in this powerful post. He describes this as the first in a series of posts he intends to do looking back on the decade since the war commenced. He reminds us bluntly:
Coming into 2003, the US enjoyed a great deal of sympathy and solidarity from the rest of the world (including Iran) over the al-Qaeda strikes of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the US was widely seen as an international bully.He also finds that because of propaganda against Arabs and Muslims we have moved away from the tendency towards greater decency in our public discourse in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, although on that point I think I would disagree in part: by the Reagan administration we were already seeing a coarsening of our civic discourse, and any impact thereupon as a result of the propaganda to promote our aggressive actions towards Iraq occurred in the framework of an already increasingly coarse civic discourse.
You can simply go read the Cole, or go below the cheese-doodle where I will list and summarize, offering a few additional observations.
1. the invasion of Iraq brought into question the competency of the US as a world leader. Cole supports this charge by reminding us of the failure to get a reason for invasion clear and correct, and the total disorganization of the "reconstruction" with all of its corruption. To this I would add the total lack of understanding of the situation - here I am reminded of the idiotic comments of Paul Wolfowitz that one advantage of fighting in Iraq versus Saudi Arabia was that one didn't have to worry about Muslim holy places, thus demonstrating a total ignorance of Shi'a Islam, for whom the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf and he Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala are of critical importance.
2. The US action undermined the post-World War II international consensus to prevent wars of aggression, best illustrated by the establishment of the United Nations. Cole reminds us that the Security Council declined to endorse the US action even despite what we now know was the dishonesty in Colin Powell's presentation. Cole writes
The United States has irrevocably undermined that structure of international law, and any aggressor can now appeal to Bush of 2003 as a precedent. Indian politicians of the right wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party instanced the Bush doctrine when they wanted to go to war with Pakistan. (Wiser heads prevailed, given that Pakistan has nuclear warheads). The US has loosed a demon into the world, of the war of choice.3. The Iraq War revived al-Qaeda’s fortunes and prolonged its life as an important actor. We now know that Al Qaeda was fractured as a result of 9-11 and the US attacks on it in Afghanistan. By now the history is clear that we failed to apply the resources necessary when Bin Laden was bottled up in Tora Bora. We could add here or to the first point that we lost the ability to track Bin Laden when someone in the Bush administration bragged to the press that we were tracking Bin Laden by his satellite phone, which he promptly stopped using (contrast this with how well the Obama administration kept close its planning on the raid that killed Bin Laden). Our attacking Iraq gave rise to a resurgence in Iraq and elsewhere into offshoots of Al Qaeda, for example:
The fringe of Libyans who attacked the US consulate in Benghazi last September included activists who had fought US troops in Iraq, and who otherwise would have lacked the training and motivation to hit the consulate.4. We permanently lost the chance for a two-state solution in Palestine (and remember it is our perceived unfair tilt towards Israel that fuels a lot of Muslim antipathy towards the US). Netanyahu has radically expanded settlements, undermined the Palestinian Authority, and blockaded Gaza. By now we know the impact of that upon the region.
5. The US
became an international symbol of torture pornography when some of the Abu Ghraib photographs of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners were released.We have with our waterboarding, our extraordinary renditions of prisoners to countries where we knew they would be tortured, our hiding of prisoners from he Inernational Committee of the Red Cross, an our rationalizations of "enhanced interrogation" lost all moral authority to criticize how other nations mistreat and abuse those in their custody.
6. Since other countries presumed our motivation was control of Iraqi oil, they became determined to be strong enough that the US could not next turn its sights on them. China wanted an aircraft carrier battle groups, Brazil a nuclear submarine, and the now deceased Hugo Chavez could point to Iraq as justification of his claims that the US was acting as the great imperialist.
7. This is where Cole focuses on the debasement of public discourse, noting
the US establishment has decided that it is all right to bring back the language of bias when speaking of Arabs and Muslims, thus debasing our American values, which proclaim that all men are created equal and all are endowed by their Creators with certain inalienable rights.Here we can look at the rhetoric over Park 51, the Muslim community center mislabeled as a mosque by the likes of Pam Geller, whose rhetoric was echoed by so many political figures seeking to score political points at the expense of American Muslims. On a personal note, as a descendant of Eastern European Jews who experienced their own fair share of discrimination and prejudice in this country, my stomach turns at this sort of debasement of others. But as noted above, I think the seeds for this were already partially sprouted even before 9-11. We had a President of the United States who deliberately inaugurated his general election campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, site of one of the most infamous acts of the Civil Rights Era; who would label African-Americans receiving public assistance as "welfare queens," whose campaigns and later administrations would tolerate demonizing liberals. We saw his successor run a campaign that including attacking the patriotism of his opponent because the latter did not insist on the Pledge of Allegiance (thus ignoring the SCOTUS ruling in the Barnette case, a ruling in the aftermath of the burning of Kingdom Halls, the churches of Jehovah's Witnesses - including one in Kennebunk ME - in the aftermath of an earlier ruling allowing Witnesses to be expelled from school for refusing to say the Pledge); who used racial fears in his Willie Horton ads. By long before 9-11 we had seen the rise of hate talk radio in the likes of Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh - since when is "feminazis" acceptable public discourse to politicians who sought Limbaugh's blessing and support?
8. We helped by invading Iraq to raise Iran to a regional power. Remember, it was Iraq that served as a block to Iranian expansion efforts, even despite Saddam Hussein's failed invasion of his neighbor. Iran's increasing playing outside of its borders -which in fairness already existed to some degree in Syria and in Gaza - has increased he Shi'a - Sunni conflict and destabilized the region.
9. The cost will rise into the trillions. Joe Stiglitz made this point years ago, but too many did not pay attention. This is the result of the kind of conflict that ensued:
This cost derives in large part from the need to treat the thousands of Iraq War veterans who were injured by roadside bombs, and who have damaged limbs, spines and/or brains. Some 33,000 vets were injured seriously enough to go to hospital, a number seldom mentioned when the over 4,000 soldiers killed are eulogized.10. Cole argues that if Iraq does succeed in getting its oil back on the market, it will be bad for the world's environment. He reminds us the oilmen hoped to push the price of oil way down ($14/bbl), which of course would only have encouraged increased reliance upon carbon-based fuels and delayed even further turning to other more sustainable forms of energy. Here one might respond by noting that were those oil reserves available there might be less pressure for Keystone XL and the environmental damage that will inevitably follow with the extraction of the fuel to go into that pipeline. One might, although given the greed of the petroleum industry I doubt it would have made a difference.
There you have it. A detailed, and thoughful, even thought provoking, review of some of the important impacts of the decision of the Bush administration to invade a country that had had nothing to do with 9-11.
I thought it worth bringing to your attention.