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The betrayal of Baghdad The spectre of Iran stalks the city

Iraqi children play in Sadr City (Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)

Iraqi children play in Sadr City (Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)


March 16, 2023   8 mins

Baghdad. Winter is almost over. Traces of Saddam Hussain still litter the city. There is so much chaos, you’d think the Western coalition had never tried to rebuild the place. And, after all these years, it wouldn’t feel strange to meet a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, 21-feet-long, rumbling down Al Rashid Street.

Baghdad was strafed by violence, and then lavished with colossal, almost surreal, amounts of foreign cash. The Americans spent $2 trillion on the war — a good chunk of it on efforts to rebuild the country they had helped to destroy. It was, like many things the US does, almost uncontrollable. Billions in shrink-wrapped $100 bills flowed into the country, and back out again into foreign bank accounts. It was the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve. In the year after the 2003 invasion, almost 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad.

Is Iraq now the functioning democracy of Washington’s dreams, or a sectarian dystopia? Twenty years on, was it worth it?

“Long live Bush! Long live Bush!” My fixer Ammar is reminiscing about the first days of the invasion as we drive through the city centre. “That’s what we were chanting. The Americans were coming; the Baathists were running. I was on the roof of my house, and we saw Apaches flying around. Then the American soldiers entered the city. They were covered in mud; their faces all painted black. Then the armoured vehicles came. Those soldiers were spotless.”

Ammar is one of the many Shia Iraqis who initially viewed the war as a liberation from Saddam Hussein’s sadism. Saddam was Sunni, but also a Baathist, an avowedly secular political philosophy influenced by Arab nationalism and Marxism. He lived in perennial fear of Iraq’s Shia majority, not least the Dawa Party, a Shia Islamist group that emerged in 1960. Devoted to turning Iraq into an Islamist state, it tried to assassinate Saddam in 1982, his would-be killers emerging from the cover of a date palm orchard in the city of Dujail. Saddam had two of its early leaders, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Muhammad-Sadiq al-Sadr killed. (Saddam allegedly hammered an iron nail into the head of the former.)

We pass one of Saddam’s palaces. Every remaining pillar for 50 metres has his initials engraved into it, Ammar tells me. “He made himself everywhere,” he adds, before pointing to another fortified wall. “David, look! That’s the Green Zone.” If Baghdad is a city of chaos, it’s also a city of walls. Once they encased a tyrant; now they protect the hordes of diplomats, journalists and NGO workers, who comprise the tip of today’s Western spear into this country.

There’s a mural by the side of the road. “Stop killing; we deserve life; where are you UN?” it reads with the image of a bullet flying through it. Ammar remembers the violence. “We got so used to the bombs that, after a while, we could clean up everything after an attack — including the bodies — in one hour.

“At first, I was disappointed with Iraqis for fighting the Americans. I thought they were forgetting our debt: if the Americans hadn’t taken out Saddam, we would have lived under his dictatorship for 1,000 years. I thought the Americans just needed time to make huge changes in the country.” But then Ammar started working for the US Army as a translator. “Everyone was always coming to me with their problems, asking me about electricity, water, jobs — simple things — and I realised they didn’t have a plan. Even when violence against them was from just a few people, they took it out on everyone. They shot at me with water cannons just for approaching their car. They were savage.”

George W. Bush went into Iraq declaring he would take out a tyrant and replace him with a liberal democracy. Five weeks after the invasion, the president declared the mission accomplished. In the battle for Iraq, the United States and her allies have prevailed,” he announced from the USS Abraham Lincoln. American forces captured Saddam later that year. Everything seemed rosy. But in truth, the problems were just beginning.

The road into Sadr City is lined with the posters of martyrs. They are all so young: young men who should have spent their youth playing video games, not dying in the street. Sadr City is a Baghdad suburb that was built to house the poor. Originally called Al-Thawr (Revolution City), it was renamed Saddam City in 1982 and then unofficially renamed Sadr City, after the martyred Sadiq al-Sadr. Today, it is the base of his son Muqtada al-Sadr, a thorn in the side of the Americans from the moment they arrived.

I am here for Friday prayers. All around are children playing in the streets. A few kick a dirty football around, their replica shirts bearing the names of famous Muslim players: Mo Salah and Karim Benzema are the most popular.

