The US didn't have much of a plan for what would
happen after they got rid of Saddam Hussein and when
a decision was taken to stand down the (admittedly
corrupt) police and army and stand by as looters
destroyed hospitals, museums, the central bank and
all the infrastructure of government, there was no
Iraq descended into a tribal and religious
conflict and a partial resistance to the US
invasion. Iran, a long time enemy of Saddam,
intervened to pursue its interests and Syrian became
the main smuggling route for the remnants of
The consequences for the entire region are
Once Upon a Time in Iraq is five-part documentary
telling this story through those who lived it. For
the first episode this included Iraqi civilians,
journalists, US soldiers, and Saddam loyalists.
The first section dealt with the almost good,
last few weeks of Saddam where the dictator kept
control and people had freedom, except to criticise
him of course.
It opened with film footage from a US and Iraqi
TV linkup in 2003 where two groups of young people
discussed the coming conflict.
An 18-year-old Baghdad heavy metal fan who was
“infatuated with the west” says the US should leave
The producers managed to track down Waleed
Neysif, now an urbane man in his mid-30s, who
explained what was really going on. He was “pro war”
at the time but obviously couldn't say that on TV.
He laughs now when he recalls that he believed
the notion that the US would remove Saddam and
everything would be great.
There were also excellent contributions from a
New York Times journalist who was emotional when he
recounted how US soldiers allowed the looting of the
country with the exception of one government
department, the Ministry of Oil.
However, the star turn was Rudy Reyes, a former
US Marine specialist who drank from a bottle of
tequila before he started.
Striking looking, with a sleeveless army shirt
(all the better to show off his muscles) and an Arab
scarf around his neck, the former force
reconnaissance specialist told of machine-gunning
whole families and killing without feeling.
Iraq and Syria are now even more complicated with
the US no longer the only state projecting power.
Russia, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are
involved in conflicts in the region and the
increasingly belligerent China is now challenging
the US as the world's superpower.
Once Upon A Time In Iraq is a different type of
explainer but is a useful contribution to one of the
most miserable of human conflicts.
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