The modern history of Iraq is a seemingly endless tragedy. Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, attacked Iran in September of 1980. Hussein apparently thought the war would be a quick one, but it dragged on for eight years, killed at least half a million Iraqi soldiers and civilians and wrecked the economy of Iraq. During the war, the United States, which strongly favored Iraq, turned a blind eye to the country's frequent use of chemical weapons against both Iranians and Iraqi Kurds.
In August of 1990, a variety of disputes caused Iraq to invade Kuwait. Although non-military means might have convinced Iraq to leave, the United States and its allies chose to use lethal force. Operation Desert Storm began on Jan. 17, 1991, and the army of Iraq was crushed in less than six weeks. About 30,000 Iraqi troops and 4,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. The Iraqi defeat was soon followed by Shiite and Kurdish revolts, both of which were ruthlessly repressed.
After the Gulf War, the U.N. imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iraq, supposedly to remove weapons of mass destruction. These sanctions caused immense civilian hardship. Several hundred thousand Iraqi children probably died as a consequence of the sanctions. And in 1998, former-President Bill Clinton authorized air strikes against alleged weapons of mass destruction sites in Iraq. These air strikes continued until 2002.
In 2003 the United States and three allies once again invaded Iraq. In just three weeks, the invaders successfully deposed the government of Saddam Hussein. Although the U.S. invasion was justified as an effort to free the people of Iraq, the subsequent occupation turned into an unmitigated disaster. Occupation policies induced a bitter ethnic conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Millions of Iraqis were forced into exile. The infrastructure of the society largely collapsed and the country was fragmented. The total number of Iraqi fatalities attributable to the 2003 invasion may exceed 1 million.
By the end of 2006, the situation had degenerated into a full-scale multisided civil war with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. The so-called "surge" of U.S. troops in 2007 and 2008 temporarily reduced the inter-ethnic violence, but the civil war escalated again in 2011 when the American troops departed. It continues to the present day. By 2013, leadership of the insurrection was seized by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant), which now controls most of northern Iraq. The brutal practices of ISIL are well-known.
The tragedy of Iraq continues. And although perhaps much of the Iraqi ordeal is self-inflicted, the arrogant militaristic policies of our own country bear a heavy responsibility for the unnecessary calamities inflicted on the unfortunate people of Iraq.
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.