Skip to content

Student Paper: Iraq: Aftermath of the 2003 U.S. Led Invasion: Literature Comparison: Naked in Baghdad by Anne Garrels and War Without End by Michael Schwartz – paper by David Feuerbach

March 16, 2015
Najab, Iraq after a 2004 suicide bombing that killed 150. The city remains eleven years later – as one resident related – “little more than a pile of rubble.”

Najab, Iraq after a 2004 suicide bombing that killed 150. The city remains eleven years later – as one resident related – “little more than a pile of rubble.”

(Note: What follows are a number of student papers from a class I taught “History of the Middle East Since 1800” at the University of Denver – January 5 – March 12, 2015. Among them, were several I considered polished-to-publishable. The assignment was to compare two books on the same subject within the course’s framework. This paper by David Feuerbach  compares two books on the impact of the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, the Second Gulf War. – Naked in Baghdad by Anne Garrels. (Picador: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishing Company 2003) and War Without End by Michael Schwartz (Haymarket Books 2008)

Iraq: Aftermath of the 2003 U.S. Led Invasion

by David Feuerbach

Section I

Both Naked in Baghdad and War Without End provide very interesting perspectives regarding the Iraq War. Naked in Baghdad by Anne Garrels, provides her experience in Iraq in the months leading up to the war, her experience during the initial invasion, and her experience during the beginning of the occupation. In her description of Iraq in the months just before the U.S. invasion, we see the tyranny of the Hussein Regime and the fear it created. In her interviews with the Iraqi people, she notes that everyone is afraid to speak out against Saddam Hussein for fear of being imprisoned or killed. She also has to deal with the tyranny of the regime herself, as she has to hire a “minder” to accompany her everywhere to ensure that she is not uncovering too much. We also see that despite the hatred and fear of Saddam Hussein, many people are worried about what a U.S. invasion will bring. “He hates the regime, but he is scared to death that what might follow could be worse” (Garrels, 44).

Her book then describes her experience during the invasion. She describes the U.S. bombing campaign, which the U.S. labels as “shock and awe.” We get a chance to see the damage that this campaign has on the lives of the civilians. She describes the destruction, the horrible living conditions, and the constant danger that the Iraqi civilians are forced to endure. She then depicts the scene in Iraq when Baghdad falls to U.S. soldiers. Many Iraqis who had been hiding from the tyranny of Hussein their whole lives demonstrate against the fallen regime, tearing down statues and posters.

Garrels then describes the situation on the ground a few months after the regime has fallen. Resistance has begun to build against the U.S. occupation. The real reasons for the U.S. occupation have been solidified in the minds of the people, the military campaign has become more brutal, and the economic situation in the country has become unbearable. She describes how the situation during the occupation has become far worse than the situation during the Hussein regime.

War Without End, by Michael Schwartz, provides a different approach to explain the war. War Without End digs deep into the roots of the Iraq War. Schwartz analyzes the goals of the invasion and occupation, the strategies undertaken by the U.S. to meet these goals, and the failure of the U.S. and the disaster that ensued. The book begins by describing the history of the U.S. in the Middle East and our deep ties with the oil of the region. Schwartz shows how the U.S. reason for occupation was to secure the flow of oil from the region and how this is a theme that is consistent with our history throughout the past century. He then discusses the U.S. strategies for securing this flow of oil. It was necessary that “Iraq transfer its oil production from the government to international oil companies, that Iraq be ruled by a stable and friendly regime, and that Iraq be a home base for U.S. military presence in the Middle East” (Schwartz, 50).

Schwartz then discusses the U.S. military campaign, beginning with “shock and awe.” This strategy was designed to crush the morale of the Iraqi people, destroy the infrastructure, and oust any remains of the former regime. The idea was to completely destroy the old system so that Iraqis would be numb to the sweeping changes that the U.S. hoped to impose.

The U.S. then forced neoliberal policies on Iraq that effectively destroyed the local business sector leaving many Iraqis unemployed. Neoliberal policies were also prevalent in the reconstruction effort, which largely failed and left Iraq without a healthy infrastructure.

Schwartz discusses how these economic failures, combined with the brutal military campaign, fueled the growing insurgency. He then describes the U.S. strategies to destroy the insurgency. These strategies consisted of house raids, torture, and, in some cases, all out attacks on cities known to be insurgent strongholds. Again, the pattern of failure continued for the U.S. The attempts to cut out the insurgency simply sparked more hatred of the U.S. and created more insurgents. Schwartz describes how as the insurgency continued to gain strength, it became impossible to accomplish the geopolitical goals of the occupation, and the U.S. became stuck fighting an un-winnable war.

