Ten years after the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqi hopes that American intervention would lead to “heaven on earth in three weeks” still go unfulfilled. On Sunday’s Up w/ Chris Hayes, guests Raed Jarrar, Zainab al Suwai, Basama Zaiber, and Koby Langley discussed the legacy of America’s decades-long involvement there and the challenges Iraqis face as they work to reconstruct a national infrastructure crippled by decades of conflict and harsh sanctions.
A Gallup poll conducted in March of 2011 found that the percentage of Iraqis living in slum conditions skyrocketed during the US occupation, rising from 17% in 2000 to 53% in 2011. Iraqis were suffering long before George W. Bush took America to war under false pretenses. There is a “misperception that the war started in 2003. It started in 1991,” Jarrar, Communications Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said. Langley, a veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, described the environment the first wave of soldiers entered in stark terms. “The fight wasn’t against the Iraqi army,” he said, “It was how to get the lights back on.”
The end of the war has not meant the end of violence; dozens of people have been killed in suicide bombings in 2013 alone, including one on March 11 that killed three people and wounded 100 others, many of them children. In addition to security threats, reconstruction efforts are slowed by widespread corruption; Iraq ranked 169 out of 176 countries when it comes to corruption, according to Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, ahead of Myanmar, Sudan, and Somalia.
Military operations are over, and control of reconstruction has been handed to the Iraqis, but the lessons of the past ten years are not lost on the citizens who have been working to rebuild, however slowly. “The questions that we have to ask is not how the US should be engaged in nation-building,” Jarrar said, “but whether the US should be involved in nation-building. I don’t think the US has the capacity, it does not have the moral or legal grounds to go to another country and build [it].”