Friday prayers have a special place in the Muslim world — especially for the Shia of Iraq, who have traditionally used them to voice dissent. It was largely because of their sermons during Friday prayers that Sadeq and Baqir Sadr were killed. Today, more than a thousand people are praying in the street. Flags and banners stretch almost to the horizon. The images of the Shia Imams Huseyn and Ali are everywhere. “Muqtada!” demand the crowd. Muqtada, however, is not here today, but back home in the holy Shia city of Najaf. His replacement is giving a speech centred on the environment. “Iraq has become a desert under the rule of the former regime,” he intones. “It is time to plant more trees.”

“Today, more than a thousand people are praying in the street.”

Sadr City is key to the story of post-invasion Iraq. Just two months after the Americans overthrew Saddam in July, they set up a governing council to rule the country until proper elections — the first in the nation’s history — could be held the following year. Among the council’s leaders were members of Dawa. The party had been responsible for terror attacks against US targets in the Eighties, but after Saddam became public enemy number one following his 1991 invasion of Kuwait, Washington brought it in from the cold. But Dawa had no time for the US vision of a rainbow nation. Instead, it used the parliament to achieve its own vision of a Shia-dominated Iraq.

One person, though, was left out. On orders from the US, Muqtada was barred from the governing council. Washington viewed him as a loose cannon. But it didn’t count on his ambition. If Muqtada couldn’t rule through the ballot, he would do so through the bullet.

He got to work quickly. Sadrist forces already controlled most of Baghdad’s mosques and, just weeks after the invasion, they set about seizing the schools and hospitals, as well as opening local Sharia law courts and “punishment” committees. Muqtada wanted to expel the Americans from the start, and made his views known publicly. Then, after Washington responded by shutting down his newspaper, he founded the Mahdi Army. Its goal: to drive US forces out of Iraq. Once that was achieved, he would take his rightful seat at the new table of Iraq’s government. As Iraq imploded into bedlam, hatred of Washington became increasingly popular; his message found a growing audience.

In a hotel in central Baghdad, I meet Abu Fatima, also known as Al Jariyah (the wounded), a former soldier in the Mahdi Army, a large man with a large belly and wounds across his face. He joined up soon after Muqtada sent out the call, and fought US forces in the August 2004 Battle of Najaf. Abu Fatima was wanted by the Americans and spent four years on the run in Syria and Iran.

“The Americans said they were liberators,” he tells me, “but we were sure they were occupiers. We started as peaceful protestors in 2004, and when Muqtada said the occupiers had to leave, we joined him in Najaf. Then they closed the newspaper, and they issued an arrest warrant against him. Then they tried to raid the holy shrine — and the conflict began. I was 18 at the time. We had Kalashnikovs and RPGs, while they were using planes and tanks. But still we managed to push them back.”

The story is taken up by Mortava Al-Musavi, the spokesman of the military wing of the Sadr organisation. Dressed in a black suit (the Shia’s favoured colour), he recalls his own time fighting. “We never had any support from anyone. We made IEDs and used them against Abrams tanks. Many of us went out to fight believing we would not return. We used to sleep inside the graves with the dead. I remember a comment from a US general, who said: ‘We are fighting ghosts.’”

I ask him what he thinks of Iraq today. “Twenty years on, we have proved that we will not accept any occupiers trampling on us. We believe that only Iraqis can rule themselves. And this is what Muqtada is putting into practice. If only Iraq stops implementing a foreign agenda, it will become a stable country. I don’t want to be pessimistic; I hope things will get better.”

“A foreign agenda.” It is impossible to spend any time in post-invasion Iraq without hearing these words. And they generally mean one thing: Iran. When the Americans removed Saddam, they empowered not only Iraq’s Shia, but its neighbour, the world’s most powerful Shia state. As soon as Saddam fell, Iranian money and influence, and indeed weapons, started pouring into Iraq. Not only did Iran help set up several militias in the country, but many of members of Dawa who fled Iraq under Saddam went into exile in Iran. Nouri Al Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq from 2006-2014, and who many blame for a range of viciously anti-Sunni policies, was a Dawa member who spent eight years in Tehran.

Muqtada, though, has always — publicly at least — rejected Tehran and campaigned against Iranian influence in Iraq (though he spent 2007-2011 in Iran on the run from a US arrest warrant). It may have cost him. In the 2021 Iraqi elections, the Sadrist Movement gained the most seats in parliament, but couldn’t form a government: among other things, the Iran-backed Fatah coalition wouldn’t countenance a Sadr-led government and negotiations stalled for over a year.

“They are all so young”

Over tea that evening, Fattah Al-Sheikh, a former MP close to the Sadrist movement, explains what lies behind this stasis. “Too many politicians are pro-Iran or they are scared of it. They are subject to the Velayat-e faqih [Iran’s ruling theological-political doctrine] while having to deal with western countries. One day they must implement the agenda of a country that attacks the Green Zone and sends rockets into Erbil; the next they are trying to meet the US ambassador. They are lost.”

