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After 19 years, US human rights crimes still fresh in Iraq

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-03-22 10:44
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Iraqi man Abdullah Ibrahim holds photos of his house destroyed by a US missile strike that also left him paralyzed, in his home in Salahuddin province, Iraq, on Jan 4. 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

BAGHDAD -- Nineteen years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, many Iraqis still remember the horrors of war and human rights violations committed by Washington that took a heavy toll on civilians.

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, promising to bring peace, freedom and democracy to the country. But ever since, chaos and privations have clutched the cradle of this ancient Mesopotamia civilization.

Kadhim al-Adhari, a journalist working for the local al-Adala Newspaper, rebuffed those claims made by the United States, describing the invasion as a "painful memory."

"Before 2003, Iraq was witnessing a state of security, political and cultural stability, and had infrastructure," al-Adhari told Xinhua.

However, devastation ensued after US troops invaded on a false pretext of weapons of mass destruction.

"The US forces also used different ways to destroy the psyche of the Iraqi citizens, including using detention centers and prisons, and the most famous of which is what happened to Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib Prison and Bucca Prison in Basra province," he said.

Al-Adhari referred to images posted online in 2004 by US soldiers in the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, which verified the army's jaw-dropping abuse of Iraqi detainees, including stripping prisoners naked and having them piled on top of each other.

Amir al-Saadi, a political researcher, told Xinhua that the United States has proven throughout recent history that it does not care about human rights despite its claims and exposed its indifference in 1991 when it used depleted uranium weapons against Iraq during the Gulf War.

"It also used internationally prohibited weapons when it occupied Iraq in 2003, that killed many Iraqis and damaged the health system, and caused the emergence of many deformed births, as well as the rise in cancer cases that Iraq was not familiar with before 2003," al-Saadi said. "There is no doubt that the effect of these weapons will remain for hundreds of years."

According to al-Saadi, it carried out many massacres against Iraqis with impunity, such as the Haditha massacre and the bombing of the Fallujah city with internationally prohibited weapons.

The massacre in Haditha, some 200 km northwest of Baghdad, took place in 2005 when the US Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians, including women, the elderly and children, inside their houses in response to a roadside bomb that hit their convoy and killed a US soldier.

Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, also witnessed the heaviest bombing in 2004. The international community criticized the United States for the large-scale civilian casualties and the use of white phosphorus in the city.

Like many Iraqis, al-Saadi believes that the tragedies for Iraqis began when the former US president George Bush declared Iraq the central front in the global war on terrorism, turning the country into an arena for settling conflicts with extremist groups.

"First, it (United States) lured the al-Qaida organization to turn Iraq into a battleground for anti-terror war, and then al-Qaida developed into Daish, the Islamic State (IS) group, which wreaked havoc throughout Iraq and destroyed everything, even archaeological and historical sites," al-Saadi said, adding "but the roots of this terrorism are not over yet and still spreading in more than one place in the country.

Hamza al-Warraq, 56, a bookshop owner in central Baghdad, told Xinhua that the US forces committed plenty of crimes against Iraqis.

"America is a state of gangs and there is no real democracy in it. It has killed civilians in Iraq and this is unacceptable and a violation of all international laws, but America sees itself as a superpower that leads the world and dictates the policies it wants," he said.

By the end of 2011, the United States withdrew its troops from Iraq, with no findings of any weapons of mass destruction. Yet the war-torn country was already laden with casualties, orphans and explosive remnants.

Many Iraqis believe that turning their streets into battlefields by US soldiers and killing thousands of innocent people should not go unpunished. The US administration should bear the material and moral responsibility for those crimes.

Engineer Aida Abdul-Kareem said that the US military mission destroyed Iraq, and the indiscriminate bombing led to the destruction of homes and infrastructure.

"They set Iraq back more than 100 years," she said.

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