Last week President Obama made an address calling for military intervention in Iraq and Syria against the group known as ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant. Like a comic book story, Obama painted a picture of ISIL as an evil force causing death and destruction. The United States military is therefore called upon to save the day from this evil. But the world is not a comic book, and in fact the United States government and its military have brought far more death and destruction to the region than ISIL. And now Obama is calling for more.
The U.S. has carried out two wars against Iraq in 1991 and in 2003. These wars have resulted in the death of nearly a million people. And between the wars, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iraq depriving the country of medical supplies and crippling the economy. Over half a million children were estimated to have died of malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical care. Who is responsible for the biggest body count in Iraq? Not ISIS, not Al-Qaeda, not Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. No, the biggest killer is the United States.
The U.S. has not only inflicted violence on the Iraqi people. It has destroyed the economic and social infrastructure. In the 1970’s Iraqi people did not have political freedom, but they had access to health care, education, and a standard of living that rivaled the most advanced countries in the world. Today Iraq is a country of blackouts, broken streets, and hospitals that can’t even provide anesthetics to do surgery. The water and soil have been poisoned by U.S. military ammunition, which uses depleted uranium. Children are born with birth defects and an epidemic of cancer plagues the country.
The gruesome video of ISIL beheading the reporter James Foley was horrifying. But how does ISIL compare to the regime the U.S. put in place after the invasion? The government of Nuri Al-Maliki supported by the U.S. carried out between twelve and 20 executions daily. Victims of Al-Maliki’s government included young people under the age of 18. In Maliki’s prisons, accused opponents of the regime were subjected to torture and rape. The Obama administration did not lift a finger against this government until recently. Under pressure from the Obama administration, Nuri Al-Maliki was forced to step down only because he had failed to control ISIL and stop the uprising.
So what is really going on? In 2003, the U.S. military overthrew Saddam Hussein, and then formed a government balancing Shi’a Islamic political parties like Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party against Sunni tribal leaders. These forces were pitted against the Kurdish minority in Iraq. In other words, the U.S. orchestrated the ethnic and religious conflict that is causing so much violence now.
But this divide and conquer system is unraveling. Under the impact of the civil war in Syria, the Sunni tribes of Iraq are rising up. There is no doubt that the uprising is being conducted under the banner of Sunni Islam, and these forces are carrying out horrible atrocities against religious minorities and the Shi’a who they see as complicit with the U.S. occupation. But it is not clear who the supposed ISIL fighters are. It is likely many of them are former members of the Ba’ath Party army that served Saddam Hussein. Now they have rallied to ISIL simply as a means to regain control of Iraq.
People around the world are right to be horrified by the gruesome violence, and the murder of journalists like James Foley. It is this deep concern and fear that the Obama administration is playing to with their comic book story of good vs. evil. But this is an insult to our intelligence and a dishonor to Foley. He opposed the U.S. war on the Middle East and was captured while trying to report the truth about it.
We need to understand that the biggest terrorist in the Middle East is the U.S. military that has murdered more than a million people, shattered the whole of Iraqi society, and laid the foundations for a brutal civil war. Knowing this, how could anyone believe that the U.S. military will return to Iraq to stop the ongoing violence? In the coming weeks as the U.S. military mobilizes to inflict more destruction we should say NO to U.S. violence against the people of Iraq and the Middle East!