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Twenty years since the US invasion of Iraq

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Twenty years ago, on March 20, 2003, the government of the United States embarked on one of the greatest crimes of the 21st century, launching an unprovoked and illegal war against Iraq. It began with saturation bombing of the defenseless country (“shock and awe”), which annihilated the bulk of its armed forces and much of its social infrastructure, including electrical power and water supplies, food processing, and the production of medical supplies.

In this June 19, 2004, file photo, residents of a Fallujah, Iraq neighborhood walk through the wreckage of their homes which were destroyed in a U.S. airstrike. The U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, unleashing a war that led to over 1 million deaths. (AP Photo/Abdul-Kadr Saadi, File)

This was followed by the invasion of the devastated country by more than 130,000 American troops, armed with the most technologically sophisticated weapons, who cut through what little remained of organized Iraqi resistance and reached Baghdad in only two weeks. After another week of slaughter, US forces captured the capital, suffering only 34 casualties in this final one-sided battle, compared to countless thousands of Iraqi dead.

The methods employed by the Bush administration in Iraq were entirely criminal, in keeping with the nature of the whole enterprise. The war began with a sneak attack: cruise missile strikes against government buildings where Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein was believed to be, in an effort to assassinate him. It continued with the use of weapons banned by international law, like white phosphorus bombs, which set cities on fire and cause horrific burns to human flesh. In addition, US and British forces fired an estimated 440,000 depleted uranium shells, which cause long-term cancer rates to skyrocket and produce hideous birth defects.

In the course of the war, the most horrific forms of torture were employed by US forces, revealed in shocking images from the Abu Ghraib prison. The authorization of torture was drawn up by Bush administration lawyers, who asserted that the president had virtually unlimited powers as Commander-in-Chief.

The result of the invasion, followed by an eight-year occupation, was what the WSWS branded as “sociocide,” the deliberate destruction of an entire society. The imperialist conquest reduced one of the most advanced countries in the Middle East to conditions of medieval barbarism, not only economically, but also politically. The US rulers systematically promoted religious divisions and ignited sectarian warfare between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and between Muslims and smaller religious minorities, in an effort to prevent any united resistance to the US occupation.

In deliberately embarking on an aggressive war, the US government and its leading officials—including George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell—were guilty of war crimes. Along with allies like UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, they violated the core principle laid down by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, which found that the central crime of the Nazis, from which all their other crimes flowed, was the launching of unprovoked and aggressive wars. (See below, remarks delivered by David North in 2004 at a debate in Dublin, Ireland.)

David North speaks at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland on October 14, 2004
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