Sekerci: Could the Iraq War have ended with less violence?

Burak Sekerci, Columnist

“American Sniper” tells the story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal Navy SEAL sniper in American history. The film is not only a compelling image of Kyle’s accomplishments and patriotism, but also a way for us to look back and reflect on the events of the Iraq War.

Although the film presents American patriotism in an entertaining way, it fails to reflect the enormous damage on the Iraqi population. A 2013 BBC article cites a report estimating 461,000 war-related Iraqi deaths starting from the American invasion in 2003 through mid-2011. In other words: Killing 461,000 people is equivalent to wiping out around 79 percent of Wyoming or all of the residents of the Atlanta or Miami city propers. This is a true, overlooked reflection of the violence in Iraq during the war. Could there be a more peaceful way of creating a democratic Iraq through better strategic decisions?

There were three main reasons for America’s invasion of Iraq: bringing democracy and peace, eliminating weapons of mass destruction and addressing the al-Qaida presence in Iraq. Yes, during the war they have eliminated key people from al-Qaida, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, though the terrorist organization still has a heavy presence in the Middle East. It appears the United States has succeeded in preventing WMD creation, which means they have eliminated a future threat. They also made the first step in bringing peace and democracy by beating Saddam Hussein’s army and ousting him. By the end of the first war in 2003, we could say that America was on the right track toward creating a peaceful Iraq. However, the orders given by Paul Bremer, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, led to the creation of militaristic insurgencies, which caused the incredible violence in Iraq.

CPA’s first order was to disestablish the Ba’ath Party, Iraq’s leading political party before the war under Saddam Hussein’s rule. Under this order, all party officials were removed from their positions. Iraqi citizens were especially upset at the removal of Ba’ath officials, as the party had significant influence among Sunnis in Iraq.

I believe this sowed the first seeds of insurgency because a party that had this much of an influence could very well have formed the insurgence groups — Sunni militia fighting against American soldiers — after being ousted in order to get revenge on the Americans. It might also have affected other Iraqis who stayed neutral during this process and turned them to join the insurgency groups.

Additionally, Ba’ath Party officials could have helped Bremer in forming a new government. They have experience in running the country and Iraqi politics, whereas Brenner does not. They could have used their influence to decrease the post-war tension and eradicate violence. CPA Order Number One could have played out much more smoothly if the members who strongly disagreed with CPA were removed from power while the reasonable ones were spared. Both parties could have compromised for the betterment of Iraq on the way to creating a sovereign state. After the order, CPA was the only entity that could govern Iraq, but it had neither the political power nor the influence to reach out to every part of the country, a problem that created the perfect environment for the insurgency armies to gain power and fight against American soldiers.

CPA’s second order, issued a week later than Order Number One, was the dissolution of entities, specifically the Iraqi military forces. These Iraqis had just come out from a war with the United States. They were angry and leaderless. The soldiers could very well have thought disbanding the army was for weakening Iraq, the country they had risked their lives for. They had too much pride to submit to the rule of American generals, so they revolted. It is not hard to think most of the soldiers from the Iraqi army joined the insurgency forces, which I believe gave these men the professional edge. The Iraqi soldiers were trained well, and they probably knew how to fight against the American army because they did it before. Dismantling of the Iraqi army resulted in an increase in the soldier quality of the insurgency forces, which gave them the power to fight against the U.S. army and actually come close to beating them.

By giving these two orders, CPA created its own enemy. The insurgency forces might have been much less powerful if the Iraqi army was contained in some way, or they might not have existed if CPA had come to an agreement with Ba’ath party in order to influence them to stop revolting. If the insurgency forces were eliminated before they were even formed, the state of Iraq could have been established without all of this violence. In the end, many lives could have been spared, and we could confidently say the United States had accomplished its mission.

Burak Sekerci is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].