Section II


As the United States turned its military vision on Iraq, the government created a pretext to justify the invasion. Both War without End and Naked in Baghdad explain the roots of this pretext. The United States government claimed that Iraq was harboring a weapons of mass destruction program that threatened the United States and our allies. UN inspectors were deployed in Iraq to determine whether or not Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction. By early March, 2003, the reports from the inspectors indicated that Iraq had not revived its weapons of mass destruction program but insisted that more time was needed before conclusive evidence could be determined. But at the time, “representatives of the United States, Britain, and Spain [were] talking of days… before military action” (Garrels, 82). So even though no WMDs program was found and despite the fact that the inspectors needed more time to finish the job, the U.S. chose to invade in mid-March.

The administration initially emphasized weapons of mass destruction because it was “the one issue that everyone could agree on” (Schwartz, 27). The U.S. government played into societal fears of crazy dictators in the Middle East with access to WMDs to spark public consent for invasion. Also, with the attacks of September 11th, 2001, still fresh in people’s minds, the administration fabricated a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and said that we absolutely could not let Hussein supply WMDs to this terrorist organization.

This pretext was created to cover up the real reason for invasion, which was to secure the continued flow of oil from the Middle East. And the pretext was never very strong. Even before the occupation began, Garrels displays the thoughts of many Iraqis. “He asks why the United States is targeting Iraq and not North Korea. He gives his own answer. The United States wants Iraqi oil” (Garrels, 64).

The U.S. has had a long history of involvement in the Middle East due to the oil wealth of the region. In 1953, the U.S. played a major role in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran “to reverse the nationalization of Iran’s oil fields” (Schwartz, 16). The U.S. was also crucial in the establishment of the Ba’athist party dictatorship in Iraq in the 1960s to “prevent the ascendance of leftists who, it was feared, would align the country with the Soviet Union, putting its oil in hock to the Soviet bloc” (Schwartz, 16).

The rise of the influence of OPEC in the 1970s threatened U.S. power over Middle Eastern oil and caused the U.S. to further strengthen its ties with the Saudi Arabia royal family. These ties go back to the 1940s when the U.S. agreed to provide protection for Saudi Arabia in exchange for rights to Saudi Arabia’s large oil reserves. As OPEC gained more influence in the Middle East, these relations with the Saudi royal family became even more important because “Saudi Arabia was capable of shaping [OPEC’s] policies to conform to [U.S.] wishes” (Schwartz, 16).

In 1979, the Iranian revolution caused great concern for the U.S. as a regime hostile to U.S. interests took power in Iran and became a major player in OPEC. This revolution led to the Carter Doctrine, in which Middle Eastern oil was declared vital to U.S. interests and that “Washington would use ‘any means necessary, including military force’ to retain access to it” (Schwartz, 17). This Doctrine would guide U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East from then on.

The U.S. would support Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s war with Iran in an effort to curb the influence of Iran over oil. Then, when Saddam Hussein became too aggressive and invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. answered with the Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait, thus, ensuring that Iraq did not have too much control over the region’s oil. The UN sanctions against Iraq further limited Hussein’s influence.

However, despite U.S. intervention, and often because of it, problems in the region continued to rise that threatened the U.S. supply of oil. Saudi Arabia, the U.S. ally in the region, was weakened by the rise of Al Qaeda in the 1990s, which wanted to overthrow the royal family because it had “become a tool of U.S. imperialism” (Schwartz, 21). This made Saudi Arabia reluctant to continue full-heartedly supporting U.S. interests in OPEC. In addition, Iraq and Iran, both key members of OPEC, were united in their hostility toward U.S. interest. Hugo Chavez, who also was not an ally of U.S. interests, rose to power in Venezuela in 1998, and thus another powerful country in OPEC was antagonistic toward the U.S. By the new millennium, the U.S. had “to negotiate oil policy not only with a newly resistant Saudi royal family, but also with hostile powers in a strengthened OPEC” (Schwartz, 21). “It should be obvious that as long as the United States is beholden to potentially unfriendly sources of oil and gas, we are vulnerable to economic crises over which we have little control” (Schwartz, 24). Thus, in 2001 when the Bush administration came to power, finding a way to reverse the situation and reestablish U.S. control over Middle Eastern oil was a top priority.


