The Iraq War and its consequences 20 years on

On 20 March 2003, the US invaded Iraq with the support of British, Polish and Australian troops. The "Coalition of the willing" succeeded in capturing Baghdad and toppling dictator Saddam Hussein. Since there was no mandate from the UN Security Council, the attack is widely considered to have violated international law. Europe's press debates the grave consequences of the war which are still felt today.

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Whistleblowers gagged

Hardly anyone wants to hear the uncomfortable truth, the web portal TVXS criticises:

“The US and British secret services wiretapped the UN to influence the vote in the Security Council. Katherine Gun, the British woman who uncovered this, was indicted, as were other courageous people who told the truth to prevent a war. ... Julian Assange published videos and documents on the Wikileaks website in 2010 proving the war crimes committed by US occupation forces in Iraq. While the war criminals [Blair and Bush] went about their business, Julian Assange, who exposed the crimes, was accused of espionage by the US and is rotting in prison.”

Weltwoche (CH) /

Glaring parallels with Ukraine war

The right-wing populist weekly Weltwoche compares the US invasion with the Russian attack on Ukraine:

“It is good to remember this war - and to draw comparisons with the war in Ukraine. Here, according to independent figures, 8,000 civilians were killed by Russian bombardments last year. That is 8,000 too many. But the US reached that figure in the first six weeks in Iraq. ... America's war of aggression, which violated international law, claimed up to one million lives in total - men, women, old people, children, infants.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Loss of trust created breeding ground for Trump

The Iraq war strengthened right-wing populism in the US, Dagens Nyheter notes:

“When no weapons [of mass destruction] were found and American soldiers were sent home in coffins on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War, a great many people lost a great deal of trust in the entire establishment. It is this mistrust that Donald Trump and the populist right subsequently exploited. ... On the basis of this immense failure in the war, he pushed for a general policy of isolationism. ... The disinterest of sections of the American right in supporting Ukraine today can thus also be attributed to this.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Moral force lost

The invasion was a foreign policy disaster for Washington, the Irish Examiner sums up:

“The accumulated, long-term costs of the nine-year conflict and occupation are €3tn. More than 300,000 civilians were killed. The 'weapons of mass destruction' cited as the justification for invasion were never found. ... Certainly, Hussein was a bad man, even a monster, but there are many of those in the world. ... Through its unmandated war and subsequent actions, including hideous torture and human-rights abuses in locations such as Abu Ghraib prison, the West lost its moral force and has failed to recover it.”

The Times (GB) /

A hubristic and damaging act

The war caused lasting damage to the entire West, The Times laments:

“The Iraq war was a hubristic act of overreach, a reckless product of the American 'unipolar moment' that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. For those responsible, including in Britain, the verdict of history grows only more damning with the passage of time. Perhaps the gravest consequence of the war was to distract western attention from far greater risks to its long-term security from China and Russia. We all now live with its legacy: a less stable, more dangerous world than at any time since the Second World War.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The big lie

For La Stampa this war that was launched on a false pretext was a watershed moment:

“It was not Saddam the dictator, the last of the psychopathic villains of the 20th century, who deceived us. ... We were wary of him, full of mistrust. But we were deceived by a democracy, or rather by the democracy par excellence, and set out on the path to the worst of all disasters, the moral one. ... The poisoned propaganda has corrupted us. ... This war has destroyed many things, people, feelings, values. We have not been able to rebuild what was destroyed. And twenty years later we find ourselves at war again. Incapable of distinguishing between truth and lies.”

Večernji list (HR) /

The US no longer has the moral authority

Večernji list highlights parallels with the Ukraine war:

“Just as the attack on Iraq was an attempt to establish US imperial domination in that part of the world, Putin's attack on Ukraine is an attempt to renew Russian imperial power. And by the looks of it, both attempts will end the same way: in a fiasco. However, the legacy of Iraq is a major liability for the US at this moment. Although Putin's aggressive war against Ukraine is undoubtedly an attack on the world order, the American war in Iraq calls into question the credibility of the US leadership in criticising Putin for attacking a sovereign UN member and violating international law.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

The arms industry profited

To this day not a single person in the US has been convicted for war crimes committed during the war, the taz criticises:

“Neither for the murder of civilians, nor for torture, nor for having prepared the propaganda about alleged weapons of mass destruction or Saddam Hussein's connection to al-Qaida. The trillions of dollars that the war against Iraq cost could have been used to make the US a better place. Even a fraction of it would have been enough to alleviate poverty in the country, introduce universal healthcare and press ahead with the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Some, however, were able to profit from the war on a large scale. First and foremost the arms industry.”