Iraqi Writers Reflect on US Invasion 20 Years Later

At round 5:30 a.m. native time in Baghdad on March 20, 2003, air raid sirens have been heard in Baghdad because the U.S. invasion started. Throughout the hour, President George W. Bush gave a nationally televised speech from the Oval Workplace asserting the struggle had begun. The assault got here on the false pretext that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, and regardless of worldwide protest and a scarcity of authorization from the United Nations Safety Council. We spend immediately’s present with two Iraqis trying again at how the unprovoked U.S. invasion devastated Iraq and helped destabilize a lot of the Center East. Feurat Alani is a French Iraqi author and documentarian who was based mostly in Baghdad from 2003 to 2008. His latest piece for The Washington Submit is headlined “The Iraq Battle helped destroy what it meant to be an Iraqi.” Sinan Antoon was born and raised in Baghdad. He’s additionally a author, in addition to a poet, translator and affiliate professor at New York College. His newest piece seems in The Guardian, headlined “One million lives later, I can’t forgive what American terrorism did to my nation, Iraq.”


It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its ultimate type.

AMY GOODMAN: It was 20 years in the past immediately when the U.S. invaded Iraq on the false pretext that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. The assault got here regardless of worldwide protest and the dearth of authorization from the United Nations Safety Council. At round 5:30 a.m. native time in Baghdad, March twentieth, 2003, air raid sirens have been heard in Baghdad because the U.S. invasion started. Throughout the hour, President George W. Bush gave a nationally televised speech from the Oval Workplace asserting the struggle had begun.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow residents, at this hour, American and coalition forces are within the early levels of army operations to disarm Iraq, to free its folks and to defend the world from grave hazard. On my orders, coalition forces have begun putting chosen targets of army significance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s skill to wage struggle. These are opening levels of what’s going to be a broad and concerted marketing campaign. …

I would like Individuals and all of the world to know that coalition forces will make each effort to spare harmless civilians from hurt. …

We come to Iraq with respect for its residents, for his or her nice civilization and for the spiritual faiths they apply. Now we have no ambition in Iraq, besides to take away a risk and restore management of that nation to its personal folks.

AMY GOODMAN: And that is how we started our broadcast on Democracy Now! 20 years in the past immediately, March twentieth, 2003.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, The Battle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Nearly 9:30 p.m. Japanese Commonplace Time final night time, the U.S. army started an unprovoked assault on Iraq. Air raid sirens sounded all through Baghdad simply earlier than the solar rose. Anti-aircraft hearth stuffed the sky, and explosions shook the town. Pentagon officers stated over 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been launched from warships. Two stealth bombers every dropped two one-ton bombs. It’s not clear what has been hit or the extent of the casualties. The Iraqi Information Company has simply reported there are 14 injured and one lifeless. Iraq responded by firing three missiles into northern Kuwait, in line with the U.S. army — that would not be independently confirmed.

The assault was not the start of the anticipated huge, what the U.S. authorities calls “shock and awe” marketing campaign. As an alternative, it was a focused strike on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It isn’t but clear whether or not the assassination try was profitable. …

Hours earlier than the assault, Senator Robert Byrd, the oldest voice within the U.S. Congress, condemned the Bush administration’s struggle plans. The West Virginia Democrat stated, “Immediately I weep for my nation. No extra is the picture of America one among robust, but benevolent peacekeeper. … Across the globe, our mates distrust us, our phrase is disputed, our intentions are questioned.” Byrd continued, “We flaunt our superpower standing with vanity. … After struggle has ended, the US should rebuild rather more than the nation of Iraq. We should rebuild America’s picture across the globe.”

Around the globe, worldwide leaders condemned the U.S. struggle. High officers from France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand have been among the many international locations opposing the assault.

AMY GOODMAN: That was an excerpt from our protection 20 years in the past immediately of the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Final week, the Prices of Battle Mission estimated over 550,000 folks have been killed in Iraq and Syria since 2003. Some estimates put the dying toll in Iraq at over 2 million. Immediately, the U.S. nonetheless has some 2,500 troops in Iraq.

