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At the turn of the century, America had emerged victorious from the Cold War and stood unchallenged.

It had greater power and influence than any other nation in history. It could have wielded that power judiciously to protect the American-led post-war world order and inspire other countries to follow its values of freedom and democracy.

Instead, it squandered that supremacy embarking on a calamitous misadventure in Iraq that was ill-advised and disastrously executed. It would be the beginning of the end of the pax Americana.

A direct line can be drawn between that debacle, which began on 20 March 2003 and others that followed, right up to the perilous state of the world today.

The war in Ukraine, the unchecked ascendancy of China, the growing power of Iran, and even the rise of Trump and the politics of populism all have roots that can be traced back to America’s folly in Iraq.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein stands by an Iraqi flag, January 17, 2002. On the 11th anniversary of the Gulf War, President Saddam Hussein said on Thursday his country was prepared for and would foil any fresh U.S. military attack against Iraq as part of a war against terrorism. REUTERS/INA/POOL fk/CRB
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein standing by an Iraqi flag in 2002
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Oval Office of the White House June 7, 2005. The two leaders, both faced with skepticism at home over their handling of the Iraq war, met for their first talks since Blair emerged from elections a month ago with a third term but weakened politically. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
George W Bush had the support of Britain’s Tony Blair in his decision to invade Iraq

The falsehoods and delusions that led to war

America went to war led by ideologues who believed they could refashion the Middle East in their own likeness and bring democracy and a more pro-Western outlook to the region.

The failure of that neoconservative project has done lasting damage to Americans’ claims of exceptionalism, and their belief that their form of governance is an example to the rest of the world. And that has by extension done enduring harm to the American-led world order.

The failings of that project in Iraq are well documented. The false premise of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the delusion that invaders would be welcomed as liberators, the absence of any plan for the day after. The damage to America’s standing in the world has been incalculable.

Equally, human rights violations, violations of democratic norms, targeted killings, and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison, from where photographs showing abuse of inmates by US soldiers emerged, tarnished America’s image as the standard-bearer of democracy and human rights.

This has weakened Washington’s influence in the world. When India and other countries in the global south sit on the fence in UN resolutions on Ukraine, their ambivalence can in part be traced back to America’s record in Iraq.

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US military escort a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003
US military escort a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003
FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi man cries holding a little boy in front of a house damaged by a missile during an air strike in Baghdad, Iraq March 22, 2003. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo SEARCH "20TH ANNIVERSARY OF U.S INVASION OF IRAQ" FOR THE PHOTOS
An Iraqi man cries in front of a house damaged by a missile in Baghdad in 2003

A lasting impact on US foreign policy

The failure undermined America’s own self-confidence. The spectre of Iraq made Barack Obama reluctant to be drawn into the Syria conflict and punish its leader’s diabolical use of chemical weapons.

That reluctance was seen in Moscow as an American weakness, and arguably emboldened it to defy the West and seize Crimea with relative impunity a few years later. And that in turn encouraged Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine in earnest last year.

The distraction of Iraq led to failure in Afghanistan, a protracted two decades of occupation and a disastrous withdrawal.

Iraq sucked up what policymakers in Washington call bandwidth year after year, while in the east a far greater challenge was rising. The West would take years to wake up to the threat posed by China.

Closer to Iraq, Iran was strengthened. Before the invasion, its regional influence was limited to a militia in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah. Today it has clout in capitals from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Yemen.

The war in Iraq has done damage to America’s belief in itself. The conflict cost a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives. It has fuelled opposition to any more military adventures abroad.

And it has undermined Americans’ faith in both government and the political and media elites meant to hold it to account. That only in part helps explain the rise of populism that ultimately brought Trump to the White House.

FILE PHOTO: An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes, Iraq March 21, 2003. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo SEARCH "20TH ANNIVERSARY OF U.S INVASION OF IRAQ" FOR THE PHOTOS
An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes on 21 March 2003
US military escort a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003
US military escort a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003

Iraq still recovering from journey to hell and back

In Iraq, people are now no longer living under tyranny. There is reportedly some sense of hope and renewal, but only recently. And the country has literally been to hell and back to get there.

Hundreds of thousands have died in the war and the waves of sectarian violence that followed. The country has been broken, its institutions destroyed and its economy ravaged.

It is only just beginning to recover from all that trauma. But perhaps it can now look forward cautiously to a slightly better future. That is more than might have been said had Saddam Hussein remained in power or any of his impulsive, venal sons.

A statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down by US soldiers after the invasion of Iraq in 2003
Another view of Saddam Hussein’s statue being pulled down
FILE PHOTO: Thousands of crosses stand on a hillside memorial in honor of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war, in Lafayette, California, January 12, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White (UNITED STATES)/File Photo
Thousands of crosses at a memorial for US troops killed in the Iraq war, in Lafayette, California

Ten years ago, George W Bush said the final verdict on his actions in Iraq would come long after his death.

That may be true, and it may take more time to judge whether the removal of one of the worst tyrants in history in any way justified the enormous cost and pain that then ensued.

Twenty years on, though, we can say the invasion and occupation have had a lasting legacy on the region and the world, and much of that has not been for the better.

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Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy reach ‘agreement in principle’ on raising US debt ceiling




Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy reach 'agreement in principle' on raising US debt ceiling

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have reached an “agreement in principle” on raising the US debt ceiling, according to sources in Washington.

The tentative deal would bring to an end the months-long stalemate between the Republican controlled Congress and Democrat run White House.

Currently, the debt ceiling stands at $31.4trn (£25.4trn) with the new limit yet to be announced.

