The wars the United States waged and fueled in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan following September 11, 2001 caused at least 4.5 million deaths, according to a report by Brown University.
Nearly a million of the people who lost their lives died in fighting, whereas some 3.6 to 3.7 million were indirect deaths, due to health and economic problems caused by the wars, such as diseases, malnutrition, and destruction of infrastructure.
These were the conclusions of a study conducted by the Cost of Wars project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
The report also analyzed the effects of wars in Libya and Somalia, which were sponsored by Washington.
The scholars estimated that, in the countries studied, there are still today 7.6 million children under age 5 who are suffering from acute malnutrition, meaning they are “not getting enough food, literally wasting to skin and bones, putting these children at greater risk of death”.
In Afghanistan and Yemen, this includes nearly 50% of children; and, in Somalia, close to 60%.
This 2021 report noted that “38 million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11 wars could be closer to 49—60 million, which would rival World War II displacement”.
The May 2023 study, which estimated that U.S. post-9/11 wars killed 4.5 to 4.6 million people, emphasized that large numbers of civilians are still perishing today, due of the lasting consequences of these violent conflicts.
Although the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, “today Afghans are suffering and dying from war-related causes at higher rates than ever”, the report noted.
In addition to the staggering death tolls, millions more civilians were wounded and suffered other incredible hardships due to these wars.
“For instance, for every person who dies of a waterborne disease because war destroyed their access to safe drinking water and waste treatment facilities, there are many more who sicken”, the study highlighted.
The 2023 report “highlights many longterm and underacknowledged consequences of war for human health, emphasizing that some groups, particularly women and children, suffer the brunt of these ongoing impacts”.
People living in poverty and those from marginalized groups had higher rates of death and lower life expectancies.
The document stressed how the “post-9/11 wars have caused widespread economic hardship for people in the war zones, and how poverty, in turn, has been accompanied by food insecurity and malnutrition, which have led to diseases and death, particularly amongst children under age five”.
In virtually all wars, indirect deaths represent the majority of the lives lost. The Brown University researchers pointed out, for example,
In conflict areas, children are 20 times more likely to die of diarrheal disease than from the conflict itself.
Damage to infrastructure that happens during wars is likewise very deadly. “Hospitals, clinics, and medical supplies, water and sanitation systems, electricity, roads and traffic signals, infrastructure for farming and shipping goods, and much more are destroyed, damaged and disrupted, with lasting consequences for human health”, the report noted.
Economic problems caused by these post-9/11 wars have been devastating.
Two decades of U.S.-NATO military occupation of Afghanistan left behind a borderline apocalyptic economic crisis.
More than half of Afghanistan’s population is in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 per day. A staggering 95% of Afghans do not have enough food.
In Yemen, more than 17.4 million people are food insecure, and 85,000 children under age 5 have likely died from starvation.
Even in countries where large numbers of U.S. troops weren’t deployed on the ground, Washington’s wars have destroyed the lives of countless civilians.
U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia “significantly impact people’s livelihood sources”, killing workers, destroying farms and businesses, and bankrupting families.
“The severe impact of such economic setbacks on populations who depend on the land for their survival cannot be underestimated”, the report emphasized.
Washington’s so-called counter-terrorism laws in Somalia have also “hampered humanitarian relief efforts, intensifying the effects of famine”, the researchers noted.
Hundreds of thousands of children have died from famine in the East African nation.
The Brown University studies are part of a growing body of scholarship documenting the death tolls of post-9/11 U.S. wars.
IPPNW cautioned that this 2015 figure was “only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely”.
As US armour was rolling into Iraqi cities, international news networks replayed over and over again a scene from April 9 that year that in hindsight seems loaded with dramatic irony.
The toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos square — an event that turned out to be stage-managed — was meant to symbolise the liberation of Iraqis and the end of the Ba’ath Party’s 35-year-long rule in Iraq. Yet it was not the grand finale of the US invasion but rather the prelude to a long and bloody revolt and armed uprising.
The US occupation that lasted eight years created aftershocks of regional instability and left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead — so many that no one has an exact count.
Like the US-led coalition in Iraq back then, the Russian government expected its illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to end with a quick and decisive victory.
Fooled by a sense of its own invincibility, the Russian army entered Ukraine as if on parade, in long columns that became easy targets for US-made Javelin missiles. They expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv within days, but a year later, the Russians remain bogged down in a protracted and bloody war.
So did Russian President Vladimir Putin end up repeating the mistakes — and for many, the crimes — of Bush in Iraq 20 years ago? How much do these two epoch-defining invasions have in common? What are the differences?
The short answer: The parallels run deep, from the false pretexts under which they were launched and the failings of the United Nations system that the wars showed up, to the use of private military contractors. But key differences exist in the deeper motivations that triggered the wars, said military historians and analysts. And the US military proved more effective at fighting a conventional war in Iraq than Russia has in Ukraine.
“In the US case they achieved the decapitation, but they really misread the Iraqi population,” says al-Marashi. “The US thought they would be greeted as liberators overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and that didn’t happen. What did Russia think? That the Ukrainians would also welcome them as liberators for overthrowing this so-called ‘fascist regime’.”
