Fifteen years ago this week, on April 9, 2003, television networks across the globe cut to a live scene unfolding in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. A motley hybrid of what appeared to be ordinary Iraqis and uniformed U.S. troops — who had begun to occupy Baghdad — pulled down a massive statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a brilliant, semi-staged propaganda exercise meant to reinforce the neoconservative promise that ordinary Iraqis would be exuberant over the fall of the regime and welcome the U.S. troops as liberators. It was with this image firmly tattooed on the public consciousness of the war that George W. Bush stepped off a fighter plane onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, ridiculously dressed in a flight suit, and told the world that the American mission was accomplished. There was a massive banner with that message created just for that moment. In reality, this particular war was just beginning and it continues on to this day.
It is important to examine what happened in this war and how it happened: the lies, the crimes, the mass killings, the destruction — all of it. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neoconservatives should all hold a special place in the hall of shame for mass killers for what they did to Iraq. But they did it with the support of many in Congress, including some of the most prominent and elite Democrats, including the 2016 nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.
To understand Iraq’s current reality, we must confront not just 15 years of U.S. policy, but a history that spans the administrations of 11 U.S. presidents. It’s a 55-year history that is filled with constant interventions and bombings, economic sanctions and covert CIA activity, and regime change. And in this history — a history you never hear discussed on cable news — the main victims are, as they’ve always been: ordinary Iraqis.
This is a classic case study in U.S. imperial crimes that began in 1958 when the British-installed monarchy was overthrown by a popular Iraqi army general who set about to nationalize oil, normalize relations with the Soviet Union, and implement sweeping agrarian and social reforms.
This short film is by no means an exhaustive history, but rather an overview of the role the U.S. has played in destabilizing Iraq and the region.
This video was written by Jeremy Scahill, executive produced by Lauren Feeney and Jeremy Scahill, and produced and edited by Travis Mannon, Elise Swain, and Dina Sayedahmed.
Correction: April 9, 2018
At 4:20 in the video, Jeremy misspoke and said that “Qasim has been killed.” The members of the Baghdad Pact were meeting to discuss the killing of King Faisal.