Editorial: Iraq Was Lost in the Invasion

The Republican primary rewrites the history of what happened


The responsibility of the United States in the current Iraq conflict is undergoing a biased historical revision during the Republican primary election, aimed at blaming the Obama Administration ‒ particularly ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‒ of the current crisis fueled by the rise of ISIS.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is pointing at the White House of being responsible for an early retreat of U.S. troops which, supposedly, debilitated the local government, leading to the current instability. This is an oversimplification designed to ignore the mistakes of the previous Republican administration, which destabilized the Iraqi government by invading the country under false motives and then disintegrated it, sparking a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

The GOP version of the story says that the “surge,” as well as buying the favor of Sunnis, reduced violence, but it leaves out the fact that the main goal was to create a national unity government. Then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki created obstacles to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, so President George W. Bush scheduled the troops’ exit for December 2011. President Obama respected the date after talks to negotiate the presence of a small number of U.S. troops in that country failed. Al-Maliki’s Shiite government persecuted the Sunnis instead of seeking reconciliation between the two factions. This allowed for the strengthening of ISIS, which originated in Iraq out Al Qaeda after the U.S. invasion.

Obama and Clinton’s responsibility has more to do with not knowing how to deal with al-Maliki, who, through his actions, radicalized the Sunnis and pushed them into the arms of ISIS even though their interpretation of Islam differs from the terrorist group’s.

Behind Jeb Bush’s interpretation of what happened in Iraq may be the intention to defend his brother or the fact that neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz is one of his foreign policy advisers. As George W. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz cheered the invasion under the absurd premise that it would “spread democracy” in the region.

This is an old electoral strategy: Republicans make themselves look tough on foreign policy and accuse Democrats of being weak. That is why they are blaming Obama and Clinton of having lost Iraq, when it was really lost long before with a disastrous invasion and occupation whose effects are still being felt today.