It became clear that regime change could only be achieved by a military invasion.
After a protracted public relations campaign—demonizing Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders, attempting to link Iraq to the Sept. 11 attack, fabricating claims that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” including nuclear weapons—U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003.
How many times will Americans allow this to go on?
This article was originally published in 2011 by Liberation School website.
You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own,” President Barack Obama told hundreds of cheering U.S. troops in Baghdad on April 7, 2009, his first visit to the country after being elected. He added that now, “Iraqis need to take responsibility for their country.
For brazen hypocrisy and condescension, these words—repeated in essence by virtually all the top civilian and military officials of the Bush and Obama administrations over the past eight years—are hard to beat.
The implication is that before the U.S. invasion and occupation in 2003, Iraq was not able to “stand on its own,” and now the Iraqi people must be prodded to “take responsibility for their country.” This theme is really no different than the racist propaganda used by the colonial powers to justify their murderous exploitation in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East over hundreds of years.
The real history of Iraq is deliberately distorted or completely ignored by the corporate media and officials here for the simple reason that it utterly demolishes this colonialist narrative.
July 14, 2016, marks the 58rd anniversary of the Iraqi Revolution. The 1958 revolution ended four decades of British domination and marked the beginning of Iraqi independence. The fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, reduced Iraq once more to colonial status, now under U.S. rather than British rule.
Iraq before the 1958 revolution
Iraq is one of the oldest continually inhabited centers of human civilization, long known as Mesopotamia or the “land between the [Tigris and Euphrates] rivers.” Modern Iraq came into being in the aftermath of World War I (1914-18), a war of empires vs. empires. At the end of the war, the winners took over the colonies of the losers. Britain and France took over much of the Middle East from the defeated Turkey-based Ottoman Empire, and divided it up between them.
The former Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul became the new British “mandate” of Iraq. The British were also awarded Palestine by the just-established “League of Nations.” France was given “mandates” over present-day Lebanon and Syria. All were in reality colonies. The mandate system was justified on the supposed basis that the Arab people needed the tutelage of the British and French to prepare for “self-rule.”
The Arab people did not see it that way. In 1919 and 1920, revolts swept the region, from Egypt (also under British control) to Iraq, where the heaviest fighting took place, leaving thousands dead including the British commanding general. In 1925, another uprising, centered in the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq, was answered by the British dropping poison gas from planes on the population.
Because of the fierce resistance to colonial domination by Arabs and Kurds alike, Britain granted Iraq its nominal independence in 1932. But it was independence in name only. The country was ruled by a British-installed monarchy, and continued to be occupied by British military bases.
Intifadas (uprisings) against the rule of British and their Iraqi collaborators, like Nuri as-Said, continued and intensified after the end of World War II.
To fortify their domination, the British promoted the development of a class of big landowners in Iraq, who exported grain, dates and other products. The peasants, who constituted the majority of the population, were treated as serfs–bound to the land and living in utter poverty.
In the 1950s, life expectancy in Iraq was 28-30 years. Infant mortality was estimated at 300-350 per 1,000 live births. By comparison, infant mortality in England at the time was around 25 per 1,000 births.
Illiteracy was more than 80 percent for men and 90 percent for women. Diseases related to malnutrition and unsanitary water were rampant.
A statistical survey at the time showed income of less than 13 Fils—4 cents—per day for individual peasants in Diwaniya, one of the more prosperous agricultural regions.
According to a 1952 World Bank report, the average yearly income for all Iraqis was $82. For peasants it was $21. (“Revolution in Iraq,” Society of Graduates of American Universities in Iraq, 1959)
Neocolonial and landlord rule was maintained by a ruthless secret police/military regime that tortured, murdered and imprisoned countless thousands of Iraqis. Still, the resistance was strong, as evidenced by the fact that Iraq was placed under martial law 11 times between 1935 and 1954, for a total of nine years and four months.
Underlying Iraq’s extreme poverty was this simple fact: oil-rich Iraq owned none of its own oil.
The United States and Iraq
U.S. involvement in Iraq began after World War I. U.S. corporations were granted 23.75 percent of Iraq’s oil as a reward for having entered World War I on the side of the victorious British and French empires. British, French and Dutch oil companies also each received 23.75 percent shares of Iraq’s petroleum resources. The broker of the deal, an Armenian oil baron named Calouste Gulbenkian, got the remaining five percent.
In the latter stages of World War II (1939-1945), the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, dominated by big banking, oil and other corporate interests, were determined to restructure the post-war world to ensure the dominant position of the United States.
The key elements in their strategy were: 1) U.S. military superiority in nuclear and conventional weaponry; 2) U.S. domination of newly created international institutions like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and establishment of the dollar as the world currency; 3) control of global resources, particularly oil.
In pursuit of the latter, the U.S. government was intent on taking control of certain strategic assets of the British Empire, the war-time alliance between the two countries notwithstanding. Among those assets was Iraq.