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Friday, October 21, 2016

Ten years ago, on March 20, 2003, the administration of George W. Bush launched its disastrous invasion of Iraq. It’s a war most Americans — including many Republicans who enthusiastically supported it — are working assiduously to forget.

Not so fast. An examination of the lies, the hypocrisy and the power-mongering that led us into that act of grand folly may help us to avoid similar impulses in the coming decades. Besides, there are lasting consequences that cannot be shoved into history’s dustbin.

Yes, Saddam Hussein is dead. So are an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and more than 4,400 Americans. Countless other Americans are forever maimed, some of them suffering mental traumas from which they will never fully recover.

That’s the human toll. It doesn’t include the billions of dollars that were wasted. While the official calculations of the cost to the Treasury are in the $800 billion range, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has put the cost to the U.S. economy at $3 trillion. That’s why it’s quite laughable now to listen to the Fox News crew blast President Obama over the budget deficit. They all cheered for Bush’s dumb war, which he prosecuted while cutting taxes.

But the most disastrous long-term consequence of the war may be its effect on Iran. The United States gave Saddam nominal support for years because he served as a check on Iran, his bitter enemy. Now Shiites run Iraq, as they do Iran, and Tehran has great influence in Baghdad.

So how is it that so many cheered the invasion? Why did so few voice any dissent? Why was it that those who did argue against the war were vilified as traitors?

I vividly recall the months leading to the war because I was among those who insisted at the outset that the drive to oust Saddam was foolish. (At first, I assumed Bush was merely posturing. Even he, I thought, wouldn’t do something that stupid.) For my trouble, I was denounced as a fifth columnist, an appeaser, a liberal bed-wetter, etc.

Among those attacking my anti-invasion stance were comfortable, affluent professionals whose sons and daughters would never have considered volunteering for military service. I was dumbfounded by the nonchalance — and hypocrisy — with which they endorsed a war that would be fought by young men and women largely from the working classes.

I was also deeply disappointed — taken aback, actually — by the complicity of the major news media, whose supposedly intrepid journalists, instead of ferreting out official dishonesty, caved before it. The nation’s best newspapers ran numerous front-page stories trumpeting the Bush administration’s lies about Saddam, his alleged WMDs and his supposed collusion with Osama bin Laden. There were no similarly placed stories about the Project for the New American Century, the group of neo-cons pushing for Saddam’s ouster years before 9/11.

Andrew Bacevich, a well-respected foreign policy scholar and early opponent of the war, lists a misplaced faith in the U.S. military as among several reasons for the lack of critical questioning from the media or political leaders.

“It was taken for granted that we would win and we would win easily,” Bacevich, a Boston University professor and retired military officer, told me. “For anyone to question the effectiveness of the U.S. military in those days was tantamount to failing to support the troops, and no politician or person who cared about their public reputation dared do anything that would suggest failure to support the troops.”

Bacevich also points out that, unlike the war in Vietnam, which was also fueled by official dishonesty, few public figures who led the nation into Iraq have paid any price. Not only was Lyndon Johnson’s career cut short and legacy diminished, but his leading foreign policy strategists were also forced into public contrition.

Not so with Bush’s minions. Vice President Darth — ah — Dick Cheney remains adamant that Saddam was in league with anti-U.S. terrorists, even though all credible intelligence officials have said otherwise. John McCain, for his part, bludgeoned Chuck Hagel recently because Hagel came to oppose the war.

It’s much too early to forget the folly of Iraq. Too few of us have learned any lessons from it.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at [email protected])

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

  • One of the most fascinating aspects of this issue is the fact that the very people who enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq are the same ones that blame the Obama administration for the attack against our consulate in Benghazi.

    Iraq was justified, in part, by insinuating involvement in the 9/11 tragedy, a horrible and cowardly even carried out by Saudi Arabian Wahhabists engaged in a Fatwah against the USA. Instead of going after them and holding Saudi Arabia responsible for what members of wealthy families, including Saudi Princes, did against us, the Bush administration declared Saudi Arabia a Most Favored Nation for trade purposes in exchange for lucrative contracts. By so doing he made Judas look like a an innocent bystander.

