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Jan Oberg: The Iraq War 20 years ago – No shame. No lessons learned. No arrest order on NATO state leaders.

All photos © Jan Oberg

Writing this, I must admit that my rage and pain build up inside, still twenty years later. Below, see what TFF and I wrote back then and why we were, simply put, making better predictions on a shoestring budget than the US and other NATO decision-makers on multi-billion-dollar budgets.
Like other wars and interventions, this was no “mistake”. It was an unavoidable consequence of Western MIRE – Militarism, Imperialism, Racism and Exceptionalism.
The West has learned nothing. Militarism is now its main cohesive force into its manifest destiny: Decline and fall.

President George W. Bush announcing that he has just started the war on Iraq.
Listen carefully! All the arguments and aims he presents were either false, mistaken or outright lies. And sanctimonious.

Jan Oberg

March 19, 2023

TFF’s fact-finding missions and scattered memories

Permit me start out with a quotation from the British Stop The War Coalition’s newsletter:

“A report released this week by the Costs of War Project estimates that between 550,000-580,000 people have been killed since March 2003 in Iraq and Syria and “several times as many may have died due to indirect causes such as preventable diseases.”

It goes on to say that “more than 7 million people from Iraq and Syria are currently refugees, and nearly 8 million people are internally displaced in the two countries.” These devastating statistics tell us more of what we already know: the Iraq War was an utter disaster, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

This coming week marks 20 years since the invasion led by George Bush and Tony Blair.”

You should be aware also that the US is still on the ground (the US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest anywhere in the world) – it has a series of military bases in Syria and steals its oil on a daily basis.

More people died in Iraq because of 13 years of sanctions than because of the military death and destruction.

And the costs of this war alone have been close to US$ 2 trillion. And here the estimated costs up to 2050.

And – I predict – the Western mainstream media will do very little about these crimes, the mass killing, this utterly failed war – morally, in terms of international law and in terms of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

And they will keep on focusing on the European war in Ukraine and the suffering of those who are white, Christian and victims of Russia’s comparatively small – but yes, inexcusable – war there.

Why? Because it suits NATO, the EU and the declining West in general. And because, by focusing on Ukraine, NATO countries’ war crimes fall into the darkness. Harold Pinter would probably say about it – it didn’t happen; nothing ever happened there.

Is anybody in the political, military and media wars of the West having second thoughts today? Does anybody have the civil moral courage to apologise?

No – those same Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) elites continue to destroy our world, incapable of learning any lessons. And there should be plenty to learn.

I did fact-finding in Iraq twice, the second time shortly before the US-misled coalition of the willing did its ‘shock and awe.’ My dear colleague, friend and former UN peacekeeper, retired lieutenant colonel Christian Hårleman – who at the time was also the chairman of the TFF Board – and I did 160 interviews with people at all levels, from the #3 man in the system, Tariq Aziz, Baath party member, military, UN staff – over scholars, diplomats, NGO/women’s organisations to the proverbial taxi driver and people in tea houses – in Baghdad, Babylon, Basra and the UN mission at the border with Kuwait. We gave a lecture for high-level militaries and diplomats at the House of Wisdom, Bayt al-Ḥikmah, also known as the Grand Library of Baghdad.

Although everyone we met felt misunderstood, demonised and tense at the prospect of Bush’s and Blair’s bombs soon falling, we – Westerners – were treated everywhere with respect and kindness. For instance, a lady in the reception of our hotel had found that both our birthdays were in January, so we found a beautiful bouquet of flowers in our room that day.

In the spring of 2004, I published my book (in Danish) “Predictable Fiasco. The Conflict With Iraq and Denmark As An Occupation Power” (Tiderne Skifter, Copenhagen, 296 pages). Being in Baghdad for just 24 hours, any fool – such as I – would predict that the US/West would never win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis. No way!

This is not the place to go through all that again.

At writing this, my rage and pain build up inside still twenty years later.