Once senior Bush administration officials had made up their minds about invading Iraq, their single-minded determination to topple the Iraqi regime rendered them oblivious to the unintended consequences of war, said analysts.
It also blinded them to inconvenient truths — something neatly encapsulated in what a White House official reportedly told journalist Ron Suskind. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” the official said.
Creating their “own reality” meant ignoring international law and the United Nations Charter that the US and Soviet Union were original signatories to. The inability to stop the two bellicose powers from attacking sovereign states starkly exposed the weaknesses of the post-World War II international order.
Both Russia and the US went to war off the back of bogus pretexts — alternate realities they created. In the case of the US and its closest ally in the invasion of Iraq, the United Kingdom, dubious intelligence painted Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a harbourer of al-Qaeda, a hoarder of weapons of mass destruction, and an all-around international bogeyman.
Al-Marashi has firsthand experience of this. A paper he wrote was plagiarised by the UK government in a 2003 document used to make the case for invading Iraq — the so-called “dodgy dossier”. Al-Marashi said his work was used in “constructing the image of a dictator who had to be overthrown”.
Russia constructed the image of a hostile administration in Kyiv that needed to be overthrown and took that lie to its absurd outer limits, portraying Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a depraved addict presiding over a government of neo-Nazis.
“The first ‘reason’ for Putin taking Ukraine was that he was saving the Ukrainians from this drug-crazed criminal Nazi gang running the country,” says Margaret Macmillan, professor of history at the University of Oxford. “And when it turned out that a lot of Ukrainians were supporting the drug-crazed criminal gang the war was now on the Ukrainians themselves, and then there was talk of re-educating them.”
As a state where power is concentrated in one man, Russia’s war in Ukraine is Putin’s war — the brutal incarnation of his own imperial designs, said experts.
According to Jade McGlynn, research fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, and author of the book Russia’s War, the invasion of Ukraine “at its heart is a war over identity and conceptions of the [Russian] nation”.
Putin “conflated himself with the power structures of Russia,” said McGlynn, and “constructed a post-Soviet Russian identity that is very dependent on Ukraine and the idea of a greater Russia”.
For al-Marashi, who used to teach at Ukraine’s Ivan Franko University, Russia’s war has an undeniably imperial aspect to it that can be traced back to Ukraine’s incorporation into the Russian empire and deliberate policies of “Russification”, which attempted to deny Ukrainian culture and identity in the 19th century. This “imperial mindset” has a long history to it, said al-Marashi, from Catherine the Great’s description of Ukraine as ‘New Russia’ all the way to Putin. “Those are imperial linkages that I don’t think you can deny,” he said.
The US’s imperial mindset towards countries it has invaded and occupied is also hard to ignore, said experts. But there is a key difference highlighted by the contexts that set the stage for the wars in Iraq and Ukraine.
Russia, said Macmillan, “is the last standing European empire”. But it is a crumbling empire, and the speeches and revisionist historical treatises that laid Putin’s ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine are often shot through with a sense of historical loss. Putin has lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as a “genuine tragedy” in which “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”.
But it was very different for Bush, who “inherited the windfall” of the end of the Cold War and was “riding the emergence” of the US as the superpower in a unipolar world.
According to al-Marashi, the 2003 invasion of Iraq came at a “unique historical moment” for the US, when its hegemony was relatively unchallenged and it “sought to reshape the world” in its image.
When Bush ran for president, he was focused on domestic affairs, not foreign intervention, al-Marashi pointed out. But that changed with the 9/11 attacks, which emboldened the administration’s hawks, who felt that the US had unfinished business in Iraq.
In much the same way, the Putin regime had unfinished business in Ukraine. Putin, said experts, felt the need for a lasting solution to the Ukraine question that had plagued Russian nationalists since the Soviet breakup in 1991. That question — namely, what to do about Ukraine drifting towards the West’s embrace — had become ever more pressing since the 2014 war in the Donbas.
For Bush Junior, returning to the Middle East was an opportunity to finish off what his father started in the First Gulf War. Key officials and ideologues of the second Bush administration had served under the elder Bush including his vice president, Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and US trade representative Robert Zoellick. They had long advocated for US military intervention abroad.
Wolfowitz, Armitage and Zoellick — three leading “neocons” — together with another key war architect, Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were signatories of a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998 calling for regime change in Iraq.
“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction,” the letter read. “In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”
From Blackwater to Wagner
Security concerns, although they turned out to be highly exaggerated, played into the decisions of the US and Russia to embark on their illegal invasions.
Moscow has pointed to its fears of NATO expansion and the existential threat posed by a hostile Ukraine, describing its neighbour as merely a proxy for the West. It is, in Putin’s view, the latest episode in a long history of Western attempts to cripple Russia.
To some extent, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. European support for NATO is far greater than before the invasion, and Russia is more isolated, more economically vulnerable, and faced with biting sanctions.
Similarly, in the aftermath of 9/11, paranoia crept into the US establishment. The first major attack on the US mainland exposed the vulnerability of the world’s sole superpower and left the US public deeply shocked. Although Iraq had nothing to do with the attack, Americans “were prepared to believe the government if it told them Iraq was responsible,” Macmillan said.