He continues: “You cannot claim to be democratic on one hand and hold a weapon in the other. You cannot be a democratic country when you are part of the government that is smuggling cash to another country. We have armed militia groups who put rifles to people’s heads when they go to vote.”

Twenty years on, Al-Sheikh is keen to be, as he calls it, “fair”. Without US intervention, he concedes, Iraqis would never have been liberated from the former regime, but the job is unfinished. “They need to be serious about building a proper democratic process here. They are responsible for keeping it safe while holding all groups, including the Iran-backed Shia militias, to account. We can kick them out of Baghdad and back to Iran if the international community helps us to establish a national project to serve Iraq… If they do that, we can finally say the US has succeeded in its project in Iraq.”

Success is a long way off. Throughout the city, there are posters and murals commemorating the Iranian Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani. In one market, you can buy a pendant of pro-Iran Shia militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was killed alongside Soleimani in a 2020 US drone strike.

Baghdad. The name still echoes in the imagination of both East and West. Shock and Awe. Old and New. The city is filled with scenes from ancient history and modern tragedy. Near the market, Ammar points out the site of a suicide bombing that killed hundreds. One day, we visit a coffee shop; near the entrance, a poster of the owner’s brother, martyred in another suicide bombing just outside, is pinned to a tree. Twenty years on from the 2003 invasion, the history of modern Iraq is still written into the cityscape of its capital.

As we drive out of central Baghdad, Ammar tells me: “This used to have so many bombs on it the Americans called it the Irish Road. Now it’s named after Muhandis.” I ask him about it all, after so many years. “We had so much hope in the beginning,” he replies. “Then the country turned to a path of blood, and then people started to want Saddam back to keep order. Even with all the misery he brought, you’d be taken quietly away. We didn’t see all this blood in the streets.”


David Patrikarakos is UnHerd‘s foreign correspondent. His latest book is War in 140 characters: how social media is reshaping conflict in the 21st century. (Hachette)

dpatrikarakos

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R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

Very interesting article. I’d spent years thinking the militant Shi’ites fighting Coalition forces in Iraq were Iranian puppets and stooges. It seems that they were actually just useful idiots who genuinely believed they were fighting western occupation while actually allowing their country to become Iran’s lapdog. Sectarianism has been an absolute disaster for that country. Let’s see how Britain fares in dealing with inter-Muslim disputes and violence as our population made up of these groups increases.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Logically, Shi’ites will be in the minority. Therefore, they will be persecuted by the majority until they fall into line. If non-Muslim police are involved it will be racist.
The Muslim Party, when it gets to power will introduce Sharia Law. Then a police force will not be needed – an extreme case of defunding the police.

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Logically, Shi’ites will be in the minority. Therefore, they will be persecuted by the majority until they fall into line. If non-Muslim police are involved it will be racist.
The Muslim Party, when it gets to power will introduce Sharia Law. Then a police force will not be needed – an extreme case of defunding the police.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

Very interesting article. I’d spent years thinking the militant Shi’ites fighting Coalition forces in Iraq were Iranian puppets and stooges. It seems that they were actually just useful idiots who genuinely believed they were fighting western occupation while actually allowing their country to become Iran’s lapdog. Sectarianism has been an absolute disaster for that country. Let’s see how Britain fares in dealing with inter-Muslim disputes and violence as our population made up of these groups increases.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Iran, formerly Persia, has always coveted Mesopotamia (Iraq) and well before Islam pitched up!
First the Medes, then the Persians, followed by the Parthians, Sassanian Persians and ultimately Safavid Persia/Iran, so nothing new here.

What is disgraceful is that neither Bush or Blair and their loathsome cronies have been brought to Justice over the spurious and completely unprovoked assault on the place.

Fortunately History will NOT forget, and their names will be found be in the the Pantheon of Evil forever, albeit somewhat below those of Mao, Stalin and Hitler & Co.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago

Follow the money. The whole thing was about maintaining dollar supremacy, If Saddam hadn’t rashly started dealing oil in Euros, I’ve no doubt he or, if he had died in his bed of old age by now, one of his sons, would be running the place to this day.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

Nonsense. As the Observer -not exactly a right wing rag -noted, ‘Saddam is a danger to his country, to the region, and to the world’.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

I think you can refine that.
Israel clearly believed that Saddam was an existential threat and had to be removed, preferably by a conventional Western Crusade, but failing that by a unilateral nuclear strike.

