Posted on: April 9, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

“You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” 

“My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” 

“The biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

It has been 20 years since these phrases were used by the George W. Bush administration to fire up public emotion and build the case for starting a major chapter in the global war on terror: the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Juan Carbajal

Opinion Editor

These phrases were based on claims that authoritarian ruler Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction and making his country a terrorist safe haven, and that he was the master organizer behind 9/11. These were claims that held no weight after the invasion, and it is hotly debated whether they were even genuine to begin with.

What does seem genuine is these phrases represented something beyond the early 2000s: a set of ideals that formed the basis for our country’s foreign defense policy. America would be with the world fighting against terrorism: helping liberate people in these regions by spreading democratic freedom, creating international peace, and rallying against weapons of mass destruction.

But for two decades now, these ideals have been used to justify foreign defense policies where America has contributed to terror, undermined freedom and diminished peace in many regions.

The Iraqi invasion was the most brutal, obvious example.

The lack of strategy following Hussein’s capture caused war efforts to crumble in front of us, says MV political science professor Kevin Navratil. “It showed our limited capacity to succeed, to organize what happens next, and showed our oversight flaws.” 

There were flaws in monitoring detention centers, so terrorists–including the founder of ISIS’s predecessor group–were able to easily spread their ideologies. Military flaws led innocent people to be subjected to raids, imprisonment, and torture, such as in Abu Ghraib.

These mistakes led to a power vacuum–led to hundreds of thousands civilian deathsmuch because our government made the flawed decision of taking Iraq’s vast army, suddenly making their soldiers unemployed.

“You have to understand from their perspective, they had their livelihoods taken away,” Navratil said. “You take away a man’s livelihood and what do they have left?”

Resentment and anger towards the U.S. are what was left. Middle East scholar Kipp Cozad detailed how leaving loyal Sunni soldiers in a majority Shia country that already had sectarian tensions only made things worse.

“So what did they do?” Cozad said. “They formed sectarian attack forces, then a civil war followed. Iran, who we see as a potential threat, had supported some Shia militias and gained regional influence.

“The U.S. should’ve made soldiers renounce support of Saddam Hussein, then arrange payment deals to keep peace and fight insurgents.”

But that organization didn’t happen. 

From an Iraqi perspective, imagine uninvited visitors come into your country and topple your government based on terrorist ties that don’t exist. Then they raid your homes and imprison, torture and kill your people because they can’t differentiate between you and terrorists. They don’t face repercussions or properly monitor how terrorism spreads.

The uninvited visitors then dismantle your country’s army without thinking how this action will fuel violence. All of this helps fuel terrorism’s spread, leaving you only with the question of how you’ll be liberated. Terrorism and Iranian influence grew, while our ideals went nowhere. They held as much weight as the accusations the Bush administration made against Saddam Hussein. By the time we were leaving Iraq, the idea of Iraqi liberation was also going away. 

“Nothing compares to the errors of the Bush administration during the war in Iraq,” Navratil said.

This scenario would play out again and again in American politics.

It happened again with Libya under Obama, with Syria under Trump. And you would think the Biden administration would have taken more consideration in how it approached the awful deal Trump made on giving Afghanistan to the Taliban and having us simply leave.

But it happened a fourth time.

By leaving millions of people still in a state of destabilization, when they were promised the opposite, we are creating our own weapon of mass destruction.

It doesn’t matter if the people of Iraq, of Libya, of Syria, or of Afghanistan greeted us as liberators.

We don’t act like liberators while there.

We say goodbye to them still unliberated.

We leave them not with us, but with the terrorists.