Ultimately, both wars left the countries that started them — and the world at large — less secure than before, and as the costs and casualties began to mount, their citizens became predictably wary. The aftermath of 9/11 saw jingoism reach a fever pitch in the US but also galvanised an anti-war movement. By the end of Bush’s final term, public support for the war had plummeted.
It is much harder to gauge Russian public opinion — criticism of the war has been banned and early shows of public disapproval were ruthlessly stamped out — but the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing abroad to avoid the draft gives some indication of the public mood.
When the war in Donbas started in 2014, “there was a nationalist revival”, said McGlynn, “you saw people volunteering to go off to Donbas.
“In 2022 it was different, people were anxious”.
Yet again, Putin appears to have followed Bush’s example.
The US did not rely on conscription to fight its war in Iraq, but was nevertheless wary that a steady stream of body bags for regular troops would take a major toll on public opinion. Its widespread reliance on private military contractors in Iraq, however, helped solve that problem.
Newly recruited, poorly trained prisoners have been pressed into service with the promise of freedom, and have reportedly been used as cannon fodder in some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine. Wagner’s fighters have also been implicated in some of the worst atrocities in the ongoing war.
Who won, and who lost
The US did not have a sound exit strategy in Iraq and so got trapped in a grinding conflict, said Macmillan, adding that Russia has made the same mistake.
Yet the results of the Russian and US invasions have been felt most acutely by the invaded populations — Iraqi society was “shattered” by the US’s “shock and awe” offensive, said Macmillan, while the costs of reconstruction for Ukraine will likely be higher than in Iraq.
Still, there are differences in the consequences that the US faced and that Russia will likely confront for years to come.
While the US was stuck in a quagmire of its own creation for nearly a decade, there were no significant economic hardships experienced by its population. The US economy did not suffer a war-induced shock, it faced no sanctions and diplomatic isolation, and its military was not humiliated in the way Russia’s has been.
Condemnations of US actions were ultimately inconsequential. The US was simply too secure in its role as global hegemon to be treated like a pariah state, and the prospect of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Bush or any other senior US government official, as has been issued for Putin, was inconceivable.
For Russia, it is different. Russia is not the Soviet Union — it is a rump state with a struggling economy overly dependent on hydrocarbon exports. Its military, once seen as among the world’s most sophisticated, increasingly looks like a Potemkin army when put to the test.
The consequences for the world at large may also be more severe this time.
War in Ukraine threatens to feed into global insecurity. In Iraq, apart from oil supply instability, the spillover from war was largely contained to the Middle East. Ukraine, on the other hand, is more integrated into the global economy and is a breadbasket that sustains global food markets, while sanctions on Russia have destabilised global energy supplies.
The conflict also comes at a time when the guardrails of an interconnected global order that disincentivised wars between major economies are falling apart. “Globalisation is unwinding,” said Macmillan.
The world, in short, is a more dangerous place than it was two decades ago. A major nuclear power is engaged in a war that is sucking in NATO powers. And even superpowers cannot create an alternative reality.
WASHINGTON — Susan Rice, President Biden’s domestic policy adviser, will step down next month after overseeing some of the administration’s most polarizing issues, including immigration, gun control and student loan relief, the White House announced on Monday.
Ms. Rice, who previously served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and U.N. ambassador, is leaving as the White House faces pressure over illegal crossings at the southern border and as the Biden administration prepares to lift a Trump-era public health order that allowed border agents to expel migrants.
Her last day on the job will be May 26.
Ms. Rice’s tenure has been marked by legislative achievements like capping the price of insulin, expanding health care and passing bipartisan gun reform. But she also drew criticism for the administration’s approach to immigration and other divisive issues.
The New York Times reported last week that Ms. Rice’s team was repeatedly shown evidence of a growing migrant child labor crisis, including a 2021 memo in which staff members warned of increasing indications of human trafficking, according to people familiar with the matter.
“We were never informed of any kind of systematic problem with child labor or migrant child labor,” Ms. Rice said in an interview after her departure was announced. “I never saw the memo.”
Ms. Rice said she had always planned to serve for two years.
“It’s going to be about two and a half and I figured if it’s going to be two and a half, let it be time for me to enjoy my summer and be with my family and travel a bit,” she said.
Mr. Biden surprised many when he tapped Ms. Rice to lead the Domestic Policy Council, smaller and lesser known than the National Security Council. She was on the short list to be his running mate in 2020 and has the kind of résumé that could have put her in contention for secretary of state.
Ms. Rice was surprised when she got the nod to be Mr. Biden’s top domestic policy official, said Ron Klain, Mr. Biden’s former chief of staff, who called her during the transition to deliver the news.
“She was like, ‘You know I’m not a domestic policy expert,’” Mr. Klain said. “I said: ‘No, I know that, Susan, but I’ve seen you work in the White House and I know you can handle hard things and get things done.”
Mr. Biden praised Ms. Rice’s work on Monday.
“As the only person to serve as both national security adviser and domestic policy adviser, Susan’s record of public service makes history,” he said in a statement.
The news of Ms. Rice’s departure was first reported by NBC News.