Properly, we’ll spend the published immediately with two Iraqis trying again at how the unprovoked U.S. invasion devastated their nation and helped destabilize a lot of the Center East.

Feurat Alani is a French Iraqi journalist who was based mostly in Baghdad from 2003 to 2008. He travels to Iraq often. He’s made a number of documentaries, together with Flavors of Iraq. His first novel is simply out in French, titled in English, I Keep in mind Fallujah. His latest piece for The Washington Submit is headlined “The Iraq Battle helped destroy what it meant to be an Iraqi.” He’s becoming a member of us from Paris, France.

And right here in New York, Sinan Antoon. He’s an Iraqi poet, novelist, translator, scholar, born and raised in Baghdad, affiliate professor at New York College. His piece in The Guardian is simply out; it’s headlined “One million lives later, I can’t forgive what American terrorism did to my nation, Iraq.” He co-directed a documentary about post-2003 Iraq titled About Baghdad. A set of his Arabic poetry will seem in English this summer time beneath the title Postcards from the Underworld. His most up-to-date novel is titled The E-book of Collateral Injury.

We welcome you each to Democracy Now! Sinan Antoon, let’s start with you. Your reflections on this present day, 20 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq? Discuss what occurred to your nation.

SINAN ANTOON: Thanks for having me, Amy.

I imply, what occurred within the final 20 years is catastrophic by any measure. For those who take a look at the figures of the individuals who have been displaced due to this invasion, a complete of 8 million Iraqis needed to depart their houses; 1.2 million are internally displaced in Iraq. There have been not less than — nicely, figures range, however 1 million deaths. Now we have 4 million orphans. Now we have an economic system in shambles. Now we have a rustic that’s dominated by militias, and a rustic that often is within the prime most corrupt international locations on this planet, with all types of financial and social issues, and one nation the place local weather change is manifesting its damaging results in horrendous methods.

And it’s necessary, I believe, since we’re in the US, for residents to recollect the quantity of lies and the way simply they have been bought this struggle, and, as I point out in my article, how the help for the struggle continued for a number of years. And till just lately, lots of people nonetheless assume that in some way Iraq was concerned with 9/11. And I believe it says one thing, after all, in regards to the company media, about how info is disseminated to its residents — sorry. And aside from Democracy Now! and some different retailers, the media itself, after all, and, you already know, the scribes are all complicit in promoting this struggle and in persevering with to present us these blissful tales.

Simply earlier than coming into the studio out right here, I used to be watching MSNBC, and one among its reporters was in Baghdad saying how nice Baghdad is now as a result of there’s tourism, and going to one among Saddam Hussein’s earlier palaces, which was changed into an American College in Baghdad, which is a non-public college, and telling us, “Oh, it’s a coed college,” as if Iraq didn’t have coed universities for many years. I can go on, after all, however I’ll cease right here.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Feurat Alani, in the event you might additionally reply and provides us your reflections on this present day as we mark 20 years for the reason that U.S. invasion of Iraq?

FEURAT ALANI: Sure. Thanks. And initially, thanks for the invitation, and I’m actually honored to share the present with Sinan Antoon, who’s an inspiration to me. As he relentlessly stated, the figures are sufficient to elucidate how this invasion — I refuse the time period “struggle,” as a result of lots of people and observers are speaking in regards to the Iraq Battle. It was an Iraq invasion, unlawful, and its penalties on many, many factors are a catastrophe.

However what is de facto necessary to me as a French of Iraqi descent is to do not forget that Iraq was a rustic. Iraq was an idea. We didn’t know something in regards to the sectarian view that the U.S. introduced in 2003. After all, it was in historical past, however Iraqis used to explain themselves as Iraqis. There was a way of id, of citizenship. After I was a child, I had the prospect to go to Iraq. I used to be 9 the primary time, in ’89. It was the one yr of peace from the final 40 years. And the nation, I found, was the alternative of all of the clichés I had in regards to the nation, and on the identical time I used to be rational of the character of the regime. However I nonetheless keep in mind, and I refuse to neglect, that Iraq was secure. Iraq had a each day life that was comparable generally to the life I had in France.