So perhaps ‘we’ got off lightly.

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
1 year ago

I hope you don’t imply, or that it is not in fact true, that the the second Iraq war, with all the lies that preceded it and then all the multibillion dollar boondoggle that followed it (while not forgetting the human suffering it caused either) occurred because Israel wanted it.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

I can only think of what Marcus Tullius Cicero would have said:” Cui Bono?”

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Iran has been the overwhelming beneficiary of the war. Israel has been saved from one existential threat but not another.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Iran has been the overwhelming beneficiary of the war. Israel has been saved from one existential threat but not another.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

I can only think of what Marcus Tullius Cicero would have said:” Cui Bono?”

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

So, in another interesting take on your views, you prefer Saddam Hussein to Israel. Says it all really. Israel was requested to show patience and not retaliate and did so, under huge provocation from missile attacks.

Fafa Fafa
FF
Fafa Fafa
1 year ago

I hope you don’t imply, or that it is not in fact true, that the the second Iraq war, with all the lies that preceded it and then all the multibillion dollar boondoggle that followed it (while not forgetting the human suffering it caused either) occurred because Israel wanted it.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

So, in another interesting take on your views, you prefer Saddam Hussein to Israel. Says it all really. Israel was requested to show patience and not retaliate and did so, under huge provocation from missile attacks.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Propaganda at its very best. Herr Goebbels would have been proud.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

I think you can refine that.
Israel clearly believed that Saddam was an existential threat and had to be removed, preferably by a conventional Western Crusade, but failing that by a unilateral nuclear strike.

So perhaps ‘we’ got off lightly.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Propaganda at its very best. Herr Goebbels would have been proud.

Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

Nonsense. As the Observer -not exactly a right wing rag -noted, ‘Saddam is a danger to his country, to the region, and to the world’.

David Croom
David Croom
1 year ago

Is there no topic in contemporary affairs on which you will not blether like a Presbyterian divine? To suggest that Blair or Bush approximate to Mao, Stalin or Hitler is ridiculous. I agree they were obsessive and incompetent but evil one the same scale as your other villains. Come off it.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  David Croom

What’s wrong with your powers of comprehension Croom?

I quite clearly wrote “albeit somewhat below those of ………”. So how do you make that equivalence?

Incidentally isn’t it blather or is blether some form of obscure Scotch usage?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  David Croom

Blair is evil in the same way because he is still around and is a background controller.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

And THIS is the level of debate we can expect on UnHerd? How utterly depressing. I don’t even think you probably believe such utter rubbish. Such a conveniently vague accusation: has Blair managed to stop Jeremy Corbyn, or the Tories, or Boris Johnson or perhaps Donald Trump being elected perhaps? Has he prevailed upon Mr Putin not to invade Ukraine?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

And THIS is the level of debate we can expect on UnHerd? How utterly depressing. I don’t even think you probably believe such utter rubbish. Such a conveniently vague accusation: has Blair managed to stop Jeremy Corbyn, or the Tories, or Boris Johnson or perhaps Donald Trump being elected perhaps? Has he prevailed upon Mr Putin not to invade Ukraine?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  David Croom

What’s wrong with your powers of comprehension Croom?

I quite clearly wrote “albeit somewhat below those of ………”. So how do you make that equivalence?

Incidentally isn’t it blather or is blether some form of obscure Scotch usage?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  David Croom

Blair is evil in the same way because he is still around and is a background controller.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Awaiting for approval.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

What is also disgraceful is that Blair still seems to have some influence. Let’s see what happens when Labour wins the next election.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

What unhinged garbage. I don’t think Blair and Bush are responsible for killing millions, as those three are, up to 80 million in the case of Mao. You seem to have completely lost the plot.

John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago

Follow the money. The whole thing was about maintaining dollar supremacy, If Saddam hadn’t rashly started dealing oil in Euros, I’ve no doubt he or, if he had died in his bed of old age by now, one of his sons, would be running the place to this day.

David Croom
David Croom
1 year ago

Is there no topic in contemporary affairs on which you will not blether like a Presbyterian divine? To suggest that Blair or Bush approximate to Mao, Stalin or Hitler is ridiculous. I agree they were obsessive and incompetent but evil one the same scale as your other villains. Come off it.

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Awaiting for approval.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

What is also disgraceful is that Blair still seems to have some influence. Let’s see what happens when Labour wins the next election.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

What unhinged garbage. I don’t think Blair and Bush are responsible for killing millions, as those three are, up to 80 million in the case of Mao. You seem to have completely lost the plot.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Iran, formerly Persia, has always coveted Mesopotamia (Iraq) and well before Islam pitched up!
First the Medes, then the Persians, followed by the Parthians, Sassanian Persians and ultimately Safavid Persia/Iran, so nothing new here.

