- - Wednesday, March 22, 2023

This is the second in a multiple-part series of episodes marking the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War, which began on March 20, 2003.

Iraqi voices are largely absent from American retrospectives on the war. Those U.S. retrospectives tend to focus on the decision-making of the Bush administration, the conduct of the campaign and the damage done to U.S. standing in the world.

But in this episode of History As It Happens, Baghdad native and The Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad sees the catastrophic consequences of the U.S. invasion through the eyes of ordinary Iraqis as well as hardened jihadists.

Mr. Abdul-Ahad, the author of “A Stranger in Your Own City,” a reporter’s account of the past 20 years, witnessed the collapse of order within hours of the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein. He watched the Sunni insurgency challenge the U.S. military occupation. And he risked his life covering the ferocious civil war that consumed Iraq for years, leaving hundreds of thousands dead or maimed. Today, after two decades of human misery and incalculable sacrifice, Iraq is not a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word, Mr. Abdul-Ahad said. And there’s been virtually no accountability for the people who perpetrated barbarous acts.

“Iraq is not a democracy. While the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the new political parties are going back to the penal code of Saddam, created in 1969. This is the kind of mutant state we have today,” said Mr. Abdul-Ahad, who also cited rampant corruption in “statelets” where the central government in Baghdad has limited authority. Parts of Iraq still do not have consistent electricity or clean drinking water, and local police routinely beat and torture arrestees until they pay a bribe to be released. Meanwhile, 2,500 U.S. military personnel remain in the country, which acts as an incentive for Shia militias with ties to Iran to resist “an occupation.”

SEE ALSO: History As It Happens: The Iraq War, Part One

Listen to Ghaith Abdul-Ahad discuss Iraq 20 years after the U.S. invasion by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.

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