Rather Be


Iraq: A Lost War

By: Mohamed El-Shibiny

Mohamed El-Shibiny is a graduate of Ohio State University where he received his Master’s in Art and Ph.D. He was the former UNESCO Chief Technical Advisor for East Africa, the Philippines, and Qatar, as Regional Representative for the Middle East Gulf States.

Conflict in the Middle East

By: Prateek Gupta

Most American’s will remember September 11th, 2001 A day that will live in infamy within American’s hearts. That was the day terrorists attacked the United States simultaneously in three locations on the Eastern Seaboard. It also motivated of the United States to declare war on international terrorism and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Iraq: A Lost War, Mohamed El-Shibiny investigates if war in Iraq by western forces was justified and the overall climate of the area. Shibiny gives a comprehensive overview of the Iraq war and devastation that occurred.

Shibiny begins his examination of the Iraq war with the introduction of what event caused it, the 9/11 attack where “more than three thousand people were killed…when four American planes were hijacked by Islamic terrorists.” The United States concluded that the attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda operatives, a fundamentalist Islamic group. It was also concluded that the United States could not protect its own citizens on American soil from these kinds of operations. These atrocities were not limited to the United States; the entire world were victims to international terrorism. The world became divided in the United States of America as “…one that is pro-America and the other that is against it.” The United States response to these threats was through military force. One war against Afghanistan and one against Iraq. The war in Iraq was opposed by many nations as they were not shown evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). That was the reason the United States and several other coalition nations invaded in the first place. Many United Nations nations were shocked and baffled by the United States unilateral decision to invade Iraq. Per the French President, “the war had put the United Nations through one of the most severe crises in its history.” To many of the nations, it was still unclear why the United States and other nations declared war in Iraq. The four-main reason are as follow: number one is that they wanted to “liberate” the people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, number two is that they want to destroy alleged Weapons of Mass Destructions, number three is the abundance of Iraq’s petroleum reserve, and number four is Saddam Hussein’s alleged link with al-Qaeda. The question that began to circle around the world was whether “Iraq posed a clear and immediate threat to world peace and security?” With the growing presence of nations in Iraq, global terror attacks surged in 2006. Terrorist attacks were wreaking havoc on the world’s population. Attacks were centered mainly in Europe with bombings in London and many other places. Even a recruitment network called by the International Herald Tribune “Europe-Wide Network Enlists Insurgent Fighters for Iraq.” It was set up for two reasons. One was for al-Qaeda to recruit terrorists (mainly young and Muslim) to launch attacks in Europe. The second was to increase insurgency in Iraq. Many were worried that the growing aggression in Iraq and United States foreign policy would be a greater disaster than Vietnam.

Iraq became the new hotspot in the world during the early 2000s. Coalition forces swiftly made their way through Iraq towards Baghdad. They managed to capture Saddam Hussein in his hometown hiding. Per President Bush “…there would be a trial and the Iraqis needed to be involved in bringing him to justice.” The Iraqi people took legal custody of him and was given the death sentence after a lengthy court proceedings. Some did not agree with the decision, especially the United Nations who have had a long-standing tradition of opposing the death penalty in any United Nations-sanctioned tribunal. After the execution, “the Iraqi prime minister urged the Ba’athists, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, to reconsider their tactics and join the political process.” Instead, violence continued with bombings and hangings in the street of Baghdad. At the Homefront, many people opposed the war and demonstrated with a series of demonstrations. People expressed anger towards the war in the United Kingdom as well. Different parts of the world held different positions toward the war. Nations in the Europe expressed their concern of the events happening in Iraq but did not support the actions taken by the United States. Countries like Turkey protested Bush and the United States clearly showing the dislike of United States foreign policy. Countries around the globe protest President Bush as he visited their countries. Much violence was created thus. The United Nations position said by Secretary -General, Kofi Annan stated that “if the United States and other were to go outside United Nations Security Council and take unilateral action they would not be in conformity with the Charter.” The Europeans positon is the opposite of that. “the European Union and the United States agreed to work more cooperatively on the major issues concerning the future of Iraq and European defense cooperation.” They would pool their resources to make occupation in Iraq go smoother. They would create a coalition army of United States and Western European troops. Each country would occupy different sections of Iraq and would be under a control of a coalition force command. This way no one nation received greater control over any specific region.

