invasion. Assisted by a sectarian corrupt regime, the US-led occupation "democratised" Iraq by dismantling the Iraqi state whose foundations were laid in the 1920s.

A state which had a civil service apparatus that provided services and stability for the country regardless of the successive regimes. With the aim of clearing the way for a plethora of multi-billion dollar reconstruction contracts for the US and UK for decades to come, the occupation ensured the destruction of the infrastructure. With the aim of creating a compliant population, the occupation attempted to erase cultural heritage and memory, torching libraries, pillaging museums and ancient sites, targeting academics and scientists, and fomenting sectarian violence while human rights violations became a daily practise.

Words with noble meanings are used to camouflage acts of state terror: liberation rather than occupation; democratic government rather than a sectarian regime; transparency rather than corruption by bribes, theft and extortion; communal violence rather than dirty war with manufactured terrorism and black operations.

Words with noble meanings are used to camouflage acts of state terror: liberation rather than occupation; democratic government rather than a sectarian regime; transparency rather than corruption by bribes, theft, and extortion; communal violence rather than dirty war with manufactured terrorism and black operations.

In Iraq today, security means lawlessness and the rule of law means the rule of sectarian militias, especially the US-trained Special Forces now attached directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office.

The familiar scenario for victims of arbitrary arrests goes like this: First, they are accused of being terrorists, so they are detained at a secret prison whose existence is denied by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Human Rights. Then, they are tortured to obtain forced confessions, held for months without trial mostly with the aim of extortion from families; then, sentenced to either long-term imprisonment or death penalty, based on the forced confession or information supplied by secret informants.

In some ways, this is a reproduction of how the US and other powerful states view human rights and international law.

Two levels of international law

The reality is there are two levels in international law. One level is applicable to residents of the "basement" of the world, ie, citizens of Third World countries, and the other level applicable to citizens of powerful countries. The so-called "war on terror" has reformulated many aspects of world politics and accountability of states has become the first victim. Human rights and accountability have become an open text subjected to selective "interpretations". Therefore, some governments have enjoyed impunity, no matter how brutally they have behaved, while the spotlights are shone on others, undesirables for commercial and resource appropriation reasons.  

In a rather bizarre timing, the International Counterterrorism Conference took place in Baghdad on March 12, to coincide with the act of aggression that made Iraq a breeding ground for all kinds of violence and terrorism. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk spoke at length in the conference about the US' "holistic" strategy against terrorism in Iraq where "the government and people are confronting one of the most serious terrorist threats in the world. Foremost among these threats is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."

While assuring the Iraqi regime that the US-Iraq partnership is permanent, he chose to ignore the continuous catastrophic effects of the US occupation of Iraq.

Listening to his speech, one cannot help but sense a deja vu: "We are liberators not invaders." Wasn't this the imperial British attitude while invading Iraq at the beginning of the last century? Didn't we hear the same terror-coated statement by US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations, a month before the invasion?

He said: "Iraq's involvement in terrorism, the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world, they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world, a sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. These al-Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months."

Iraq launches media campaign targeting ISIL

At the end of his dramatic speech, US military invasion of Iraq had become inevitable, a "must" in order to save the world and Iraqis. It did not take the world long to see through the heap of lies called WMD and al-Qaeda link. As for Iraqis, the daily killings in neighbourhoods, and human rights abuses in Abu Ghraib and other detention centres, has left them with a concrete belief that the war was not an ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour but a pre-planned project to destroy and pillage their country.

Racist deception

This racist deception cost the lives of over a million Iraqis, the legacy of using depleted uranium and white phosphorous, the imposing of a sectarian kleptocratic regime and the instigating of violence that has driven many Iraqis to regret opposing Saddam's regime and believing in democracy. The defeat of the US imperial project is spectacular, thanks to the resistance of the people who, contrary to some claims, did not welcome the occupier with sweets and flowers but have seen through the imperial claims of democracy and human rights, tearing apart the shrouds of its deception.

How is the "holistic" strategy translated in the Iraqi reality? In terms of propaganda, it claims that Iraqis are beyond the reach of democracy. They are "extremists" and "terrorists". These are the same Iraqis who have been demonstrating peacefully for almost two years, until the Maliki regime decided to turn the terrorism charge against them.

As for Iraqis, every day brings fresh atrocities with an increase in "execution-style" killings, and early morning discoveries of bullet-riddled bodies, signifying the presence of death squads, mercenaries, militias, and Iraqi security forces that have killed thousands in the aftermath of the US-led invasion.

The US is determined to continue to provide security assistance to the Iraqi forces. US assistance includes weapons and security equipment, information sharing, operational advice, and military training. This goes hand in hand with a restructuring of the US army to rely more on cost effective US proxy regimes or "moderates", in order to force terrorist groups into non-populated areas where they can be captured and killed.

By backing Maliki's brutal regime, the Obama administration, as the global policeman, has proven that when asserting its power, it is no different from any other imperial power: A readymade enemy is always useful to cover up its immoral foreign policy.

Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi novelist, artist and activist. Among her books are "Dreaming of Baghdad" and "City of Widows: An Iraqi woman's account of war and resistance". She co-authored "The Torturer in the Mirror" with Ramsey Clark and Thomas Ehrlich Reifer.

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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