Human rights and anti-war activists marked the 18th anniversary of the second of three American-led invasions of Iraq by renewing calls for the U.S.—this time the Biden administration—to pay reparations for 30 years of nonstop aggression against the Iraqi people.
“Eighteen years after the United States invaded Iraq on a patently false basis, we uplift the work of Iraqi activists, civil society, and their partners building local and transnational social justice movements under extremely precarious conditions,” the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said in a statement.
Jared Keyel, a researcher whose work focuses on Iraqi refugee resettlement, wrote for Common Dreams that Biden must “end the American war against Iraq without precondition or caveat,” bring the war’s “planners and perpetrators” to justice, “vastly expand” financial support for refugee resettlement, and pay reparations to Iraqis.
“Reparation funding must be allocated to provide individual Iraqis with monetary compensation for the extreme pain and suffering we have caused them and to (re)build their lives however they see fit,” wrote Keyel.
Waged on the bogus premise of weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, the U.S. invasion of Iraq—originally dubbed Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) by the George W. Bush administration—began on March 20, 2003 with the seizure of oil terminals in the Persian Gulf. This was followed by a “shock-and-awe” bombing campaign that claimed the first few thousand of what would ultimately be at least 100,000 and perhaps as many as 500,000 Iraqi lives.
The eight-year U.S.-led war and occupation—during which the American invaders committed massacres, torture, rape, and numerous other atrocities—would leave Iraq largely in ruins. But that wasn’t the end, or even the beginning, of the matter.
In 1991, the U.S.-led Gulf War not only killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, it also led to a U.S.-imposed sanctions regime that, according to a United Nations agency, was responsible for the premature deaths of 576,000 Iraqi children. Asked in 1996 whether she thought that was too high a price to pay, Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, said that “the price is worth it.”
Twenty-three years later, and three years after he withdrew most U.S. troops from Iraq, then-President Barack Obama launched the U.S.-led war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Thousands of U.S. airstrikes under Obama and former President Donald Trump—who fulfilled his campaign promise to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS militants and “take out their families”—left thousands more Iraqi men, women, and children dead and entire cities in ruins.
Since 1991 the people of Iraq have been subjected to ceaseless U.S. invasion, occupation, bombardment, and sanctions. In addition to a wrecked infrastructure and devastated economy, less visible damage includes millions of Iraqis afflicted with psychological trauma and countless people—especially babies and children—suffering from a surge in cancers, birth defects, and other ailments believed to be caused by U.S. use of depleted uranium and other toxic weapons and materials.
Meanwhile, the corporations and their owners who make up the military-industrial complex have profited handsomely every step of the way.
Advocates say that these are some of the wrongs that reparations can begin to right.
“We call on the Biden administration to finally provide remedies and reparations for generations of endless war,” urged CCR. “Biden must lead a shift away from the unlawful policies of endless war and militarization toward rights-based policies and practices consistent with constitutional and international law obligations, centering those most impacted—Iraqis calling for justice and liberation from U.S. militarism and its legacies of sectarianism and violence.”
“Americans owe a debt to the people of Iraq that can never be repaid in full,” wrote Keyel. “However, it is incumbent and imperative that we try.”
“No amount of money can ever fully heal the physical and psychic wounds that the American war against Iraq has caused,” he added. “But, on the inauspicious 30th anniversary of this conflict, Americans can demonstrate contrition, and work to ameliorate, if only partially, the suffering their government and military have caused by making that government make reparations to the people of Iraq.”