Once more, I wish to remind that Iraq was, after all, a dictatorship, and it was tough or inconceivable to go towards the regime. Folks have been jailed, killed or silenced. My father was an opponent to the regime, and he left Iraq within the ’70s, so we all know that and we knew that at house again in France.

However the concept 20 years later we nonetheless are speaking about how Iraq now’s a greater place, how Iraq is a democracy, when it’s even virtually inconceivable to have a way of what the Iraqi citizenship is immediately. Iraqis are described with their sect or origin or ethnicity. Iraqis immediately are described as Sunnis and Shia, Kurds and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, which is one thing I might oppose to what Iraq was. And to me, 20 years later, Iraq is a part of a collective amnesia. And I believe it’s crucial to focus on how Iraq was and perhaps to speak about the way forward for Iraq.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Properly, Feurat Alani, in the event you might speak about — I imply, your piece, you’ve simply elaborated on what precisely has occurred to Iraqi id. To what do you attribute the truth that Iraq got here to be seen alongside purely sectarian strains and that now, as you say, folks proceed to establish as Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and so forth.?

FEURAT ALANI: You understand, when the American Military and when the U.S. administration of George W. Bush invaded Iraq, they got here with the concept Iraqis, once more, weren’t Iraqis. They have been certified by their sects. So, from the day after the all the regime, we’ve got seen on TV folks that every one Iraqis didn’t actually know, the Iraqi elite that got here with the U.S. Military, representing an idea of Iraq by means of sects and faith and confessions.

And so, we’ve got to remind that the whole lot was destroyed as a rustic. The Iraqi Military was disbanded. The establishments have been dismantled. Iraq went from a really — a dictatorship to a safety and political vacuum that was crammed with these concepts that Iraqis found to be actually clear. The idea of dividing the folks, of speaking a couple of majority and a minority, to me, was actually harmful, as a result of this safety and political vacuum I used to be speaking about was crammed with folks having a short-term imaginative and prescient about Iraq with their very own pursuits, with in all probability revenge towards the regime, and once more, this concept, this very binary imaginative and prescient of Iraq, that the Iraqi folks was divided in two, like individuals who supported Saddam and individuals who have been towards. After all, it was rather more advanced than that.

And plenty of errors got here after the invasion of Iraq. Paul Bremer, who was the American administrator of the nation, did so many errors by, once more, dismantling the Military, speaking about de-Baathification, not permitting plenty of Iraqis to specific themselves, to be a part of a typical undertaking. I clearly do not forget that all Iraqis — Sunnis or Shia, Christian or Muslim — needed to be a part of one thing, needed to be a part of a typical undertaking. However the system introduced by the U.S. mindset at the moment have been utterly towards that. And that is one thing that must be highlighted immediately, if you wish to perceive how Iraq is split immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: Talking of that division, I’d like to return to 2006, when then-Senator Joe Biden co-authored a New York Occasions opinion piece headlined “Unity By Autonomy in Iraq.” Within the piece, he known as for what’s been termed a “tender partition” of Iraq, calling for the institution of, quote, “three largely autonomous areas with a viable central authorities in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite areas would every be accountable for their very own home legal guidelines, administration and inner safety. … Baghdad would change into a federal zone, whereas densely populated areas of blended populations would obtain each multisectarian and worldwide police safety.” Sinan Antoon, are you able to reply?

SINAN ANTOON: I imply, I do not forget that, and I truly wrote a response to that. You understand, it’s classic colonial imaginative and prescient and perspective. Mr. Biden from Delaware co-writes a chunk telling Iraqis how their nation ought to be.

