For those who didn’t get the title’s pun, it is the use of the phonetic alphabet for WTF. That is the current situation in Middle East and throughout the entire Global War on Terror. The GWOT is its actual name since 2001. Sometimes I have to remind myself. Remembering so is the first step to understanding why so many countries are involved. Right now, the key states of main conflict is Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Within the fifteen years, there’s been a lot, and eventually future TAMIU student will likely be spending a semester studying the topic, but I’ll be here to explain it the best I can for you understand.
Last month we left off in Afghanistan. We explored the events of 9/11 and the beginning of the Global War on Terror. What began in Afghanistan swiftly spilled to another country in the heart of the Middle East. This country is Iraq, and we have been losing Iraq for a very long time.
This is where things get weird. Just to go ahead and start, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 neither were they affiliated with Al-Qaeda. However, their government was really, really bad!
The US used to support Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. This time it wasn’t to fight communism, but to fight Iran. Iran had the Islamic Revolution which the current government in Iran, and America did not like that, but Iran is a different story for a different time.
Anyways, the funding that went to Iraq military eventually backfired when they invaded Kuwait. In response, an allied coalition liberated Kuwait and invade part of Iraq in what was called Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. We did it all in a few weeks. Then President George H.W. Bush called for an Iraqi revolt against Saddam Hussein, but that never happened.
After 9/11, there was A LOT of funding for the military and a surplus of funds from the Clinton Administration of the 90s. Saddam Hussein and his government were accused of producing weapons of mass destruction or WMDs. WMDs can range from nuclear or plutonium weapons to mass dispersive chemical and biological weapons. America feared that since Hussein was not playing ball with us, he might leak these weapons to terrorists or terrorists could somehow procure them and use them for all sorts of wrong reasons. It sounds reasonable on paper. The US Government was convinced that this was case.
The American government sought a need to invade and enforce a regime change. The United Kingdom felt the same way. During this time the UK was under the majority of the Labour Party with Prime Minister Tony Blair. However, unlike Afghanistan, many of the other nations did not think so. France, a very key ally, believed that a diplomatic route was more reasonable as did Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation (who was still president back then) thought the same. Either way, the US congress voted in favor, and in March 2003, America invaded Iraq.
America actually did an excellent job defeating Hussein and his army. It was all done in three weeks. Just about everyone was ready to go home by the end of the year, but then it got worse. First and foremost, there were no WMDs. The terrible calamites that everyone feared did not even exist, but then it got even worse. The US had no real strategy to rebuild Iraq as it did for Afghanistan. As US troops waited to withdraw, the situation became worse as the insurgency began. Several armed groups began attacking civilians and US troops making the decision to leave Iraq less and less of a possibilty. Simply put, Iraq was way worse after the fall of Hussein’s government. Saddam Hussein was later captured by US forces. He was tried in court and found guilty for heinous crimes. He was then executed by hanging.
Now with all respects to our efforts, understand that the world is still a better place with Saddam Hussein dead. Hussein was a ruthless dictator who oppressed and killed a lot of innocent people. His sons were possible even worse creatures. The thing is, when you overthrow a dictator, make sure you’re doing it with those who rebel against him. America and her military might made that decision for all of Iraqi people.
The US had this not-so-brilliant strategy to expel the entire B’aith party from all Iraqi institutions. This was Hussein’s party. This was something that was not even done against the Axis of World War II. We mandated that everyone that was a somehow related to the old Iraqi government had to leave. The Sunni Muslim majority became outcast. Even the old Iraqi weapons a gear were disenfranchised. The new Shi’ite government came in, and they were not so great. Appointed by President Bush, Nouri Al-Maliki and his new Shi’ite government took revenge and punished the Sunnis similar to how the Treaty of Versailles punished the Germans. All of this happened as America occupied the country controversially. The “international security” force engaged the insurgents conventionally and a lot civilians and soldiers died in the process.