What is disgraceful is that neither Bush or Blair and their loathsome cronies have been brought to Justice over the spurious and completely unprovoked assault on the place.

Fortunately History will NOT forget, and their names will be found be in the the Pantheon of Evil forever, albeit somewhat below those of Mao, Stalin and Hitler & Co.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

‘They (the US of course) are responsible for keeping it safe while holding all groups, including the Iran-backed Shia militias, to account.’ Always the same with Muslims, it’s someone else to blame. The problem with Iraq is Islam, a garbled, entirely man-made religious ideology capable of an infinite variety of ‘interpretations’, every one of which demands utter certainty of and submission to its diktats.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

‘They (the US of course) are responsible for keeping it safe while holding all groups, including the Iran-backed Shia militias, to account.’ Always the same with Muslims, it’s someone else to blame. The problem with Iraq is Islam, a garbled, entirely man-made religious ideology capable of an infinite variety of ‘interpretations’, every one of which demands utter certainty of and submission to its diktats.

Rob Nock
RN
Rob Nock
1 year ago

Interesting article which feels balanced, fair, believable and very depressing.

Rob Nock
RN
Rob Nock
1 year ago

Interesting article which feels balanced, fair, believable and very depressing.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago

I worked closely with 150 Iraqis in Baghdad in 2004 and the occupying force – consisting a large proportion of conscripted, raw, inexperienced US ‘soldiers’
who had ‘conquerer’ syndrome and whose attitude and day to day interaction with the population consistently squandered any goodwill there was. I witnessed the arrogance of these conquerors on the ground, ‘lording it’ over a population who were trying to exist a year later without the bare necessities after Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ pounding of the city. Many at that time were still living with little or no food, electricity, water for their families yet remained positive and dignified. No matter how many trillion dollars was sloshed around by the US in the aftermath, they had lost the war of hearts and minds…..

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Tasker

Thank you so much for writing an informed comment; unlike some of the ranting obsessives on here!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Tasker

Thank you so much for writing an informed comment; unlike some of the ranting obsessives on here!

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago

I worked closely with 150 Iraqis in Baghdad in 2004 and the occupying force – consisting a large proportion of conscripted, raw, inexperienced US ‘soldiers’
who had ‘conquerer’ syndrome and whose attitude and day to day interaction with the population consistently squandered any goodwill there was. I witnessed the arrogance of these conquerors on the ground, ‘lording it’ over a population who were trying to exist a year later without the bare necessities after Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ pounding of the city. Many at that time were still living with little or no food, electricity, water for their families yet remained positive and dignified. No matter how many trillion dollars was sloshed around by the US in the aftermath, they had lost the war of hearts and minds…..

Douglas Proudfoot
DP
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Iraqis resisted the US Occupation. The US withdrew. Then the Iraqis complain that the country is too unstable for them to establish democracy. Wasn’t that the whole point of killing US Soldiers? To get rid of them so Iraq could return to dictatorship with Muqtada al Sadr in charge? All of those IEDs had a purpose. It certainly wasn’t peace and democracy. IEDs have consequences. Iraqis should have considered them before they used IEDs to push the US out.

The Iraqis did this to themselves. There’s no colonial responsibilty for the US. They wanted the US out, and they got their wish. It turned out to be less than ideal. Tough. It ain’t our problem.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
DP
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Iraqis resisted the US Occupation. The US withdrew. Then the Iraqis complain that the country is too unstable for them to establish democracy. Wasn’t that the whole point of killing US Soldiers? To get rid of them so Iraq could return to dictatorship with Muqtada al Sadr in charge? All of those IEDs had a purpose. It certainly wasn’t peace and democracy. IEDs have consequences. Iraqis should have considered them before they used IEDs to push the US out.

The Iraqis did this to themselves. There’s no colonial responsibilty for the US. They wanted the US out, and they got their wish. It turned out to be less than ideal. Tough. It ain’t our problem.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

Who will rid us of the glory seeking narcissists who claim to be selfless, heroic liberators & defenders, but are the very opposite. Those who ignore learning, history, and the lives and welfare of their own people… because the power excites them: Stalin, Mao, Bush Jr, Pol Pot, the IRA, UDA, al-Zarqawi, Putin, and to a lesser extent, closer to home, the extreme wokeists.

