Today is the twentieth anniversary of the launch of Operation Desert Storm and the beginning of direct attacks on the Iraqi people, attacks which have left Iraq devastated. It is impossible to count the cost in terms of Iraqi lives disrupted and destroyed.

On 16th of January 1991, US fighter jets headed into Iraq airspace:

What came on the 16 January at 23:30 GMT was a devastating and sustained aerial bombardment involving cruise missiles launched from US warships and US, British and Saudi Arabian fighter planes, bombers and helicopters.

More than 1,000 sorties were flown in the first 24 hours of Desert Storm. The main targets were military, but Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, was heavily hit and there were many civilian casualties.

Those of us who watched this war from home were told that the war was necessary – as all wars are claimed to be. And we were told that we were using amazing new technology, so stealthy and so precise. We were not told about Amiriya.

Welsh poet Robert Minhinnick does tell us, in the video above which was shot when he toured the Baghdad several years later. He tell us the story of the over 340 Iraqi civilians died in one of our “precision” bombings.

And now, twenty years later we still have just a bit shy of 50,000 American soldiers occupying Iraq – and an untold number of mercenaries and “diplomats.” While direct American combat operations have ended, the devastation of the Iraqi people has not. Our twenty years of war on them has left a country where electricity is minimal, water is unsafe and the food supply still unstable. The numbers of orphans reach close to a million, the numbers “displaced” impossible to count.

This afternoon, Mohammed ibn Laith and Imam Suleiman Aydin from Iraq talked with some of us about Jihad as part of the GorillasGuides Introduction to Islam at MyFDL. We did not speak of Amiriya or of those bombs twenty years ago, instead we spoke of “struggle” as the meaning of this oh-so-misrepresented Islamic belief. Mohammed wrote:

To engage in Jihad is to make an effort, often a strenuous effort, to achieve a good end.

The war against the Iraqi people has achieved no good end. And 50,000 troops or 5,000, it never will. Twenty years on, we must at least demand that it does end.