And that is what the pro-war crowd want us to forget. We are asked to forget the civilian deaths and injuries. We are asked to forget why troops are supplying civilians with water and food. To forget that the reason the Iraqis were enslaved to begin with was due to the US. To forget that the CIA helped organise the coup which got the Ba'ath party into power. To forget that the US and UK supported Saddam throughout the 1970s and 1980s, arming him and turning a blind eye to the horrors they now use to justify their imperialist war.
We are asked to forget that in 1983 the US sent envoy Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to secure better trade and economic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad. To forget that in 1988, as Saddam "used gas against his own people," President Bush senior provided him with $500m in US government subsidies and that in the following year this was doubled. We must forget that this deal included germ seed for anthrax and "dual-use" material that could be used for chemical and biological weapons.
We are asked to forget that the plight of the Iraqi people was the last excuse used to justify this war and that both Blair and Bush were willing to leave Saddam in power if he "disarmed." To forget that the "official" reason for this invasion was Saddam's "Weapons of Mass Destruction," weapons which have (so far) not been used and not been found.
We are asked to forget that the anti-war protesters were always aware of the "true nature" of the regime and it did not take reasons of state and official denunciations to make us enlightened. To forget that the pro-peace protesters were just as anti-Saddam as the pro-war mob, with the exception that we were anti-dictatorship when the US and UK governments were supporting tyranny in Iraq and across the world. To forget that this war is about imperialism, not democracy. To forget that true liberation can only be won, not given.
We are asked to forget the telling words of one American "liberator," an officer from the US 3rd Infantry Division whose troops had carried an American flag into a palace: "Saddam Hussein says he owns Baghdad. We own Baghdad. We own his palaces, we own downtown."
And, finally, we are asked to forget that the US has invested a lot of money in this conflict and it is doubtful that the most powerful state in the world will allow the Iraqi people to pick a regime which did not allow the US to reap political and economic profit from Iraq.
No sane person mourns the passing of Saddam's regime. It was a blight on humanity. That was the case when the US supported it. But what happens next is important. It is the opinion of people when there are no cameras and no troops around which matters. It is the opinion of people who may be glad to see Saddam gone but have no desire to replace him with US military rule until such time as the Bush Junta considers them "liberated" enough to vote for the right, US approved, people.
Given the strategic position of Iraq in the Middle East and its oil reserves, it is doubtful that Iraq will be left as Afghanistan was to fend for itself. While the Bush Junta promised to "stand by" that country before he bombed it, the US has left it an economic shambles of drug barons and warlords fighting it out between themselves and a resurgent Taliban. So we can expect a lengthy stay in Iraq until such time as the US imposed client regime is secure enough to protect US interests. In other words, do Saddam's old job. And Saddam (or his ghost) can still play a role for the US: those against the US or its client regime can be labelled "pro-Saddam" and dealt with accordingly.
So the real message of this war is clear. You better do what the US wants you to do. Then you can be as oppressive as you like -- kill, torture and exploit to your hearts content and be supported, even praised, for so doing. If not, well, the fate of Saddam's regime awaits you to. That is what the pro-war lobby ultimately wants us to forget, the bloody reality of US intervention across the world for decades.