Transcript: Opening remarks by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, National Editor at The Washington Post, on the 10th year anniversary of the Iraq War

Partial transcript of opening remarks by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, National Editor at The Washington Post and author of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”, on the 10th year anniversary of the Iraq War at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 21, 2013:

Ten years ago today, the lead story on the front page of the Washington Post appeared under my byline. This is how it began: “U.S. and British ground forces punched into Iraq across a broad front tonight after a booming artillery barrage seizing territory along the Kuwaiti border with only modest resistance, pushing on to the key southern city of Basra. While the sweeping land invasion began under a hazy desert moon, a second torrent of U.S. cruise missiles destroyed several buildings in Baghdad.”

Two days ago, this is what my colleague, Ernesto Londono, wrote also in the Post: “Ten years after the United States barreled into Iraq with extraordinary force and a perilous lack of foresight, the country is neither a failed state that seemed all but inevitable during the darkest days of the war nor the model democracy that the Americans set out to build. Haunted by the ghosts of its brutal past, Iraq is teetering between progress and chaos, a country threatened by local and regional conflicts that could drag it back into the sustained bloodshed its citizens know so well.”

That’s what we’re here to examine this morning – 10 years after the war began and 15 months after the last U.S. combat forces departed the country – what is Iraq today? Is it on the precipice of political dysfunction, another civil war, a resurgence in insurgency? Or is it poised to muddle through, fueled by plentiful oil revenue, reasonably competent security forces, and a Prime Minister who has managed to establish control over a fractious government. Or is it all of those things?

This is not a discussion that will be rooted in the past. We’re not going to re-litigate the WMD questions and pre-war intelligence. We’re not going to dwell on the mistakes of the Coalition Provisional Authority as much as I enjoy talking about that subject. And we’re not going to debate the surge.

We’re going to look at Iraq today and where it’s headed. There’s been precious little of that in the 10-years on media coverage even though it’s a far more relevant question for policymakers and the public today.



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