2003 Invasion of Iraq – The ‘commemorative’ round-up (UPDATED)

Last month marked the 10th year (on 19 March 2003 to be exact) since the US-led invasion of Iraq, also known as the Iraq War. This is a war that has cost (for the United States at least) up to three trillion dollars and at least 190,000 deaths – military, ‘contractor’, and civilian(*).

Here is a selection of articles giving a broad overview of reflections.

Leading up to it, James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine ruminates on his initial and consistent opposition (good man!) to the George W. Bush administration’s and neo-conservatives’ folly. Fallows gives a seven-point commentary.

American academic and foreign policy wonk Daniel Drezner does some (perhaps necessary) navel-gazing about how US foreign policy has been affected since 19 March 2003. He has backed off from his initial support of the invasion, but still not repentant regarding the use of force – to achieve security, democracy, or whatever else. Does this then not make him a ‘chickenhawk‘?

And for the love of the gods, Dan, please stop using the phrase ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Oh look here, a ‘spade’! I call it what it really was – an INVASION. Of another sovereign state.

Where the neo-conservatives are not mentioned…
Former Ronald Reagan staffer, Republican, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan does even more navel-gazing about how the invasion has affected the US Republican Party. (Why do I say ‘navel-gazing’? Hint: No mention of the neo-conservative ‘wing’ – any one of them – and their role, anywhere. Yes, exactly.)

…And where they are
International relations scholar Robert Kelly posits a neo-con ‘theory’ (of international relations or otherwise) behind their justification of the war. Bear in mind that he’s not trying to justify it from their point of view, but rather to come up with a plausible explanation why they pushed so hard for war – and got it.

Personally, I think any such theories are hogwash, flawed to the point of ridiculousness. There are theories and ideologies that are appropriate for certain times, and others that are not. The ‘justifications’ for invading Iraq – including from the so-called liberal imperialists interventionists – belong to the latter category.

In the meantime, from author and former US State Department employee Peter Van Buren: the World’s. Largest. Embassy. Ever. will soon stand largely empty.

Taylor Marvin ruminates about learning The Wrong Lessons from Iraq.

Daniel Nexon goes more ‘macro’ into IR theory to discuss the over-arching cause of war between as a form of classic ‘interstate rivalry‘ and explores its specific dynamics.

John B. Judis reflects on what it was like to oppose the Iraq invasion in 2003, giving emphasis on the media and perceived credibility of political figures (hint: NOT George W. Bush).

There is also the US failure in Afghanistan, as seen by Stephen Walt. David Rothkopf contemplates the lessons learnt there and in Iraq, while Paul Rogers observes more broadly the ‘war on terror’ and the West’s inability to eliminate violent conflict [The US seems to be able to eliminate lots of human beings, though. I guess that’s why they think they’re ‘an exceptional nation’. – Ed.] (I’m kidding! There’s no ‘Editor’ for this blog.)

And a little blast from the past: Ghassan Michel Rubeiz wrote this in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential elections (Remember that one? Where’s the Hope and Change now?):

America will be tied to the Muslim world for centuries to come….

Although many of America’s policies with Muslim-majority countries take the form of aid and cooperation, America is also engaged in two active wars in Muslim-majority countries and is confronting Iran aggressively on nuclear defense issues and its relations with Hizbullah and Hamas.
These many links – whether over common interest, immigration or competition – will play a long-term role in Muslim-U.S. relations well beyond the November election.

There are those who are unrepentent in their support for the Iraq invasion, of course. But they’ve been sufficiently linked and given coverage elsewhere, and I’m not about to give them more exposure here in MY blog.

[Update 9 April] Andrew Bacevich’s letter to Paul Wolfowitz. Can’t you just feeeel the love? Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.

[Update 11 April] I missed out on a few, but they’re never too late for this post: Stephen Saideman discusses the shortage of viable choices after the Iraq invasion and, more importantly, the lack of a proper think-through before invading. William Nomikos debunks the ‘debunking’ of some myths behind the Iraq invasion.

[Update 14 April] More. Elizabeth Ferris brings to our attention how there could be up to as much as 10 percent – or 3 million – of the Iraq’s population still internally displaced. Marc Lynch points to one of the ‘missing’ voices of the Iraq debacle. And Chris Floyd, also going somewhat with the voice of Iraqis theme.

[Update 7 May] At openDemocracy, Anthony Barnett has a  round-up of authors’ writing about the invasion, including this notable one by Tony Curzon Price.