    Not only did George W. Bush ignore warning about an impending attack on U.S. soil, he used deceit to project an illusion of retaliation by invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, deposing and executing a man he and his fellow neocons hated, but he then made matters worse by removing the Sunnis from power and replacing them with Shiites aligned spiritually to Iran. That decision destabilized the entire Persian Gulf region and contributed to the rise of Iran as a dominant regional power.
    The sole source contracts, seldom completed, were icing on the cake. The worst part is that over 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives in the pursuit of what they thought was a noble mission, only to learn they had been duped. Tens of thousands were maimed, as a result of a decision made by people who put forth personal goals, greed and hatred ahead of common sense. Some international institutions believe as many as 600,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the destabillization of their country following the invasion. Over two million left their country to save their lives, and the infrastructure of a country that was once one of the most prosperous in that part of the world is now in shambles.
    Should all this be investigated? You bet, but I doubt anything will come out of it. Like our banks, the people responsible are too big to be prosecuted and serve time in jail for their crimes.

    • latebloomingrandma

      This is one of the many reasons, I believe, that will keep Bush’43 amongst the lowest rated presidents ever. He belongs in the anti-Mt. Rushmore hall of fame (or shame), despite what brother Jeb thinks.

    • Bill

      Of course George gave the Saudi’s a pass, his dad was collecting a check from them, what is a ex President doing working for a foreign government???????????????????

  • nobsartist

    When Obama was elected for his first term, he announced that he was “looking forward, not backward”.

    His actions over the last 5 years indicate to me that he was put into office to sweep all of the crap that this corrupt government does, under the carpet.

    Put into office by the same cabal that took our government over on 11.22.1963.

    • When President Obama proposed a timetable to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan he elicited immediate claims of helping the enemy by revealing our plans, appeasement, and savage attacks by the far right that included calls for impeachment. The same is true for his efforts to close the Guantanamo prison camp and putting the handful of truly dangerous inmates in Federal prisons in the USA.
      The real question is not whether he tried to overtun the decisions made by his predecessor, but whether or not he should have stuck to his guns and pressed on. Don;t forget that this unfolded when he was pushing for a single payer healthcare system that did not enjoy the support of most Americans. President Obama was under attack from all fronts by people and organizations that enjoyed robust financial support from special interests. Quite frankly, I doubt he would have survived the onslaught that would have come down on his as a result of pursuing simultaneous shifts in direction.
      As a supporter of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and a single payer healthcare system – I was disappointed, but I understand that major changes in directions can only be achieved incrementally.

      • charleo1

        Yes, I agree completely. I think Democrats, of all persuasions, were
        disappointed after electing what we thought were strong majorities
        in Congress, and a Progressive young President. Only to run up
        aganist an intractable Republican wall of opposition, facilitated by
        the filibuster. Where we were now told, Republicans, after nearly
        two decades of majority control, and managing to make an unholy
        mess. Now had a form of minority veto power, requiring every
        Democrat, and Joe, Lieberman, to vote as a block, or nothing happens.
        This accounted for a great deal of frustration on the Left. Understandably
        so. And that led to the disastrous results of 2010. Which the Country
        will continue to pay for. For perhaps, many years to come. But you are
        absolutely correct, we need to look at the long game. Social Security,
        when enacted, hardly resembled the effective baseline, anti poverty
        program it is today. And with fewer employers making any retirement
        plans available. Where would so many people be today without it?
        ACA is not what most Americans were looking for. Which was to get
        the heck away from the practices of the for profit insurance companies.
        However, I believe the bill established some important groundwork.
        And, gave rise to the idea, that healthcare is a Right, However it provides
        for access to medical care to all Americans, can be fixed. But first it
        must be determined to be more than a commodity, that qualifies an
        individual’s ability to posses it, based on the amount of money in one’s
        bank account. I’ll take that victory. A Joe Biden said, Well, you know
        what Joe said. I think he was right.

        • Like most program, especially those that represent a major shift in direction, ACA will have to be modified as we learn more about its cost effectiveness and its benefits to the population at large. I would have preferred a single payer system that does not rely on a middle man – the insurance industry – to administer it, but considering the effectiveness of the disinformation campaign against it, I think ACA is the only thing we can reasonably expect at this moment. Like you said, if nothing else, it changes our perception of what healthcare means from an alleged gift by employers and government to a human right to exist.