Ms. Rice said one regret was not passing everything in Mr. Biden’s climate and social spending package, including investments in child care and home health aides. She said she was proud of a variety of issues, including addressing mental health: “If we don’t address that adequately, we’re going to have really fundamental problems.”
Multiple officials recalled when Ms. Rice immersed herself in negotiations with law enforcement unions over a police reform executive order after an early draft leaked in January 2022, putting the endorsement of police unions at risk. She made clear she would not budge on mentioning the racial disparities in police killings, multiple officials said. Police unions eventually signed off, pleased that the administration had changed language in a section about the use of lethal force.
Ms. Rice has known Mr. Biden for years; when she was Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, her office was so close to the vice president’s that they shared a bathroom. She has said Mr. Biden was her favorite “unannounced” visitor to her office during those days.
Ms. Rice has taken heat for the administration’s approach to the border, which Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized. Recently, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, accused her of being behind restrictive enforcement measures that he said had made Mr. Biden the “asylum denier in chief.”
“While the president is of course responsible for his own policies, Ms. Rice’s tenure was marked by one bad White House decision after another on immigrants’ rights and human rights,” said Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an immigration rights advocacy organization.
Ms. Rice said on Monday that the immigration issue could not be addressed “purely through enforcement.”
“We have an obligation to enforce our laws,” she said, “but at the same time we have an obligation to make it possible for people with legitimate protection needs and asylum claims to be heard and to have their cases adjudicated.”
Susan Rice is set to step down as the White House’s domestic policy adviser, President Joe Biden confirmed Monday. In a statement, Biden said he “surprised a lot of people” when he appointed President Obama’s national security adviser to the job. “But what I knew then and what we all know now—after more than two years of her steady leadership of the Domestic Policy Council—it’s clear: there is no one more capable, and more determined to get important things done for the American people than Susan Rice,” the statement added. According to NBC News, which first reported the story, Rice will leave the White House on May 26. The outlet said Rice told colleagues when she started the role that she only intended to stay for two years.
When it comes to negotiations with Iran, hope truly seems to spring eternal in Washington, D.C.
For the past two years, the Biden administration has made diplomatic reengagement with the Islamic Republic the centerpiece of its Mideast policy, based on the notion that, with the proper inducements, Tehran can be coaxed back into the confines of the nuclear deal it hammered out with the West back in 2015. As part of that effort, Washington has offered a great many carrots to the Iranian regime, from relaxing its enforcement of existing sanctions to voicing only muted support for the brave opposition protesters now rallying against the ayatollahs in Tehran.
Washington’s response to these developments is, naturally, to seek more negotiations. There are now credible reports that the White House is quietly talking to Tehran about a qualitatively new nuclear deal. The terms appear to be simple: a “freeze for freeze” arrangement under which the Iranian regime will halt its nuclear development in exchange for a rollback of U.S. sanctions. But problems with the idea abound, because any such arrangement would lock in the worrying nuclear advances Iran has made to date while propping up the regime in Tehran economically.
This sad state of affairs is a testament to the bankruptcy of American policy. Simply put, the United States — at least under the Biden administration — truly doesn’t have a “Plan B” beyond negotiations for dealing with Iran’s nuclear effort. And because it doesn’t, we are now more and more likely to face two possible outcomes.
The second outcome is an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Such a possibility has been on the table for years, but policy-makers in Jerusalem have tended to defer to Washington regarding how best to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. In recent weeks, however, Iran’s nuclear advances — and its strategic partnership with Russia, which could soon provide it with advanced military technology — have added new urgency to Israel’s calculations. As a result, more and more Israeli policy-makers are becoming convinced that the Jewish state may need to go it alone to prevent Iranian nuclearization. Herzi Halevy, the new chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, said as much several days ago when he told Army Radio that, while “it would be good to have the United States on our side” if Israel does go ahead and strike Iran, “it is not an obligation.”
Against this backdrop it is increasingly clear that the Biden administration, through its single-minded pursuit of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, is courting disaster — either in the form of a region dominated by a nuclear Iran, or of a region destabilized by an Israeli military strike meant to ward off precisely that outcome. Washington needs to change course, before it’s too late.
In his famous 1897 essay, “The Path of the Law,” Oliver Wendell Holmes said that to understand the law, it would be necessary to adopt the perspective of the famous “bad man,” the one “who cares only for the material consequences” of his actions, but “does not care two straws for the axioms or deductions” of natural law. Our bad man just wants “to know what the Massachusetts or English courts are likely to do in fact.”
Today, Holmes’s quintessential bad man is Iran, as it only cares about what happens if it gets caught,—caught, in this case, developing nuclear weapons. With most contracts, people work overtime to avoid that problem by choosing the right business partners. But there is no such luxury in international affairs.
Last week, Iran and the six world powers—the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany—plus the European Union signed a nuclear deal called the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Any examination of this deal has to start with the ugly but accurate assumption that Iran will, at every opportunity, act in bad faith.
The agreement starts off on a grand note: “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iranˈs nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” But it is straight downhill from there.
