Christina Schauer deployed to Baghdad in March 2003 during her sophomore year in college. At age 20, Schauer was part of an 800-member reserve battalion that consisted mainly of engineers, truck drivers, mechanics and a handful of medics like herself, tasked with building up the military bases that are there now. About 10 percent were women, she said.
“I joined the military knowing that this was a possibility, but it was surreal,” said Schauer, who had enlisted during peacetime in 1999 to help pay for college and nursing school.
For the first couple of weeks, Schauer said, they didn’t have tents. They slept outside their trucks and held up curtains when people needed to shower. It took months to set up tents, flooring, electricity and eventually air-conditioning. During her year in Iraq, Schauer said she faced gunfire, exploding mortars and the constant threat of violence. Whether they were gunners or truck drivers, men and women alike engaged in combat roles — something that became far more commonplace in the conflict.
“I don’t think people think of women serving those types of roles in the military,” said Schauer, who now leads a military and veteran health care program at a community hospital in Dubuque, Iowa.
In the 20 years since the United States invaded Iraq, over a quarter of a million women have served there, the largest-scale and most visible deployment of women in U.S. history. More than 1,000 women had been injured in combat and 166 killed as of 2017, according to the Service Women’s Action Network.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
The American media paid only perfunctory attention to the Iraq War anniversary. What has been said is aimed at covering up for the colossal scale of the crime, and of the media’s own role in it.
The cynicism, as always, found its most perfidious expression in the pages of the New York Times. A news analysis by Max Fisher under the headline, “20 Years On, a Question Lingers About Iraq: Why Did the U.S. Invade?” treats the motives of the Bush administration in launching the war as uncertain and even “fundamentally unknowable,” in the words of one “scholar” interviewed by Fisher.
The Times article flatly rejects the “once-prevalent theory: that Washington invaded to control Iraq’s vast oil resources,” without referring to the prominence of former oilmen like Vice President Cheney and Bush himself in driving the decisions for war. And it attributes the systematic lying about Saddam Hussein’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction” to a form of groupthink, in which “[a] critical mass of senior officials all came to the table wanting to topple Mr. Hussein for their own reasons, and then talked one another into believing the most readily available justification.”
The Times’ “analysis” carefully avoids any discussion of the role of the Times itself as one of the main promoters of the “weapons of mass destruction” campaign. Reports written by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, most notoriously a September 2002 front-page exclusive under the headline, “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts,” parroted the claims of top Bush administration officials, and were taken up by the corporate media as a whole. White House officials then cited these reports as “evidence” against Iraq, which they themselves had planted.
The motivations for the war are not “unknowable.” Indeed, they were known at the time, with tens of millions throughout the world participating in demonstrations in advance of the invasion, rejecting the lies of the administration and demanding “no blood for oil.” The size and breadth of the demonstrations were so large that it prompted the New York Times to comment that there were “two superpowers”: The United States and “world public opinion.”
On March 21, 2003, the day after the invasion began, World Socialist Web Site International Editorial Board Chairman David North published a statement laying out the nature of the war:
The unprovoked and illegal invasion of Iraq by the United States is an event that will live in infamy. The political criminals in Washington who have launched this war, and the wretched scoundrels in the mass media who are reveling in the bloodbath, have covered this country in shame. Hundreds of millions of people in every part of the world are repulsed by the spectacle of a brutal and unrestrained military power pulverizing a small and defenseless country. The invasion of Iraq is an imperialist war in the classic sense of the term: a vile act of aggression that has been undertaken on behalf of the interests of the most reactionary and predatory sections of the financial and corporate oligarchy in the United States. Its overt and immediate purpose is the establishment of control over Iraq’s vast oil resources and reduction of that long-oppressed country to an American colonial protectorate.
The war was part of an unending series of invasions and occupations initiated by the United States in the midst of and following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, under both Democrats and Republicans. This includes the First Gulf War (1990-91); the bombing of Serbia (1999); the invasion of Afghanistan (2001); the bombing of Libya (2011) and the US-backed civil war in Syria (2011). Far from expressing the strength of American capitalism, the effort of the American ruling class to use military force to conquer the world arises out of extreme crisis.
