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Posted on on March 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

At the five years’ mark, we still think that deposing Saddam was right – staying in Iraq for oil was wrong. Investing that over half trillion dollars waisted (costs are already over $800 billion considering also the fight to depose Saddam) in creating an economy less dependent on oil would have been a much more reasoned choice. What now? posts the following Washington Post article as a memorial to what we were saying since the start of our website. Sure – the surge has started to work, but to what end? Will the US be able to hold Iraq together as one state common to all its communities? Is it really important to have it as one integrated oil exporting source, at a time that we will anyway start to decrease our economy’s dependence on oil? After removing Saddam we could have left the Iraqi’s to sort out their future by themselves. Had they come up with a Saddam-alike, the US could have gone in a third time – less cost and nothing lost. If the US still insists in keeping Iraq in one piece – will this not push the country even more into future collusion with Iran? The Shiia are the majority and the only part of Iraq that really seeks independence are the Kurds. Why hold them back from achieving their goal? Even Turkey starts to understand that a secure Kurdistan, cards played right, could be to their advantage, and the EU, without pressure from the US, would also shine some light in that direction. The Sunni monarchs of the League of Arab States are yet years away from understanding the emerging new neighborhood in which extreme religious interpretation is bound to highjack also their own states – this because they had that false hope that the oil-money can help them deflect the ire of their own people to targets abroad – the likes of Israel, and even their own benefactor – the United States. This sounds sick – but sick it is. It was that oil-money, that to different degrees, paved the way and paid for the radicalization of the world’s two billion Muslims.

And what did all of this do to the value of the dollar and to US economy at large?

Surely, The Washington Post does not make our points, but then it presents a reasonable description of how sad America feels on this day – after five years of war and just one year after the start of a real attempt to manage that war.

The EU Observer looks into the damages the continuation of the war did to EU-US relations and to the split it created within the EU. What is the value loss to the US from above? How long will take the healing process?…

Five Years In Iraq
Iraqis and Americans Offer Perspectives on the War
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; A01

The planning ministry in Baghdad explodes after being hit during the second day of U.S. raids on the Iraqi capital March 20, 2003. (Faleh Kheiber – Reuters)

For a majority of Americans, today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of an Iraq war that was not worth fighting, one that has cost thousands of lives and more than half a trillion dollars. For the Bush administration, however, it is the first anniversary of an Iraq strategy that it believes has finally started to succeed.

It has been about a year since Army Gen. David H. Petraeus arrived to command U.S. forces in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker took over as the chief U.S. diplomat, and the military deployed 30,000 more troops to protect and rebuild neighborhoods.

Officials now running the U.S. effort express frustration that the gains wrought by their new political, security and economic policies — in particular, sharply reduced violence — are continually weighed against the first four years of the war, when Iraq unraveled in insurgency and sectarian strife.

“I came to Washington to describe what we’re doing,” Charles P. Ries, Crocker’s senior deputy in charge of reconstruction and the Iraqi economy, said during a visit last week. “At almost every meeting, somebody wants me to describe what we used to do. . . . I know why people raise these questions, but I don’t feel it’s something I can speak to. The times were different then.”

Today’s policy is fundamentally different from the impatient mind-set of 2003, in both lowered U.S. expectations and a less imperious approach to dealing with Iraqi authorities. “In those days,” Ries said, “we decided what [the Iraqis] needed, and we built it.” Today, he said, Iraqis are asked what they want, and then told that while the United States will help, they will have to pay for most of it themselves.

Yet as the administration requests additional war funding and calls for a pause in promised troop withdrawals, some question its right to a second chance. “Like a tourniquet,” the troop increase “has stopped the bleeding,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a former Army Ranger and senior member of the Armed Services Committee, reported last week after his 11th trip to Iraq. What he has not seen, Reed said, are the surgery and recovery that would begin to heal the wound that Iraq has become. And even U.S. officials acknowledge that the “surge” has not led to the political reconciliation the administration had hoped for.

Others see the past year’s successes as fragile and reversible, and less consequential than the pain that preceded them. “I think they have it righter than they ever have before,” Daniel P. Serwer, an Iraq expert with the U.S. Institute of Peace, said of the administration. “But the fact is that those four other years did exist, and they condition a lot of what can and cannot happen now. There’s a history here, there’s a lot of blood and guts on the floor — literally.”

The White House tends to dismiss such longer memories. While it recognizes the inclination to “relitigate the past” when a milestone such as the fifth anniversary is reached, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “our focus is on the way ahead and making sure that the current situation and the future situation gets better.”

In addition to new directions on the ground in Iraq, officials point to a newly effective structure designed to avoid the kind of ad hoc decision-making that led to early bureaucratic gridlock and mistakes, such as decrees dissolving the Iraqi army and banning Baath Party members from government jobs. President Bush‘s appointment last spring of Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute as deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan has “helped streamline the process and made sure that there is . . . a senior-level official who can devote his full, undivided attention” to the subject, Johndroe said.