I wonder where this boy is today. If he is. I took these photos of him in the old town’s book bazaar – he would be about 25-16 today. If he is, what is his and his family’s life like today? How did this criminal war shape his childhood? What has it done to his well-being – innocent as he was?

And there were these two extraordinarily decent, competent and kind people with whom we spent hours – Saddam’s weapons expert and liaison with the West on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Amir al-Saadi and Aquila al-Hashimi who was shortly after killed – as was the legendary CARE worker, Margaret Hassan, who was abducted and murdered, and whom we also interviewed.

A selection of what TFF and the author published twenty years ago

These materials – twenty years back – are found at old homepages and archives. Here most of them are made available at your fingertips:

The 30 photo series: Iraqi faces and surfaces 2002-2003
“With these pictures, I want you to get a sense of the simple fact that Iraq is not only Saddam Hussein, weapons and wars. Iraq is 24 million fellow human beings. It has been a civilisation for some 7,000 years. It has a distinct, rich culture; it has norms, and – above all – it has pride. I have never visited a country with so much kindness and hospitality – a genuine welcoming of the stranger.”

Operation Think Freely About Iraq # 1: March 27 – April 8, 2003

Operation Think Freely About Iraq # 2: April 9 – April 27, 2003

Operation Think Freely About Iraq # 3: April 28 till May 15, 2003

It was obvious from the first weeks that the world was fed by totally one-sided opinion-forming journalism and that the US people who came to Iraq did not have the faintest idea about how to govern it.

TFF Collection Iraq 1, 2, 3 and 4 – December 2002 – January 2005
Some 130 articles by TFF Associates alone – and more by other authors.

TFF from February 2006 – January 2012
About 40 articles between February 2006 and January 2012 (search yourself for “Iraq”)

TFF from 2012 – 2017
Almost 600 articles focused on the Middle East, of which 101 with the hashtag “Iraq”.

Jan Oberg (in Danish) “Predictable Fiasco. The Conflict With Iraq and Denmark As An Occupation Power” (Tiderne Skifter, Copenhagen, 296 pages, only available in secondhand bookshops as the publisher went out of business).

Diagnosis – Prognosis – Solutions

So much about TFF’s Diagnoses and Prognoses. We did not continue the work in Iraq and have not visited Iraq since 2003.

But we did bring forward a series of peace proposals – Treatment/Solution – before the war. It was a 14-point program developed by Hans von Sponeck – who had resigned from the UN after more than 30 years of service, including as UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq because, as he said, he would not preside over a genocide on the Iraqi people – and myself.

We sent it to what was considered one of the finest and most trustworthy media in the world, International Herald Tribune. That was in December 2002, and it was accepted. Then it was delayed and then rejected. Read it here with an introduction to this bizarre and disgraceful example of the mainstream media manipulations then – and even worse now:

A Road to Peace With Iraq – Europe’s Choice.

In summary, the US/NATO/EU world has learned no lessons from Yugoslavia, Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. NATO’s provocative expansion over 30 years right up to the border of Russia indicates the same – while not meant as an endorsement of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

They’ve all been examples of the MIRE mentioned above – Militarism + Imperialism + Racism + Exceptionalism.

And the media play the same role now as back then – just more uniform, more ignorant of the basic criteria of quality media work – knowledge-based, diversity in perspectives, solid check of sources, independent investigation, aiming at objectivity to the extent humanly possible, serving public education and being critical of power as well as revealing its abuse.

In the field of global affairs, this type of journalism is no longer to be found in the Western mainstream, influential media – something I have dealt with at length in a 50-year perspective here. These media have, compared with 2003, become even more tightly integrated into the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial Media Academic Complex – the elites networking in a murky, criminal society far away from democracy with its checks and balances.

“It is enough that a lie is believed for three days – it has then served its purpose.

Marie de Medici, 1573-1642, queen consort and queen regent of France

Unlike our mainstream adversaries, warmongering propagandists and other destructive forces, TFF has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. Such are the conditions for truly independent peace research in these times. Everything peace has been cancelled. But we are still here – and will be. Thanks to you

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Who said Freudian slip?

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