To meet the growing demand for energy in the U.S., the U.S. goal for the Middle East was to double the output of oil. This could be done by opening up the energy sector of the Middle East to foreign investors. The U.S. wanted to “replace government control of the oil spigot – the linchpin of OPEC power – with decision making by multinational oil companies headquartered in the West and responsive to U.S. policy demands” (Schwartz, 23).

To meet this goal, the U.S. needed to infiltrate OPEC from within. Iraq was seen as a perfect country to penetrate as it had a large share of Middle Eastern oil and a strong voice in OPEC. Using WMDs as a pretext, the U.S. planned on invading Iraq, overthrowing Hussein, and replacing the Iraqi government with a “democracy” that aligned with U.S. interest. The U.S. also planned on opening up all of the national industry in Iraq to foreign investment. Through neoliberal policies, the U.S. wanted to “replace state control of economic goods and services with the free market” (Schwartz, 33). This would thus create a long-term dependency on foreign trade and investment and would establish a “routinized flow of products from the hinterlands to the core” (Schwartz, 33). In essence, the U.S. wanted to impose global capitalism on Iraq to create a state that was dependent on the continual exportation of oil to the U.S.

The U.S. would then use Iraq as a springboard for the rest of the Middle East. “Iraq was considered just a pit stop in the Middle East… PNAC-nurtured eyes were already turning to Iran” (Schwartz, 25). The United States wanted to become the dominant power of the Middle East, thus giving it complete control over the flow of oil. Gaining control of Iraq was simply the first step in gaining control of the region.


Another interesting point that both books explored was how the U.S. policies during the war fueled the insurgency. After Saddam Hussein had been removed from power and the resistance had started to gain momentum, the U.S. tried to claim that it was pro-Baathist, pro-Hussein militants that were trying to regain power. However, in reality, a very small percentage of Iraqis were pro-Hussein. Anne Garrels describes the Iraqi sentiment on the ground not as pro-Hussein, but as anti-occupation. As the invasion dragged on, for most Iraqis the “anger against the United States [became] greater than against Saddam” (Garrels, 148).  Also, the fact that there were “almost no attacks against the U.S. military at first” shows that the resistance was almost completely a response to U.S. occupation and the policies that were enacted (Schwartz, 10).

What is interesting and what I had never realized before is that the resentment to the U.S. occupation grew not only because of military policy, but also because of the economic transformations that the U.S. forced upon the Iraqis. Certainly resentment began to build as the military policies were creating more and more destruction and taking more and more lives. The initial U.S. strategy upon entering Iraq was called “the ‘shock and awe’ campaign” and it was designed to demoralize the Iraqi people (Schwartz, 5). “Shock and awe” does not distinguish between military and civilian targets; targets are selected “not according to their military value, but because they have the potential to induce physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion” (Schwartz, 6). The idea was to wipe out the infrastructure and demoralize the Iraqi people so that they would be more compliant with the radical economic and political changes that the U.S. wanted to install. However, the strategy did not produce the desired outcome, but, rather, produced the opposite. Instead of feelings of compliancy, feelings of resentment began to build among the Iraqi people, a resentment that would be the first spark of the insurgency. At the site of a home destroyed by a U.S. bomb, Garrels provides a first-hand account of the feelings sparked by shock and awe. “‘Is this what you call human rights?’ scoffs one young man. ‘Is this what you call liberation?’ demands another. ‘Why must you kill children?’” (Garrels, 138).

But the U.S. military campaign, even with all of the destruction that it caused, could not have created the massive resistance that ensued on its own. “The willingness to fight and die requires something more than insult and injury: it is almost always animated by the conviction that otherwise things will only get worse” (Schwartz, 49). For the Iraqi people, this conviction became reality. This reality, for the most part, did not arise from the military campaign, but rather from the economic reforms that the U.S. forced upon the country.

The U.S. wanted to create a client state in Iraq, and it attempted to do this through neoliberal reforms. The U.S. wanted to “dismantle Iraq’s state-centered economy” and replace it with the free market (Schwartz, 158). Neoliberalism is designed by the core for the core. Neoliberal policies and the free market increase the wealth and the power of the core by exploiting the periphery. The privatization and opening of the markets to international corporations “undermine both the legitimacy and the political effectiveness of states” (Schwartz, 36). As the U.S. began to issue sweeping neoliberal reforms, the idea that the U.S. was “intending to occupy and transform the country, rather than liberate and reconstruct it” was solidified in the minds of the Iraqi people.

