We Iraqis had survived Saddam Hussein. It was the US invasion that destroyed our lives

NB: Will George Bush & Tony Blair ever be held accountable for war crimes? DS

We have a saying that captures the devastation of our country: ‘Saddam has gone, but 1,000 more Saddams have replaced him’

Balsam Mustafa

Twenty years ago, around this time, the US-led military operation to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime finally seemed inevitable for Iraqis. With it, the idea of leaving started to sink in.

By leaving, I do not mean fleeing the country. That was not even an option. After the 1990s Gulf war, and the international sanctions that followed it, Iraqis were isolated from the rest of the world. For many, there was no exit. Leaving meant departing schools, universities or workplaces, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues, and moving to relatively safer places within the country, away from the areas targeted by strikes and bombings. But my parents decided to stay at home in Baghdad. “If we were meant to die, it would be better to die at home” – that was our logic….