Mr Biden and Mr McCarthy held a 90-minute phone call on Saturday evening to discuss the deal, as the 5 June deadline looms.

Following the conversation, the speaker tweeted: “I just got off the phone with the president a bit ago.

“After he wasted time and refused to negotiate for months, we’ve come to an agreement in principle that is worthy of the American people.”

During a very brief press conference on Capitol Hill Mr McCarthy said they “still have more work to do tonight to finish the writing of it”, adding that he expects to finish writing the bill on Sunday, then hold a vote on Wednesday.

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The deal would avert an economically destabilising default, so long as they succeed in passing it through the narrowly divided Congress before the Treasury Department runs short of money to cover all its obligations.

Republicans have pushed for steep cuts to spending and other conditions, including new work requirements on some benefit programmes for low-income Americans and for funds to be stripped from the Internal Revenue Service, the US tax agency.

They said they want to slow the growth of the US debt, which is now roughly equal to the annual output of the country’s economy.

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Exact details of the deal were not immediately available, but negotiators have agreed to cap non-defence discretionary spending at 2023 levels for two years, in exchange for a debt ceiling increase over a similar period, according to Reuters news agency.

The impasse frightened the financial markets, weighing on stocks and forcing the US to pay record-high interest rates in some bond sales.

A default would take a far heavier toll, economists say, likely pushing America into recession, rocking the world economy and cause unemployment to spike.

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Winnie The Pooh characters used in US school district’s mass shootings safety book




Winnie The Pooh characters used in US school district's mass shootings safety book

A Dallas school district has apologised after distributing a Winnie The Pooh-themed book about school shootings.

The book is titled Stay Safe: Run, Hide, Fight and its cover says: “If there is danger, let Winnie the Pooh and his crew show you what to do.”

Inside, it includes passages such as: “If danger is near, do not fear. Hide like Pooh does until the police appear. Doors should be locked and the passage blocked. Turn off the light to stay out of sight.”

Dallas Independent School District said in a statement it works “hard every day to prevent school shootings” by dealing with online threats and improving security measures.

“Recently a booklet was sent home so parents could discuss with their children how to stay safe in such cases,” the statement read.

“Unfortunately, we did not provide parents [with] any guide or context. We apologise for the confusion and are thankful to parents who reached out to assist us in being better partners.”

The school district did not say how many pupils received the book.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, was among those who criticised the book, posting on Twitter: “Winnie the Pooh is now teaching Texas kids about active shooters because the elected officials do not have the courage to keep our kids safe and pass common sense gun safety laws.”

‘It’s not exactly cute’

Cindy Campos, whose five-year-old son was sent home with the book, said she cried when she read it.

“It’s hard because you’re reading them a bedtime story and basically now you have to explain in this cute way what the book is about, when it’s not exactly cute,” she said.

Ms Campos said it seemed especially “tone deaf” to send it home around the time Texas was marking the anniversary of last year’s mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers.

The book was published by Praetorian Consulting, a Houston-based firm that provides safety, security, and crisis management training and services.

The company says on its website that it uses age-appropriate material to teach the concepts of “run, hide, fight” – the approach US authorities say civilians should take in active shooter situations.

Read more: America’s 10 most deadly mass shootings of 2023

Active shooter drills have become common in American schools in recent years.

While many associate the characters of Winnie The Pooh with Disney, they are free to use legally in the US with no repercussions.

US copyright law means that works of authors are available to use by anyone either 70 years after the author’s death or 95 years after publication.

As well as the book, AA Milne’s characters have also been featured in a recent horror film titled Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey.

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Boy, 11, ‘shot in the chest’ by police officer he had called for help




Boy, 11, 'shot in the chest' by police officer he had called for help

An 11-year-old boy who was shot by a police officer has returned home from hospital after almost a week of treatment.

Aderrien Murry spent five days in hospital with a collapsed lung, lacerated liver, and fractured ribs after the officer shot him in the chest early on Saturday, lawyer Carlos Moore said.

Aderrien was well enough to leave hospital on Wednesday, and is continuing his recovery at home in Indianola, about 95 miles northwest of Jackson, Mississippi.

Mr Moore said the family is “demanding justice”.

“An 11-year-old black boy in the city of Indianola came within an inch of losing his life – he had done nothing wrong and everything right.”

Mr Moore said that Aderrien’s mother Nakala had asked him to call police at about 4am on Saturday after a previous partner had showed up at home.

Ms Murry felt threatened, Mr Moore said, and the child had “called the police to come to his mother’s rescue, he called his grandmother to come to his mother’s rescue, the police came there and escalated the situation”.

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Two police officers arrived and one kicked the front door before Ms Murry opened it, telling them that the man had gone but her three children were inside.

Child does not understand why a police officer shot him

Mr Moore said that Sergeant Greg Capers, who is black, yelled out that anyone inside should come out with their hands up.

When Aderrien walked into the living room with nothing in his hands, Capers shot him in the chest, Mr Moore said.

Indianola City Attorney Kimberly Merchant confirmed to Indianola’s Enterprise-Tocsin newspaper that Capers was the officer who shot the little boy and Mr Moore said on Thursday that Capers had been suspended with pay while the incident is investigated.

Ms Murry said her son is “blessed” to be alive but he does not understand why a police officer shot him.

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‘That’s my child, y’all’

She described what had happened as “the worst moment in my life”, adding: “I feel like nobody cares – that’s my child, y’all.”

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said its agents are looking into what happened and will share their findings with the Attorney General’s Office.

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