          • Dominick, and keep in mind that when ACA was being legislated, the country was in the process of losing 14 million jobs, hundreds of companies were going bust, the auto industry was in the throes of potential bankruptch where the country could have lost another 1.5 million jobs and we were obviously already on the brink of depression. Can you begin to imagine if Congress had passed a single payer system that at the same time threw the insurance industry under the bus??? Although I too would like to have seen a single payer system, I’m totally convinced that 2009 WAS NOT the right time for that to happen. Where was our government to get the money to revamp it’s healthcare systems to start paying for healthcare for the masses when we were already running up deficits like there was no tomorrow. I look at ACA as a stepping stone to getting to a single payer system. Although the only portion of it that would naturally drive up costs (premiums) has been implemented, it’s interesting that a study has shown that over the past 2 years, healthcare costs have risen at the slowest rate in over 15 years. Despite what many want to believe, it’s starting to work, and will work much better when everyone is required to have insurance in 2014.

          • RobertCHastings

            Amen, my brother, Amen. A single payer system, however, smacks of “socialism”, and you know how “they” feel about that, even though it has made Canada’s health system one of the most efficient in the world and has afforded the Canadians one of the longest life spans in the world, while we, who must suffer under a “free market” system (which is, incidentally, grossly stackedagainst both “free” and “market”) spend a greater percentage of our GDP annually on healthcare (about 16% for us and 5% for Canada) and get considerably less bang for our buck. And that doesn’t even comment about the HUGE difference in our GDP and that of Canada.

      • Bill

        The worst thing that could have happened, letting the GOP take the single payer out of the health care system. After Obama allowed them to do that they still didn’t vote for it, I hope he doesn’t do the same thing with Social Security.

    • RobertCHastings

      Lyndon Johnson was a part of a cabal to take over the US government? I believe that would be news to anyone but Jessie Ventura.

      • nobsartist

        Did I say that? I thought that johnson only ran once.

        Perhaps you and the independent idiot should read a little more or try some better medicine to help with your senility.

        • RobertCHastings

          Then what is your definition of “cabal”. Since Johnson IMMEDIATELY succeeded Kennedy, who died in Nov. of 1993, Johnson, by definition, HAD to belong to your “cabal”. After all, Johnson’s presidency was dependent upon and subsequent to the death of Kennedy. Just what do you think a cabal is? The fact that Johnson ran only once is irrelevent to the existence of a cabal. Who succeeded Johnson? Nixon -was there a Nixon cabal? Were you talking about a Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama cabal? What cabal are you talking about? If you are implying that Obama benefited from a cabal that took control of Washington, DC upon the demise of President Kennedy, then, as I stated previously, you are saying something new that will appear strange to only people who don’t adhere to the Jessie Ventura conspiracy theories. What you are claiming, inother words, makes no sense, and is totally unverifiable and totally unfounded in historical fact.

  • charleo1

    As Sen. John McCain grilled, Chuck Hagel on his opinion of Iraq as part of the Senatorial
    confirmation of Hagel as Secretary of State. Hagel, a Republican, and a Veteran,
    had opposed the War in general, and then, Bush’s, “Surge.” McCain was attempting
    to force Hagel to admit he had been wrong about the decision to send an additional
    30,000 troops. It is a point on Iraq, the GOP feels it must make. That yes, things
    had not gone as planned. There were no WMDs, no possibility of a, “Smoking gun,”
    becoming a mushroom cloud. And the surge, was actually was a last gasp attempt to gain enough control over the bloody, Civil War that followed our invasion, to make an organized retreat. Was now going to be characterized as a stroke of genius that, in the end, won the war. And with all our goals met, and the world a safer place without Saddam Hussein, our troops can come marching victoriously home.
    And so now, after nearly 10 years of war, 4400 U.S. KIA, 32,000 wounded, 100,00 dead Iraqi, and another, 2.5 million driven out of their homes, in their own Country.
    McCain’s, next question, that most symbolizes the GOP’s search for absolution
    on Iraq with the American Public. Was it, in the end worth the price? McCain asks.
    Hagel’s answer, that we didn’t yet know, was truthful, But, unsatisfactory to those
    like McCain, who’s political affiliation with George Bush, and the war he waged, and
    the responsibility for those as yet, unknown consequences, continue to haunt the
    Republican Party.

    • The fact that people like Sen. McCain are seeking absolution for a crime against humanity by focusing on whether or not a surge designed to win a war, regardless of its justification and morality, accentuates their predicament. They are, by necessity, trying to shift the focus from the decision to attack and invade a country that had done nothing against us, and was not a threat to us, to focusing on the tools needed to bring an unnecessary war to a satisfactory conclusion.

