Can it really be twenty years since the start of the Iraq war? I can remember seeing the precision bombs fall on Baghdad and the tramp like face of Sadham Hussein when he was finally captured and dragged out of hiding place. Much of my memory is vague hoover. Was this the shock and awe?
The prospect of war never thrills me. I don’t think anyone ever actually wins, certainly not those who are caught up in so-called collateral damage. I pretend to myself that I am a pacifist but who knows how long my opinion would hold if my family came under attack?
It seemed that the Iraq conflict was pursued on the flimsiest of excuses though I was never party to any of the intelligence that led up to it. Hindsight tells us that much of the intelligence was unreliable, if not made up. From my perspective the USA had decided it was going to topple Hussein come hell or high water and believed the army’s hype that it would be over and done in a flash (no pun intended).
The fighting did come to an end quite quickly, leading to President Bush ill advisedly declaring that the job was done. Yet the problems had just begun. A whole series of errors and ideological mistakes led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of citizens through the attempted imposition of a westernised culture. Hussein was barbaric but even western ideologies can kill.
From my perspective the coalition had prepared for war but had not prepared for peace. Culture does not change through the barrel of a gun and the expectation that somehow a liberal democracy would emerge from the war was, at best, naive. National identity takes centuries if not millennia to develop and can not be overthrown in a few short weeks.
It was also clear that, for all his ruthless callousness and barbarism, Hussein had kept a lid on the different factions within Iraq. Removing him was like taking a cork out of a bottle allowing all prospective warlords to rise to the surface in a feeding frenzy of violence.
Looking back it appears to have been a failed neoliberal experiment and an attempt by the leading global power of the day to implant its culture on another country. The cure was worse than the sickness.
Twenty years have passed and for some, memories have faded. Is war ever the answer?