From xxxxxx <[email protected]>
Subject The Illegal Invasion of Iraq: Never Forget
Date March 19, 2023 12:05 AM
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[ None of us can afford to remain silent or apathetic about the
devastation we continue to cause to innocent civilians. The money
being spent on war must be redirected to those most impacted by U.S.
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Lisa LingClare Bayard
March 18, 2023
Common Dreams
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_ None of us can afford to remain silent or apathetic about the
devastation we continue to cause to innocent civilians. The money
being spent on war must be redirected to those most impacted by U.S.
aggression. _

Residents of Nasariyah, Iraq protest the presence of U.S. troops in
Iraq on April 15, 2003., Cris Bouroncle/AFP via Getty Images


How did we get here? 20 years after the U.S.-led invasion of the
sovereign nation of Iraq, we still refuse to reckon with the last
decades of war as yet another decade of violence unfolds. Since the
invasion, tens of thousands if not over a million lives have been lost
[[link removed]].
Millions of Iraqis are still displaced, while tens of millions have
endured relentless violence ever since the destabilization of their
country beginning in the 1990s through bombing, sanctions, multiple
military invasions, and the occupation that began in 2003.

We share these reflections as two antimilitarist organizers in the
U.S. who met years after the invasion through our shared work with
About Face Veterans Against War
[[link removed]] (formerly known as Iraq
Veterans Against the War). Twenty years ago this weekend, one of us
was deployed as a communications technician and heard nothing about
the massive protests the other participated in. One of us was
organizing with Direct Action to Stop the War
[[link removed]],
coordinating twenty thousand people to shut down San Francisco's
financial district, in an attempt to raise the financial and social
cost of invasion that was being steamrolled through despite the
largest global street protests in the history of the world.

We know the war on Iraq—like the war on Afghanistan—was a
calculated grift for money and power
[[link removed]].
We can't allow the truth to be manipulated or forgotten. George W.
Bush is being reanimated as a folksy painter instead of brought to
account for his administration's war crimes. His creation of the
so-called "Endless Wars" after 9/11 has so far cost incalculable
damage to peoples' lives and over $14 trillion in Pentagon spending
[[link removed]]. Up to
half of that massive amount has piped directly into the pockets of
private military contractors.

Those who seek profit from wars rely on our consent, our confusion
about what's really happening, and our willingness to submit to
historical amnesia. The only voices allowed to speak on large
platforms about this 20-year milestone are the ones attempting to
rewrite history in favor of the architects and beneficiaries of war. A
former speechwriter for Bush wants you to buy that the U.S. "went to
war to build a democracy in Iraq,
[[link removed]]"
but listen instead to Iraqis like Riverbend
[[link removed]](the pen name of a young
Baghdadi woman writing during the early years of the occupation) who
told us the truth at the time:

_"You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of
your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family
whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded
Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your
atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our
streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and
militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq's first democratic
government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest
accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You
lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the
oil, at least, made it worthwhile."_

Even now in Iraq, everyday people still struggle daily for the bare
minimum. As the nonpartisan Iraqi diaspora group Collective Action for
Iraq [[link removed]] recently described, "People have
continued taking to the streets across Iraq to protest corruption, for
basic services and to live their lives in dignity—from Kurdistan, to
Najaf, and Dhi Qar. State and local security forces continue to
respond with violence and the suppression of dissident voices." These
are only a few effects of the cascade of violence triggered by the
U.S. occupation.

The silence here about the devastation caused by U.S. wars abroad is
by design. Obama came to office on a platform of "change" nodding
strongly towards the populist antiwar sentiment of the late 2000s, and
yet here we are, still prioritizing war. Under this ongoing "Global
War on Terror" framework—under Bush and Obama and Trump and now
Biden—the lead-up to each consecutive war utilizes tailored rhetoric
but the patterns remain the same, even while weapons evolve. Now the
contractors are the same corporations providing the software we use
every day. Google and Microsoft work alongside Raytheon and Northrop
Grumman to produce and operate weapons of mass destruction. The war
machine is becoming more secretive, more connected, and more
ubiquitous. None of us can afford to remain silent or apathetic about
the devastation we continue to cause to innocent civilians. The money
being spent on war must be redirected to those most impacted by U.S.

Instead of reparations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has stolen
billions from the Afghan Central Bank
[[link removed]];
drained Iraq of people, its resources, and undermined civil society
creating regional instability. If we allow ourselves to be lied to yet
again about these wars, we are more easily manipulated to go along
with the next iteration of the U.S. war. Obama's so-called "Pacific
Pivot" initiated a shift back to China, yet again, as the leading
rationale for continued military buildup. The fear-mongering is the
same, yet the tactics of war-making are being implemented with
evermore secrecy by intelligence officials and contractors preventing
public discourse and effective oversight.

Our misleadingly named "defense" spending, the money earmarked for
expanding U.S. control overseas, has doubled since the invasion of
Iraq. Nothing stops the growth of war profiteering: not exposures of
war crimes, not the inarguable destabilization of multiple countries
with increased violence and displacement, not the epidemics of veteran
suicide and war trauma coming home, not the avoidance of auditing or
accountability for the use of such funds. Last Monday, Pentagon
Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters that a $1 trillion defense
budget is coming soon.

What will the world look like 20 years from today? If this country
cannot relinquish its death grip on empire-building, we will have only
continued to impoverish and incarcerate our own population while
spreading unimaginable destruction abroad. The U.S. military is also
the biggest polluter on the planet; in order to address the dangers of
climate change, we must shrink this footprint immediately.

If we want a brighter future, we can and must divest from wars abroad
and the increased domestic militarization that both pose serious
threats to democracy. We can move that money from the Pentagon,
police, and prisons to invest instead in community needs and real
safety. We can pursue diplomacy, nonviolent interventions, and repair.
This country is rich in leadership—especially in Black, Brown, and
Indigenous-led grassroots community organizing
[[link removed]]. There are those
working toward taking better care of each other amid conditions
created by an overextended empire that deprioritizes human needs.
Let's move towards collective healing instead of continually funneling
money into the bloody pockets of CEOs of weapons makers and major
corporations that profit off death and destruction. Let's return
resources, including money and sovereignty, to the people most
impacted by these wars.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel
free to republish and share widely.


Lisa Ling [[link removed]]

Lisa Ling served in the U.S. military in communications and worked on
drone surveillance systems before leaving with an honorable discharge
in 2012. She is a member of About Face Veterans Against War.

Clare Bayard [[link removed]]

Clare Bayard is a writer and longtime demilitarization organizer
connecting domestic racial and economic justice work with
international movements against militarism and war.

* Iraq War
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