Worse still, China and Russia should not be understood as adverse to Iran, their present and future ally. They are better understood as a Fifth Column against the West, and Iran’s many other foes, whose role in the negotiations is akin to the role that Vladimir Putin played in the embarrassing negotiations over chemical weapons in Syria that all but destroyed Obama’s credibility in foreign policy. Putin will be happy to take any excess uranium ore off the hands of the Iranians. But at the most opportune time, he might be prepared to return it to Iran if doing so would benefit Russia. The Chinese, for their part, also sense weakness in the United States and the West, as they build up illegal islands in the South China Sea subject to our diplomatic objections that accomplish nothing.
The remaining parties are our nominal allies who must believe that this nuclear deal represents a retreat from the basic proposition of Pax Americana—the guarantee that the U.S. will provide meaningful guarantees for the security of its allies. Our allies may well become less hostile to Russia and China precisely because they cannot count on U.S. leadership in tough times. The situation is starker still for the Israelis, who fear that the deal will embolden the Iranians to create more mischief in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Saudis are probably next in line in this belief. And both are surely right.
Iran’s promises count for nothing. Iran is quite happy to fund Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to back Hamas, and to launch terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East. It is eager to confront its Sunni rivals, most notably Saudi Arabia, by supporting their enemies. It is eager to annihilate Israel. Indeed now that the agreement seems in place, the Ayatollah says flat out that deal or no deal, “we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.”
Why then would anyone be surprised that Iran would be willing to make high-sounding promises that it has every intention to quickly break? Does anyone really agree with the President’s rosy view that Iran will reciprocate our respect with its respect? Putting our best foot forward makes sense with ordinary business deals where reputations count. It makes no sense when dealing with a Holmesian bad man who has no need or intention of reciprocating good will with good will.
In this sort of negotiating environment, reviewing the counterparty’s track record is a must, and Iran’s is far from laudable. Hence the guts of this deal lie not in lofty preambles, but in its gritty details of enforcement and sanctions, two issues which should be non-negotiable—a word that President Obama never invokes to defend our position.
One issue concerns the sequence in which the various stipulations of the agreement go into play. The black mark against this agreement is that it virtually guarantees immediate removal of the full set of economic sanctions against Iran, which will lead to an infusion of cash, perhaps in excess of $150 billion, into the country, some fraction of which will promptly flow to affiliate groups that cause mayhem around the world. But what does the President say about this substantial negative? Nothing. He just ignores it.
In his much-ballyhooed interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, he stated: “Don’t judge me on whether this deal transforms Iran, ends Iran’s aggressive behavior toward some of its Arab neighbors or leads to détente between Shiites and Sunnis. Judge me on one thing: Does this deal prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years and is that a better outcome for America, Israel and our Arab allies than any other alternative on the table?”
In fact, we should judge President Obama and his treaty harshly on each of these points. By providing Iran with billions of dollars of immediate cash, this agreement will help Iran fund wars and terrorist attacks that could take thousands of lives. To offset this possibility, the President has indicated that he will try to bolster American assistance to the various countries that will be affected by Iranian aggression, but none of our allies can have much confidence in the leadership of a President who has made at best negligible progress in dealing with ISIS. His public vow to never put American ground forces in the Middle East turns out to be the only promise that he is determined to keep—for the benefit of our sworn enemies who have greater freedom of action given his iron clad guarantee. The objection to the President here is not that he has merely failed to curb Iranian mischief. It is that his clumsy deal will massively subsidize it.
Second, there is no more “snap back” here. Once the sanctions set out explicitly in the agreement are lifted from Iran, they won’t be reinstated any time soon. Gone are the days of anytime, anywhere inspections. In stark contrast, Articles 36 and 37 of the agreement outline a tortuous review process to reinstate any sanctions. First the Joint Commission must act, then the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and then a nonbinding opinion by a three-member Advisory Board must be issued. If the matter is not resolved to mutual satisfaction after this process runs its course, any participant “could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this ICPOA.”
Section 37 then contains a murky provision under which the UN Security Council might possibly reimpose sanctions in part. But the entire procedure could take months, and at the end of this process Iran is free to walk if it does not like the outcome. Iran would also know that reassembling the original set of sanctions would be extremely difficult. Putting this agreement in place will likely end collective sanctions irreversibly.
And what do we get in exchange for all of the added risks we assume? The President claims that we have secured the best path possible to slow down the ability of the Iranians to make a nuclear weapon for at least ten years. But why should anyone believe that that will be the result when we are dealing with the quintessential bad man? The only safe way to slow down Iran’s nuclear capabilities is to do what the President claimed was necessary earlier, which is to knock out Iran’s total production of enriched uranium, subject to constant supervision.
It is all too clear that what Obama has offered today is a far cry from the deal he outlined to the country before these negotiations. It was easy for the President to talk tough to Mitt Romney in the course of their 2012 debates by then claiming it was “straightforward” that Iran has to “give up” its nuclear program in its entirety. As the President once recognized, there are no peaceful ends for which Iran needs a nuclear program. It is awash in oil, and it can satisfy any desire for medical isotopes by buying off-the-shelf products from any of a dozen nations that would be thrilled to supply them for free.
The agreement dramatically changes Iran’s status as an international aggressor. Elliott Abrams gives us the grim tally. Right off the bat, Iran’s nuclear program has gone from illegal to legal. The new agreement lets Iran keep 6,000 centrifuges and it allows the country to continue to do its own weapons research. It is likely that it can do a lot more outside the agreement as well. In five years the agreement lifts an arms embargo and in eight years all restrictions on ballistic missiles will be lifted.
