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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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Crucial $60.8bn Ukraine aid package approved by US House of Representatives after months of deadlock

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Crucial .8bn Ukraine aid package approved by US House of Representatives after months of deadlock

The US House of Representatives has approved sending $60.8bn (£49bn) in foreign aid to Ukraine.

Democrats and Republicans joined together after months of deadlock over renewed American support to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

Representatives could be seen waving small Ukrainian flags as it became clear the package was going to pass.

Representatives wave Ukrainian flags
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Representatives wave Ukrainian flags

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted to say he was “grateful” for the decision, which he said “keeps history on the right track”.

He said: “Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it.

“The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.”

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‘Grateful’ Zelenskyy reacts to US aid

Representatives also approved bills to send foreign aid to Israel and provide humanitarian relief to Palestinians in Gaza, give security assistance to Taiwan and allies in the Indo-Pacific, and a measure containing several foreign policy proposals including a threat to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok.

The package will now go to the US Senate, where it is likely to be passed on Tuesday. President Joe Biden has then promised to sign it immediately.

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” Mr Biden said.

What aid package means for Ukraine after profound impact of delay

The impact of this American blockage has been profound.

I have had multiple conversations with diplomats and military officials in Washington DC and all have said the same thing: the situation for Ukraine is depressing, Russia has the upper hand and prospects for Kyiv, without more weapons, are bleak.

The Ukrainians have been running low on all weapons types, even small arms – bullets for their soldiers’ rifles.

Before the House of Representatives approved the $60.8bn aid package on Saturday, it had been more than 480 days since Congress last passed a bill allowing for American weapons to be sent to Ukraine.

There was a White House budgetary fudge earlier this year which freed up some more cash from an existing bill and allowed for some more weapons to be sent. But it wasn’t enough.

Read more of Mark Stone’s analysis here.

Bill will ‘further ruin’ Ukraine, Russia warns

Moscow said the passage of the bill would “further ruin” Ukraine and result in more deaths.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the TASS news agency a provision allowing Washington to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine for reconstruction would tarnish the image of the US.

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Major Russian strike on Ukraine kills eight

‘Ukraine can and will win’

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the funding was “a vital step forward”.

“If Putin ever doubted the West’s resolve to back Ukraine, this shows our collective will is undimmed,” he tweeted.

“With support, Ukraine can and will win.”

But Donald Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican representative who has opposed helping Ukraine in its war against Russia, said “people have been too obsessed with voting for foreign wars and the war industry”.

Speaking after the vote passed, she said: “This is the sellout of America today. When we had members of Congress in there waving the Ukrainian flag on the United States House of Representatives floor, while we’re doing nothing to secure our border, I think every American is going to be furious.”

Mr Biden first requested the funding in October, as Ukraine’s military supplies began to dwindle.

In February, Mr Zelenskyy urged Congress to pass the funding, saying if it did not “it will leave me wondering what world we are living in”.

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TikTok could be banned in US after House of Representatives passes bill

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TikTok could be banned in US after House of Representatives passes bill

TikTok could be banned in the US if the social media app’s Chinese owner doesn’t sell its stake after the House of Representatives voted in support of the measure.

The TikTok legislation has been included in a US foreign policy package, which has already seen representatives approve sending $60.8bn (£49bn) in foreign aid to Ukraine, security assistance for Taiwan and allies in the Indo-Pacific, and will likely see the approval of foreign aid funding for Ukraine and Israel.

Once approved, the package will then go to the US Senate, where it is likely to be passed on Tuesday. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the TikTok legislation once it reaches his desk.

If the bill becomes law, the owner of the popular video-sharing app will have nine months to find a buyer, with a possible three-month extension while a sale is in progress, or face a ban.

A previous bill passed by the House last month would have given owner ByteDance only six months to sell.

The company will likely try to challenge the law in court, arguing it would deprive the app’s millions of users of their First Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech.

Such court challenges could significantly delay the timeline set out by Congress or block the law from coming into effect.

TikTok’s chief executive has appealed to US users directly to campaign to stop the bill.

“We will not stop fighting and advocating for you,” Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted on the platform last month that was directed at the app’s users.

“We will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights, to protect this amazing platform that we have built with you.”

The FBI has warned TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data, such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers, with China’s authoritarian government.

TikTok has said it has never done that and would not do so if asked.

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In 2022, Mr Biden banned the use of TikTok by the federal government’s nearly four million employees on devices owned by its agencies, with limited exceptions for law enforcement, national security and security research purposes.

The approved bill including the TikTok legislation would also allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to help rebuild Ukraine and impose sanctions on Iran, Russia and China, as well as criminal organisations that traffic the drug fentanyl.

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Crucial $60.8bn Ukraine aid package approved by US House of Representatives after months of deadlock

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Iran grounds flights across country after reports of explosions

The US House of Representatives has approved sending $60.8bn (£49bn) in foreign aid to Ukraine.

Democrats and Republicans joined together after months of deadlock over renewed American support to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted to say he was “grateful” for the decision, which he said “keeps history on the right track”.

He said: “Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it.

“The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.”

US President Joe Biden first requested the funding in October, as Ukraine’s military supplies began to dwindle.

In February, Mr Zelenskyy urged Congress to pass the funding, saying if it did not “it will leave me wondering what world we are living in”.

Representatives also approved a bill providing security assistance to Taiwan and other allies in the Indo-Pacfic, as well as a bill containing several foreign policy proposals including a threat to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok.

It will vote on one further bill to send money to Israel.

Once approved, the package will go to the US Senate, where it is likely to be passed on Tuesday. Mr Biden has then promised to sign it immediately.

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