The once-bickering State Department and Pentagon are reporting new levels of cooperation. Diplomats who recall Donald H. Rumsfeld‘s insistence that the Defense Department control all aspects of early postwar policy note approvingly that it was his successor as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who recently called on Congress to increase the State Department’s budget.

Many U.S. officials participating in the new efforts talk about those years as though they belonged to another administration. “We weren’t here five years ago,” said one who, like several interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity about past policy on the grounds that it would undermine the present.

“In the early days, they had an idea of something, a plan, of how it was going to be,” the official said. “They would remove Saddam, and democracy would flower. They took this plan and rammed it down into the reality of Iraq, which nobody understood. What did they know about Iraq? Who were they listening to?” In the past year, the official said, “there has been a coming to grips across the board with Iraqi reality.”

One of the more troublesome realities is that Iraqi leaders have been slow to take advantage of the “breathing space” that the troop increase was supposed to create. The administration has often noted that Washington and Baghdad operate on different clocks, with the U.S. timetable for demonstrable progress running far faster than its Iraqi counterpart. In an interview last week, Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, acknowledged that “no one” in the U.S. and Iraqi governments “feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation” or in the provision of basic public services.

In congressional testimony scheduled for early next month, both Petraeus and Crocker are expected to make the case that enough forward movement has been made to justify continuing the current strategy, and to warn that an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops could jeopardize the gains of the past year.

But while a strong congressional appearance by the two men last September quieted talk of funding cutoffs and brought a brief rise in public attention, their upcoming testimony appears to have sparked little anticipation.

As the administration struggles to focus on Iraq’s future, it is competing with a presidential race locked in debate about how the war began and how to end it, a Democratic Congress determined to fight over every additional dollar, and a weary, distracted public.

Indeed, once a top public concern, Iraq has been muscled aside by the economy and the political campaigns. In a survey released last week by the Pew Research Center, more people knew the names of the head of the Federal Reserve Board and the president of Venezuela than knew the approximate number of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

Some public views about the situation in Iraq have eased over the past year. But others, including baseline judgments about the war itself, have hardly budged. In the latest Washington PostABC News poll, nearly two-thirds said the war was not worth waging. Less than half, 43 percent, think the United States is making significant progress, and majorities continue to judge the war’s benefits as not worth its costs.

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.


And From the EUobserver – Iraq and the EU: Five Years On.

20.03.2008 – 09:21 CET | By Renata Goldirova from Brussels.
It has been five years since the United States began its military operation dubbed ‘Iraqi Freedom’. The war resulted in a deep rift in transatlantic relations, caused a split within the European Union and made Iraqis the single largest group seeking refuge in Europe.

On 20 March 2003, thousands of troops from four countries – the US (250,000), the United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000) and Poland (194) – invaded Iraq. The invasion led to a quick defeat of the Iraqi regime, with its leader, Saddam Hussein, being captured in December 2003 and executed in December 2006.

The US and its allies cited allegations that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed and was actively developing weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the invasion. However, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction have been found in the country’s territory.

“Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting … The answer is clear to me: removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision,” US president George W. Bush said on Wednesday (19 March).

Some estimates suggest that up to one million Iraqis have been killed since 2003, while the financial burden amounts to some $9 billion for London and $845 billion for Washington. Former head of the IMF Joseph Stiglitz has recently estimated the cost to be as high as $3 trillion.

But Mr Bush referred to the costs of the war as “exaggerated estimates”. “No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure – but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq,” he said.

EU split:

The issue of military intervention against Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime became the biggest ever test for the EU’s common foreign and security policy, as member states were not able to speak with one voice.

Several countries, led by France and Germany, were opposed to US-led invasion, while others took part.

At the time, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld exacerbated the divisions by saying: “Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem.”

“You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe,” Mr Rumsfeld famously said.

Since 2003, a number of EU countries such as Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and the Netherlands have withdrawn their soldiers from the violence-torn country, mainly due to public opinion.

At the same time, troops from Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic remain deployed in Iraq.

Pressure from Iraqi refugees:

According to fresh numbers released by the UN high commissioner for refugees earlier this week (18 March), asylum requests from Iraqis climbed to 38,286 in 2007, a sharp increase from the 19,375 claims in 2006.

A number of non-governmental organisations have therefore blamed the EU for not doing enough over a major refugee crisis, pointing to the fact that the treatment of Iraqis varies significantly from one member state to another.

For example, Sweden’s reception facilities have been under huge pressure, as the Scandinavian country is the only one within the 27-nation bloc granting refugee status or other protection to almost all Iraqi asylum seekers. A total of 9,065 Iraqis applied for refugee status there in 2006, compared to 2,330 the previous year.

The EU “cannot continue to ignore one of the world’s major displacement crises,” says a statement of a group of eight NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.

In general, it is estimated that six million people inside Iraq need urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict. Some 2.5 million are internally displaced, while an additional two million are hosted by neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan.

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