March 19th marked the 13th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and trillions in wasted US tax dollars. Today, the Iraq War receives near-universal condemnation from elected officials and presidential candidates as a blunder or worse. Yet, in truth, the war is far from over.
Though the US never secured a status of forces agreement and pulled out most of its occupation forces in 2011, America maintained a murky military presence up until 2014, when troops and equipment were sent back into Iraq in earnest to combat the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Now, the US has built its first new base in northern Iraq since the return of American forces in 2014, called “Firebase Bell,” which has done the impossible: united ISIS and Iranian-backed Shiite militias in a common cause. According to Reuters, both ISIS and the Shiite militias have condemned the new base and pledged to destroy it.
On Monday, the base once again came under attack from ISIS, which had killed a US Marine at the base in a rocket attack two days earlier. Colonel Steve Warren of the US-led coalition told reporters in regards to Monday’s attack, “We are continuing to improve our fighting position, so to speak, to ensure that we’ve got the best ability to protect ourselves.”
Warren also told reporters that he could not confirm or deny whether US special forces and the recently deployed 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit would join the effort to retake the city of Mosul for the government in Baghdad, saying, “I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong, but I’m also not going to telegraph our punches.”
The recent wars in Iraq and Syria have expanded the US military footprint in unprecedented ways, including the first establishment of a US military base in Syrian territory to assist Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.
Far from getting out of the Middle East, the US is simply infesting the region in less obvious ways. The lesson drawn from Iraq by the US imperial planners appears to be caution on sending in large ground forces–not any greater awareness of the law of unintended consequences. Then again, the Iraq War was not a tragedy for everyone.