The U.S. began the neoliberal reforms by a process of De-Ba’athification, in which all of the members of the Ba’ath party were removed from their public positions and were banned from being part of the public sector in the future. The goal was to completely remove any ties to the old regime from the economy and from the government to make the privatization process easier. What this did, though, was put “tens of thousands of discontented former Iraqi officers in limbo” (Garrels, 232). The U.S. then completely opened up the economy of Iraq to outside companies in an attempt to bring Iraq fully into the global capitalist system. The U.S. wanted to transform the Iraqi economy into a pawn of Western interests. As large, multinational corporations entered the newly opened Iraqi economy, many of the local businesses collapsed leaving a large number of Iraqis unemployed.

The U.S. also attempted the reconstruction effort with neoliberal policies. Instead of rebuilding from within, using Iraqi companies and the Iraqi people, the U.S. commissioned multinational corporations to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. Because of this, there was little input from the Iraqi people in the reconstruction, and very few Iraqis received employment to help rebuild their country. In addition, the reconstruction projects were designed to use the newest, most sophisticated technologies, technologies that Iraq did not have the capabilities to operate and to maintain. This was done to create a dependency on the Western world. “Modern equipment and infrastructure, introduced largely by U.S.-owned multinational corporations, would have to be maintained by those same corporations” (Schwartz, 144). The U.S. wanted to ensure that the Iraqi economy would be stuck as a part of the global capitalist system for good.

However, these huge reconstruction projects were often underfunded or ran far above projected costs. Because of this, many of the projects failed or were left unfinished when the money stopped flowing. Generally, the multinational corporations still received full payment for the projects despite the fact the projects failed or were left unfinished. The reconstruction of Iraq was largely a failure, and the infrastructure was left hardly improved and incapable of sustaining modern economic, political, and social life.

Projects designed to rebuild the electrical grid, the water system, the healthcare system, and the education system all failed, and the people of Iraq were left struggling to find even the most basic necessities of life. “‘We had a power outage while someone was undergoing surgery in the operating room,’ Ahlan Bar, manager of nurses at the Yarmouk Teaching Hospital in Baghdad told IPS. ‘He died on the table because we had no power for our instruments’” (Schwartz, 169).

These neoliberal reforms and the failure of the reconstruction effort left Iraqis struggling to survive. The Iraqi people were trapped in a situation with a lack of employment and a lack of infrastructure while they continued to face the assault of the U.S. military. This is what fueled the insurgency. People realized that their situations were becoming unlivable and would only get worse as long as the U.S. occupation continued.

As the insurgency grew, the overarching goals of the U.S. invasion, to secure the flow of oil and to use Iraq to assert U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, became impossible to accomplish. The U.S. needed to quell the insurgency in order to create a full economic transformation and install a puppet government in Iraq. The U.S. plan to destroy the insurgency was simple: kill all of the insurgents, or at least kill enough of them that the others would lose the will to fight. Through tactics such as house raids, assaults on neighborhoods, and even torture, the U.S. tried to extinguish the resistance. In cities that were considered insurgent strongholds, such as Fallujah, the U.S. basically destroyed the entire city. In this U.S. strategy, the idea of collective punishment became a key component. Civilian deaths went from being seen as collateral damage to necessary deaths in an effort to destroy the morale of the people and to ultimately punish the civilians for not taking the side of the U.S.

However, the U.S. strategy to kill all of the insurgents backfired. The ruthless tactics that the U.S. used only created more resentment from the people and led to more people joining the insurgency, and thus, escalated the violence. It also further sparked nationalist pride. “‘We are fighting for our country, for our honor, for Islam’” (Garrels, 226). As violence and fighting increased, the infrastructure became even more damaged, the economy suffered even more, and the living conditions for the people were further degraded. More and more people began to see joining the insurgency as a necessity to improve their situation. A vicious cycle had been created. More money was needed to fight the growing insurgency, which moved the economic needs of the country to the back burner. However, the violence against the insurgency, along with the further degradation of the infrastructure and the economy, only created more insurgents. This snowball effect eventually led to complete chaos and created a war that could not be won.

