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Governance and Development: Iraq after the US invasion

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

By Carol Blenda Reyes Avila

The loss of life continues to rise in the US-led invasion of Iraq as both proponents and detractors of the war begin to question the almost certain human rights violations that are occurring. Overseeing the establishment of a sound and appropriate government once appeared to be the ultimate goal although many, particularly those on the left-side of the political spectrum, are beginning to criticize America’s continued involvement in the Middle East.

The United States has had troops stationed in both  Afghanistan since 2001 and Iraq since 2003, fighting an enemy that has no face. It’s a war that crosses cultural barriers where, often times, there simply may not be a solution to a particular problem, some of which are historically rooted so deeply into cultural value systems that one would have to have grown up there, literally, to fully grasp their complexity.

Once the President of the United States determines that the mission of the American troops has been completed and it is time to go home, what happens next?  Exactly what criteria will determine our pulling-out of these situations that, quite possibly, we shouldn’t have gotten involved in to begin with. The war on terror is a never-ending battle and there will always be needed work to improve what we have voluntarily started. We complain of poverty in the United States yet we really have no idea what poverty is. We continue to focus on terroristic events that occurred on our own soil, yet we really have no idea what it’s like to live in terror, on a daily basis, none what-so-ever.

The cost of human life is too precious and there is work that needs to be done in every neighborhood across the globe. One can only imagine what it’s like for the Iraqis, having their government and way of life literally turned upside-down after being freed from the reign of Saddam Hussein and his sons who systematically violated the human rights of Iraqis and those of other countries as well. They did so with utter disregard for human rights, operating a vast enterprise encompassing at its worst mass graves, the use of torture chambers, chemical baths, routine rapes, brutal and arbitrary murder including legitimizing killings and medical amputations as punishment among other crimes (Foreign Affairs, 2003)

As of March 16, 2010, at least 4,385 US military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the invasion began exactly 7 years ago. (AP 2010). This loss of soldiers and civilian lives will only continue to mount unless an immediate withdraw of troops is implemented. President Barak Obama claims he will send most if not all troops home by August 2010. (Lothian and Malveaux 2009). However, with the approximate 120,000 troops overseas immediate withdraw will be impossible. But, as part of the agreement that former president George W. Bush signed with the Iraqi government, all troops must be out of Iraqi territories by December 31, 2011. (Cockburn 2008). Critics claim withdrawing now will only leave Iraq and its citizens in further disarray. They believe that until a proper government and infrastructure is established the United States, since they helped lead the invasion, should be responsible for overseeing that the appropriate people are put in place in order to run the country effectively. They should monitor the establishment of new laws and legislation that are best for the Iraqi citizens without forgetting the sovereign right of the Iraqi people.

However, history has shown that in many instances anytime a governmental regime is overthrown by an external power chaos will inevitably ensue. This is especially true in an area of the world where various sects and clans will claim their authority, announcing that it is their right to oversee all governmental affairs. Others, especially in Iraq, claim religious affiliations, saying the country should be ruled as a Muslim state. Obviously, even when apparently it is not evident to those who are in power, there are all of these different interest groups, each wanting a piece of the pie. Most of the populace, even knowing their particular culture, is confused with respect to what will happen next. They wonder what the Americans, who they see in the streets on a daily basis as American Troops and some civilians working in war – related jobs are going to do in the overall scheme of things. Even though Saddam Hussein’s regime has come to an end, clearly, there is still work to be done. The reconstruction of Iraq is a process that will not happen overnight. In fact, there will still be problems and conflicts long after the US presence has disappeared. (Park 2008).

Furthermore, detractors of the war have begun to examine America’s recent occupation in Iraq and there are human rights issues that are certainly of great concern. Naturally, many accusations have to do with actual combat in the city centers, like the plundering of occupied health care centers and schools. (Al-Darraji 2005). As with any war zone, people can begin to act irrationally, naturally reacting to their surroundings, and they often times lose sight of proper moral and ethical behavior. Many times, however, soldiers will begin treating anyone and everyone like the enemy. As a result, it should be no surprise that many complaints have surfaced. American troops as well as soldiers from other countries backing the Iraqi occupation are now being watched more vigilantly in regard to their treatment of Iraqi citizens. Human Rights Watch, an international non-profit watchdog group, has been monitoring the attacks on refugees ever since the invasion began in 2003. (Human Rights Watch 2003). These groups want to ensure the civilians and prisoners alike in this kind of conflict are not being needlessly abused or tortured as often happens during warfare.

In addition, various religious sects in Iraq, each claiming to now have authority and Amnesty International as well as other associations want to make sure the Iraqi people and those in power are not violating any international humanitarian laws. (Amnesty International 2010). They also want to ensure all detainees are being held with reason and are receiving the proper due process as established by The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. (ICCPR, 2010).

In conclusion, any observer can see that the war in Iraq has led to more than just the loss of life as there are obvious human rights violations that are occurring on a daily basis reported by the media and International groups. The work that needs to be done to rebuild Iraq’s government and infrastructure will be required long after the United States military has withdrawn its occupation. Some argue that it is a futile war that America has been facing because the enemy has had no face yet others claim that this is just another form of imperialism. What is the war on terror they ask? How does one fight terror? Until an exact game plan is put into place regarding America’s overall plans in Iraq, both now and in the future, detractors around the world will continue to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq. And with the billions of dollars being spent overseas, who wouldn’t?
Al-Darraji, Muhamad. “First Periodical Report of Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq.” Paper presented to the Secretary General of United Nations Kofi Annan, New York, NY, August 23, 2005.

Amnesty International. “Iraq Human Rights: Human Rights Concerns.” Retrieved March 26, 2010, from
Associated Press. “US Military Deaths in Iraq War at 4,385.” New York Times. March 16, 2010, Politics Section, Middle East Edition.

Cockburn, Patrick. “31 December 2011: Day the Last US Soldier leaves Iraq.” The Independent. November 28, 2008, Middle East Section

Human Rights Violations under Saddam Hussein: Victims speak out, hearing before the subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia of the committee of International Relations House of Representatives, One hundred Eight Congress, First Session, November 20, 2003  Serial No. 108–64.

Human Rights Watch. Flight from Iraq: Refugees and other non-nationals in Iraq. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from

International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. “International Standards of Due Process.” Retrieved March 26, 2010, from
Lothian, Dan and Suzanne Malveaux. “Obama: US to withdraw most Iraq troops by August 2010” CNN. February 27, 2009, Politics Section.
Park, James. “Iraq After Occupation.” Minneapolis, Minnesota. July 23, 2008.


Reviews by: Jeffrey Alan Sunner

© 2010, Carol Blenda Reyes Avila. All rights reserved.

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