George Graham

The History of the Iraq War – for Dummies Like Me

You probably have a clear grasp of what’s going on in Iraq. After all, I see your views represented in polls from time to time and your responses are always crisp and forthright.

As for me, I am not really sure what’s going on over there. Or why. Or who is doing what to whom. What I know is that about 4,500 American men and women have been killed and thousands more maimed in this war, and some $3 billion leaves the U.S. for Iraq every week while thousands of Americans lose their homes and jobs.

Here’s my admittedly simplistic picture of what has happened so far.

Long ago, in a faraway land, a baddie named Saddam Hussein took control of a tract of oil-producing desert. He couldn’t have been too bad, though, because the United States embraced him as an ally when he went to war against neighboring Iran. At the time, Iran was backed by Russia, and Bush 2 had not yet looked into Russian Premier Putin’s eyes and seen his soul, so the U.S. was still against anything Russia was for.

The United States sent its ally Saddam the most devastating weapons available, weapons of mass destruction, as they came to be called.

It came to pass in the fullness of time that the United States turned against Saddam, possibly because Saddam invaded Kuwait, which is near Saudi Arabia, and the Bush family wanted to protect their business partners, the Saudi princes.

What’s really, really puzzling is that Saddam was a Sunni (that’s a special kind of Muslim) and the Saudi princes are Sunnis. Yet, Bush 1 and Bush 2 went to war against Saddam with the backing of the Saudis. Meanwhile, some Shia politicians (who have a different slant on the Muslim religion from the Sunnis) were driven out of Iraq by Saddam and found shelter in Iran, which is also Shia.

Here’s the really confusing part:

Claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (the ones given to him by the U.S.?) the Americans blew Iraq to pieces, destroying many priceless antiquities and devastating the country’s infrastructure (and in the process knocking out vital oil producing facilities). Then Bush 2 gave speeches about democracy and engineered an election that put the Shia in control of Iraq. You see, there are a lot more Shia than Sunnis, and Iraqis vote according to their religious beliefs, so it was a foregone conclusion that the Shia would get a majority of the vote.

Back came the Shia politicians who had been sheltered by Iran, and, with Iran’s help, they have been doing their best to make sure Iraq’s Shia get whatever help they need to wipe out what’s left of the Sunnis. For their part, the Sunnis aren’t OK with that plan and are expressing their displeasure through improvised explosive devices and car bombs, among other things.

At least some people (apart from the hucksters who’ve made billions from the war) benefited from the invasion. The Kurds had suffered horribly under Saddam. He apparently used up the weapons of mass destruction, left over from the Iran war, trying to wipe them out. So now, they’re celebrating their new-found freedom by agitating their brother Kurds in Turkey, thus endangering the stability of one of America’s closest allies in the region.

Somewhere along the way, a terrorist group named Al Quaida, which claimed responsibility for blowing up the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, realized that they could cause havoc among the large numbers of U.S. troops assembled in Iraq, and sent hordes of operatives over there from Afghanistan, which was now on America’s back burner despite Al Quaida’s headquarters there.

Fortunately for the U.S., some of the Al Quaida baddies got on the wrong side of some Sunnis, and those Sunis turned on them – with weapons provided by America. No one knows whether the Sunnis are also using the weapons against the Shia, or what would prevent them from using the same weapons against American troops if the troops got in the way.

People like John McCain are slapping themselves on the back and taking credit for the Sunnis’ success against Al Quaida in Iraq. Meanwhile, Al Quaida has turned its attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is stronger than it has ever been.

So what are we still doing in Iraq? From what I can gather, we’re training Shia warriors so they can wipe out the Sunnis (who are now presumably our allies against Al Quaida). And whether by accident or design, we are also training Sunni “insurgents” who have infiltrated the Iraqi army and police force. (At least, if we train the insurgents, then the Sunnis will be able to defend themselves against the Shia. But won’t they also be better able to blow up more U.S. soldiers?)

What seems clear is that the Iraqis (the Shia, anyway) don’t want the U.S. in Iraq any longer. According to a news item on the wires today, Iraqi officials want “a timetable” for the departure of American troops.

So what’s keeping the Americans in Iraq? Perhaps they’re still looking for those weapons of mass destruction the U.S. sent Saddam.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for