And on the time, I imply, regardless of the corruption and the sectarian sentiments of so many Iraqi politicians — they have been vying, they usually have been in battle, they usually have been even combating — however none of them had requested for one of these division, truly, aside from the Kurds, however that’s a separate problem. However these concepts have been internalized then by lot of Iraqi politicians to start out calling for a separate zone for this and that, and, after all, it will be solely an excuse for much more organized corruption and extra siphoning of Iraq’s assets.

However I ought to say that one thing that I’ve been fascinated about and speaking about is, you already know, the epistemic violence of American occupation of Iraq, which is what my pal Feurat, who’s a proficient author that I love — and I’m blissful to be with him on the present — is that this destruction and the erosion of an concept of what’s to be Iraqi. After all, each nationwide id is a composite, and there are at all times vying narratives. However what 2003 did is it actually tried to dismantle the thought of Iraqi nationalism and change it with all of those different identities.

And fortunately, the 2019 rebellion by Iraqi youth women and men who went out on the road was truly probably the most vociferous, eloquent rejection of the regime that the US put in. And it was a rejection of the whole lot it stood for. And it confirmed that it had failed in each respect. It had failed in offering dwelling, dignified situations for Iraqi residents, regardless of all of the wealth. And one of many early slogans of that rebellion was “No to Iran, no to the U.S.” as a result of one of many penalties of the U.S. invasion is the disproportionate affect that the Iranian regime has in Iraq, by means of its militias, supporting the Iraqi militias and others.

And the opposite factor is that — what the U.S. invasion did to Iraqi sovereignty. You understand, we’ve got U.S. troops, after all, in Iraq. Turkey has troops in northern Iraq, in Kurdistan, and bombs each time it feels prefer it. Now we have huge Iranian affect. And plenty of these U.S. journalists and so-called pundits and consultants preserve complaining about that. And I keep in mind within the first few weeks of the invasion, there was a information merchandise saying that the Badr Brigades — that is the militia of the — on the time, it was known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which later modified its title, which was based mostly in Tehran, after all, as a result of they have been exiled and fought by Saddam Hussein. However the Badr militia got here into Iraq, 30,000 armed males, and have been allowed to enter into Iraq. And as Feurat talked about, after all, these folks went on a rampage, assassinating and killing and exerting vengeance.

So, the opposite problem was to utterly dismantle the state establishments in Iraq and never change them with functioning establishments. So, disband the Military however by no means actually construct a functioning military. And that’s why, when ISIS comes about, which is itself a product of American presence and occupation in Iraq — it was hatched within the U.S. army prisons. When ISIS comes about, there isn’t a military to really struggle ISIS, due to all the corruption. And let’s keep in mind who’re the individuals who have been despatched to be consultants to assist rebuild the Iraqi Military or the Iraqi police. I forgot his title, however the New York Metropolis police chief, who was himself corrupt, was despatched to Iraq —

AMY GOODMAN: Bernard Kerik.

SINAN ANTOON: — to supposedly assist construct the military. Precisely. And, you already know —

AMY GOODMAN: Who himself was jailed, within the Bernard Kerik —

SINAN ANTOON: Precisely.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — Detention Middle in Decrease Manhattan. They took away the title Bernard Kerik —


AMY GOODMAN: — as soon as he was jailed there.

SINAN ANTOON: Sure. And your viewers ought to go and take a look at additionally how many individuals who deliberate and known as for the struggle then went into Iraq as contractors. This was so the elite and those that supported the struggle didn’t lose something. You understand, their portfolios tripled. Their investments went up and all of that. And, after all, it’s common residents who paid the worth. However — and I simply need —

AMY GOODMAN: Sinan, I needed to comply with up on one thing that you simply stated earlier. And that was when the — after the 9/11 assaults, President Bush instantly began pushing to assault Iraq. And as you stated, many individuals don’t understand, perceive on the time — I imply, 15 of the 19 hijackers have been from Saudi Arabia. A day or two after the assaults, you had President Bush on the Truman Balcony with the person they known as “Bandar Bush,” the Saudi ambassador to the US, smoking cigars collectively.

