“best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”As we learned later, by then, not yet six hours after Flight 11 struck the north tower, U.S. intelligence had already informed Rumsfeld this was an attack by al Qaeda and there was no connection to Saddam Hussein. That was still case when the bombs starting falling on Baghdad a year and a half later and is still so today. Whatever else the ruthless Iraqi dictator did, he was not part of the September 11 plot.
But that made no never-mind to Donald Rumsfeld. Nor to other members of the Bush administration—Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Lewis Libby, all charter members of the four-year-old neoconservative Project for a New American Century.
Its mission, part overt, part implicit, was unrepentant U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, with permanently established forward bases stocked with thousands of U.S. troops and ready to move quickly wherever Washington might choose to send them. At the top of PNAC's target list: Iraq and Iran.
All that was needed was an excuse. And the four-plane attack on Sept. 11 provided it. Perhaps none of them actually hoped for the "new Pearl Harbor" that they thought would assist them in achieving their objective of quickly "rebuilding" America's defenses. They nevertheless took full advantage of it to get their project seriously under way.
Never mind that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack. He was in the crosshairs and they were determined not to let this opportunity slip from their fingers as it had in 1991. Even they, however, could not completely jump the gun. First, a show had to be made of going after the actual initiator of the Sept. 11 attack, Osama bin Laden, and his Taliban protectors. The Taliban was soon pitched from power with the help of some unsavory Afghan warlords, and Osama was sent on the run into the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now the al Qaeda chief who President Bush had said less than a week after the Sept. 11 attack he was determined to get "dead or alive" was no longer important. What mattered was getting on with the neoconservative objective, toppling Saddam and turning Iraq from his fiefdom into America's.
But first public opinion needed to be softened. And while this was done, behind the scenes, the rendition flights were made, the secret prisons filled, the torture applied, the clever but pathetic fiction created that in the slice of Cuba around Guantánamo Bay—which the U.S. had pried permanently into its hands more than a century before—no law applied because it was not quite Cuba and not quite the U.S.
Forgeries were drafted purporting yellowcake purchases. Aluminum-tube purchases were ridiculously purported to be part of Iraq's efforts to make nuclear weapons. Nerve gas and anthrax were purported to be part of the internationally menacing arsenal Saddam was allegedly building. The weapons of mass destruction, the ostensible reason, along with the implied connection to Osama, given for why the U.S. must go to war.
On and on the administration went, concocting and fabricating.
Please continue reading about the war and the betrayal that brought it on below the fold.
They ignored Brent Scowcroft when he wrote in August 2002, "Don't Attack Saddam." They ignored the Army War College when it warned of the perils of invasion and occupation in a February 2003 report, Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, And Missions For Military Forces In A Post-Conflict Scenario". They ignored Hans Blix when he said he had found no evidence of WMD and sought more time to make sure he was right.
Ultimately, at the tip of a bayonet labeled 9/11, with the assistance of congressional Republicans and Democrats alike, Bush and the neoconservative cabal prodded the nation into an illegal war. Not a pre-emptive war designed to stop an imminent threat of attack, the kind of war every nation on the planet recognizes as legitimate self-defense. Rather the Bush Doctrine set forth a prescription for the U.S. to launch a preventive war, justified on the grounds that someday, someway, sometime, if an enemy got it together in the future, it might, perhaps, possibly attack. In other words a doctrine authorizing aggressive outlaw wars of the sort any petty dictator might choose in order to paper over his real motivations for firing the first shot.
After all the trickery and fakery were implemented came the ground and air assault. Followed by the no-bid contracts, the billions in unaccounted for shrink-wrapped Benjamins, the pathetic aircraft carrier spectacle of Bush declaring an end of major combat. Then came Rumsfeld's ludicrous but aggressively delivered claims to the media that there was no insurgency. Then came the IEDs, and the photos from Abu Ghraib where Rumsfeld had told the new chief there to "Gitmoize" it. And there were the press conferences with Dan Senor claiming everything was just peachy in Baghdad.
A steady stream of lies. No weapons of mass destruction. And a never-ending flow of blood.
Some critics like to call the invasion of Iraq a "mistake," and a "blunder," a "folly." But those terms all suggest mere errors and foolishness. The reality was far more malignant.
The consequences, for Iraq and for America in that war built on lies, hubris and imperialist dreams, were horrific. Thanks to last week's report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, we have a better idea of its costs.
• More than 189,000 direct Iraqi war deaths, 134,000 of them civilians, a number that the researchers say could double when a better count is made. Perhaps as many as four times as many indirect deaths as a consequence of the war. Such statistics will always be at least partially guesswork. Other much-disputed analyses have calculated far higher fatalities. A study published in the medical journal Lancet in 2006 put the median calculation of the range it came up with at 654,965 excess deaths.
• 4,486 deaths of U.S. troops; 318 deaths of allies; 3,418 deaths of American contractors
• 2.5 million U.S. military veterans. "Almost 700,000 veterans currently have some degree of officially recognized disability as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Brown study states. Tens of thousands have traumatic brain injuries.
• At least 2.8 million Iraqis were displaced, either exiled abroad or internally. Reports vary, but more than a million are still displaced. Among these are large numbers of highly educated Iraqis, including perhaps half the nation's physicians, many of whom will never return.
• "A July 2010 report found that child abuse in Army families was been three times higher in homes from which a parent was deployed, for example. From 2001 through 2011, alcohol use associated with physical domestic violence in Army families increased by 54%, and with child abuse by 40%. This trend may be associated with research linking increased alcohol consumption with partner aggression among veterans suffering from combat-related wounds, injuries and illnesses."
• So far, the U.S. has spent $1.7 trillion for the war. But when all its components, including interest payments, are totaled up, the cost could be as high as $6 trillion, 100 times the $60 billion the Bush administration first estimated, when it was claiming the war would pay for itself.
The list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, Iraqis today live in a procedural democracy in which Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has accreted ever-more power to himself, prompting some Iraqis to suggest a return to Saddam-like rule is a possibility.
The nation's sectarian and ethic divide, between Shia and Sunni, and between Kurds and Arabs, could bring a return of civil war.
Security is still elusive. More than 4,200 civilians were killed in attacks last year alone. While that is down from the peak in 2006, the war is supposed to be over. A bomb attack Tuesday killed 60.
Millions of Iraqis still cannot depend on an uninterrupted flow of electricity and clean water.
Much of our media betrayed us by becoming a conduit for Washington's propaganda or, at the very least, not doing due diligence. Our leaders betrayed us with their lies, worked overtime to silence dissident voices, deliberately took us into war under a cloak of deceit, poured billions of our dollars into holes we still don't know all the locations of, spurred al Qaeda to spread its operations to Iraq and transformed a dictator's fiefdom into a hellhole of sectarian violence in which all those costs above and more were incurred. Not in self-defense. Not in retaliation for an attack on the United States.
The latest poll commissioned by ABC found that 58 percent of Americans say the war wasn't worth fighting.
And yet, Donald Rumsfeld tweets about respecting everyone involved in that aggression, including himself presumably. Neoconservative Richard Perle says it is unreasonable to ask whether the war was worth it. And The New York Times editorial board condemns the war without one mention of Judith Miller and its complicity in making it happen.
The first way to stop such a war from ever happening again is to stop listening to those who got us into that one. But they obviously never plan to shut up.