Brief annotated history of Iraq
Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2005 at 11:28 PM
This is a quick, entertaining read, with some commentary that might be helpful.
A Brief annotated history of Iraq, compiled from:
(other sources listed inline)
1917: During WWI, Brittish forces invaded what was then Mesopotamia, and occupied Baghdad. The UK then carved up the whole region. They called part of it Iraq, part of it Iran, and so on. Kuwait, originally part of the Ottoman Empire area that became Iraq, now suddenly had a border that defined it as a separate area. This other part of the Ottoman empire called Kurdistan was split up between Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Not surprisingly, putting different cultures inside the same governmental borders has caused strife and oppression for centuries. But getting back to Iraq... Brittain split up Iraq's petroleum between the UK, France, the Netherlands, and ... [gasp!] the USA. The Brittish put a monarchy in place, wrote some kind of constitution for Iraq, and brought the Brittish army back into Iraq any time the Iraqis tried to get at some of their own oil.
1932: The League of Nations mandate ends, so now Brittain isn't supposed to be watching over Iraq anymore for the League of Nations.
1941: During WW2, Iraqis ambush some Brittish troops that were traveling through across Iraq, and Brittain swoops in and takes control of Iraq again, and then puts the monarch back in place (it had fell off the mantle). Then some kurds attacked Baghdad because they never accepted the monarchy that was put in place. Of course the kurds failed and ran off to join Stalin's soviet union.
1945: Iraq joins the UN.
[notice that Brittain and America still own a lot of the Iraqi oil... but not for long!]
1958: Some dudes in Iraq overthrew the monarchy, and Iraq was proclaimed a republic. The dudes then declared that the US/UK/etc no longer owned the Iraqi oil fields, and then they said all the UK/US Oil companies can stay there and keep taking the oil, but from now on they'll at least have to pay for the oil. So the US & UK companies are still making a boatload of money off the oil, but not quite so much as before. The Netherlands and France just kind of sulked at the loss of their precious free oil fields.
then all sorts of coups happened, ending with the 1968 revolution that put the Ba'ath party in power. Saddam Hussein was the secretary-general of the Ba'ath party at that time. The Ba'ath party, once in power, gave agriculture and industry priority on the national budget. Then they stopped selling their oil to the main Brittish-controlled oil company in Iraq (ironically named "Iraq Petroleum Company"), and nationalized the oil industry. Of course, that meant Iraq experienced rapid economic growth - to the point where it was possible in the 1970's for Iraqis on a teacher's salary to take holidays in Europe.
1979: the Iraqi president resigns, and his chosen successor, Saddam Hussein assumes his position.
1980-1988 There were some territorial disputes with Iran, which led to a real costly 8-year war that devistated the Iraqi economy, and left Iraq with the biggest army in the region. Kurds were still rebelling against Iraq, so Saddam swooped in and used chemical weapons to kill thousands of Kurdish civilians. That sort of stopped the rebellion right there.
[Right about here is where stuff gets interesting...]
1990: Kuwait had been using slant-drilling to get at some of the Iraqi oil, and so Iraq was real upset. Iraq and the US were friends, so Saddam had an emergency meeting with April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, airing his concerns but stating his intentions to continue talks. April informed Saddam that the US "[has] no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait". Iraq and Kuwait met to try to talk things out, but it ended up in shouting matches, so Iraq just rolled through Kuwait with tanks and stuff and took control. While in Kuwait, Iraq found this memo about how CIA director William Webster and Kuwait were plotting to redraw the Iraqi border in favor of Kuwait. Iraq starts to like America less and less...
Then the US Department of Defense made up some lie about Iraq intending to roll on through Saudi Arabia (General Schwartzkopf later admitted to the mistake), and congress authorized Bush senior to launch a "Wholly Defensive" mission called Operation Desert Shield to prevent Iraq from rolling on through Saudi Arabia.
Then the UN asked Iraq to get out of Kuwait, but Iraq said it was taking Kuwait back into Iraq - just like it had been the same territory during the Ottoman empire, so then the US rolled on in with Operation Desert Storm. We tried to get other countries in on it, but most were reluctant, so we sort of paid other countries to join in (to make the offensive look like a "coalition" of forces instead of just US forces) by offering economic aid or debt forgiveness (from William Blum's book, Killing Hope). Back in the US, Bush Senior went through a number of different public justifications for the US's involvement in the conflict (sound famiiar?) First he said the oil there was important to the US economy (that didn't go over too well with the Americans), and then said we had to preserve our longstanding friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. Then he said that "naked agression [against Kuwait] will not stand." Later he would mention Iraq's history of human rights abuses, and the potential for Saddam to develop WMD's.
All the while, some public relations firm (paid by Kuwait, assisted by US officials) got somewhere between $11 million and $14 million to manufacture a campaign to rally the US Populace behind Bush Senior's policy of going to war. Part of this campaign was making up this character called Nurse Nayirah, who (although members of congress knew she was a fake) testified before congress that she saw Iraqi troops dumping kuwaiti babies out of incubators and onto the floor, leaving them to die. This and other similar reports later turned out to be fabrications (John R MacArthur, "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War"), but it was enough to convince congress to authorize Bush Senior's war. So the US-led Operation Desert Storm dropped over 140,000 tons of bombs on Iraq (the equivalent of 7 hiroshima bombs), killed perhaps 100,000 Iraqis, and after a quick 6 weeks Iraq agreed to a cease-fire.
1991 - 2003: The sanctions imposed by UN (resolution 661) provided for a full-scale trade embargo "excluding medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity, these to be determined by the Security Council sanctions committee". At different points, the UN sanctions committee prevented Iraq from receiving pencils, sterile needles, crop pesticides, and perhaps most importantly the materials needed for water treatment. The water problem was compounded because during the first Gulf War the US bombed and destroyed many water treatment plants and also some power plants (needed to run the remaining non-destroyed water plants), to the point where perhaps 50% of the country didn't have safe drinking water.
