Today marks 10 years since the start of the war on Iraq, but really western imperialism has been at war with Iraq for a century. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British took over colonial rule of Iraq in order to safeguard trade routes to India. They installed a king, Faisal, who himself admitted that he was “nothing more than an instrument of British policy”. In 1920, a major nationalist uprising was suppressed by the British with gas attacks (something that’s not mentioned quite so often as Saddam’s use of gas). When Faisal’s successor (and son), Ghazi, set up a pan-Arab anti-colonial radio station and made bold statements against the British, he died suddenly in a car ‘accident’ - almost certainly at the hands of the British intelligence services.
Independence was finally won by the Free Officers coup of 1958, led by Abdel Karim Kassem with the support of the Iraqi Communist Party - at the time the largest non-government communist party in the world. The US was immediately hostile to Kassem on account of his alliance with communists, his nationalisation programme and his progressive social views. The CIA conspired to bring the Ba’ath Party to power in 1963, thinking that they would be easier to control than Kassem. They were wrong. The Ba’ath government nationalised Iraq’s oil and used the proceeds to develop a very advanced social welfare system and to build a modern army with advanced military technology, capable of being an independent force. Before the international demonisation started in earnest in the late 80s, Saddam Hussein was awarded UNESCO prizes for Iraq’s literacy and public health programmes. The Iraqi Ba’ath was also among the most consistent supports of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Yasser Arafat famously said: “I can’t sleep peacefully except in Baghdad”.
Concerned that Iraq was becoming too independent - too much of an example for the rest of the third world - the western powers pushed Saddam into a war with the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran. Supplying arms to both sides, the US was able to engineer the massive weakening of both sides, in a totally needless war that lasted nine years, created around 1.5 million casualties and almost bankrupted both sides.
The US and British then baited Saddam into occupying Kuwait (a region of Iraq that was split off by the British due to the vastness of its oil wealth). They ignored his very reasonable offer for withdrawal (he offered complete unilateral withdrawal on the condition that Israel withdrew from the Occupied Territories), and proceeded to unleash what was at the time “the most concentrated air war in history”, in January 1991. Weapons caches were wiped out and the army was reduced to a shadow of its former self.
Britain and the US then pushed for a brutal, immoral sanctions regime that is responsible for at least 1.5 million deaths between 1991 and 2003. By the time of the invasion of March 2003, the Iraqi people had already suffered 23 years of full-scale attack on their living standards. This is the punishment for an oil-rich country pursuing true independence.
Every person in Britain and the US should feel the utmost shame at what has been done to Iraq in our names. We have a moral debt to the Iraqi people to do everything within our power to oppose imperialism from within the belly of the beast.