Civilization’s Cradle Forsaken . . . .

On March 20th, 2003, 18 years-ago yesterday, Operation Iraqi Freedom was formally commenced against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government. The initial invasion involved 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq after crushing and significant aerial bombing. One of the first direct hits was the devasting pulverization of a strategic bunker thought to be the location of Saddam Hussein, lighting the sky over the birthplace of civilization nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates.

The invasion phase consisted primarily of a conventionally fought war including the capture of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad by American forces with the implicit assistance of the United Kingdom alongside Australia and Poland.

The George W. Bush administration based its rationale for the war principally on the assertion that Iraq, which had been viewed by the US as a rogue state since the Persian Gulf War, possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that the Iraqi government posed an immediate threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Select US officials accused Saddam of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq.

After the invasion, no substantial evidence was found to verify the initial claims about WMDs, and assertions of Iraqi officials collaborating with al-Qaeda proved false. The rationale and misrepresentation of US prewar intelligence faced heavy criticism both domestically and internationally, with President Bush declining from his record-high approval ratings following 9/11 to become one of the most unpopular presidents in US history. The march of time after Bush II would reveal the true bottom of the POTUS barrel.

While the war was “officially” over by 2011, hostilities and chaos reemerged under the banner of ISIS or ISIL, further wreaking havoc on the war-torn region. Though the largely remote and surgical US efforts in the “War on the Islamic State” reduced the blaze, it did not extinguish the fire. In the context of leaving a place better than one found it, the day after President Biden was inaugurated, Baghdad was hit by two suicide bombers who, in macabre fashion, killed at least 32 people and wounded at least 100. The 2,500 remaining US troops in Iraq can do little to stave off such bloodshed.

A recent white paper by the Brookings Institution indicates lurking ISIS remnants, Iran-backed militias and a perpetual economic crisis continue to render the region a dangerous breeding ground for continued violence and misery.

US casualties in the conflict, aspects of which are still ongoing, top nearly 5,000 deaths; total Iraqi deaths have been estimated as high as 600,000. Notwithstanding the causes and effects of this awful episode, it is right and just to remember and honor the men and women of the coalition forces who sacrificed all intending to uphold the ideals of democratic self-governance; as well, we mourn the innocents who perish in any theater of war.

We are destined to see anew victims of those in the beltway and elsewhere with near-sighted objectives and ulterior motives, until power, profit and perfidy can somehow be entirely removed from US foreign and military policy.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.