Ten years since Iraq invasion

A view of the Square 55 market can be seen from a building heavily damaged by fighting between the U.S. military and the Mahdi Army, forces loyal to Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadrforces in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images
A view of the Square 55 market can be seen from a building heavily damaged by fighting between the U.S. military and the Mahdi Army, forces loyal to Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadrforces in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.
Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images

“The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now”, President George W. Bush announced in a somber TV address on March 19, 2003.

Alejandro Villatoro, then a 20-year-old from Chicago, was one of those soldiers. “I went in ready to kill for the sake of freedom”, he explains. “But the problems started almost right away. And when we invaded we started hearing reports that there were no WMDs and no al Qaeda link.”

But by the time President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner announcing “Mission Accomplished”, it was clear that the Iraq war had been launched on shaky grounds. “The initial goal, regime, change, was quickly and comprehensively achieved”, notes Michael Codner, Director of the Military Sciences Department at RUSI, a London military think tank. “The problem was the occupation phase, which is very different from expelling Iraq from Kuwait. The Bush administration’s assumption that Iraqis were eager to get rid of Saddam Hussein and would welcome the occupation was bizarre.”

Since then the war has the Iraq War has joined Vietnam War as the most controversial in US history. No WMDs have been found, but the war taken the lives of almost 4,500 US soldiers, some 350 soldiers from other coalition countries and around 110,000 Iraqis. Then there’s the financial cost to US taxpayers: $1 trillion (and counting).

But despite the their sacrifice, the coalition forces were unwelcome occupiers. Villatoro is not surprised. “We were pressured to find something, so we just arrested anyone who had a weapon and treated them as potential terrorists”, he recalls. “And there were often kids slowing down convoys, supposedly to get you into an ambush, so we were told to keep driving. But I realized they were slowing us down to get food. When I returned home that November, I kept wondering how we were able to destroy so much.”

The lives of women, in particular, have been destroyed, argues Yanar Mohammed, who runs a women’s shelter in Baghdad: “Before the war there was no such thing as Islamism. Today the country is in the hand of islamists and tribal leaders. Before the war polygamy wasn’t practiced. Now it’s common; the government is even encouraging it. Especially for girls in their teens and twenties Iraq is a very bad place today. We’ve got one million soldiers. Why can’t one tenth of them be assigned to protect women?”

Still, by 2011 a majority of Americans said that the US had “mostly succeeded” in reaching its goals in Iraq. Indeed, Iraq now has a democratically elected parliament and a relatively benign government. The last US combat troops left Iraq in 2011. But the mission isn’t accomplished. Explains Codner: “We can’t just walk away. The US needs a reserve of special forces that can be used if the Iraqi government needs help.

As for Alejandro Villatoro, he remained in the Army for another nine years, and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but evolved into an avowed opponent of the Iraq war. “And it isn’t over yet”, he sighs. “I’ve tried to commit suicide. We’ve lost more soldiers to suicide than in combat.”

 

Ambassador Joseph Wilson: “Iraq has ruined our international standing”

While President Bush and his advisors were convinced that Iraq was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and had bought material from Niger, the State Department and the CIA were not so sure. The CIA asked Joseph Wilson, a retired career diplomat, to go to Niger and investigate. Wilson did, and reported that he hadn’t found any evidence of such transactions. In retaliation, Bush officials outed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, as an undercover CIA spy, a federal offense. In the Hollywood movie about the case, Sean Penn played Joe Wilson; Naomi Watts played Valerie Plame Wilson. Wilson spoke with Metro from his home in New Mexico.

Metro: 10 years after the beginning of the Iraq war, has anything positive come out of it?

Wilson: No. This was a war of choice, not a war of necessity, and it has been a tragedy for Iraq, the Iraq and the commanding US presence in the region. One of the things we’ve lost is our moral authority on the international stage. The conduct of the war, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have ruined decades of US leadership. I don’t see how we can recover our standing now.

Isn’t it an irony that the US went to war against Iraq, which didn’t have nuclear weapons, but is not taking action against Israel and Iran when there’s better evidence that these countries have developed or are developing nuclear weapons?

Given what has happened, it’s very difficult to pursue a war against Iran unless there’s extremely clear evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons. It’s a return to the idea of war as a last option, not war as a choice or war because you have a stronger military.

Revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent is illegal, but no one has been prosecuted for outing your wife. Have the two of you received an apology?

No, they haven’t apologized for anything. The only thing was when Richard Armitage [Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff] said he felt bad for doing it. But I didn’t expect an apology. I’ve been along these people long enough.

You have young children. When they’re older, will you tell them about all of this?

My kids lived through it; they’re 13 now. At this stage they just roll their eyes. But the other day Sean Penn stopped by for dinner and they thought it was the coolest thing ever – not because of Fair Game but because he’s in a new gangster movie.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.