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

What exactly is an ‘extreme wokeist’? And how exactly do their crimes compare to, say, Stalin or Pol Pot?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Great improvement Murray, keep it up!

John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago

Ah, Chuckling Charlie! Shouldn’t you just carry on chuntering on about the Medes and the Persians, and leave the grown ups to have a proper discussion. I was genuinely interested in how ‘woke’, a word I never, ever heard used in real life fitted into a discussion about the aftermath of what most people now agree was a disaster of monumental proportions. I also notice you went for the lazy route of blaming ‘Bush and Blair’ when the Tory Party and the media were, in this country, equally to blame. The civil war in Iraq was not only foreseeable, but indeed foreseen, by experts who understood the region but the decision to go to war was endorsed by the Conservatives and the media with little or no challenge.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Well Murray now that your syntax resembles that of an adult, unlike yesterday when it was of that of a child, we may have a reasonable discussion.

You are quite correct, the so called Tory Party and their lickspittle Press allies were indeed “baying for blood” over Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
In fact it was a truly revolting spectacle, but at the end of the day it was Blair and Blair alone who held executive power and made the fatal decision, even if he needed Tory votes to accomplish it.

In retrospect it is by far the most despicable action this country has been party to since 1945, far exceeding the atrocities of Mau Mau or Cyprus or even those minor indiscretions in Ireland.
Fortunately national amnesia has meant most of us have now forgotten this atrocity, but I very doubt certain members of militant Islam have.
So we must expect to “reap the whirlwind”* in the NOT too distant future.

(* Hosea 8:7 and also’Bomber’ Harris of WWII fame.)

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

You really don’t need to channel your inner Piers Morgan in every response. I get it, let’s take it as read.

I guess my wider point was that while Blair bears ultimate responsibility, and a lot of blood is indeed on his hands, we should also ensure all of those who allowed him to take us to war are held accountable. In part because no one in politics or the media ever takes responsibility for anything, everything is someone else’s fault when things go wrong.

On Brexit for example, it really doesn’t matter how you voted in 2016 it is painfully obvious that the benefits promised in the referendum haven’t been delivered, but the Brexit Ultras still talk about ‘Remoaners’ and give us Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard “I’m still big, it’s the pictures that got small” rather than being honest and having an inclusive debate about what we do about it.

For the small boats bill to have any chance of working we would need a Home Secretary who can lead and motivate staff, and can deliver, but we have Culture War Warrior, Suella Braverman, already blaming everyone else, including her own people.

I could go on….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Who is this Piers Morgan you speak of?
Otherwise we seem to concur which is encouraging.

However I have been disappointed with your performance throughout this discussion.

At the start I very mildly chastised you for writing an incoherent sentence. My exact words were “ You need to rewrite your first sentence, it is incomprehensible as it stands”.

The result was you threw a ‘hissy fit’ and proceeded to spew out a number of rather ill-bred, snide expletives, thus sadly demeaning your good self.

If a commentator on UnHerd can behave like this ( assuming you are NOT Irish) what hope is there?
,

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago

Funny man. You are right, though, that attempting to have a coherent, meaningful discussion with someone pretending to be one of the more annoying characters from Dickens is unlikely to be fruitful. FYI, it’s ‘good self’ not ‘good yourself’ so physician heal yourself, I feel.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

You have been a fairly vulgar tyke throughout this discussion, are you perhaps related to Lliam O’ Bogtrotter* of this Parish? It certainly sounds like it.

Thank you for the correction over good self…..that predicted text gremiin …….again!

(* Mahony.)

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago

Vulgar? What are you, an 80 year old spinster from 1901? Your problem, Charles, is that you are not remotely as clever as you think you are, and seem to have a third rate opinion on everything under the sun. I thought the quality of discourse on Unherd would be a vast improvement on Twitter which I left a long time ago. I’m hoping you are just the exception….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

You’ve made a mistake and should return to the ‘Twitter World’ where I am sure your coarseness will be much appreciated.

Incidentally what is wrong with your Maths?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

You’ve made a mistake and should return to the ‘Twitter World’ where I am sure your coarseness will be much appreciated.

Incidentally what is wrong with your Maths?

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

Vulgar? What are you, an 80 year old spinster from 1901? Your problem, Charles, is that you are not remotely as clever as you think you are, and seem to have a third rate opinion on everything under the sun. I thought the quality of discourse on Unherd would be a vast improvement on Twitter which I left a long time ago. I’m hoping you are just the exception….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

“Physician heal THYSELF”.*

(* Luke 4:23.)

