It was six years ago today that the United States and its allies launched an invasion of Iraq, claiming the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those were never found, of course, but as the invasion force morphed into an occupation force the Iraqi people saw a near total collapse of their infrastructure (already weakened from a decade of sanctions) and sectarian clashes that killed upwards of 1.3 million people.
Six years later, the violence has subsided to some extent (fueled largely by the violent cleansing of so many mixed neighborhoods) and the war has been replaced on the front pages of newspapers by the growing economic crisis across the globe. Yet life in Iraq remains far from normal, and just today the Red Cross again pointed to the “stagnant humanitarian climate” in the nation. Despite billions of dollars and hundreds of dead engineers, the tap water in Baghdad isn’t even drinkable.
So where does Iraq go from here? It’s not clear. The United States appears committed to leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, and sectarian tensions remain forever simmering under the surface of life across much of the nation.
The nation’s displaced don’t seem to be very optimistic, as millions remain out of the country and more are flocking to the nations in the European Union as quickly as those nations will accept them. To be sure, some have decided to stay, but even they are under no illusions about the risk they are taking.
Six years is a significant portion of an Iraqi’s life (and is increasingly so as the life expectancy continues to drop). The West seems to be breathing a collective sigh of relief that the situation has gone from one of the worst catastrophes on the planet to merely another dire humanitarian situation (one of many in the wake of a foreign invasion). But the average Iraqi must be wondering when he’ll get his life back – six years on, we still have no answer.