Opinion| 20 years after the US invaded Iraq: Did Washington lose trillions of dollars in the war?

Marwa El- Shinawy
8 Min Read
IRAQ. 2003. Baghdad. A US soldier gives the thumbs up after the capture of numerous looters.

It has been 20 years since the United States invaded Iraq. There are generations of young people who do not know the details of what happened in that dark period in the Middle East, which led Iraq – that great rich country – to the disintegration it suffers from now.

After the September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, the administration of President George W. Bush began making plans to invade Iraq. President Bush claimed at the time that Saddam was stockpiling and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq was part of the international axis of evil along with Iran and North Korea. Based on this controversial hypothesis, which is not supported by evidence at all, the US Congress in October 2022 authorized the use of military force against Iraq. Many in Washington at the time believed that there was significant evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that it posed a real threat.

Confirming these US allegations, US Secretary of State Colin Powell asked in February 2003 for the United Nations Security Council to give the green light to take military action against Iraq, stressing that Iraq violates previous Security Council resolutions because it possesses weapons of mass destruction program.

However, the council was not convinced, as most members wanted weapons inspectors from the United Nations and the International Energy Agency to provide documented reports. But the United States said it would not wait for the inspectors’ report and formed what was called at the time a “coalition of the willing” against Iraq. Of the 30 countries in the Western Alliance, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland participated in the invasion. The United Kingdom sent 45,000 soldiers, Australia sent 2,000 soldiers, and Poland sent 194 special forces personnel. This is in addition to many Eastern European countries in the “Vilnius” group, which said they believe that Iraq has a program of weapons of mass destruction and violates United Nations resolutions.

Despite this insistence by the United States and its success in convincing many other countries such as Britain, many countries rejected military action against Iraq, considering it the worst possible solution. Examples of these countries are Canada, Mexico, Germany, and France. Turkey, a NATO member, and neighbor of Iraq, also refused to allow the United States and its allies to use its air bases. Saudi Arabia also refused to support the United States in the invasion of Iraq.

Despite all this opposition and the lack of conclusive evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the United States and its allies invaded Iraq at dawn on 20 March 2003, with a military operation they called “Iraqi Freedom”. Indeed, the forces managed to defeat the Iraqi army and overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was later tried and executed. It is worth noting here that the execution of Saddam Hussein was a violation of the feelings of the Islamic nation, as he was executed on the first day of the holy Feast.

Certainly, this war was enough to destroy Iraq. In the aftermath of this invasion, sectarian violence swept the country in 2004 and then turned into a vicious civil war between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite factions. More importantly, the American forces refused to leave Iraq, claiming that they were preparing this country for democratic transition. Under this imaginary American tutelage, all the resources of this rich country were controlled, especially oil.

The American forces did not leave Iraq until 2011, and no weapons of mass destruction were found, nor did the desired democratic transition take place in Iraq. Moreover, Colin Powell himself later stated that the reports on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were wrong. 

In the end, it turned out that the war that cost hundreds of thousands of victims and plunged the Middle East into chaos was built on lies. After all these years have passed, it became clear that the main objective of this war was to enable the United States of America to control the region and its resources and to secure political systems that suit its interests and values under the pretense of trying to establish a democratic system in the Middle East.

Today, twenty years later, the picture is clearer than ever. The US invasion greatly devastated Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destabilized the Middle East, and empowered terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. To this day, this oil-rich country is still grappling with suffocating political and economic problems. The governments that came to power since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 have failed to build a strong economy, despite the enormous natural resources that Baghdad possesses. The United States also failed to establish real democracy, good governance, peaceful rotation of power, or even fight corruption.

On the other hand, the United States of America talks about the heavy losses it suffered as a result of this war. The focus is always on this point as if the war was really for the benefit of the Middle East. But here in the Middle East, as ordinary citizens, we have a lot of critical comments and doubts. For example, no one knows until now the size of the quantities of oil that the American forces transported from the fields of Iraq to the locations of the strategic reserves of oil in America. No one knows the extent to which America has benefited over the past seven years from the Iraqi oil reserves. Even the huge reserves of oil that the world was talking about in the Iraqi lands, we do not hear about it now. These critical comments make us wonder if the United States of America really lost all these trillions for nothing. There must be unannounced gains, especially since the war from the beginning was nothing but a lie fabricated by the United States of America.

Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Prof. at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS)

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