It is often said that negotiation involves the process of give and take, by which it is not meant that the United States and its allies give and Iran takes. Unfortunately, that pattern has been observed in this recent deal. Iran had no hesitation in stating in the eleventh hour that various limitations on its sovereignty, e.g. inspections, were “unacceptable.” Today its position is that the sanctions must be lifted immediately. But the Obama administration was extraordinarily reluctant to say that any Iranian proposal was unacceptable. The drama in the negotiation was how far the Iranians would push the agreement to their side of the table—which is exactly what to expect from any negotiation that relies exclusively on carrots and disdains all sticks.
This agreement does not require detailed study to conclude that it is a dead loser. Nonetheless, the United States has put it forward in the United Nations for approval before Congress has spoken, and the President, incorrigible as ever, has announced that he will veto any Congressional legislation that seeks to block the treaty. Many members of his own party do not share the President’s unfailing instinct for self-destruction. They should join the Republicans to reject the treaty by veto-proof majorities in both houses before the President and his team can do any further harm.
With the Pentagon now refocusing elsewhere, and with Iran getting closer to nuclear weapons by the day, the widening post-Iraq American boots-on-the-ground Middle East vacuum is cautiously being challenged by China.
Shiite Muslims protest near the local headquarters of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority on July 20, 2003, in Najaf, Iraq. – Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)
The invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, by a US-led “coalition of the willing” set the standards for the use of armed force as an instrument Great Power foreign policy outside the scope of the UN resolutions.
That action destabilized the delicate balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa and undermined the system of alliances built in the wake of WWII, paramount amongst them the cornerstone of the Quincy Agreement on Feb. 14, 1945 — signed aboard the USS Quincy moored in the Great Bitter Lake along the Suez Canal — between President Franklin D. Roosevelt — who had just returned from Yalta — and King Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al Saud, setting up the “oil for protection” pact between the United States and the Saudi kingdom. It would “fuel” the West and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against the Warsaw Pact, rich with the plentiful oil fields of Siberia and the Caspian, then in USSR territory.
The Iraq invasion was a protracted reaction against the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, known as the “two blessed raids” in Islamist parlance. To a large extent, though, the four planes that hit America on that day were but US jihadi chickens coming home to roost, as the United States itself had unleashed the genie from the bottle when the CIA instrumentalized the Afghan and international brigades of mujahedeen to vanquish the Red Army and kick it out of Kabul, on Feb. 15, 1989. That would prove the final blow to the Soviet system and a prelude to the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9 of that same year.
Using jihadis to unsettle the USSR looked at once like a coup de maître, but it would soon prove to feel more like a sorcerer’s apprentice, as jihadism was fueled into becoming the major world threat until the 2020s, morphing from local to regional then international stages under the guises of al-Qaeda and finally the Islamic State (IS), reaching deep into America and then European societies.
Fifteen of the 9/11 kamikazes being Saudis, the neocons in the George W. Bush administration blamed the Wahhabi kingdom for the misdeed — a modern-day illustration of the beam and the mote parable — and envisioned the invasion of Iraq as a means to punish Riyadh for shifting to a post-Saddam Hussein, Shiite-dominated Mesopotamia with huge oil fields. Intoxicated by Iraqi exiles roaming inside the beltway, they underestimated the resilience of the armed Sunni resistance — which would give birth to IS — and didn’t anticipate the Iranian capacity to control local Shiite militias who came to dominate in Baghdad. Paradoxically, the US invasion eventually delivered Iraq to its arch-nemesis, the Islamic Republic of Iran, while the neocons had naively believed in a domino theory that would see Western-style democracy expand from Shiite Baghdad to Shiite Teheran by virtue of example.
The Iraq fiasco engineered the local branch of IS in the infamous US detention facilities of Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib, which would later expand to Syria during the course of the civil war in 2012, taking advantage of the sectarian output of the hastily praised democratic ideals of the Arab Spring, and finally bring terrorist havoc into Europe with the to-and-fro of jihadis with their Levant bases. Equally damaging, it undermined for good the Saudi-American trust relationship, which had survived the trials of the 1973 Yom Kippur-Ramadan war and the first oil crisis, the Iranian Revolution and the Afghan jihad. When Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in 2017 and started the process that would shift the kingdom from gas station of America to political heavyweight on the world scene, he had learned the lessons from the Iraq invasion and its far-reaching consequences.
One of them was that the United States would shy from armed intervention in the Middle East for fear of unpredictable pernicious effects: President Barack Obama, who had achieved the painstaking pullout of troops from Iraq in December 2011, reneged from bombing Syria in August 2013 when President Bashar al-Assad gassed his own insurgent population on the outskirts of Damascus. Rather, the White House would take precautions from the chaotic outcomes of the Arab Springs in engaging the Muslim Brotherhood, the intimate enemy of Riyadh, as a stabilization force against all-out chaos.
As a consequence, Saudi trust in America went to a new low, and the kingdom — together with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait — helped then-Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi oust and replace Muslim Brother Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 in a media campaign that painted the latter as a stooge of the Obama administration.
