The Iraq war was a military conflict between the United States that, supported by an international coalition, faced the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein. The conflict resulted in the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but after the war Iraq became a country ravaged by insurgency, terrorism and misery.
The causes that motivated the invasion of Iraq have been the subject of great controversy. Thus, the United States argued that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, while affirming that there were links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the terrorist group Al Qaeda. However, the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda failed to prove.
Beyond weapons of mass destruction, there are those who point out that the conflict was driven by economic motivations, claiming that the United States was seeking access to Iraq's vast oil reserves.
On the other hand, at the international level, the Iraq war caused a major rift between the great world powers. Thus, Great Britain, the United States and Spain, led the war in Iraq, while France, Russia, Germany and China showed firm opposition to the conflict.
Background to the conflict
With the end of the Gulf War, Iraq was forced to dismantle its arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and to submit to the control of UN inspectors, while a no-fly zone was determined.
On the other hand, a strict economic blockade was imposed by which Iraqi oil exports were prohibited. However, this blockade was relaxed, allowing the sale of oil to purchase food and medicine. Under the UN protection, this program was dubbed "oil for food."
Despite everything, the US government continued with its trade embargo on Iraq and, in 1998, the country was bombed by Britain and the United States due to Saddam Hussein's resistance to dismantling his arsenals.
The road to the Iraq war
The arrival of George W. Bush to the White House would put Iraq even more in the spotlight. Thus, the Iraqi regime was included in the so-called "axis of evil", while President Bush insisted on the links between Iraq and the terrorist organization Al Qaeda.
With the tension increasing, from the UN, weapons inspections were imposed on Iraq. Between November 2002 and March 2003, inspectors found no evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, the United States, trying to legitimize the war, presented to the UN a series of evidence that tried to show that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. However, these tests turned out to be false, since after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons were found.
Despite opposition to the war from countries such as Russia, France, Germany, and China, the United States began forging an international coalition to end Saddam Hussein's regime. Among the countries that led this coalition were the United States, Great Britain and Spain, which at the Azores Summit agreed on an ultimatum for Iraq. The ultimatum called for the disarmament of Iraq to avoid war.
As for whether the intervention was in accordance with international law, there is also a great controversy. Thus, there are many who affirm that the war in Iraq was a flagrant violation of international legality, since there was no explicit mandate from the UN. In contrast, those who were supporters of the war, argued that resolution 1441 and the expression "serious consequences" was enough to justify the war, to which they also added that other conflicts were fought without the UN mandate.
The invasion of Iraq
On March 20, 2003 the war in Iraq broke out. Coalition planes and warships began bombing operations. Subsequently, the coalition troops proceeded to the ground intervention, quickly defeating the Iraqi forces.
By April 2003, the Iraqi resistance was crumbling and coalition troops seized control of Baghdad. Finally, on May 1, 2003, US President George W. Bush announced the end of the fighting in Iraq.
But the invasion had not been the end of the war in Iraq. With a country in chaos, the occupation of Iraq was going to be terribly turbulent. Meanwhile, the United States and Great Britain established a provisional government in the country.
A chaotic occupation
The country's administration was taken over by the Organization for Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction in Iraq, initially headed by former military man Jay Garner, who was later replaced by Paul Bremer, who served as Iraq's civilian administrator. As early as 2004, the occupation authorities ended up transferring power to Iraq.
For their part, coalition troops continued to search for Saddam Hussein, while weapons of mass destruction continued to fail. Finally, Saddam was captured on December 13, 2003, being tried, sentenced to death and executed at the end of 2006.
However, the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime did not mean the end of the violence in Iraq. The insurgency got into combat with coalition troops, clashes broke out between different ethnic groups (Shiites and Sunnis) and the country fell victim to Al-Qaeda terrorism.
The United States military presence in the country continued until 2010, when its troops were withdrawn. Only a smaller contingent remained in charge of training and advising the Iraqi army.
The Iraq war on the economic plane
In addition to the terrible human drama, with hundreds of thousands dead and displaced, the war in Iraq was a great economic cost for the United States. In this sense, the economist Joseph Stiglitz went so far as to affirm that it was the most onerous war that the United States has faced since World War II.
Continuing with the large outlay caused by the Iraq war in the United States, Stiglitz provides the following data: if in World War II the government had to assume a cost of $ 100,000 for each soldier, that figure was multiplied by four in the war of Iraq. And the fact is that the American camps were authentic cities endowed with all kinds of telecommunications and sports facilities, all without forgetting the economic cost of the medical care required by a wounded soldier.
Another striking aspect of the Iraq war was the extensive presence of mercenaries, also called contractors. These are private armies that carried out combat operations and surveillance tasks at the bases. Privatizing war is not exactly cheap, due to the salaries of mercenaries, which are much higher than those of a professional soldier. It is worth noting the role of the military company Blackwater, whose contracts increased in value as the occupation of Iraq progressed.
For Iraq, the war spelled a social, economic and human disaster. The damage caused to the electrical infrastructures caused a significant reduction in the average hours of electricity supply. Furthermore, the abundance of oil, which weighs heavily on Iraqi GDP, was insufficient to guarantee the supply of electricity. This is because Iraq lacks the necessary capacity to refine its oil.
It is curious that, although Iraq is a country rich in oil, after the invasion, the ownership of cars decreased, on the contrary increasing the use of motorcycles and bicycles.
Long years of civil strife, war and terrorism brought poverty for Iraqis. Destruction, corruption and insecurity led the country to extremely high unemployment rates.
Another indicator of the poverty that the country has faced is the availability of food. Since the 1990s, the most essential foods have been distributed to the population. But, after the war, in 2011, Iraq had a percentage of undernourished people of 5.7%, which came to represent about 1.9 million inhabitants.
One of the great endemic evils of Iraq has been corruption. Many of the Iraqis paid bribes, becoming a sadly common practice, while they considered that the government's efforts to fight corruption were insufficient.
A very revealing fact about corruption dates from the summer of 2003. At that time, $ 18.4 billion was allocated to rebuild basic infrastructure, as well as health facilities and schools. Well, of that total, only 1,000 million were used in reconstruction, the rest being destined for military operations or being lost as a result of corruption.