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The Iraq War: Who Got It Right

Memo Pad Politics

The Iraq War: Who Got It Right



On August 27, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that explicitly laid out the case to invade Iraq based on an assumption that “Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Cheney’s speech conflated the threat presented by Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda, as he had been doing since the 9/11 attacks, arguing for a sudden shift in American policy from containment and deterrence to preemption. In doing so, the Bush administration ignored an opportunity to make diplomatic inroads with Iran and instead destabilized the Middle East with an unprovoked disaster that killed and injured more than 100,000 civilians, thousands of U.S. soldiers, and evaporated more than a trillion dollars in American wealth.

From late August 2002 until March 19, 2004, a slow-motion tragedy unfolded in front of the world. American officials made the case for war using dubious intelligence while effectively casting any and all opposition to the effort as unpatriotic and un-American. A complicit media generally repeated the case unquestioned and though millions protested the invasion all over the globe, the American public supported the administration’s lust for a second war in response to 9/11 by a margin of 72-22.

Still, critics of the “the single worst foreign policy decision in American history” (including many liberals in Congress and much of the left-leaning media, including editor-in-chief Joe Conason) did their best to break through the drumbeat, even before the Bush administration’s foolish prosecution of the war made the capricious folly of the Iraq War apparent to the world.

Here are a few of the people who criticized the invasion of Iraq, even as they risked their careers and reputations to do so. (And here are the folks who got it wrong.)

Photo: forwardstl


  1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2013

    George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should be tried for crimes against humanity. Not a single 9/11 terrorist was from Iraq. No evidence has been presented that suggests Saddam Hussein was involved in any way in planning, financing or supporting 9/11. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were members of the Saudi Arabian Wahhabist sect, and so were most of the Al Qaeda financiers that paid for that horrible act. Interestingly, the only country that got away with murder was Saudi Arabia, the homeland of those responsible for 9/11, who were actually rewarded for their evil act when their country was declared a Most Favored Nation for trade purposes by George W. Bush.

    We invaded Iraq to project an illusion of revenge of those responsible for 9/11, to punish Saddam for given the contracts that Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted on behalf of Halliburton and Bechtel to Russian and French companies, to benefit financially from the subsequent chaos by giving sole source contracts to Friends of Bush, and to transform our ambivalent President into a war President.

    The only one that got it right, when it comes to the Iraq Insurgency, was General Petraeus, who recognized that the most effect way to re-establish peace was to give jobs to the Sunnis fighting for survival and for their sovereignty.

    1. MozartFX March 14, 2013

      We did not “invade Iraq to project an illusion of revenge”. We invaded Iraq to begin bringing the Middle East into the 21st century. Bringing democracy to the Middle East, beginning with Iraq. The thinking was, “If we can bring democracy to Iraq, people living in the surrounding countries will begin to demand democracy in THEIR countries. It worked. This “Arab Spring” is thanks to George W. Bush. Democracy is what will destroy the Islamic fundamentalists.

      “Crimes AGAINST humanity”? Let me get this straight, you want to try the men who freed 26 million people from a dictator and gave them a REAL chance to move their country into the modern world? Tell that to the 19 year old Iraqi girl who is now studying to be a doctor at UCLA because Saddam Hussein and his insane sons have been removed from power. If we didn’t remove them, how exactly would YOU have brought democracy to Iraq? Ask them nicely to leave?

      Fifty years from now, ask the women of the Middle East if THEY’RE happy that George W. Bush and American soldiers brought freedom and democracy to the Middle East.

      1. dtgraham March 14, 2013

        Doesn’t seem very likely that the revolt against the aging, sick, Mubarek in Egypt was brought about by Saddam Hussein’s removal from Iraq 9 years earlier. In any event, it’s hardly a secret that Mubarek was an American backed propped up dictator subservient to U.S. and western interests. That’s what kept him there since 1981. Why didn’t freedom loving W. remove Mubarek as well? Haven’t you noticed that the political right hates the Arab spring?

        So you say that you want to “bring the middle east into the 21st century” by invasion. When do the military operations start against Bahrain, Dubai, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen? Dictatorships all…some brutal, some less so. Then we go further south into Africa after that. Can’t wait. Money? What’s that?

        Regarding Iraq– ironically, you could actually make the argument that women are less able to advance educationally and in the workplace due to Islamic fundamentalism making a comeback after 2003. Iraq was one of the most secular nations in the middle east under Hussein, strange as it sounds. It was the reason that there were plenty of women in the professions and the universities before. That is changing now. It’s not uncommon in some of the territories for Iraqi women to not be able to obtain a passport or travel without a male relative’s OK. That didn’t used to be. In fact, because of his repression of the Shi’ites, his staunch secularism, and his secularization of Iraq, it was very difficult for devout and conservative Muslims of any type to think well of Hussein.