However proper at the moment — we interviewed, quickly after, Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism czar, who stated that the day after 9/11, President Bush questioned him and different associates on the White Home to see if Saddam Hussein did this, see if he’s linked in any manner. Clarke was incredulous. He stated in his guide, In opposition to All [Enemies], “However, Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this.” He stated Bush responded, “I do know, however see if Saddam was concerned. Simply look. I wish to know any shred.” Clarke added later that he felt they have been being intimidated to discover a hyperlink between the 9/11 assaults and Iraq.

And when the assault on Iraq got here in 2003, you had the main Democrats, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, as college students have been being dragged out of her workplace in New York — she was senator on the time — she voted for the struggle in Iraq. Speak in regards to the consensus at that time. There wasn’t a consensus on the bottom, however the media was constructing this consensus for struggle.

SINAN ANTOON: Properly, no, that’s an important level. And I believe, you already know, there was a convergence of various waves and factions. After all, we all know that from the early ’90s, the group of neocons had already began this notion of fixing the regime in Iraq — after all, not for the good thing about the Iraqis or for any considerations for liberty or freedom, however for geopolitical pursuits and defending the pursuits of Israel and pondering of U.S. hegemony.

After which it converges with Bush’s messianic imaginative and prescient. Let’s keep in mind — I imply, these of us who’re sufficiently old keep in mind, however I believe youthful viewers ought to understand and may examine the kind of messianic, insane imaginative and prescient that Bush thought that he was — you already know, that he had a mandate from God. After which there’s the lingering problem of his father and the supposed assassination try.

However precisely immediately after 9/11, each Bush and Rumsfeld have been into, you already know, “Let’s go and assault Iraq.” So the proof was manufactured later, and it was very weak and flimsy proof. So, when so many, till now, are saying, “Had we recognized again then what we all know,” truly, the whole lot was apparent. These of us who managed to learn or who didn’t have the ideological leaning, it was apparent that there have been no weapons of mass destruction and no hyperlink with al-Qaeda.

So, the query for U.S. residents and for others is: Why is it that there was a consensus? And I believe it’s this colonial mentality and, frankly, white supremacy that’s internalized by so many. And I point out within the article that — this time period that the U.S. Military makes use of in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Indian nation.” I imply, within the first few months, I used to be watching TV, and I noticed an embedded journalist. Now we have to additionally assume not solely of embedded journalists, embedded students, even embedded artists. The view in mainstream U.S. tradition is so skewed {that a} movie that’s truly pro-war, like The Damage Locker, is taken into account an antiwar movie. However the embedded journalist was with a bunch of U.S. troopers in a Humvee about to exit a army base that the U.S. had occupied to enter someplace close to Baghdad, and the soldier tells the journalist, “We are actually in Indian nation.”

And that stayed with me, and I appeared into it. And what does it imply? I imply, when — “Indian nation,” that means, you already know, lawless land the place there are not any legal guidelines and no civilization. And that, you already know, concurrently, after all, invokes the nationwide U.S. fable about spreading civilization on this continent, and erases genocide and destruction, but additionally it convinces the troopers and the viewers that truly they’re spreading democracy and civilization. And it extends to everybody. I imply, plenty of journalists, till immediately, and a few years into the struggle, would ask, “So, did we not do one thing good in Iraq?” So, the place does this assumption that in some way if the U.S. Military goes someplace, they have to do one thing good? And it’s a whole denial of the colonialism that’s ingrained on this view of trying on the world and different components of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Sinan Antoon, we’re going to proceed this dialogue after break, Iraqi poet and creator, professor at New York College, and Feurat Alani, French Iraqi journalist. We can even hear from Sinan a poem he’ll learn, and for Feurat to speak about what occurred in his metropolis Fallujah, this all, this dialog, as President Putin is indicted for struggle crimes by the Worldwide Legal Courtroom. We’re trying again 20 years in the past immediately, when President Bush invaded Iraq. Stick with us.

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