The recent protests at the US embassy/city-state/Superman fortress of solitude in Iraq undoubtedly served notice of what the 2020s will bring for Iraq: freedom from three decades of US domination and terrorism.
The protests were shocking for many reasons. Iraq has been under the boot of the US for so long many around the world thought such resistance was impossible. Pity the poor, underestimated Iraqis: even when they did engage in civic disobedience the West sought, as usual, to give all the credit/blame to Iran. After dominating them so long, the West is incapable of seeing Iraqis as a people/culture with the power of self-determination. The endless refrain is "Iran-backed militias", but it is Iraqis who staff those militias and who crossed into the Green Zone.
The past few days have produced much for us to comment about, but what good are such comments regarding the Iraqi context if we divorce ourselves from their past few decades?
There was a lot of debate, first provoked by the British medical journal The Lancet, about the death toll from Gulf War II, but few seem to remember the horrific death toll from Gulf War I of Bush père: 400,000 Iraqi dead, half of them civilians. Just 300 deaths combined among the anti-Iraq axis.
That's a stunning figure which should not be forgotten, but to the "blame Iran" crowd in the West this war never happened. In fact, Gulf War I to Americans is something of a joke: the images of precision missiles going down chimneys, ecstatically broadcast in a ratings uber-bonanza for the still-new 24-hour news of CNN, helped "restore pride" to an America whose last conflict was Vietnam. The short-lived economic boom of the 1990s followed, and Gulf War I was barely an afterthought immediately.
Sanctions, however, are not a ratings bonanza for CNN - the blockaded Cubans, allegedly starving North Koreans and the horrifically-sanctioned Iraqis (which ran until Gulf War II) do not provide exciting, pride-swelling, jingoism-fuelling footage. Quite the opposite, which is why the US runs no such footages; they didn't have to ban footage of dead US soldiers for Gulf War I, but the "free press" of the US allegedly remained "free" even when they did just that for Gulf War II. One would think that in the "blame Iran" crowd one or two Americans might point out that this era of Husseinian splendor amid everyday want (and during the last era of global economic expansion) might have produced just a bit of anti-American resentment which may still linger?
Gulf War II came, but has it really gone? Is Iraq any different than a French neo-colonial subject in Africa, with foreign troops protecting the interests of foreign capital and not the welfare of the people?
Questions worth answering, but the "blame Iran" crowd only insists that the Gulf War II devastation of Iraq - maybe unparalleled since the "Korean conflict" - is the fault of non-belligerent Tehran. The destruction of infrastructure capital, the wasting/fleeing of human capital, the lives ruined by death/maiming/psychological trauma - this is all too much for a human to fully grasp, but one should not take the approach of the US and make no effort to grasp it at all.
This lack of effort at self-reflection is very typically American even within their own society - if America's leaders will push a McCarthy-era Russophobia wave for three years just to avoid honest discussion of the failures of the Democratic Party and "democracy with American characteristics", then why should we expect those leaders to be honest about Iraq? Why should we ask those leaders to honestly account for the murders, bombings, assassinations, strangulations and corruption they ordered for three decades?
Given the three decades of US domination and occupation, how can anyone be surprised by the recent protests targeting their embassy?
Indeed, many Iraqis, especially their young, are probably saying, "Why did it take so long to get here?"
Two thousand nineteen was a momentous year in the Middle East because a local nation proved for the first time in two centuries that they have technological and military parity with Western capitalist-imperialists in the war theater of the Middle East. That country is Iran, which already began proving 40 years ago that they have a political, intellectual and artistic (cinema) culture equal to or better than, and certainly more modern and "of the historical moment", than that of the West. What we saw on these Western new year's eve protests in Iraq is a spreading confirmation of these slow, long-running historical trends, processes and facts.
The protests were cheered by many worldwide of course: even if the Western political and media elite has these insane anti-Iran and pro-US capitalism-imperialism blinders on, the average person does not. Many hoped the protests would turn into a new Tahrir Square, like in Egypt, but they were disbanded after only two days.
That seems like a sad development, but the people of Iraq, Iran and their allies realize that sending out a force is no good unless that force can be controlled. Egypt was not under foreign occupation, after all. Many Iraqis justifiably feel they are at war and the embassy protests were an "attack" - it was not a place to spontaneously express patriotism and see how that may or may not coalesce.
I suggest that the protest force was sent home because the damage has been done. After all, has the Green Zone ever been so breached?
The psychological and cultural consequences of this two-day affair are nothing but positive for Iraqis and nothing but negative for Americans and their corrupt, self-interested allies.