The Occupation of Iraq is finally winding down, nearly nine years after America, Britain and others invaded. The last US troops are due out by the end of the year, under an agreement signed in the last days of George W. Bush’s presidency.
But American forces are not going quietly. A growing chorus of Washington politicians are demanding the deadline be extended. Behind them stand the military hawks and war profiteers who have made a lot of money out of Iraq’s misery.
Will all US troops leave by the end of 2011? Firstly, large numbers of western private military contractors will remain indefinitely. Secondly, the US Embassy in Baghdad is by far the largest in the world - one and a half square miles, big enough for 94 football fields. It cost three quarters of a billion dollars to build.
The Iraqi Government says any US troops remaining will not get the blanket immunity that American forces have enjoyed for the last eight and a half years. This has become a major bone of contention between the US and Iraq.
“America's audacity is breathtaking,” said a recent Arab News editorial. “What are America’s brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?”
It’s not surprising US officials want immunity. Everyone involved in this unjust war on Iraq could be tried for war crimes under international law. George Bush and Tony Blair lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its ability to hit targets in Europe. These lies paved the way for aggression against a sovereign nation, which itself is an international war crime.
They are also guilty of violating the UN convention on torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere. Western forces killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. It’s unlikely Iraqis will ever get justice for the crimes committed against them - but those who did it still demand indefinite immunity.
The Occupation of Iraq will have long term consequences, in terms of destroyed infrastructure, displacement, cancer-causing munitions and deaths and injuries. While the west moves on to new conflicts, Iraqis will pick up be picking up the pieces for many years.
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