It's called "the war in Iraq". The candidates for president take positions on "the war in Iraq". Even the peace movement talks about "ending the war in Iraq". Even oped news tags it "the war in Iraq".
This is a total misrepresentation of what has gone on. The US INVADED a sovereign, peaceful nation that was not threatening us or any other country, against all international laws and treaties, against the wishes of the UN, on the basis of lies, known lies. We remain there as a force of OCCUPATION, against the wishes of all Iraqi people, whether Sunni, Shiite or Kurd. There is no segment of the Iraqi people who want us there. They are united in wanting the US to go home.
Calling it a war enables Bush and company to call upon patriotism. Anyone who disagrees is a "traitor", and may have property confiscated. Bush gets to be the Commander- in-Chief. Congress has to fund it- you can't withhold funding in wartime. In other words, this linguistic framing benefits Bush and undercuts the peace movement- we should not EVER call it a war.
The purpose of the US ongoing OCCUPATION of Iraq is simply to secure that country's huge oil reserves for private companies such as Exxon, stealing it from the Iraqi people, to whom it rightfully belongs. The main "benchmark" required by the US president, backed by Congress, is passage of a law in Iraq that would privatize oil, taking it out of the hands of the Iraqi government, where it has always rested. The Iraqi parliament refuses to pass such a law, the Iraqi labor unions oppose it, the Iraqi people oppose it.
The justification for remaining in Iraq is certainly not to help the Iraqi people, who have pretty much been bombed back to the stone age, with minimal electricity, clean water, food, infrastructure, health care. It's certainly not to spread democracy, which is a farce there. Nor is it to prevent civil war, which the occupation is making worse.
Half the occupying force consists of mercenaries. The other half is the regular US military, against the advice of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, who has been fired, along with many other generals who felt that the mission was ill-advised and poorly carried out. It is wrecking the US military, draining the US treasury and making the US a pariah among nations.
Who benefits? Not the American consumer- we are paying two to three times as much at the gas pump as we were prior to the invasion. Certainly not the Iraqi people. No, the beneficiaries are the corporations who profit from war, like the Bush and Cheney family corporations- Carlyle and Halliburton, and the oil companies.
To summarize: we have never been at war with Iraq. The US military, taken over by an illegitimate president and veep, has been used for their private gain to invade and occupy another country, for the sole purpose of stealing their oil. In the process, the invasion and occupation have destroyed Iraq and are in the process of destroying the American military and economy as well.