  2. dtgraham March 11, 2013

    The overwhelming majority of nations got it right. The Iraq invasion was protested vigorously by 54 different countries as the build up to war was happening. This was almost strictly a U.S. and U.K. adventure, with Bush’s poodle in London convinced to go along for the ride, for momentary self aggrandizement I’m guessing. Whatever demons possessed a British Labour Prime minister to agree with the American neo-cons on something like this is a mystery that will be forever shrouded in the sands of time. None of the other Europeans agreed.

    I clearly remember the Canadian government not believing anything that the Bush White House was putting out on Iraq at that time. That was so unusual because Canada had always stood with it’s American friend and ally in the past. In October of 2001, Canada was right there with America and the U.N. on Afghanistan. To this day, Canadian troops are still there….reluctantly. Canada never contributed a thing to Iraq, however, and that was consistent with virtually the entire rest of the world.

    1. idamag March 11, 2013

      And when other countries, like France, Germany, and Russia refused to participate in that farce of a war, people turned against them.

      1. Dominick Vila March 11, 2013

        You are right. I remember the way we ridiculed France (Freedom fries), insults, claims of cowardice, etc. All because they did not want to be part of a genocide. I am afraid history is not going to be very kind with us when it comes to this one.

      2. dtgraham March 11, 2013

        Unfortunately we now have Stephen Harper to make people turn against Canada idamag. He doesn’t even need any help.

    2. plc97477 March 12, 2013

      I made sure I ate only french fries.

      1. dtgraham March 13, 2013

        If you put vinegar on ’em (tradition north of the 49th) that would’ve been the final show of insurrection you rebel you. Thanks for the solidarity plc.

  3. PhysicsCarlsh March 11, 2013

    It is saddening to bring back all of these memories of the people whom we knew at the time were right about the disaster war with Iraq would bring upon us as a nation.

    Our job at this time is not to expound on how smart we are as we point out errors of he past. Our resolve must be to see that this does not happen again, for example in Iran. And our resolve must be to see that this does not mean we will become a second class nation as our demand for program cuts threatens our education and science.

    1. TZToronto March 11, 2013

      You are right, of course. However, we may run into the “boy who cried wolf” situation if and when a real threat appears. Thanks to Bush, et al., real threats may be perceived as trumped up lies–especially if there is a Republican President (perish the thought!).

    2. idamag March 11, 2013

      After the horrible atrocities of WWII, that is what the United Nations was for: to see that it never happened again. bush attacked Iraq over the protests of the United Nations who was sending inspectors into Iraq. We didn’t have the support of our allies because it was an evil attack on a country that was no threat to us. 100,000 innocent Iraqis were killed in the bombing of Baghdad. Four thousand of our own were killed and countless numbers maimed for life.

      The Geneva Conventions, signed by all nations, to prevent torturing prisoners of war, were ignored or given new meanings. Coming ups with excuses for the invasion,after no weapons of destruction were found, does not cut it.

      Guantanamo – maybe every person incarcerated there is guilty. And maybe there are some who are innocent. In the name of common decency they should be tried. After all, we have the word of the most dishonest administration (bush) that I can remember.

  4. lindasimmons2010 March 11, 2013

    I respect each of these people and their stand opposing the Iraq War. But please don’t forget the many private citizens whose lives were also deeply harmed and sometimes shattered by their opposition to this wrong and unnecessary war. I know there are many like me who stood up and spoke out and marched and protested from before the war to near its end and faced the consequences of family divisions and ostracization from friends and co-workers who supported the war. Our lives and relationships were damaged and many sad divisions still continue. Cheney-Bush et al are unwilling to know or acknowledge the harm they did to so very many people in so very many ways.

    1. idamag March 11, 2013

      However, you were a real American Heroine.

    2. Jim Myers March 11, 2013

      Replying to lindasimmons2010 –

      Although I did not go to the lengths you went to, I also voiced my disagreement to the invasion of Iraq. My District Manager at the time was a die hard Conservative who cold not, and would not believe that the Bush administration would enter us into a war without good cause.

      Fortunately for me, even though we did not see eye to eye on this subject, I was NEVER singled out for any type of punishment or ridicule.

      His main concern was the work that his subordinates did for him. Not their political beliefs. So, yes, I still believe there are a lot of Conservatives who can be trusted to do what is right.

      It is too bad more of them are not involved in politics. Because, the ones who are reasonable are far outnumbered by those who refuse to negotiate or concede any point of view that does not align with theirs.

