Fifteen years ago today America remade the Iraqi Republic in its own image but the democratic mould pressed on the country has proven incompatible with the behaviour of Baghdad’s rogue elite. The political process occupying forces made nourishes this behaviour and allows punishable actions to slide.
The association between Iraq’s current state of play and the phenomenon of state failure has always been strong but denial of the reality has overridden sensibilities. Defeat after defeat has been claimed but life for ordinary citizens is tumbling backwards, particularly across Sunni majority provinces toppled in battles against Daesh. As “an adaptive and patient enemy” – to use British Army Major General Felix Gedney’s words – the carnage that is Daesh has unmasked the political system.
“ISIS [Daesh] doesn’t have a monopoly on terror in Iraq. In fact, some of the Shia militia forces that have been so crucial in battling ISIS [Daesh] have themselves been accused of atrocities,” British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai told PBS News, discussing the spectre of death she encountered whilst covering Iraq.
Newspaper coverage is lightly peppered with the term failed state, applied as a political red card to disqualify or protect local actors to pass the mask of democracy over to those seeking to rise to power using the shaky stilts of empathy from external sources.
Even onlookers that invested faith in America’s military actions and their ‘do-good rhetoric’ will recognise the timeline of failure starting in 2003. The aggressive pursuit of regime change singled out the former regime as ‘a deadly foe’. Few anticipated however that the new regime would also become an adversary in a twisted love affair that has seen America deplete its financial resources on two aims: retrieving military losses by slurping local resources and footing the bill to keep its dying patient alive
Scrapping Iraq’s conventional army, protective trade and economic legislations, shelving old laws until the rewriting of Iraq’s constitution in 2005 and assuming control of Iraq’s most powerful ministerial posts have been discussed in media circles, from America’s perspective – an apt exercise in brain scrubbing. When challenged about the mountainous loss of Iraqi lives, witty retorts are used to sweep aside nationwide loss and trauma. “We don’t keep these numbers in our pack pocket,” retired US Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt told presenter Mehdi Hassan with reference to death counts on Al Jazeera last week.
The lightning speed at which Iraq’s chimera insurgency formed and coalition troop’s inability to respond to the rapidity of their fire was not readily discussed by US commanders given a voice on populist outlets. In later years the Bush administration’s preoccupation with state failure grew as Iraq’s preventable slide into sectarian guerrilla warfare unleashed fresh horrors.
Admitting flawed statehood would have undermined United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s defence of military interventionism as “a strategy [that] can succeed” at an American League convention in late 2006. Rice predicted what would transpire a decade later: “if we quit before the job is done, the cost of failure will be severe.”
Iraq does not deviate from the norm of international military intervention as witnessed in Haiti and Afghanistan. Unending turmoil, the cauldron of non-state actors, environmental disasters, illegal sales of national resources, bankruptcy and shrinking revenue streams would make ‘collapsed state’ perhaps the closest categorical description of contemporary Iraq – lacking legitimacy, a centralised army and meaningful government capable of honouring its social contract.
As Britain’s first female foreign secretary Margaret Beckett warned in 2006, Iraq “is a country that risks becoming ungoverned and lawless,” an assessment that rings true 12 years on.
Fragility is another resounding excuse the media replays to keep the mask of democracy in place and pulls the curtain over human rights abuses. Once tight-lipped about human rights abuses during liberation campaigns, America has swerved and depriving its former allies Qais Al-Khazali, Hadi Al-Ameri and Hadi Al-Ameri of military and logistical support.
The incremental takeover of paramilitary forces absorbed into the state official military apparatus and whose members are standing in this year’s elections has permanently shattered the baubles of the democracy America dressed the new Iraq in.
The country dons black today, as America dawdles on whether to strike the reset button on its stay in Iraq. America is embroiled in a war of words with the Iraqis it allied itself to by capitalising on their hatred of the former regime. It has responded to the threats of erasure made by militia forces with equal audacity, renewing pledges for continued military base expansion according to parliamentary member and National Iraqi Alliance member Ali Al-Murshidy.
Popular support of military intervention has dropped to a new, all time low as 15 years of occupation have seen 2 million Iraqi lives perish.
Coercive means may no longer serve the Trump administration but that will certainly not see America rise up to admit that the political system it installed has failed with distinction.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.