US lawmakers slam government on anniversary of Iraq war

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. lawmakers criticized the government Wednesday for its decision to invade Iraq 16 years ago, questioning the conflict’s legitimacy.

Politicians called the invasion disastrous, saying it led to the country’s destruction and affected America’s global standing.

"Sixteen years ago, the U.S. illegally invaded Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction and lives lost," Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said on Twitter.

Omar outlined the consequences of the invasion, saying 4,500 U.S. troops lost their lives, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed and the decision had done "incalculable damage” to America’s reputation in the world.

Senator Bernie Sanders also slammed the invasion, saying he had opposed it when the idea was proposed in Congress.

"Sixteen years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. I opposed it at the time, warning of unintended consequences. We are still dealing with those disastrous consequences today and will be for many years. We need a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, not war," Sanders tweeted.

In March 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Then-President George W. Bush said the country’s goals were to destroy the country's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and depose the country's leader, Saddam Hussein.

A year later, after U.S. forces defeated the Iraqi army and captured Hussein, the U.S. administration acknowledged that its argument of Iraq having WMDs was mistaken, with David Kay, a former U.S. weapons inspector, saying "we were almost all wrong".

"We must hold accountable those who repeatedly lied in the run-up to war," Omar said, arguing that both Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, had lied about WMDs in order to justify the invasion.

The aftermath of the war scarred the image of the United States with the over 100,000-civilian death toll, and in April 2004, evidence of prisoner abuse inside the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison became public, showing photographic evidence of American soldiers torturing inmates. Eleven soldiers were convicted by U.S. courts of crimes related to the prison abuse scandal.

Earlier this month, a coalition of Democratic lawmakers backed a veteran organization's pledge to end the "forever wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the congressional sponsors of the pledge were Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and lawmakers Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ro Khanna.