March 19, 2008

The Hell-Disaster of Iraq

by Robert Fisk

Five years on, and still we have not learnt. With each anniversary, the steps crumble beneath our feet, the stones ever more cracked, the sand ever finer. Five years of catastrophe in Iraq and I think of Churchill, who in the end called Palestine a "hell-disaster".

But we have used these parallels before and they have drifted away in the Tigris breeze. Iraq is swamped in blood. Yet what is the state of our remorse? Why, we will have a public inquiry - but not yet! If only inadequacy was our only sin.

Today, we are engaged in a fruitless debate. What went wrong? How did the people - the senatus populusque Romanus of our modern world - not rise up in rebellion when told the lies about weapons of mass destruction, about Saddam's links with Osama bin Laden and 11 September? How did we let it happen? And how come we didn't plan for the aftermath of war?

Oh, the British tried to get the Americans to listen, Downing Street now tells us. We really, honestly did try, before we absolutely and completely knew it was right to embark on this illegal war. . . .

Yet one of the terrible ironies of our times is that the most bloodthirsty of American statesmen - Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfovitz - have either never heard a shot fired in anger or have ensured they did not have to fight for their country when they had the chance to do so. No wonder Hollywood titles like "Shock and Awe" appeal to the White House. Movies are their only experience of human conflict; the same goes for Blair and Brown. . . .

Indeed, the Iraqi civilian death toll since our invasion is now greater than the total number of British military fatalities in the Second World War, which came to an astounding 265,000 dead (some histories give this figure as 300,000) and 277,000 wounded. Minimum estimates for Iraqi dead mean that the civilians of Mesopotamia have suffered six or seven Dresdens or - more terrible still - two Hiroshimas. . . .


Enver Masud, "Iraq War: 'Supreme International Crime'," The Wisdom Fund, July 4, 2005

Patrick Cockburn, "Iraqis abandon their homes in Middle East's new refugee exodus," Independent, February 1, 2007

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, "The Enormous Cost of War," Nation, August 17, 2007

"Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey," Reuters, January 30, 2008

Nir Rosen, "The Myth of the Surge," Rolling Stone, March 6, 2008

"Protesters Across the World Condemn Iraq War," Agence France Presse, March 15, 2008

Raymond Whitaker and Stephen Foley, "Iraq: Who won the war?," Independent, March 16, 2008

Editorial: "Five years on, the hard lessons that we must learn from Iraq," Guardian, March 16, 2008

"Iraq 5 Years In: An overview of major events in the conflict," Washington Post, March 18, 2008

"5 Years Ago: Why Was Public So Misinformed on Facts Leading to War?," Editor and Publisher, March 23, 2008

Zbigniew Brzezinski, "How to End the War," Washington Post, March 30, 2008

John Pilger, "Let's learn from Blair’s crimes, so we don’t repeat them in Syria,", February 16, 2012

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