Though Saudi relations with Donald Trump looked better as the latter pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kazemi had a more balanced attitude toward his Sunni neighbors and the West, Tehran regained much of its hand in Baghdad after the last elections. Meanwhile, the United States — with traumatic memories of the disastrous Iraq invasion — was pulling much of its troops from the Middle East. It let the Taliban retake Afghanistan in August 2021, giving mixed signals to regional allies dependent on its military guarantees.
With the Pentagon now refocusing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Chinese navy challenge on the Taiwan straits, and with Iran getting closer to nuclear weapons by the day, the widening post-Iraq American boots-on-the-ground Middle East vacuum is cautiously being challenged by China, which is going beyond its commercial and financial collaterals to venture into security safeguards. Such are the lessons learned from the Iraq War by Beijing and its Arab partners, if not by Washington.
A third, broader AUMF approved by Congress 2001 was not incorporated into the latest repeal effort because supporters say it is still needed to combat al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and related terror operations.
“Passing this bill is an important step to prevent any president from abusing these AUMFs, reaffirm our partnership with the Iraqi government, and pay tribute to the service members who served in Iraq and their families,” Kaine said.
Kaine said he urged the House, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to swiftly pass the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Kaine’s Republican co-sponsor, Indiana Sen. Todd Young, called for quick action by the House as well.
“A broad and diverse coalition in the House supports this legislation, and I am hopeful the bill will receive prompt consideration,” Young said in a statement.
Previous attempts to retract or amend the authorizations failed in recent years, including a 2021 bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF approved by the then-Democratic-controlled House but which stalled when it reached the Senate.
In the current debate, some senators expressed concerns the new repeal attempt could be seen as a sign of U.S. weakness by international foes such as Iran. But the legislation has found a broad support in the House across party lines and McCarthy has indicated support for the measure.
The legislation “has a good chance of getting through committee and getting to the floor,” the California Republican recently said at a GOP retreat in Orlando.
Biden came out in support of repeal earlier in March, noting that no ongoing military activities rely on the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs.
“President Biden remains committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats,” the White House said in a statement just before the Senate held a test vote March 16.
IAVA, a large Iraq war veterans’ group, welcomed the resolution, too, saying Congress should not allow a president to have “unchecked” authority over troop deployments.
“Congress has shirked its responsibility to our troops and their families for too long by leaving open-ended authorizations of military force in place. It’s past time to change that,” IAVA CEO Allison Jaslow said in. statement about the Senate vote.
Washington’s decision to completely dismantle the state and military apparatus contributed decisively to the prevalence of total chaos and the disintegration of Iraq’s social fabric
The events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent American invasion (2003) and occupation of Iraq (2003-2011) were two landmark events, which made Washington the architect of regional destabilisation and insecurity in the Middle East for about a decade.
The timeline of the invasion refers to the US and British-led attack of “the willing” on March 19, 2003, in implementation of the US “New National Security Strategy,” which placed the issue of terrorism at the top of Washington’s political agenda.
It is a fact that Decision 687 of the S.C. imposed a series of commitments on Iraq’s disarmament, including destroying any alleged weapons of mass destruction and cooperating with a UN Special Commission to inspect its nuclear program.
Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with the international community was quickly taken advantage of by the USA and Great Britain in order to request that the S.C. adopt a new decision authorising the use of force. With most UN member states opposed to violence and in favor of a peaceful resolution, the US and UK launched a unilateral invasion, which was criticised even by US officials, such as the US ambassador to Baghdad in 1990.
The unilateral military operation against Iraq was carried out in violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, which introduces a general prohibition of the use of force, and Article 51, which recognises the “natural right of individual or collective self-defense, in the case that a State is attacked”, as well as article 39 of Chapter VII, which refers to the authorisation of the Security Council.
Regarding the right of self-defense the Bush and Tony Blair governments did not invoke information about an existing or imminent threat, instead they based their arguments on the fear of a future use of weapons of mass destruction by the Saddam Hussein regime.
US arrogance peaked when defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected the report of the UN inspector general for the search, inventory and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, which concluded that no evidence had emerged to support speculation about weapons of mass destruction. After all, the minister of foreign affairs Colin Powell, in his speech at the United Nations on February 3, 2003, speculated that Iraqi weapons might be linked to terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda.
Based on the above, it is not surprising that the International Commission of Judges in Geneva concluded that the US committed a flagrant violation of the prohibition of the use of force, as its invasion of Iraq did not meet either of the two conditions under Chapter VII of the Charter Organisation of the United Nations.
However, the role of the UN was crucial in providing a legal cover for the so-called ‘multinational’ force in Iraq, and even under the guidance of the US and UK to defy the will of the duly elected Iraqi parliamentarians to attach the UN mandate to conditionalities, such as a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops or a refusal to privatise their natural resources.
But as history has taught, when a people is denied the ability to decide its own destiny through a peaceful political process, it will try to do so with guns and bombs. And here are the effects:
According to the Lancet medical review, until shortly before the emergence of ISIS in 2012, more than 1,455,590 Iraqis had lost their lives from fighting and explosions, and millions were wounded and displaced.