El-Shibiny then goes on to analyze the transfer of power of Iraq from the western powers back into the hands of the Iraqi people. When the United States took over Iraq and occupied it, there were reports of United States soldiers abusing Iraqis for fun. The reports were found true and seemed to be originating from the United States Iraqi Detention facility. The United States set up Abu Ghraib which was a prison for Iraqi prisoners which was commanded by United States forces. There were reports of various crimes that were happening there; most of which were related to the abuse of prisoners. Bush denied any and all allegations of ordering abuse of Iraqi prisoners. This accelerated the transfer of power from the United States administration to the Iraqis. They formed an interim Iraqi government which would consist of various ethnic sections of the region. With a new government, Iraqi reconstruction could get on it way. They received large loans from banks to help with it. However, they were receiving much resistance from Iraq’s al-Qaeda group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Eventually, Iraq wanted complete sovereignty from the U.S. and other nations. As the pull-out of western nations, Islamic insurgents began to become a danger in Iraq. Much of the terrorists’ ruthless operations began to expand into Iraq. Diplomats, U.S Soldiers, and many more were all victims of the increasing presence of terrorists. A United States Military helicopter was shot down killing to soldiers. Fatalities of United States military personal rose to 2,443 since the beginning of the war in 2006. Bush responded to all of the violence by saying “the key to success in Iraq is for the Iraqis to be able and capable of defending their democracy against terrorist.” Bush wanted to eventually leave Iraq alone and govern for itself. The United States never wanted to occupy Iraq forever and become an imperialistic nation again. They wanted to remove the threat of terrorism from the region as it was a danger to the United States of Americas domestic interests. President Bush believed that al-Qaeda was connected to Iraq and President Saddam Hussein.

After nearly three years of the occupation into Iraq, the country is already slipping towards civil war. President Bush said that “I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. There will be tougher fighting and more days of struggle, and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come.” Life was becoming difficult for Iraqi citizens, United States and coalition forces, and delegates. Violence grew tenfold since the United States occupied Baghdad. Bombings were occurring at different religious and cultural areas. There was an incident where a bombing occurred at the holy Shiite shrine in the town of Samarra. The Shiites were angered by this and demonstrated in Samarra. They wanted retaliation. All out civil war was occurring in the streets of Iraq. Sunnis and Shiites cut off any talks that could lead to a peaceful resolve. Security began to deteriorate which led to the violence intensifying. To Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, the only way “to avoid slipping into civil war, [Talabani] pressed political parties to accelerate efforts to form a broad government of national unity encompassing Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.” Al-Zarqawi, the notorious civil war advocate, was eventually caught and killed which was a severe blow to al-Qaeda. Iraq slowly was heading towards a democracy. President Bush forcefully defended his Iraq policies when in form of Congress. He said, “even those who opposed the war have no choice now but to support efforts toward victory…However we fell about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option. We must…defeat our enemies and stand behind the American Military.” Eventually, the first session of the Iraq National Assembly was held. Various coalitions were formed with various backers. To ensure that the vote goes through smoothly, they increased security. Al-Qaeda was urging Iraqi’s to boycott the election. There still was significant voter turnout. The various groups in the country held different positions. The groups being the Sunni’s, the Kurd’s, and the Shiite’s. It’s also believed that Iran and Syria may have become an obstacle for Iraq in achieving peace and security.

Overall, El-Shibiny wrote this to determine whether the war in Iraq was morally justified, investigate the worldwide condemnation of the United States, and the steps to democratization and reconstruction of a devastated Iraq. One of the first questions El-Shibiny bring up is “has Iraq posed a clear and immediate threat to world peace and security?” Shibiny goes on to elaborate by providing evidence of United Nations officials and their opinions on the situation. El-Shibiny proved the condemnation of the United States with evidence of prisoner abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. Shibiny provided evidence from the Herald Tribune which “they express fury over the three-year prison sentence for female United States soldiers for holding naked inmates by leashes…” He goes on explains the United States response to all of the allegations.

