When pondering again to the US invasion of Iraq 20 years in the past, it was former US president George W Bush’s phrases that caught with Qahtan al-Khafaji.
Mr Bush mentioned he was on a mission from God to “finish the tyranny in Iraq”, to free its individuals and root out weapons of mass destruction. His forces unleashed blistering airstrikes within the capital metropolis Baghdad on 19 March 2003 that may change the lives of thousands and thousands of abnormal Iraqis.
You are reading: ‘George Bush misled our people’: How ordinary Iraqis endured 20 years of pain following the 2003 US invasion
“The invading forces mentioned it was a victory. They have been deceptive individuals in Iraq, saying the nation was liberated,” mentioned Dr al-Khafaji, a retired lecturer of political science at Al-Nahrain College in Baghdad.
“Earlier than 2003, Iraq was at the least safe: we had a great system for schooling, well being, structure and industries. Now our sources have been robbed from us.”
Having beforehand labored as an officer within the Iraqi military, Dr al-Khafaji had simply began his profession on the college when warfare arrived in his metropolis.
Al-Nahrain College, then generally known as the Saddam College, is near the Republican Palace, which is claimed to have been Saddam Hussein’s favorite residence to host overseas dignitaries. The palace was spared from the “shock and awe” bombing marketing campaign and would later be occupied by American forces.
Dr al-Khafaji’s household left Baghdad and moved to the countryside whereas he slept within the college together with a number of of his colleagues, decided to save lots of the lecture halls and libraries from the invading forces. Town was captured by coalition forces after solely 20 days on 9 April.
Whereas victory was swift for the US and coalition forces, the best lack of life got here within the days, months and years that adopted. An estimated 300,000 Iraqis have been killed between 2003 and 2019, in accordance with the Watson Institute for Worldwide and Public Affairs at Brown College, and the nation has been beset by excessive unemployment, violence and terrorism, and years with out dependable electrical energy or different public providers.
When Dr al-Khafaji and his household returned to their residence in central Baghdad, they despaired on the destruction wrought on the town.
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“I witnessed a number of injury, and robberies occurring in entrance of my very own eyes,” he mentioned.
“I couldn’t bear this occurring to my nation. It was actually unhappy to see.
“I felt a powerful feeling of ache and sorrow, not only for me and my household, however for the individuals of Iraq.
“I used to be pondering how we have been we going to rebuild our metropolis after this chaos?”
Within the following months, paranoia unfold throughout Baghdad as rampant crime gripped the town. Meals shortages pressured some individuals to show to crime with a purpose to survive. Households have been too afraid to exit and acquired weapons to guard themselves and their properties, Dr al-Khafaji mentioned.
The lasting impression of the invasion and the next makes an attempt to control a brand new Iraq has divided the nation into three areas on sectarian and ethnic traces: Kurds within the north, Sunni Arabs within the west, and Shia within the south.
Sherwan Ameen lives within the metropolis of Duhok within the Kurdish area of Iraq, the place life has improved dramatically in contrast with the fear that instantly adopted the US invasion.
Mr Ameen mentioned there was an actual push to assemble extra trendy cities within the final decade, with excessive rise condominium buildings, procuring centres and worldwide faculties.
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However he mentioned discrimination towards the Kurdish ethnic group nonetheless persists, and this has been made worse by “corrupt governments” within the divided areas. Election years have seen demonstrations, principally led by youthful individuals, take over cities, which have been met by brutal and typically lethal crackdowns by authorities.
“Individuals began to be extra open-minded however nonetheless there are such a lot of cultural disparities amongst completely different elements of Iraq,” Mr Ameen mentioned.
“There’s lots of hatred. The nation has turn out to be extra divided.”
Mr Ameen mentioned he remembers being woken up by his father on the day US troops crossed the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border and entered the nation by way of Basra. Having witnessed the previous wars that marred the nation, his father knew what would observe.
“We have been anticipating this invasion to occur,” Mr Ameen mentioned.
“I bear in mind I used to be in my residence in Duhok, it was early morning, and my father was watching the information. He mentioned get up, we have to put together as a result of quickly after there might be civil warfare.”
Simply days after Hussein’s authorities was toppled, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector reported no stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or organic weapons have been ever discovered.
“It wasn’t honest how the US and UK invaded Iraq for the declare of weapons of mass destruction. It was a catastrophe,” mentioned Mr Ameen.
“After we returned residence after about 20 days, the subsequent six months it was like a jungle – the nation was so unstable. There have been killings and robberies.
“It’s been 20 years, however we’re nonetheless making an attempt to rebuild Iraq.”