The ‘divide and conquer’ strategy that the American occupying power used to impose itself intensified the already existing ethnic and dogmatic passions. Washington’s decision to completely dismantle the state and military apparatus, contributed decisively to the prevalence of total chaos and the disintegration of the country’s social fabric.
The “liberation” of Iraq is captured in some of the most inhumane images, with open-air markets turning into rivers of blood and dismembered people, cities being wiped off the map, like Fallujah in 2004, prisoners being unspeakably humiliated by the ‘liberators’, as in Abu Ghraib.
In short, the invasion and occupation of the ‘prothyms’ in Iraq, includes all those ingredients that became fertilizer for ISIS propaganda and plunging the country into a vortex of chaos and blood.
According to president Barack Obama, “ISIS is the spawn of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that developed because of our invasion and is a sample of the side effects”.
Also according to Patrick Cockburn and his book “The Rise of the Islamic State”, ISIS is “the child of war” , of a supposed war on terror, as designed by Bush and Blair. Ηοwever, a war on terror would be directed against states that breed extremism like Saudi Arabia, but the two leaders chose a state whose government opposed religious fundamentalism and turned it into a magnet for hard-line jihadists in the power vacuum that followed the subversion of the legal government of the country.
And worst of all, the criminal operation of Bush and Blair brought terrorism to the safe streets of Europe, such as in Madrid, Paris, Berlin, London, Brussels and Nice.
Likewise, Islamic terrorism has spread to Africa through Al-Qaeda’s sister organisation Boko Haram and the Islamic State, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis that followed the ‘humanitarian’ war of the liberal ‘interventionists’ to overthrow the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya.
The war, which had a heavy cost for the Americans as well, with approximately 5,000 victims and an economic cost of 1.7 trillion dollars, was after Afghanistan the most overt application of the Bush doctrine of preventive strikes and was the reason for the strengthening of the American military presence in Middle East and the emergence of the dominant role of the USA in the Persian Gulf region.
The ‘achievement’ of fundamentally destabilising the entire region through its transformation into a series of “failed” states has been the hotbed for the rise of ISIS, with incalculable implications for the West.
Τhe war against Iraq, which also devastated neighboring Syria, was the main cause of the modern refugee crisis. According to UN data, in 2007 Iraqi refugees around the world were almost 4.000.000.
At the same time, however, the refugee crisis contributed to the rise of neo-nationalism and far-right movements in Europe, which there is a risk of leading to the collapse of the European Union.
Two decades after the U.S. led the invasion of Iraq, one of the most memorable moments for many in the region remains the 2008 news conference in Baghdad when an Iraqi journalist stood up and hurled his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush. As the U.S. leader spoke alongside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he was forced to duck the flying shoes as the journalist shouted: “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!”
The man was quickly pounced on by security forces and removed from the room, and says he was subsequently jailed and beaten for his actions.
“The only regret I have is that I only had two shoes,” Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who expressed the feelings of many Iraqis at the time, told CBS News on Monday, exactly 20 years after the beginning of the U.S.’s campaign of “shock and awe.”
Then-President Bush’s administration justified its decision to attack the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein with assertions that the dictator was hiding chemical or biological “weapons of mass destruction,” but no such weapons were ever found.
Al-Zaidi says he didn’t throw his shoes in a moment of uncontrolled anger, but that he had actually been waiting for just such an opportunity since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion. He said Bush had suggested that the Iraqi people would welcome U.S. forces with flowers, which left him looking for an adequate reply.
“I was looking for the opposite and equal reaction to say that Iraqis don’t receive occupiers with flowers,” the journalist told CBS News, adding that he staged his protest to oppose “this arrogant killer, and out of loyalty to the Iraqi martyrs killed by American occupation soldiers.”
Sentenced to three years in prison, al-Zaidi was seen by many Iraqis as a national hero, and he served only nine months of his sentence.
He says he was beaten and tortured for three days following his arrest by Iraqi officers, who he claims sent photos of himself blindfolded to the Americans. He says three months of his jail term were spent in solitary confinement as he suffered medical problems.
“Back then, in the midst of being tortured for three days, there was a rumor that I had apologized. I told the investigator I did not apologize, and if time was rewound I would do it all over again,” he told CBS News. “Even knowing what I would go through, still I would stand up and throw my shoes at him.”
Al-Zaidi said the anxious wait for the expected invasion before March 20, 2003, left Iraqis on edge, with stockpiling food and others fleeing major cites for smaller towns far from Baghdad, fearing American bombs.
“People were like, semi-dead, like zombies, walking as if they were in a different world,” al-Zaidi recalled. “Then the zero-hour came. Most if not all Iraqis were woken up by the sound of explosions.”
The journalist says some of Iraq’s infrastructure still hasn’t been repaired, and he blames the invasion for “political and financial corruption” and the current political gridlock in his country, where “every political party has its own armed faction or militia that kills and terrifies people, kills their opposition and assassinates protesters.”
“We are trying to tell the world that the Iraqi people are being killed and ripped off,” he said. “We are suffering and we will continue to suffer, but the future of Iraq is in our hands and we want to remove this authority that ruled Iraq for the past 20 years.”