      • RobertCHastings

        As you have already at least implied, the Irag war will NEVER come to a satisfactory conclusion, not until the entire region is embroiled in a devastating conflagration. As you have said, the deposing of the Sunnis in Iraq and replacing them with a group that was favorable toward Iran created a situation in which the US will, at least not in the short term, see a satisfactory resolution. At the time the US disbanded the Iraqi military, some in high office questioned the wisdom of that move. Who better to conntrol the country but those who had years of experience doing it – all they needed was the proper training and indoctrination. Instead Bush et al made them the enemy, an enemy that will for years be a thorn in our side, and an irritant to the entire region.

    • CPAinNewYork

      John McCain doesn’t deserve the respect that he receives because of his Vietnam War imprisonment. He proved himself to be a sleazy politician when he served as a member of the “Keating Five.” Now, he’s again serving as a sleazy politician in serving as Israel’s front man in trying to prevent anyone from serving in government who offends Israel.

      • charleo1

        Personally I think he’s suffering from dementia. Seriously!

      • Bill

        John McCain was a lousy pilot who would have washed out of pilot school except for the fact that his father was a Navy Admiral!!!

  • CPAinNewYork

    Ms. Tucker is being too kind. The iraq War wasn’t folly, it was fraud.

    • Absolutely! The greatest fraud ever perpetrated on any nation by two useless human beings and their henchmen; all of whom should be in jail serving life sentences for the manslaughter of more than 8,000 Americans (including those lost on 9/11 and in Afghanistan), 100,000 plus Iraqis and the thousands of American soldiers’ lives that have been forever changed.

  • Melda Page

    Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man and needed to be destroyed. However, it certainly would have been cheaper and easier if we had hired some assassins to do it, and just as moral/immoral. Instead, we wrecked our budget, killed thousands of our soldiers, killed thousands of innocent Iraquis (who won’t forgive us for a few hundred years), destroyed a fairly modern Middle Eastern state (where women were actually making progress), and set in motion a variety of ethnic upheavals all over the area that will keep the area volatile for generations and generate more killing. Meanwhile, the only benefit to this stupid war was to enrich our merchants of war. And there were plenty of knowledgeable experts who said exactly this and were totally ignored by the Bush administration.

    • RobertCHastings

      It would have been easier and cheaper, and far more popular from an international stance, to have let the UN work its inspection regime and, having found no WMD or nukes, that SHOULD have been the end of it. El Baradai and the American inspector who replaced him found no evidence of WMDs prior to invasion. The US had designated several hundred sites in Iraq as the repositories of the alleged WMDs and what did we do upon our invasion? Did we secure those spots, did we even make an attempt to make sure the supposed WMDs did not fall into the wrong hands? NO, we did not. If the evidence was there, we let it get away. If it was NOT there, we lost all opportunity to prove that, also. It is almost as if those prosecuting the war did not even WANT to find the smoking gun.

      • Bill

        Why would they look for something they knew didn’t exist ?

  • Does anyone else feel as phuking helpless as I do? You know what’s going on and, yes, we have the vote, but, in the meantime, everything is sliding sideways! We are not represented, not listened to and actually made fun of! We are at the governments mercy! I hate it!!

    • I think most of us feel helpless. We need to VOTE. Get people educated. So they can vote responsibly . In elections. Put term limits on congress would be a start. These like McCain, have been in office too long. Most are old and out of touch. Just like most of the GOP. Get people in office, that ideas are in the 21st century. Would be a good start.

      • Bill

        The Tea Party was supposed to do that, what happened?

  • JDavidS

    Bush even looks like he’s one sandwich light of a picnic.

  • Let us not forget, we are being lied to every day by the extreem right.

  • sleeprn01

    Since our criminal courts are unable to bring Bush, Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, et al to justice for crimes of high treason what about the International court in the Hague bringing war crimes charges against these murders.

    • nobsartist

      Malaysia already tried bush and found him guilty of war crimes.

      Thats why he is hiding.

      Thats why cheney will not leave the country unless he is guaranteed security.

      cheney can never go to canada again.

    • Bill

      That can never happen as long as we have a GOP that feels they are always right no matter what !!!

  • Bill

    I saw a lot of people in favor of the war, they had never been in combat or the service for that matter. Its easy to sit back and cheer when you know someone else will pay the price for your push for war. Now all these same people cry about the deficit and most don’t know how it was created.

  • Marsha Hobratschk

    It isn’t too late to send Bush and Cheney to Hague!