‘We shouldn’t have been there’: US vets consider legacy of Iraq

Naveed Shah crisscrossed Iraq during his time in the United States Army, travelling from the capital Baghdad to the southern city of Basrah, on the banks of the Shatt Al Arab river.

Like many recruits, he had been inspired to enlist after the attacks on September 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US.That day had left him rattled. Shah was only a teenager at the time, but he remembers the day two hijacked aeroplanes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City, with a third hitting the Pentagon building in Washington, DC, not far from where he lived. A fourth hijacked plane, believed to also be headed to Washington, DC, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back.

“I felt that my country was under attack,” Shah, who now works with the veterans’ advocacy group Common Defense, told Al Jazeera in a recent phone call. “And as a Muslim, I felt that my religion had been perverted to justify something terrible.”

Shah ultimately joined the army in 2006, nearly three years into the US invasion of Iraq. It was a campaign that then-President George W Bush justified by evoking the September 11 attacks, warning that Iraq was harbouring “terrorists” and developing weapons of mass destruction, a claim that has since been disproven.

Shah, like many Americans at the time, said that he did not second-guess the decision to invade.“I didn’t think much about how we ended up in Iraq,” he said. “At the time it looked like we were winning and we were going to leave the country on decent footing.”

However, as the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war approaches, Shah’s views have changed. Many veterans like Shah now wrestle with questions about the invasion’s purpose, as well as lingering combat-related medical challenges.

“The war was based on a lie,” Shah said. “It was wrong for us to be there in the first place.”

Related Articles

Back to top button