Exactly 15 years ago today, president George W. Bush announced that the United States was going to attack Iraq with a campaign of “shock and awe” and then invade and occupy the country due to weapons of mass destruction that were never to be found.
Estimates are that up to 500,000 Iraqis were murdered or killed as “collateral damage” or as a result of the war.
15 years on, Iraqi leaders, like Prime Minister al-Abadi, worry about corruption and about getting torn apart by US and Iran as each try to influence and control Iraq:
To see how al-Abadi plans to do that, TIME sat down with him in his office, inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, in the palace where Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq until the U.S. invasion in March, 2003. During the discussion, Abadi spoke about the “epidemic” of corruption in his country, what it will take to keep ISIS from regrouping, as well as regional issues such as the war in Syria and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Prime Minister was also frank about the support Iraq received from Iran, and pleaded with the Islamic Republic and the U.S. not to turn his country into a battlefield for any proxy conflict. “Keep your differences away from Iraq,” he said.
Iraqi members of parliament, meanwhile, worry about the US using the fight against ISIS as an excuse to re-occupy the country:
Knooz Media quoted MP Ali al-Morshidy as saying Sunday that the U.S. administration is plotting to expand its “military bases in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State (IS) group and providing security advice for the Iraqi government.”
The American public, meanwhile remains fairly divided by people who say the war was worth it and those who say it wasn’t:
Nearly half (48%) of Americans say the decision to use military force was wrong, while slightly fewer (43%) say it was the right decision, according to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 7-14 among 1,466 adults. Current opinions about the war in Iraq are little different than in early 2014, when 50% said the decision to use force was wrong and 38% said it was right.
For a more in-depth Iraq war veteran perspective, you can listen to a fascinating interview from Vince Emanuele, an Iraq war veteran and community organizer.
Gen. David Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq during the difficult “surge” period, was asked about the war. And while he could not say much about the success of the war, he had nothing but good things to say about the Americans who sacrificed and fought in the war:
“I think everybody who was in Iraq, who served there, who knows the sacrifice it entails, who knows the cost in blood and in treasure… has been frustrated to see how the country slid back after we left in late 2011,” Petraeus said in an exclusive interview. “But at the end of the day, I think we also have a degree of quiet pride that when our country needed us, we answered the call.”
The “truly remarkable Americans” who joined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks knew that their country would send them to war, said Petraeus, who added that it was an incredible privilege for him to lead U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our job was to do what our country needed us to do to carry out the policies that were decided,” Petraeus said. “We certainly did that to the best of our ability. The accomplishments during the surge, in particular in Iraq, were truly historic, if you think about driving violence down by some 85% and bringing a country back together that had been on the verge of an all-out Sunni-Shia civil war.”