Whether one agrees or disagrees, as I do, with President Obama's decision to send 300 Special Forces advisers and another 275 military personnel to Iraq—effectively doubling the number of U.S. troops in the country—his decision, despite being couched in talk about how "mission creep" will not become a factor, should be troubling to anyone even vaguely familiar with the damage caused at home and abroad by American intervention in the region. This is the first increase in U.S. military personnel in Iraq in the two-and-a-half years since welcome removal by Obama of the last combat troops from that country. It ought to give shivers to Americans with the slightest appreciation of our interventionist history.
However, in the past few weeks, as violence directed at the corrupt and authoritarian Baghdad government has ramped up, we've been witness to another chilling matter, the corrosive spread by many liberal pundits, politicians and bloggers of the idea that the invasion was a "mistake."
Not a new assertion, of course. Some people were saying so even before that March day when Washington unleashed shock and awe on Iraq more than 11 years ago.
Others took longer to come to the same conclusion. One of them, John Kerry, voted as a senator in 2002 for the resolution the Bush administration eagerly took as carte blanche to wage war on Iraq. Kerry called the invasion "wrong" in 2004, but not until 2006 did he explicitly label it a mistake. This recalled for many his statement 35 years previously when, as spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he had famously said in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
More than two years ago we learned the names of the last two American combat soldiers to die in Iraq for the lies of the neo-conservatives, other riff-raff known as "public intellectuals," gullible or hawkish Democratic enablers and self-righteous pundits who called anti-war critics "traitors."
Those two men were Army 1st Lt. Dustin D. Vincent, 25, of Mesquite, Texas, killed in Kirkuk by small arms fire Nov. 3, 2011, and Specialist David Emanuel Hickman, 23, of Greensboro, North Carolina, killed in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device on Nov. 14, 2011.
Below the fold is more commentary.
That's not even close to the real reasons.
Calling the invasion and slaughter that followed a mistake papers over the lies that took us to Iraq. This assessment of the war as mistake is coming mostly from well-intentioned people, some of whom spoke out against the war before it began and every year it dragged on. It may seem like a proper retort to critics of Obama (who inherited that war rather than started it). But it feeds a dangerous myth.
A mistake is not putting enough garlic in the minestrone, taking the wrong exit, typing the wrong key, falling prey to an accident.
Invading Iraq was not a friggin' mistake. Not an accident. Not some foreign policy mishap.
The guys in charge carried out a coldly though ineptly calculated act. An act made with the intention of privatizing Iraq and using that country as a springboard to other Middle Eastern targets, most especially Iran. They led a murderous, perfidious end run around international law founded on a dubious "preventive" military doctrine piggybacked on the nation's rage over the 9/11 attacks. An imperial, morally corrupt war. They ramrodded it past the objections of those in and out of Congress who challenged the fabricated claims of administration advisers who had been looking for an excuse to take out Saddam Hussein years before the U.S. Supreme Court plunked George W. Bush into the Oval Office.
The traditional media did not make a mistake either. They misled their audiences through sloppiness and laziness because it was easier and better for ratings than for them actually to do their jobs. For the worst of them, the misleading was deliberate. They fed us disinformation. Lapdogs instead of watchdogs.
In case you've forgotten or never knew or are skeptical, thanks to the Center for Public Integrity, you can check out those lies at The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War.
Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith at CPI wrote in 2008:
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.Those 935 lies, by the way, did not include "indirect false statements" such as that Iraq had possession of "dangerous weapons."
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.
It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. ...
In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.
No. The invasion of Iraq was not a mistake.
Officially, at least until Thursday's announcement that nearly 600 additional military personnel are being sent to Iraq, the war has been over since December 11, 2011, when the last U.S. combat troops departed. That was 105 months after the Bush administration (with assistance from a supine media and a timid Congress) concocted the lies that got the invasion underway.
But, as of this January, in addition to the few hundred U.S. military, there were still around 5,000 American-paid contractors in Iraq, about a third of them U.S. citizens, doing all kinds of work, including handling security and training Iraqi military personnel for the Pentagon and State Department. Plus, of course, there were an unknown number of CIA operatives as well as agents of organizations without public acronyms for whom no public count is available. So, to have said U.S. involvement in the Iraq war was actually, truly over required a bit of fancy footwork.
For Iraqis, the war was clearly not over at the end of 2011, although it continued at a significantly lower level than it had after the sectarian cleansing that, in the words of the London-based journalist of Kurdish background Nir Rosen, had left few to kill. Now, more than a decade after the U.S. invasion that we were told would be greeted with flowers, uncover chemical and nuclear weapons and turn Iraq into a model democracy to be imitated across the Middle East, the war has heated up again in opposition to the Shiite-dominated government. The toll of the victims of the ad hoc coalition of revanchist Sunnis and the brutal jihadis of ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria—grows day by day, with thousands dead and expectations for much worse to come.
The promiscuous stacking of skulls that began with the U.S. invasion has begun again in earnest.
Americans lost nearly 4,500 men and women in uniform in over eight years of war, with allied nations, mostly Britain, losing more than 300 of their own troops.
The death toll of Iraqi soldiers and civilians has been a good deal higher. Just how much higher will never be fully known because the Iraq government stopped formally counting civilian fatalities in December 2003. The excuse for this was that announcing the numbers amounted to propaganda that aided those fighting the Americans. Several statistical studies, one claiming as many as 1.2 million dead Iraqi civilians, were criticized, unsurprisingly, by officials with an ax to grind, but also by statisticians who did not view the matter through a political lens. Whatever the actual total, at the very least 140,000 civilians and 50,000 combatants have been killed by military and paramilitary actions in Iraq since March 2003.
