Shock and Awe revisited, as fighting drags on in Syria’s Ghouta
The latest estimate is 2.4 million Iraqis killed since the US invasion in 2003; and while the nature of war in the Middle East has morphed in different ways, arch-conservatives stagger on like the Walking Dead eyeing their next conflict
Fifteen years ago, “Shock and Awe” was unleashed over Baghdad as the preferred method of bombing Mesopotamia into “democracy” – thus fashioning what would later be hailed as the birth pangs of a New Middle East.
I tried, in a report for Asia Times in 2003, to explain the geopolitical power play behind the US invasion of Iraq that led to so much death and destruction.
Yet death and destruction, even before Shock and Awe, was always intrinsically part of the Iraq tragedy.
Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign, who in 1991 filed a class-action complaint with the UN against President George HW Bush, concluded that no less than 3.3 million Iraqis – including 750,000 children – died as a result of economic sanctions and/or illegal wars conducted by the US government, and assisted by Great Britain, between 1990 and 2012.
Addressing an international conference on War-affected Children in Kuala Lumpur in late 2012, Boyle tallied the death toll as follows: 200,000 Iraqis killed in the first Gulf War; 1.4 million Iraqis killed as a result of Shock and Awe, the illegal invasion in 2003; plus 1.7 million Iraqis dead “as a direct result” of sanctions.
By that time, the landmark study on ‘The Human Cost of the War on Iraq’ published in The Lancet in 2006 had already been universally acknowledged to be right on the mark. Nonetheless, both Washington and London sought repeatedly to discredit the study, undertaken by the academics from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Their data suggested 654,000 casualties in Iraq, making it the largest conflict of the 21st century at that time.
Further estimates updating fresh information by British NGO Iraq Body Count eventually led to a probable toll of 2.4 million Iraqis killed as a direct and indirect consequence of Shock and Awe fifteen years ago.
And all that death and destruction for what?
In October 2007 – when the Petraeus surge in Anbar province was still unraveling – retired US General and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark finally disclosed, in a book-promotion speech in San Francisco, the absolute non-connection between 9/11 and Shock and Awe.
Clark recalled two meetings he had in the Pentagon, shortly after 9/11:
“And then I came back to the Pentagon about six weeks later. I saw the same officer, I said, Why haven’t we attacked Iraq? “Oh, sir,” he says, “it’s worse than that.” He pulled up a piece of paper off his desk. He said, “I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we are going to attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years. We are going to start in Iraq and then we are going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Seven countries in five years.” I said, “Is that a classified memo?” He said, “Yes, sir”.
‘Real men go to Tehran’
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the full liberation of Iraq and an end to the war against Islamic State in December. But moping up of terrorist cells continues south of Mosul.
And the radical conservatives’ roadmap has never gone away. As it morphed into humanitarian imperialism, Libya was turned into a militia wasteland and a prime source of uncontrolled illegal immigration into the EU. Yet Lebanon resisted. And so did Syria; Russophobia has everything to do not only with Crimea and the Donbass but also with Moscow preventing the fall of Damascus.
The proxy war in Syria, up to now, was all but won, on the ground and in the air, by the “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah, with a counter-terrorism intel HQ placed in Baghdad.
The key battle is now Ghouta, southeast of Damascus – which will be a key factor in deciding the future power play in the Levant between Washington and Moscow.
As for Iraq, for all the tragedy I personally witnessed, during my last visit in late 2017 that was the first time I actually felt the stirrings of hope in the air – as in Iraq forging its own destiny.
A new book connects all the dots between wars such as Iraq and Libya and the color-coded variations of “democracy” manufactured by “cognitive dissonance” – essentially forms of hybrid war developed after the failure of Shock and Awe.
The fifteenth anniversary of Shock and Awe should also be compared to the equally gruesome third anniversary of the US-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen conducted by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, about to be given red carpet treatment at the White House.
In the end, the implementers of Shock and Awe in Iraq didn’t even get the oil. Yet, like The Walking Dead, they never give up. For them, the notion that “Real men go to Tehran” still applies. And they yearn to “Bring it on”.