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie…coarseness now, as well as vulgar? Wow, you really are that 80 year old spinster (and, of course, it’s nothing to do with Maths, I’m not talking literally but about a state of mind, do try and keep up), hence the pearl clutching language. The reason I left Twitter is because there were too many folk just like you, and I won’t return because there will still be too many people just like you. Probably time for your carer to put you to bed with a nice glass of warm milk so I suggest we end this here.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Agreed, it is getting rather tedious.
Thanks for the ‘sport’.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Agreed, it is getting rather tedious.
Thanks for the ‘sport’.

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie…coarseness now, as well as vulgar? Wow, you really are that 80 year old spinster (and, of course, it’s nothing to do with Maths, I’m not talking literally but about a state of mind, do try and keep up), hence the pearl clutching language. The reason I left Twitter is because there were too many folk just like you, and I won’t return because there will still be too many people just like you. Probably time for your carer to put you to bed with a nice glass of warm milk so I suggest we end this here.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

You have been a fairly vulgar tyke throughout this discussion, are you perhaps related to Lliam O’ Bogtrotter* of this Parish? It certainly sounds like it.

Thank you for the correction over good self…..that predicted text gremiin …….again!

(* Mahony.)

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

“Physician heal THYSELF”.*

(* Luke 4:23.)

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

Funny man. You are right, though, that attempting to have a coherent, meaningful discussion with someone pretending to be one of the more annoying characters from Dickens is unlikely to be fruitful. FYI, it’s ‘good self’ not ‘good yourself’ so physician heal yourself, I feel.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Who is this Piers Morgan you speak of?
Otherwise we seem to concur which is encouraging.

However I have been disappointed with your performance throughout this discussion.

At the start I very mildly chastised you for writing an incoherent sentence. My exact words were “ You need to rewrite your first sentence, it is incomprehensible as it stands”.

The result was you threw a ‘hissy fit’ and proceeded to spew out a number of rather ill-bred, snide expletives, thus sadly demeaning your good self.

If a commentator on UnHerd can behave like this ( assuming you are NOT Irish) what hope is there?
,

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago

You really don’t need to channel your inner Piers Morgan in every response. I get it, let’s take it as read.

I guess my wider point was that while Blair bears ultimate responsibility, and a lot of blood is indeed on his hands, we should also ensure all of those who allowed him to take us to war are held accountable. In part because no one in politics or the media ever takes responsibility for anything, everything is someone else’s fault when things go wrong.

On Brexit for example, it really doesn’t matter how you voted in 2016 it is painfully obvious that the benefits promised in the referendum haven’t been delivered, but the Brexit Ultras still talk about ‘Remoaners’ and give us Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard “I’m still big, it’s the pictures that got small” rather than being honest and having an inclusive debate about what we do about it.

For the small boats bill to have any chance of working we would need a Home Secretary who can lead and motivate staff, and can deliver, but we have Culture War Warrior, Suella Braverman, already blaming everyone else, including her own people.

I could go on….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Well Murray now that your syntax resembles that of an adult, unlike yesterday when it was of that of a child, we may have a reasonable discussion.

You are quite correct, the so called Tory Party and their lickspittle Press allies were indeed “baying for blood” over Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
In fact it was a truly revolting spectacle, but at the end of the day it was Blair and Blair alone who held executive power and made the fatal decision, even if he needed Tory votes to accomplish it.

In retrospect it is by far the most despicable action this country has been party to since 1945, far exceeding the atrocities of Mau Mau or Cyprus or even those minor indiscretions in Ireland.
Fortunately national amnesia has meant most of us have now forgotten this atrocity, but I very doubt certain members of militant Islam have.
So we must expect to “reap the whirlwind”* in the NOT too distant future.

(* Hosea 8:7 and also’Bomber’ Harris of WWII fame.)

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

Ah, Chuckling Charlie! Shouldn’t you just carry on chuntering on about the Medes and the Persians, and leave the grown ups to have a proper discussion. I was genuinely interested in how ‘woke’, a word I never, ever heard used in real life fitted into a discussion about the aftermath of what most people now agree was a disaster of monumental proportions. I also notice you went for the lazy route of blaming ‘Bush and Blair’ when the Tory Party and the media were, in this country, equally to blame. The civil war in Iraq was not only foreseeable, but indeed foreseen, by experts who understood the region but the decision to go to war was endorsed by the Conservatives and the media with little or no challenge.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Activists, such as Kendi, DiAngelo, and various individuals operating within groups such as Mermaids and BLM who have departed the good work of equality for the false Gods of Equity, Grift and Fame. Hectoring and lecturing with effective but sloppy rhetoric, posing as rights advocates for the disenfranchised, whilst making $millions and riding the Likes Gravy Train. For political balance I should also call out their mirror opposites, the Populist Narcs on the right – Carlson, MT-G, and the Orangeman.