It's not a difficult search to find the names of the American dead. Every single one of them. Not so with the Iraqis. Sure, their families know. But no dedicated websites have compiled a truly comprehensive toll. Their names will never appear on any commemoration wall.
Far too many liberals and a handful of repentant conservatives keep feeding the delusion about how this occurred. Just as was the case in Vietnam, they didn't lose their lives because of a mistake. Not the Americans, not their allies and not the Iraqis.
Unfortunately, it's clear that this mischaracterization will continue to be the way the Iraq war is described by much of the traditional media. A media that failed to reveal the motives behind the propaganda assault the Bush administration (and its allies across the truncated American political spectrum) promoted to get the war going. Two and three decades from now, the one thing our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will likely be reading about the invasion of Iraq will be that it was a terrible mistake.
Even if not another American in uniform dies in Iraq, the war will continue, just as it did in the case of Vietnam, to claim victims long after the official death roster has been stamped complete. Many injured veterans of the Iraq war, more than 150,000 with traumatic brain injuries, will live out psychologically and economically diminished lives. Families will see no end of suffering from the impact of PTSD and interrupted civilian careers. The trillions of dollars spent on shock and awe and all that came afterward will weaken our economy for years to come.
In Iraq, far more individuals and families face the same impacts. These are made worse by lack of a social infrastructure capable of dealing with them. Hundreds of thousands of exiles and internally displaced Iraqis continue to live a hand-to-mouth existence even as hundreds of thousands of new exiles flee the most recent fighting. Rebuilding what the war destroyed will take decades. Just getting the electricity back on 24 hours a day in some major cities is still, after all this time, years away. As we are seeing, sectarian grudges engendered by the ethnic cleansing that accompanied the insurgency will not be easily submerged in the new Iraq.
In addition to all that spilled blood, close to a trillion dollars were spent on the war, and its aftermath, including health care for veterans, likely will double that cost.
All this occurred because the likes of Dick Cheney and his pals brewed truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, outright fabrications, disinformation, misinformation, omissions, inventions, deceptions, deflections, revisions, excisions and other serpentine resourcefulness into a propaganda barrage specifically designed to persuade enough people not to stand in the way of their squalid project.
Consequently, thousands of Americans are now dead because war criminals sent them abroad fraudulently in the name of liberation, security and prevention. The Iraqi people got none of those things.
And because too few people who should have stopped these war criminals, who were in a position in the U.S. Senate to stop them, mustered the courage to stand in their way. They let them get away with their scheme. A few eagerly encouraged them.
Uncounted thousands of Iraqis are dead because of slime who waved the bloody shirt of 9/11 in one hand, Old Glory in the other, and simultaneously managed to shred our Constitution and decades of international law. People who, if this were a just world, would long ago have appeared in shackles to be tried for war crimes.
Nearly four years ago I wrote:
…even before George W. Bush was scooted into office 5-to-4, the men he came to front for were already at work plotting their rationale for sinking deeper military and economic roots in the Middle East, petropolitics and neo-imperialist sophistry greedily intertwined. When they stepped into office, as Richard Clarke explained to us, terrorism gave them no worries. Then, when they weren't figuring out how to lower taxes on their pals and unravel the tattered social safety net, they focused — as Paul O'Neill informed us—on finding the right excuse to persuade the American people to go to war with Saddam Hussein as a prelude to going to war with some of his neighbors. In less than nine months, that excuse dropped into their laps in the form of Osama bin Laden's kamikaze crews.Planning for invasion, the invention and distortion of evidence, the ignoring of counter-advice, and the lying to Congress, to the United Nations and to the American people were not "mistakes."
From that terrible day forward, Richard Cheney and his sidekick Donald Rumsfeld and their like-minded cabal of rogues engineered the invasion. They didn't slip the U.S. into Iraq by mistake. Like the shrewd opportunists they showed themselves to be in the business world, they saw the chance to carry out their invasion plan and they moved every obstacle—most especially the truth—out of their way to make it happen. …
They created a gang of renegades specifically to carry out the Project for a New American Century's plans for Middle East hegemony. They didn't carefully weigh options and evaluate the pros and cons and make errors in judgment, the sort of thing that can happen to the most careful individual or team. They studiously ignored everyone who warned them against taking the action they had decided upon years before the World Trade Centers were turned to ashes and dust. [...]
The pretense that Bush hadn't made up his mind months before the invasion was yet another lie. It was a ploy to suggest falsely that the president and the ideological crocodiles in the White House gave two snaps about cooperating with the international community other than as a means to camouflage their unalterable determination to stomp Iraq, plundering it under the guise of righteous magnanimity.
Torture approved at the highest levels was a deliberate, premeditated policy of international outlawry and inhumanity guided by legal arguments requested and approved by the man who soon got his reward, appointment as attorney general, and carried out on the direct orders of men like General Geoffrey Miller at the "suggestion" of Don Rumsfeld and under the command of George Walker Bush.
Mistakes were definitely made. Twelve years ago, too many elected Democrats and too many other Americans believed the president and vice president of the United States and their chosen subordinates to be honest and honorable. To have the best interests of Americans at heart. They believed them and they believed a megamedia that operated like administration-owned megaphones instead of independent watchdogs. Those were indeed gigantic mistakes. But there were also Democrats who went along with the enterprise out of vengeance or a warped affection for America the empire-builder or for the bottom line of the military-industrial complex.
Vast numbers were made dead who would today be alive were if not for this war initiated out of American exceptionalism, hubris and doctored evidence. Thousands of dead Americans. Tens to hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.
Deaths in any war are terrible enough. Deaths in a fabricated war count as nothing short of murder.
Not a mistake.
Whether or not the U.S. again becomes deeply embroiled militarily because of the latest outbreak of warfare in Iraq, the pundits and the politicians probably can't be persuaded to cease calling the invasion a mistake. But progressives have no excuse. We know better.