The Singapore link
And much closer to home, and in case anyone has forgotten – or would prefer to forget – that Singapore was a member of the original ‘coalition of the willing’ consisting of countries that supported the US militarily, in principle, or both, here’s an article showing the troop-contributing countries, post-Iraq invasion, called the ‘Multi-National Force – Iraq’. (**There’s an interesting story related to this. See Notes at the end of this post.)

In this, Singapore joined[list] powerhouse island-states (!!!) such as the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Tonga; and also found common, noble cause with paragons of freedom and democracy in the likes of the financial, offshore-money-laundering City of London that only happens by accident to be in the United Kingdom and countries that evoke images of fantasy such as A Song of Iceland Fire.(***)

A personal story: I spoke with a (former) senior Singaporean diplomat back in mid-2004 when he was then with the UN headquarters in New York (an ‘international civil servant’ but nonetheless a politically-garnered position through Singapore as a member state), and asked what he thought about Singapore’s alliance with the US. His response went somewhat like this: “I believe Singapore did the right thing allying with the US, but we shouldn’t have expressed/said it so loudly.” 

Ummm…right. This, in spite of me expressing my misgivings just before I posed the question. To him, it was only a difference of tactics and behaviour – a publics relations issue, if you will; he didn’t see anything wrong, either in principle or strategy, in aligning Singapore with the United States.

This is the kind of mentality that fosters the environment to write shamelessly self-congratulatory books on the PAP government’s ‘diplomacy’. It’s also kind of ironic when you consider that a certain writer – himself a supporter of the regime and no democrat – quoted government official Chan Heng Chee in his book as saying (something to the effect) that Singapore had ‘no choice’ but to go along with the US. That’s ‘realism’ for you, I guess. LOUDLY. It’s also an indication of the lack of moral fibre in leadership.

Huh. And so here we are.

Let me then make this very, very clear: I was, and still am, very much opposed to Singapore’s involvement with the US-led Alliance of Evil Neo-cons and Pseudo-Realists With No Real Balls ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

And round and round we go…
Much more recently, in a Channel News Asia report titled ‘US sees further military cooperation with Singapore‘, Singapore and the US get in bed embedded further. Here’s the piece in full in case it disappears from the website/archives later:

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has told visiting Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, that  the United States anticipates further military cooperation with Singapore as it puts greater focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
WASHINGTON: The United States said Monday that it anticipated further military cooperation with Singapore as Washington presses forward its strategy of putting a greater focus on dispute-ridden Asia.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, kicking off a visit to Washington, spoke to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel about his views on resolving territorial issues in the South and East China Seas, the Pentagon said.
Mr Hagel “made clear the United States and the Department of Defense remain committed to the rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said after the meeting.
Mr Hagel told Mr Lee that “in the future, there will be even more opportunities for closer collaboration between the United States and Singapore,” Little said.
The United States is shifting more of its military toward Asia, part of President Barack Obama’s stated “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia at a time of high tensions between a rising China and several of its neighbours.
The USS Freedom, a littoral combat ship, is en-route to Singapore for temporary deployment. The city-state plans to host up to four of the US ships, which are designed to operate off coasts.
Hagel also said he would visit Singapore next month for the annual Shangri-La defence forum. Secretary of State John Kerry has also planned his own first trip to Asia since taking office later this month.
Mr Lee will meet President Obama on Tuesday at the White House for talks that are also expected to focus on trade. The United States and Singapore are both taking prominent roles in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
– AFP/fa/sf

Let’s see if continuing to ally with the Unites States in this fashion will make Singapore any more secure or safe – or whether we should merely adopt a more cosmetic tactic of not speaking up too loudly in support.



* And by civilian, I mean mainly Iraqi civilians.
** In 2008 two historians discovered deletions and alterations in the list of countries allied to the US in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ during the early years of the invasion and occupation, and all within the time of the Bush regime. Not only were there different lists with different press release dates and varying degrees of media exposure, “the White House took the unusual step of retroactively revising the original March 21 press release, without indicating that the document had been modified from its original form”, as well as changing the release date itself from 21 March to 27 March (2003). For the comprehensive research article see ‘Airbrushing History, American Style‘.
*** Ahem…see [fanboy] ‘A Song of Ice and Fire‘, the fantasy novel series by George RR Martin, currently adapted into a HBO television series. [/fanboy]

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