The outrage caused by the Iraq War became a call to arms for international jihad the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Islamist terrorist groups continue to use the invasion as one of the reasons for carrying out attacks.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni says one of the toughest periods of his life was the war in Iraq.
He was speaking to Vatican News exactly 20 years after the outbreak of the conflict in the Middle Eastern country, where he served as apostolic nuncio in the early 2000s, remaining at his post in Baghdad amid bombings and suicide attacks.
Filoni was appointed as the Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq and Jordan in January 2001, and was at the apostolic nunciature in the Iraqi capital during the US invasion which began on 20 March 2003.
“This was the moment,” he said, ”in which not only myself but also the bishops, the priests, the faithful and the people in Iraq, we had the perception of our incapacity to give a different perspective than that of war”.
He recalled that Pope John Paul II spoke often of the conflict and about the possibility of solving it through dialogue.
Salah Nsaif was 32 years old when American soldiers imprisoned him in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003.
Twenty years later, he has left his country and settled in faraway Sweden with his wife and three children, but the horrors of the war there continue to haunt him.
“What happened to me was very painful. It impacted my personal relationships when I left Iraq,” Salah told CNN, adding that he felt like he was in a prison of his own mind. “I didn’t want to see my baby or anyone else and I isolated myself. It took me a long time to stop having nightmares.”
Two decades after the start of the US-led war in the country, Iraqis say that while some of the physical wounds may have healed over time, the psychological trauma from the conflict and its aftermath persists to this day.
Over the weekend, protests took place across the U.S. calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Ukraine war as the world marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the nation’s capital, people rallied in front of the White House and marched in the streets of D.C. This is Claudia de la Cruz from The People’s Forum.
Claudia de la Cruz: “We’re here to let the world know that we are committed as a people to shut the war machine down. The planet and humanity depend on us. We’ve got to fight. We’ve got to continue to demand an end to NATO, an end to AFRICOM, an end to the Southern Command and the levels of sanctions that the U.S. has all across the globe. We need to continue to make the connections of working-class people in the United States to the working-class people all around the world. So we’re here making those demands. We’re also recommitting ourselves to lift up the antiwar movement once again.”
The Costs of War Project estimates up to 306,000 Iraqi civilians have died from direct war-related violence, while hundreds of thousands more Iraqi civilians have died from indirect causes and millions have been displaced. Some estimates put the death toll in Iraq at over 2 million. In the lead-up to the illegal 2003 invasion, tens of millions of people took to the streets in thousands of antiwar protests around the globe.
On March 18, the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of anti-war protesters gathered in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. Protesters demanded an end to the endless U.S. wars of the past 20 years, particularly the proxy conflict in Ukraine.
Just in front of the musicians and speakers, eight coffins were draped in flags of various nations struck by the U.S. war machine, representing those needlessly killed in the past 20 years of war and sanctions. The protesters marched to the White House front fence carrying the coffins to confront President Joe Biden for his responsibility for the many deaths because of U.S. aggression.
After half the marchers entered the area near the White House fence, the Secret Service closed the area to the public, expelling tourists and demonstrators alike. Tourists looked on as a Secret Service officer explained that this was the largest protest in some time.
The march then proceeded to the headquarters of the Washington Post. Speakers accused the Post of responsibility for the past 20 years of war as well, calling the Post “the stenographers of empire”. Brian Becker, national director of the ANSWER Coalition, denounced this war mongering publication from the rally’s stage, “We know who you are. You’re not journalists, you’re an echo chamber for the war machine, and you too are guilty for the deaths of all these people.” This sentiment was reinforced by the banner at the front of the march: “Remember Iraq: No more wars based on lies.”
The march continued to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Speakers from the pulpit closed out the afternoon with calls for the end of U.S. intervention against Eritrea, Ethiopia, Syria, Palestine, and many other nations around the globe. Speakers highlighted the need to end military pollution, such as the mass poisoning of water caused by the U.S. base at Red Hill, Hawaii.
Nearly 300 organizations, including peace groups, socialist organizations, anti-war veterans’ groups, organizations fighting for Black liberation and many others supported the demonstration that was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition, The People’s Forum, and Code Pink. Protesters traveled from all over the country, many on all-night drives with little sleep. Associated actions also took place in over a dozen additional cities as part of this powerful day of action.
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