The insurgency led to more years of US occupation. Then a civil war erupted between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. While all this chaos happened, coalition troops reacted and responded however they could, but the death toll kept rising. In his last years in office, President Bush made a last ditch effort to surge US troops in Iraq to finally end the insurgency. Truth is, it actually worked. By 2008 when President Bush was leaving office, conflict in Iraq was relatively low. However, it was at the cost of many dead troops and civilians.
President Bush made his infamous visit to Iraq that same year. During a press meeting, a man threw his both of his shoes at President Bush. In the Muslim world, throwing one’s shoes or presenting the bottom of one’s feet is as harsh of an insult as to spitting in one’s face. The image of the man throwing the shoes at the US President, at the end of his term, paints a painful picture of what that administration did to that country and its people.
Iraq and the financial crisis towards the end of the Bush Presidency paved an easy road for Senator Barack Obama to become president and the Democrats to take congress. President Obama did not like Iraq. He saw it was the Republican step-child he was not obligated to raise, and so, he didn’t. By the end of 2010, all US troops were pulled out of Iraq and the war was technically over. Shi’ite government lead by Bush’s favorite Nouri Al-Maliki continued to oppress the Sunni Muslims. The disenfranchised Sunnis began to revolt. In places where they could not be accepted in the economy, they turned to extremism and their arms. In 2011, a new civil war was beginning in Syria, and they took this to their advantage. What was orginially Al-Qeada of Iraq had slowly morphed into something very ugly. Today they are known as the Islamic State.
The Islamic State is Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been fighting and two front war in Iraq and Syria. Alongside conventional methods of warfare, ISIL has planned and perform terrorist attack in several cities around the globe. Their goal is create an Islamic caliphate based on their Satanic interpretation of Islam. To enforce this, they have caused genocide on Christian and Muslim groups around the territories they occupy.
Iraq has been a very large target for them. In the early years of the conflict around 2013-2014, ISIL performed atrocious terror attacks and easily defeated the new Iraqi military in open combat. Many Iraqi
soldiers simply deserted the posts before fighting. This was very concerning to the US and the Obama Administration. Though he didn’t like anything we did in that country, President Obama was not going to let Iraq turn into another Vietnam. Using his executive authority to bypass the gridlock in congress, President Obama began an air campaign in Iraq and Syria. US Special Forces have returned Iraq to train and advise the Iraqi military. The president wants to defeat ISIL without having to re-invade Iraq, and so far, there’s been progress.
What some people do not understand about the situation is the fact that much of the United States’ credibility is on the line with Iraq right now. If Iraq were to lose to ISIL and Baghdad were to fall, it would be just like South Vietnam, and the international community and the American people will come to the cynical conclusion that we cannot spread freedom and democracy around the world, and 4,400 US soldier, like the 60,000 soldiers in Vietnam, would have died for nothing. If we were to re-invade Iraq to defeat ISIL, we’ll have it done in less than a month. It would be great, but the international community, would take it for what it really was. Big Daddy America had to step in a rescue their spoiled child, Iraq. Though defeated, remnants of ISIL and terrorists group around the world will interpret this to heart, and know that the only reason why they lost is because they fought the superpower. This will only support they their claim that Iraq was truly an empty government which would further their cause for future conflict. The rest of the world would acknowledge this to, and leave the final interpretation that America did not and likely will not ever establish a solid government in the Middle East.
However, like stated early, there has been progress. 40% of territory that ISIL has occupied in Iraq has been reclaimed by the Iraqi government. Airstrikes have killed some of the major ISIL leadership. The embarrassing defeat in Ramadi has been redeemed by the Iraqi government in its recapture. Currently, the Iraqi military is making an offense towards ISIL’s Iraqi stronghold in Mosul. But during all of this, the US troop presence is still gradually growing. Though minimal, US soldiers are still dying more than a decade after the invasion.
To end this segment, I would like state that some painful numbers. Since 2003, there have been somewhere to 174,000 death related to the Iraq War, and that is a modest number. Of that figure, 26,000 have been enemy combatants, 4,400 have been US troops, and 123,000 have been civilians. These figures are still counting.