Operation Iraqi Freedom is the name of the campaign launched in March of 2003 to depose Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, and establish a democratic government in Iraq. Or perhaps it was to remove an insane dictator with Weapons of Mass Destruction, or maybe it was to destroy a government that was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda, or maybe it was because he might have, one day, developed WMDs (perhaps even within forty-five minutes!). Or maybe it was because, even though Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda were enemies, the general despair would create terrorism, which would in turn be directed towards the United States. According to the book Cobra II, named after the ground invasion phase of OIF, Operation Iraqi Freedom truly began in the weeks after September 11, 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld began creating plans for the invasion(1). It has also been revealed, in February of 2006, that American President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had decided to invade well before March of 2003, and were even discussing methods to ensure that a conflict would begin, such as flying a U2 spy-plane painted in U.N. colors low over Iraq in the hope that it would be shot down(2) (similar to Operation Northwoods).
The roots of the idea behind the name
Operation Iraqi Freedom go back further than most would suspect. It is a dangerous, new idea, to some, but the idea that one nation can bring freedom to another nation by invading and occupying that nation goes back to the times of Napoleon Bonaparte, if in fact it is not rooted in the very ideas which Western civilization holds about itself. Dangerous, maybe, but new it is not: Napoleon, upon his invasion of Egypt, told the people of Egypt that he was there to free them from the repressive mullahs, who hanged anyone who dared excercise freedom of speech. This plan failed, of course, and even now Egypt is struggling to gain true democracy. More relevant to Operation Iraqi Freedom, though, was the British occupation of Iraq which began in 1917, which bears striking similarities to the current occupation. Let's take a look at those similarities, shall we?
Had the principles and tactics of PR been widely disseminated by 1917, Operation Iraqi Freedom might also have been the name given to the British occupation of Iraq, for when British forces captured Baghdad, General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude issued a proclamation, posted throughout Baghdad, which read, in English and Arabic,
We come here not as conquerors, but as liberators, here to free you from generations of tyranny
Events in Iraq soon proceeded in much the same pattern as the American occupation of Iraq, although more slowly and the British Empire wouldn't have bothed with the idea of spreading democracy. The first British soldier killed during the occupation was an officer, named Captain Townsend. He was killed in Han-Dari [sic] square in Baghdad— the location of the death of the first American soldier killed during the current occupation(3).
A full-fledged insurgency developed by 1920. That year, the British surrounded and shelled Fallujah. Soon after, Najaf was surrounded, and the British demanded the surrender of the Shi'ite cleric named Badr, an insurgent leader. He was captured in the ensuing raid.
The more recent insurgency developed far more quickly, with American forces reducing Fallujah to dust just after the 2004 US presidential election. A short time before this, tensions rose in Najaf over the Shi'ite cleriic named Sadr. Much as the US might have liked to arrest him, the threat of an eruption over this required the US to seek a political solution. And just as in the 1920's, the occupying powers of modern Iraq are worried about foreign terrorists, now as then crossing the Iraqi border from Syria(4).
In 1920, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George went before parliament to address the issue of an unpopular, costly, and seemingly failing war in Iraq.
If we withdraw British troops, he said,
there will be civil war. In 2006, addressing an unpopular, costly, and seemingly failing war in Iraq, American President George W. Bush went before TV cameras and warned that
If American troops are withdrawn from Iraq, the result will be completely predictable. Soon after Lloyd George's statement, the RAF was used indiscriminately against Iraqi towns and villages, and if you believe journalist Robert Fisk that's what is happening in Iraq today.
Iraq was finally granted its independence from Britain in 1932, after 15 years of active occupation, although the British re–invaded in 1941 because of fears that the pro–Nazi government would shut off the flow of oil to Britain. This, and the similarity in so many respects of America's occupation to Britain's occupation, prompts certain questions: how long will the American occupation of Iraq continue? Under the logic of the Bush administration, can American troops ever withdraw? Is the only way Iraq can be stabilized through methods that would nowadays set the world ablaze? Given that many Iranian backed candidates, who were opposed by Saddam Hussein, came to power in recent elections(5), is the current occupation of Iraq nothing more than an open wound for our enemies to pick at? What is it about history that seems to make us fail to learn its lessons? These are questions that only time and blood will answer, and even when they are answered their full import will not be understood for generations.
1. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4675724.stm 3. During the occupation phase, as opposed to the war phase. He was killed by a roadside bomb. Journalist Robert Fisk reports meeting the grandson of the man who killed Capt. Townsend the day this happened, in Han-Dari square.4. http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1044 5.
Throughout Iraq, the people we supported are in power A senior Iranian intelligence official, after the 2005 elections— Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change, by Stephen Kinzer
re Operation Iraqi Freedom (version 1.0): You do violence to the historical record by claiming that democratic is code for 'friendly the United States' (C: which I did). It would have been very easy to install someone who was friendly to the United States, but the Americans have seriously set about to democratize Iraq. A more apt criticism is that this was a foolish thing to expect to be able to do, but you're on shaky ground arguing they haven't tried to democratize it the country, because they clearly have - and nor did they vet candidates on how friendly they were to the US. Now, I don't remember arguing that the U.S. was deliberately undertaking undemocratic policies in Iraq, although I do think that OIF is an attempt to regain a friendly government in that extremely oily nation which we lost when Saddam invaded Kuwait (after laying out his case to the american diplomat at the time, and receiving no words of opposition). Cut out the Clinton years, and it's practically attack and riposte. War by installment, if you will. (Also, it seems the administration has vetted candidates, after a fashion, but it's done so rather poorly)
As far as undemocratic policies go, though (as long as we're on the subject), I do believe that many are being undertaken— even to the point of terrorism. Specifically speaking, The Salvador Option: Jan 8, 2005, Newsweek reported that the administration was pondering creating El Salvador-style hit squads in the hopes of punishing population bases for supporting insurgent groups. Then there's the economic policies put in place by the CPA, such as Order 39, which allows 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, or Order 81, which gives foreign Agribusiness preferential treatment. Then there's the issue of the US military planting articles in iraqi newspapers, which isn't exactly honest (although is arguably necessary: after all, that's how the CIA overthrew Iran's prime minister in 1953, which is the whole reason we're in this mess in the first place!) All in all, the idea that the war on Iraq is solely about democratization, in spite of the lies to get us there, in spite of PNAC's military agenda, and in spite of the fleecing US taxpayers are getting from companies like Halliburton, just doesn't hold water with me.