Section III

               Naked in Baghdad was captivating to read because it provided the on-the-ground perspective of the Iraq War. As the reader, we got a taste of what it was like to be in Baghdad during the months leading up to the invasion, during the U.S. bombing campaign, during the siege of the capital by U.S. soldiers, and during the beginning of the ensuing occupation as the resistance began to mount.

Naked in Baghdad also sheds light on the thoughts and lives of the Iraqi people. This book provides an account of the fear instilled by the Hussein regime. Garrels describes how difficult it is to ascertain the truth, because the majority of Iraqis are terrified to speak out against the regime because they know they will wind up in prison or worse. “I have no idea how I’m going to push this story forward, given how frightened everyone is to talk honestly, even without a camera around” (Garrels, 18). She describes a scene after the U.S. has taken over Baghdad, when crowds of people are rushing up to her outside of the prison searching for siblings who had disappeared many years ago. “Mohammed Abbas… is looking for his brother, who was arrested twenty-three years ago when Saddam first came to power. The family has never heard from him again” (Garrels, 197).

Garrels also provides a detailed account of the devastation that came with the U.S. invasion. Garrels describes a scene in which a family has been devastated by an explosion. “Their father stands frozen, unbelieving, as a friend prays over the dead children. Two surviving sons clutch each other. Their wrenching sobs allow no relief” (Garrels, 142).

Naked in Baghdad also highlights the sentiment of the Iraqi people that led to the rise of the insurgency. She describes a situation where U.S. soldiers raided a family’s home searching for insurgents. The man who had nothing to hide, describes how his safe had been pried open and his money and personal documents stolen. The man says that he had welcomed the troops a year earlier, but was now “among the disillusioned” and felt that the violence was unlikely to ease as long as the U.S. remained in Iraq (Garrels, 241).

Ultimately, Garrels does a great job stressing the fact that it is always the civilians who suffer the most. During both the Hussein regime and the U.S. occupation, the civilians were forced to endure misery, agony, and death.

Naked in Baghdad provides a great perspective of the on-the-ground situation in Baghdad; however, it does not dig too deeply below the surface of the war. It discusses briefly the Iraqi perception that the war is being fought for oil, but it fails to dig deeply into this issue. I greatly enjoyed reading the book and thought that it was very thought-provoking; however, after reading it, I still felt that there was a large gap in my understanding of the deeper issues of the U.S. invasion.

War Without End greatly helps to fill in these gaps. War Without End does a great job of getting to the deeper geopolitical issues of the War in Iraq and explaining how oil was the real reason for the U.S. invasion. Schwartz explains how Western involvement in the region all the way back to WWI is related to oil. He explores how the rise in the influence of OPEC and how other geopolitical forces created a negative situation for the U.S. in regards to control of Middle Eastern oil and ultimately led to the invasion. Schwartz shows that understanding this history and these geopolitical forces are key in developing an understanding of the Iraq War.

Schwartz then continues to dig beneath the surface as he describes U.S. strategies during the invasion and during the ensuing occupation. He describes how both the military campaign and the economic reforms were designed to create a complete societal and economic revolution that would bring Iraq into the global capitalist system, ensure its dependency on international corporations, and guarantee increased production of oil.

Schwartz then goes into great depth about the rise of the insurgency and how the desperation created by the military and economic policies of the U.S. is what fueled the resistance. “‘Most of the people fighting the Americans tell me they do nothing for us but destroy the houses and capture the people…. There are no jobs, no water, no electricity’” (Schwartz, 133).

Schwartz also describes the devastation that the occupation wrought on the people and provides remarkable examples and stories to emphasize this idea. “Last night we had a young girl run out in front of my Humvee. We slammed into her and her body fell and slid on the ground… I immediately turned around and watched as 8 of the convoy trucks right behind us trampled her body to pieces” (Schwartz, 79).

Both Naked in Bagdad and War Without End are important works because they provide perspectives about the Iraq war from different vantage points. Naked in Baghdad provided a first-hand account of the situation on the ground and was definitely stimulating and worth reading. However, I still felt that I had gaps in my knowledge of the War in Iraq. War Without End filled these gaps and ultimately helped me understand how the geopolitical forces led to the invasion, how the U.S. strategies for the occupation were congruent with the overarching goals, and how the violence snowballed into an uncontrollable situation, creating a war in which there were no winners.



Garrels, Anne. Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq War and the Aftermath as Seen by NPR’s Correspondent. New       York: Picador Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. Print.

Schwartz, Michael. War Without End: The Iraq War in Context. Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books, 2008.     Print.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: