Well it seems like only yesterday, though it was half a lifetime ago.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their men and women, especially the neoconservatives, knowingly and deliberately lied this country into starting an aggressive war against Iraq – a war they pretended was a “preemptive” attack against a nation that could never have laid one hand on the United States of America in a trial of a thousand years.
According to his later CIA interrogator, Saddam Hussein, the evil dictator said to be plotting with al Qaeda terrorists against us, was instead semi-retired, busy writing a romance novel and refusing to believe the US would really invade and occupy his country when he was giving them no cause to whatsoever.
It was later credibly reported that Saddam had offered virtually unconditional surrender twice to neocon ringleader Richard Perle who told Hussein’s emissary: “Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad.”
One hundred and fifty million Americans, if mostly for partisan reasons, knew better. The other 150 million, mostly fooled into believing Iraq had attacked us on September 11, did it anyway.
What was the real reason behind it all? As the great Justin Raimondo told the crowd in his important speech to the Libertarian Party of Illinois, “Libertarianism in the Age of Empire,” 20 years ago:
“We are fighting a war for Israel. When the body bags come home, and the dead are buried, let this be inscribed on their tombstones: They died for Ariel Sharon.”
It was never the weapons. The US had disarmed Iraq of unconventional weapons in 1991 and they knew it. They also had two spies at the highest levels of the Iraqi government who both confirmed there were no banned weapons left before the war. That’s why they had to resort to citing forged documents, Katusha rocket tubes, cartoon drawings of mobile biological weapons labs and the wholly invented threat of mushroom clouds over American cities to convince Americans to support the war.
And they knew Iraq was not working with al Qaeda. The CIA did a major review just after the September 11 attacks of 2001. They told the president there was nothing there. So the CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah and Ibn al-Libi, two associates, though not operatives of the al Qaeda group, into pointing the finger at Saddam Hussein’s regime.
But the neoconservatives, determined to improve Israel’s position in the region, outdid even the CIA when it came to coming up with the lies to justify the war. After setting up what Secretary of State Colin Powell later called, “a separate government” inside the government, including “Douglas Feith’s Gestapo office” at the Pentagon, Cheney and the neocons pushed the lies through and got their war.
They got 4,500 American soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and guardsmen killed. Hundreds more contractors, including mercenaries were killed with them.
On the other side of the ledger, the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, probably permanently. By fighting a brutal civil war on behalf of the super-majority Shi’ite Arabs, and helping them “cleanse” especially the capital city of its minority Sunni opposition who had dominated the former government, the US helped get approximately a million people killed. They decimated small, local minority religious sects and ethnicities, including Chaldean Christians, Jews, Turkmen, Marsh Arabs and others, and they deprived the rulers of the new parliament of the last incentive to compromise with their defeated enemies.
Hell, they no longer had any incentive to compromise with the United States. The Iraqi regime W. Bush installed forced him to sign on the dotted line and agree to pull US forces out by the end of 2011.
Instead of empowering the U.S.-Israeli-Turkish-Jordanian alliance, as the neocons had envisioned, the Americans had moved Iraq to Iran’s side of the ledger, where Baghdad would join with Tehran, Damascus and Lebanese Hezbollah instead. The Sunni Arabs of the Anbar and other western provinces were left men without a country.
This is why Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, and his Israeli, Turkish, Saudi and Qatari allies backed the radical Sunni jihad in Syria next door which grew into the so-called Islamic State, seizing eastern Syria in 2013. It is also why ISIS then had no trouble rolling right in and taking over western Iraq a year later, leading to the declaration of the so-called Caliphate and then the U.S. and its allies’ Iraq War III to destroy them again in 2014–2017.
The war of course also spread to Libya, Mali and the rest of West Africa, Syria, as mentioned above, then Yemen. Hundreds of thousands more people have been killed; 37 million refugees have been forced from their homes, the greatest such crisis since the second world war.
It’s the damndest thing, all of it.
George W. Bush himself now finally admits it. On May 19, 2022, After his big Freudian slip when he blurted “Iraq” instead of “Ukraine” while denouncing Putin’s “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion,” his conscious mind then conceded: “Iraq too.”
It is as certain that he deliberately lied us into that war as it is that neither he nor any of his people will ever be held accountable for their crimes. Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell have already set the precedent.
But we can at least work to make sure they are remembered only as liars and butchers.
And we can keep in mind that the same media stars who lied us into that war have remained in a position to lie to us about everything under the sun in the time since then, including the current war in Ukraine.
Notes in the Margin
I’ve been serializing the Iraq War II chapter of my book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism over at Substack, free. There’s just one more section to go, which will be published this Thursday.
Scott Horton is director of the Libertarian Institute, editorial director of Antiwar.com, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand:Time to End the War in Afghanistan, editor of the 2019 book The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019 and the 2022 book Hotter Than The Sun: Time to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. He’s conducted more than 5,800 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Larisa Alexandrovna Horton.