The writer is a freelance journalist.
The recent terror attack in Iraq has shaken Iraqis who are already believed to have lost more than 2.5 million lives in the various insurgencies and internecine wars that were triggered by illegal US invasion of the country. It was the first large attack in three years, killing 32 people in Baghdad. Isis has claimed responsibility for the deadly terrorist activity that has raised the spectre of more such horrors.
The last carnage of this scale happened in central Baghdad in January 2018 – also a double suicide bombing, in the same square. That atrocity had also been claimed by Isis, which had been pushed from the major northern Iraqi cities it had controlled in its self-declared caliphate. The cloistered group of sectarian warriors had lost its strength a few years ago but sporadic attacks in the region suggest that it is still not eliminated, with its ghost still haunting millions of the innocent people that were targeted in its brutal activities. Such carnages have especially frightened the Iraqi minorities who faced the brunt of Isis terrorism.
The Iraqi government announced the defeat of the sectarian outfit almost three years ago but this attack seems to have raised serious questions over the announcement. The brazen attack has also sent a wave of concern across the region that is already grappling with the effects of the monstrous rise of Isis. Syria lost more than 550,000 people in the civil war and the Daesh insurgency. The country must be worried over such terrorist activities that rendered more than 11 million of its people homeless and led to damage worth more than $150 billion.
It is unfortunate that some elements in the West are trying to link this terror activity with the US drawdown, asserting that the serpent of sectarian terrorism is raising its head again because of the reduction in American troops that run into a few thousands now. They think had there been significant presence of American troops in Iraq, this would not have happened. Such claims fly in the face of facts. The invaded country witnessed a number of attacks during the heavy presence of American troops. In reality, the sectarian carnage that tore the social fabric of Iraq was encouraged by the occupying forces that did not want the hapless country to be strong again.
But, despite all that, some war-mongers sitting in the power corridors of Western capitals are seizing this opportunity to demand that the presence of American troops be made more tangible in the Arab country that has been virtually destroyed because of the US invasion. There are still 3,000 US troops in Iraq, down from 5,200 in June last year, and they need to leave the country as their presence not only stokes anti-American feelings but also provides an opportunity for regional powers to meddle in the domestic affairs of Iraq. The complete pull-out of American troops might force Iran and other regional powers to put an end to their interference into a sovereign state.
However, such arguments do not seem to have impressed those who love wars and military interventions. It seems they are trying to create an atmosphere of fear and panic that might force the new American administration to revisit its policy of drawdown from Iraq. Many in the Middle East fear that such American presence is not there to serve the Iraqis. It is rather meant to keep an eye on the theocratic state of Iran that is hoping to see a shift in Washington’s policy towards Tehran. However, elements even in the Biden administration do not want that shift to happen.
Those who advocate military presence should realize that such presence has always been counterproductive. It is time we talked about ending all sorts of American presence across the world. It is time we demanded an end to more than 800 military bases of the sole superpower in more than 150 states of the world because they are creating more tension instead of bringing peace and stability. They are prompting other big powers to seek military bases in developing states. The abolition of such military bases could convince other big powers to end their own bases across the globe.
Military interventions have always wreaked havoc with the lives of people. They destroyed Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Yugoslavia and a number of other hapless states, plunging them into social strife and civil conflicts. But some in the US love to see such interventions without paying any heed to the catastrophic consequences that they trigger. Ironically all such interventions have been in developing or less developed states.
When advanced countries from the West face any internal turmoil, nobody demands a foreign invasion. The UK battled the Irish militancy and no foreign country invaded the English to settle the dispute. Spain faced multiple insurrections and no external powers went to snuff it out but when such insurrections raise their heads in developing countries, there are always calls from Western capitals for military interventions.
The biggest challenge for President Joe Biden is to resist the temptation of militarily intervening in any part of the world. A few more attacks in Iraq could strengthen the war-mongers sitting in the power corridors of London, Washington and Paris. The military-industrial complex and companies that thrive on wars and conflicts might pile pressure on the new administration to take the so-called threats seriously. Such elements wield immense influence not only in the US but other Western capitals as well.
One may heap scorn on Donald Trump for his idiosyncrasies. The Republican leader may be lambasted for stoking anti-immigrant feelings and promoting white supremacists but he has been the only US president in decades who did not initiate a new war or trigger a new conflict. There were people in his administration who wanted him to plunge Iran into blood and carnage but the president avoided such temptations. Before leaving the Oval Office, Trump proudly announced this achievement. Therefore, Biden should make sure he does not fall into the trap of vested interests and raise the number of troops in Iraq.
If the new US administration at all wants to do anything for the hapless Iraqis, it should generously contribute to the reconstruction efforts of a state that it destroyed through its illegal invasion. If Biden is really true to his moral conviction, then he should go one step further and pay war damages to the Iraqis who suffered at the hands of the occupying troops. The constitution of a commission with a task to probe the plundering of the invaded country in the aftermath of US occupation could also be a positive step. All those American and Western companies that robbed the Iraqi people of their wealth should also be brought to justice.
Help and succor is what the Iraqis really need, not more boots on grounds. A new Marshal Plan for Iraq could be one of the ways to undo the past injustices inflicted by the American ruling elite on the hapless Iraqis. Washington should also encourage other Western states to contribute towards the development of the Arab state that used to have one of the highest literacy rates in the region besides having excellent living standards. Only complete rehabilitation of Iraq would assure the people that the US intervention was really meant for the welfare of the Iraqis. Other regional powers should also join hands to heal the wounds of the Iraqi people who suffered a lot in the last 20 years. It is time to heal the invaded country.
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