When Does Iraq Get an Apology?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
-Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Dec 27, 2008 - 4:48:00 PM

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A U.S.-Iraq pact has been announced that is supposed to lead to a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by 2011. With this agreement there will be an increasing assumption that the war is over and the Occupation nearly at end. I actually think that neither is true, but for the purposes of this commentary I want to focus on a specific action that incoming President Obama needs to take regardless: Apologize to the people of Iraq for the U.S. invasion.

The United States is an interesting country when compared to most others across the planet in its bitter resistance to ever offering an apology for anything that it has done, either in error or due to criminality. Other countries have been compelled, either by their own population or the world’s people to offer apologies for errors and crimes. Yet the U.S.A. remains steadfast except under extreme duress.

Graphic: MGN Online/Timothy 6X
The United States is an interesting country when compared to most others across the planet in its bitter resistance to ever offering an apology for anything that it has done, either in error or due to criminality.
Despite the arguments by his apologists, the Bush administration lied the U.S.A. into a war of aggression against Iraq. Anyone doubting this should look up the now famous “Downing Street Memo” which was released some years ago.

In a report on a British meeting discussing the then-planned war against Iraq, the British concluded that the U.S.A. was shaping the intelligence in order to meet its policy objectives. That is a very eloquent way of saying that there was a very big lie being told.

I will not recount the utter disaster that has resulted. The fact that weapons of mass destruction were not discovered; the fact that Saddam Hussein was not trying to bluff the U.S.A. but instead was trying to bluff the Iranians (who he feared might attack if they believed that Iraq had no nuclear deterrent); the fact that Iraq was not a base for Al-Qaeda terrorism; these and other facts have come out over the years and completely demolished the credibility of the Administration for its invasion.

As is so typical in the U.S.A., when there are few or no U.S. casualties in a military action, many of us tend to go to sleep. We fall into a twilight zone of utter denial, whether the denial concerns anyone being killed or wounded, or denial of the culpability of the U.S.A. for crimes underway.

This was dramatically demonstrated during the 1980s and early 1990s when the U.S.A. pursued aggressive wars in Central America, wars that—truth be told—directly contributed to the massive wave of Central American migration to the U.S.A.

Yet the U.S.A. has failed to apologize to Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras or Guatemala for the tragedies they experienced. History seems to be repeating itself when it comes to Iraq.

Iraq was no paradise prior to the U.S. invasion, but Iraq was not subject to internal terrorism. Sunni-Shiite-Kurd tensions existed, and it was definitely the case that Saddam Hussein’s ruling clique was mainly Sunni and came largely from his tribe.

Yet, in pre-2003 Iraq there were mixed neighborhoods and mixed marriages. Today, Iraq is extremely segregated as a result of the ethnic cleansing that followed the U.S. invasion.

Now with the U.S./Iraq Pact, there will be those who conclude that the job is finally done and we can pay attention to other matters. The problem is that Iraq has been crippled, quite possibly beyond full repair.

It is not enough for the U.S.A. to withdraw—and I would argue that it should withdraw sooner than 2011—but it must make amends for the disaster that it wrought. Making amends begins with an acknowledgement that this was a war that should never have been waged. Making amends would also include a commitment to repairing the damage brought about as a result of the war.

It is here that I strongly disagree with those who claim that Iraq has enough resources to pay for its own repair. Think about it this way. Let’s suppose that the police broke into your house based on a combination of misinformation and malice.

In the course of this, they demolish much of your home and forced you and your family to live elsewhere, at least while the house was being repaired. The police then announced that because you have substantial savings in the bank, they will not cover the costs of repairing your home or making you whole, but instead will leave that to you. Would you accept such a proposition?

This scenario is essentially what Republicans and many Democrats have said to the people of Iraq and we should simply say that this is nothing short of a bad joke. The U.S.A. destroyed Iraq, and as a result, it should pay for repair.

The punch line? With a new president entering the White House there must be a full and clean break with the past. Let’s start with an apology to the people of Iraq.

(Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at This column was distributed by the NNPA.)

Related links:

How the world views U.S. war against Iraq (FCN, 09-23-2007)

Iraq war deaths 'top 650,000' (FCN, 10-31-2006)