Through the lack of drinking water and other problems, the first Gulf War and the subsequent US-led sanctions caused the deaths of perhaps millions of iraqis, despite Resolution 986 which was supposed to allow Iraq to sell some amount of oil in trade for food. Part of the problem with the Food-For-Oil program was that Saddam may have received $10 billion in illegal kickbacks for underselling the oil to [mostly] Russian and French oil companies (part of the fraud may have occurred inside the UN). Other, perhaps greater problems were that Iraq wasn't allowed to sell enough oil, and that the sanctions formed a web of problems that continually worked to hinder positive efforts across the board. You may wish to read more about how the sanctions hurt Iraq.
Of course, much of this could have been undone by Clinton, who did not do much anything to positively change the situation. It could be suggested that since Clinton supported the sanctions (and fined any Americans that tried to help the suffering peoples in Iraq), he is much to blame for the deaths during these times, just as much (if not more so!) as either George W. or his George Senior. That he signed an "Iraq Liberation Act" did nothing to help the situation.
Another part of the sanctions was the no-fly zone, intended to prevent Saddam from attacking the Kurds again. Often, US & UK planes spying in the No-Fly zone would bomb Iraq, bringing condemnation from the rest of the world on this illegal activity. Sometimes, Iraq would fire back on the planes. While the US & UK dropped tens of thousands of tons of bombs on Iraq during this time, there is no accurate report on how much artilery Iraq used to fire back. From accounts of Iraq's economic disparity at the time, it is probably safe to say that the Iraqi attacks were insignificant compared to the nearly-daily bombing of Iraq during these 12 years.
2003: Using the same claims as for the first gulf war (*possibility* of WMDs, vaguely referring to human rights violations or ties to terrorism, wanting an Iraqi leader more subserviant to the US), Bush Junior took the US forces back into Iraq to topple Saddam and take control of the country. Again Americans are misled through a set of manufactured stories, Again US troops are coming home with mysterious illnesses (maybe from the radioactive materials in their US tanks...), Again we are using weapons containing nuclear material that makes Iraqi children come out all deformed, and again thousands of innocent lives are lost.
Bush's friends, family, and political allies benefit from the war profits, and all donate vigorously to the republican party. For example, Ray Hunt. He's a Halliburton board member who also runs an oil company (Hunt Oil). George W. appointed Hunt (an oil man) to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Hunt, who had no previous experience in foreign intellligence, is currently spending his time using his position to champion pro-oil causes around the world. Halliburton (who is currently making news for losing track of $1.8 billion it billed the US for) received a huge contract to rebuild Iraq and support the troops, so their stock goes up 50% since the start of the war, Hunt makes a lot of money off the stocks, and donates over $120,000 to republican campaigns. Similar stories are found with bush co-conspirators J. Landis Martin, C.J. Silas, Kenneth Derr, and Jay Precourt. You can find their ties to Bush using google, and use FEC.gov to find out how much they gave to republican campaigns. This huge web of war-profiteers is Bush's support network, it's how he won his next election, and it's how he benefits from the war.
Personally, I don't *really* think Bush is primarily motivated by the oil, or by thoughts of ending terrorism. I think either he's trying to revenge the fact that Saddam had desires to assassinate Bush Senior, or maybe trying to cover up that we still can't find Bin Laden, or perhaps George W really does believe he's promoting a positive social change in the world. I do however, believe that George W did not come up with the idea of invading Iraq on his own. Looking at his record at college, his constant displays of ignorance on various political issues, the curious phrasology he uses, and the experts that believe he has dry-drunk syndrome... I would tend to believe that his war-profiteering friends, family, and political allies had something to do with the idea popping up in his head to funnel America's 9/11 grief into a war on Iraq.
Of course all of this - the war profits, cover-ups, forged evidence, misinterpreted intelligence, US-sponsored torture in Guantanamo and Abu Gharib, and war propaganda however, really are all INCIDENTAL to the question of whether or not we are promoting a positive change in the world. Deposing Saddam certainly *could* allow for more freedoms for Iraqis, and the Iraqis knew this. So why didn't they depose Saddam themselves? Some foreign policy experts believe it is because the sanctions left them destitute, and they had no choice but to be dependant on Saddam. But still, we ended the sanctions when we deposed Saddam, so won't the Iraqi people benefit from what we've done? That question assumes that we are there to impose a free democracy. I don't forsee this happening, as it has been very rare in US history. I forsee the US & Brittish will control whatever "government" we put in place, using sanctions and trade barriers and threat of removing humanitarian aid (not to mention threat of force...) as forms of control. Now, in order for the Iraqi government to comply with our demands at all times, I forsee the Iraqi government employing the same police that were running things for Saddam (the same police that are running things now...), using the same brutal methods to subjugate the citizens of Iraq. Quality of health will probably improve due to removal of the sanctions, and the economy will probably benefit because now that we're running things, Iraq will be allowed to export things other than oil once more, and they'll be allowed to export as much oil as they want. So it's up us to decide if this is promoting positive change. *Some* iraqis will be somewhat better off, and the US destroys what was once the nation most resilient to US imperialism, and folds control back into the global American hegemony.
I'm no pacifist, I recognize that sometimes there are often situations where conflict cannot be *solved*, and it must at least be *stopped* (I would support using force to stop the genocide in Sudan, for instance) -- however I do not perceive this is one of those situations. I am instead mortified by what our government is doing to one of the most distraught nations on the planet, and even more horrified at how efficiently they are using jingoism and propaganda to sell this war to the public.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.