Mohamed El-Shibiny is the former United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chief Technical Advisor for the East Africa, the Philippines, and Qatar as Regional Representative for the Middle East Gulf States. He is an authority regarding the relationship between the West and the Arab world. It makes him an expert in that field which make him qualified to write about the subject of Iraq. His most recent publications are The Social, Cultural and Philosophical Foundations of Education and The Threat of Globalization of Arab Islamic Culture. They all deal with culture in the middle east which may have influenced his opinion on the situation on Iraq. The Iraq war ended in 2011 and the book was written in 2010. It was written with most of the facts available. It also was written when both sides had played all its cards. The United States was going to pull out soon also.

Reviewers generally believed Mohamed El-Shibiny gave a comprehensive review of the Iraq War. A review by Robert Looney, a Distinguished Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School said “the strength of the book is in its completeness—it provides excellent documentation of the events leading up to the conflict as well as a sophisticated discussion of key developments following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” It shows that someone with military background finds this book about the war as an “excellent documentation.” He goes on to say it gives a complete overview of the conflict while others don’t. This book provides a solid account about the Iraq war. El-Shibiny, personally, provides information from before the war to nearly four years after when Iraq has a functioning democracy. He provides every claim with evidence from a primary source. The source being speeches, to official documents, to newspaper articles. He not only incorporated the United States point of view, but the point of view of every nation involved. The entire European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition forces. The Iraqi people and their various ethnic sections. He even included the views of other Arab nations. This way, he is not showing a bias toward any one view. He describes each situation and debate throughout the war. He then provides data and facts about each point of view which gives the reader more of understanding of the overall consensus of the war. El-Shibiny also managed to defined various terms that most people would not know. He would then elaborate on them and provided evidence to its relation to the topic.

Iraq: A Lost War shows the changes the U.S. has faced since the end of the Cold War and the rising fear of “terrorism.” Before the invasion of Iraq, Congress needed strong definitive proof to declare war on a nation. It was evident with The Korean and the Vietnam War. But with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States realized it would be difficult to defend the nation from a new kind of threat. It made it easier for Bush to convince Congress to declare war. We even see a shift in foreign policy with the middle east. Most of them are regarding oil and the future of the United States with it. Foreign policy of the United States was also shaped with the growing threat of terrorism to the American way of life. With the fear of terrorism and the new kind of threat that it brought, it was enough for the United States to go to war. El-Shibiny showed the 4 reason that war was declared, two of which were an immediate threat to the United States. The reasons were extremely vague and had little proof to back it. Those being the ones related to the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Iraqi Petroleum Reserves. However, Americans were to scared for it to matter and it made Congress quickly approve the plan. It was also passed due to pressure by the military industrial complex. Defense companies were using the growing tensions in the middle east as a way to gain a profit. They lobbied senator and congressmen to pass a verdict to declare war on Iraq.

Mohamed El-Shibiny does not address the impact of digital technology on America in Iraq: A Lost War. The book focuses on the political and social aspects of the Iraq war which did little to affect the United States via digital technology. The digital technology affect was centered towards mainly domestic affairs. The growth of the information technology age began in the early 2000s but that was mainly with technology companies in the United States. The Iraq war was impacting the world politically through foreign policies molding new contract in the military industrial complex. It was also impacted the world socially. Global unrest of the people with the involvement of the United States in the Middle East.

Mohamed El-Shibiny wrote a comprehensive review of the Iraq war in Iraq: A Lost War. It detailed the morality of the war, the opinion of the various nations (European Union nations, United States, and Arab nations), and the democratization and reconstruction of Iraq from the devastations of war. The occupation of the United States and coalition forces left in their wake a broken country ridden with terrorists and religious turmoil.

[1] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. Iraq: A Lost War. New York. Palgrave Macmillan. 2010.1
[2] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 2.
[3] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 7.
[4] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 27.
[5] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 46.
[6] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 53.
[7] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 61.
[8] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 65.
[9] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 120.
[10] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 123.
[11] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 128.
[12] El-Shininy, Mohamed. 136.
[13] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 27.
[14] El-Shibiny, Mohamed. 72.
[15] Looney, Robert. Review of Iraq: A Lost War. https://www.amazon.com/Iraq-Lost-War-Mohamed-El-Shibiny-x/dp/0230103073