Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Years

Five years ago today, the United States and its "coalition of the willing" invaded Iraq, ostensibly to destroy Saddam's WMD to punish Saddam for allying with Al-Qaeda to build a "model of democracy" in the Middle East to end Saddam's reign of terror to demonstrate American power and get revenge for 9/11. No WMD were found, neither was any association with Al-Qaeda, Iraq's democracy has been stillborn in a wave of ethnic clensing, and people live in worse fear than they did under Saddam. But at least America has demonstrated how mighty it is, right?

America's promises to rebuild Iraq turned out to be lies. The pitiful amount they committed was stolen by corrupt American officials, or diverted to pay for security. Their promises to end torture turned out to be lies - instead, the Americans have simply replaced one bunch of torturers with another (when they're not doing it themselves). Their promises to restore stability also turned out to be lies; Iraqis have no security, and live in constant fear of being killed by sectarian death squads or trigger-happy American troops.

And the cost of all this? Nobody knows. Estimates of the dead range from 90,000 (at the most conservative) to well over a million. And all but the most conservative sources lead to an uncomfortable truth: Bush has been a bigger butcher of Iraqis than Saddam:

Estimates of the Iraqi deaths caused by Saddam's regime amount to a maximum of one million over a 35-year period (100,000 Kurds in the Anfal campaign in the 1980s; 400,000 in the war against Iran; 100,000 Shias in the suppressed uprising of 1991; and an unknown number executed in his prisons and torture chambers). Averaged over his time in power, the annual rate does not exceed 29,000.

Only the conservatively calculated Iraq Body Count death toll credits the occupation with an average annual rate that is less than that - some 18,000 deaths in the five years so far. Every other source, from the WHO to the surveys of Iraqi households, puts the average well above the Saddam-era figure. Those who claim Saddam's toppling made life safer for Iraqis have a lot of explaining to do.

Saddam was hanged for a tiny fraction of those deaths. Other Iraqis went to the gallows for the Al-Anfal campaign. I don't agree with the penalty, but I do agree that anyone responsible for deaths on that scale should face justice and be held accountable. And applying that standard even-handedly can only lead to one conclusion: Bush and Blair should be rotting in a cell in The Hague.