John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

OK, so nothing to do with the article or what happened in Iraq. Just wanted to check.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Eh? What happened in Iraq was essentially the result of narcissistic overreach – at least that is the theory of my original post – Bush’s, al-Zarqawi, and more generally American and Religious over-reach. There is a direct connection, I think, with the identity politics of our time – whether woke, or anti-woke – ego games played by grandstanders whilst the World crumbles, and which actually deepens the very problems they claim to be concerned about. I also tried to make it clear – “to a lesser extent, closer to home”- that I do not equate wars killing millions to culture wars….but it is relevant because it is the same core psych-social dysfunction, and it is here, now in our culture and country.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Eh? What happened in Iraq was essentially the result of narcissistic overreach – at least that is the theory of my original post – Bush’s, al-Zarqawi, and more generally American and Religious over-reach. There is a direct connection, I think, with the identity politics of our time – whether woke, or anti-woke – ego games played by grandstanders whilst the World crumbles, and which actually deepens the very problems they claim to be concerned about. I also tried to make it clear – “to a lesser extent, closer to home”- that I do not equate wars killing millions to culture wars….but it is relevant because it is the same core psych-social dysfunction, and it is here, now in our culture and country.

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

OK, so nothing to do with the article or what happened in Iraq. Just wanted to check.

Diane Tasker
DT
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

My take on the expression is that it refers to extreme activism which seeks to deny fact, dictate the way we think and feel and demand obedience, with threats of retribution, to their cause….

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

I agree. The extremes of the ‘woke’ intelligentsia who ‘demand’ that we think the ‘right way’ – i.e. ‘their way’ is akin to the secret police employed by all dictators.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Great improvement Murray, keep it up!

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Activists, such as Kendi, DiAngelo, and various individuals operating within groups such as Mermaids and BLM who have departed the good work of equality for the false Gods of Equity, Grift and Fame. Hectoring and lecturing with effective but sloppy rhetoric, posing as rights advocates for the disenfranchised, whilst making $millions and riding the Likes Gravy Train. For political balance I should also call out their mirror opposites, the Populist Narcs on the right – Carlson, MT-G, and the Orangeman.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

My take on the expression is that it refers to extreme activism which seeks to deny fact, dictate the way we think and feel and demand obedience, with threats of retribution, to their cause….

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
DT
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

I agree. The extremes of the ‘woke’ intelligentsia who ‘demand’ that we think the ‘right way’ – i.e. ‘their way’ is akin to the secret police employed by all dictators.

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Duplicated comment deleted

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Tasker
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

What exactly is an ‘extreme wokeist’? And how exactly do their crimes compare to, say, Stalin or Pol Pot?

Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Duplicated comment deleted

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Tasker
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

Who will rid us of the glory seeking narcissists who claim to be selfless, heroic liberators & defenders, but are the very opposite. Those who ignore learning, history, and the lives and welfare of their own people… because the power excites them: Stalin, Mao, Bush Jr, Pol Pot, the IRA, UDA, al-Zarqawi, Putin, and to a lesser extent, closer to home, the extreme wokeists.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
1 year ago

A good read. I must, however, object to the characterization of suicide bombers.

Describing them as “martyred” in the passive voice may reflect the views of some Iraqis, but from any decent moral lens these men should be regarded as wretched, religiously-motivated suicidees who typically cared little about collateral damage to innocents.

What kind of reaction would we have if a Christian in the US or Europe blew himself up in the middle of a crowded nightclub out of religious zeal? Most people would not say that man was “martyred”.

Jacob Mason
JM
Jacob Mason
1 year ago

A good read. I must, however, object to the characterization of suicide bombers.

Describing them as “martyred” in the passive voice may reflect the views of some Iraqis, but from any decent moral lens these men should be regarded as wretched, religiously-motivated suicidees who typically cared little about collateral damage to innocents.

What kind of reaction would we have if a Christian in the US or Europe blew himself up in the middle of a crowded nightclub out of religious zeal? Most people would not say that man was “martyred”.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

I place much blame on Bremmer and the unwise discharge of people who knew how to keep the lights working. The corruption of Saddam was mostly within a smaller group and the religious issues could have been better managed had the US not interfered. Don’t know why propaganda techniques were not used to avoid Iran meddling when it became obvious of the exploitation of religion.