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Time to revisit the US democratization in Iraq

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-25 15:16

Iraqis flee homes in Basra city on March 20, 2003, the day the United States launched its ground invasion on the pretext of destroying Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/AP

"He was just driving on the road, but was run over on the spot simply because he did not give way to the US tank behind." Saeed, from Najaf, a city south of Baghdad, still had a look of horror in his eyes recalling that memories. It was his friend's father, a distinguished university professor, who was crushed by the American soldiers carrying out their military operation in Iraq more than a decade ago. In 2003, shrill missiles whizzed over Iraqi cities, shattering the dream of peace in this ancient Middle East country.

During the past twenty years, apart from dropping 181,000 depleted uranium bombs all over Iraq, which caused an extremely high rate of deformities and cancer among the local people, the United States tried to inject a dose of "American-style democracy" into the Iraqi political system after its self-claimed "justified" occupation, only resulting in endless chaos.

The reason given from the US Capital for launching the war was that Iraq possessed "weapons of mass destruction", with former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presenteing the "evidence" in the UN hall. The US military overthrew the Iraqi government with artillery fire, but never found the alleged chemical and biological weapons. Powell's justification for the war that "It's not that we didn't find the evidence, it's that it was hidden" is particularly pale.

Running out of excuses, Washington shifted its rhetoric, saying it wanted to bring democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people. Yet that promise was never fulfilled.

The living conditions of the Iraqi people has deteriorated over the past two decades, with reports of US soldiers shooting innocent civilians grabbing headlines of local newspapers. According to a report by Brown University's "Cost of War" project, the US' "invasion of Iraq killed more than 200,000 Iraqis and displaced at least nine million". Democracy, equality and freedom, as preached by the US, has never been realized in Iraq but has resulted in the cost of these 200,000-plus innocent lives.

After the formation of the new Iraqi regime, the US forcibly pushed forward democratic reform and established a power-sharing system based on the quota system. This "maladjusted" democracy led to more divisions among the various ethnic groups in Iraq. The difference between Iraq's traditional political system and the US' democracy cannot be bridged, since the latter does not care about the fact that the former was based upon complex historical, ethnic and tribal features.

A rough imposition only resulted in fierce rejection. Since the invasion, the Iraqi government has gone through several lengthy cabinet reshuffles with the most recent one ending only last year. Too much power vacuum was created and the Iraqi political landscape faced more and more challenges.

Twenty years later, when we revisit lessons learned from the Iraqi war, more and more people around the world have come to realize that the so-called human right protection and democracy defenses are nothing but a lofty disguise to mask the US' real intent to interfere in a country and mould it for their own interests, both economically and geopolitically. The majority, 61% to be exact, of US citizens also believe it is wrong for the US to go to war in Iraq, according to a new poll by Axios website and Ipsos. To alter other countries' political system and social institutions at the will of one "superior" country and by the standard of this hierarchy, --- isn't this a mentality of autocracy in the international society?

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily etc. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.

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