Despite it being declared a democracy, Iraq lacks regime security. The violence of the system has led to social and economic injustice, physical and psychological trauma, insurgency, counter-insurgency, fragmentation and daily criminal violence and insecurity in all sectors: food, health, community, economic, political and personal security. Through the guidance and assistance of the IMF and the World Bank, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region pursued neoliberal economic policies which led to great income inequalities and a concentration of wealth among the small political elite.
Opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment contributed to a dystopian economy and a failed state, mass poverty and youth unemployment, corrupt Iraqi governments and an increasingly disaffected population.
Anti-government protests have erupted on a regular basis in Iraq since 2015, but the protests of September 2019 – March 2020 are the largest and bloodiest. For seven months, protesters have taken to the streets in towns and cities across the country to demand jobs, basic services and an end to corruption. Hundreds of young people have been killed and thousands of others wounded in clashes with security forces. The killing of civilians by government forces is not new in Iraq; since it became a ‘democracy’ in 2005, the state has killed around 6,000 civilians.
Mapping the conflict and its casualties can change our understanding of this war and any war, from one of liberators, of democratisation and triumph of intervention, to one of hegemony, oppression and the ruthless killing of innocents.
Inevitably, security concerns in the Middle East are directly linked to security concerns in western states, the UK included: the persistent threat of terrorism, the impact of the UK Counter Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST), especially Prevent (which involves the policing and collecting of intelligence on the Muslim population), of the creation of suspect communities and the influx of refugees. The ‘war on terror’ and its impact on the security of Iraq and its citizens allows us to re-assess strategy, foreign policy and our quest to promote democracy to client states. It also raises questions regarding the use of force and liberation through domination.
The casualties of this war are numerous: life, security and liberty –in Iraq, in the Middle East and, to a small extent, in western countries. As to the winners of this war, they are the extremists and anyone who has become richer and more powerful: the global corporations and armaments industry. The financial security complex: the money men.