  5. dellmartin March 11, 2013

    My heart goes out to anyone who lost a loved one in this phony trumped up invasion of Iraq. I am outraged by it and if I had lost one of my own I wouldn’t rest until some sort of justice against those guilty of this deplorable act occurs. To add salt to the wounds, Cheney now says if he had to do it all over again he wouldn’t change a thing.

    1. latebloomingrandma March 11, 2013

      God forgive me, but a new heart was wasted on the likes of Cheney.

      1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2013

        I can’t believe that son of a bitch Cheney was allowed to jump ahead of the line of good people waiting for heart transplants.

        1. idamag March 11, 2013

          That is another thing that needs to be changed. If you have the money you can get a transplant right away. We had a man, in our community, who needed a liver. Before he could even be considered he had to have $100,000 up front. Fund raisers were being held up and down the valley, but the money was raised too late.

      2. idamag March 11, 2013


    2. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2013

      Cheney is an unrepentant piece of garbage.

      1. RobertCHastings March 11, 2013

        Of course he is unrepentant. He is extremely proud of having been a part of the Bush administration and all that means. Since his terms as a Congressman during the Reagan years, Cheney and his neo-con buddies had planned such an escapade as the one into Iraq, to cement American hegemony in the region. The invasion of Iraq was NOT formulated over the year or so before its actual implementation, but had been in the works for over 20 years. Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the plan, even wrote articles in prominent conservative publications during the 80’s stating as much. All the White House associates who took part in the Iraq fiasco should be imprisoned, either here or in Europe under the auspices of the International Criminal Court- oh, excuse me, that won’t happen because Bush refused to be a signatory to the treaty that established the ICC. His policy of pre-emption has made the US more vulnerable to attack from anyone who chooses, for it is nowan established precedent internationally that one nation can attack another, preemptively, if it feels threatened, just the justification that North Korea and Iran are looking for.

      2. Reddiaperbaby March 11, 2013

        A very rich and arrogant piece of garbage…his billions are tainted with the blood of thousands…he will be forever remembered as an avatar of pure evil.

    3. Jim Myers March 11, 2013

      Of course Cheney would do it over again.

      After all, he committed Treason and got away with it.

      And, managed to bilk the United States out of hundreds of billions of dollars that were funneled into the war machine that fed Halliburton and several other Military – Industrial companies.

      That was just pay back for the millions Halliburton paid him.

      He and George the Second pulled off the largest fraud ever conceived against the United States.

      Why not do it again?

  6. patrick g van meter March 11, 2013

    The sad part is that this could happen again. Non of these people were held accountable. Jeb bush says history will be kind to his brother. If you believe that history is not history. Knowledge of facts.

  7. latebloomingrandma March 11, 2013

    The Valerie Plame affair was covered in depth on MSNBC, almost as a fixation. I don’t know how it was covered on Fox, as i don’t watch it, but my brother who seems to worship there, says that affair amounted to nothing but over-hype and that Ms Plame was nothing more than a glorified secretary. Wrong! His views on other things are also so skewed it’s almost impossible to have a normal conversation about things going on in the news. Fox was fixated on ACORN , yet seemed to be somewhat untruthful, using doctored films as the truth. Very frustrating as how news sources can be so varied. If you don’t get your sources from a wide variety, you’re doomed.

    Secondly, Jeb Bush is speaking as a brother as he stands up for W. He is delusional if he thinks history will be kind to George W. Bush. And even realizing that siblings can be very diferent, as my brother and I are, I don’t think the country can stomach another Bush. He is certainly more articulate than W., but as he spoke out on his extreme sadness that Romney is not in the Whitehouse and what a spectacular President he would have been, I completely wrote him off. A Bush is a Bush.

    1. Independent1 March 11, 2013

      The majority of American’s don’t realize how fortunate our country is that Mitt Romney was not elected president. Mitt would have become nothing more than a figurehead for America’s corporate elite; America would have gradually become the world’s 1st corporate run nation. Mitt had already started the process shortly before the election by suggesting at a corporate fund raiser that CEOs should be writing letters to their employees letting them know that many of them may be laid off if Obama was re-elected – a ploy to simply intimidate ones employees to vote the way the company wanted. Fortunately, although a number of CEOs acted on Mitt’s suggestion and wrote letter to their employees saying just that – You may be laid off if Barak Obama is re-elected (by the Koch Bros, and the CEOs of GE, BofA and several others) Romney lost; and including inspite of all the monies that billionaires and corporations poured into fallicious advertisements during month after month of campaigning. We need to be so thankful that America dodged an absolute disaster!!!!

    2. plc97477 March 12, 2013

      I think I would sooner vote for your brother than a bush.

  8. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2013

    Without a doubt, this article is one of the best summaries of the crimes that led to our invasion of Iraq that I’ve seen to date. Jason Sattler should be given a Pulitzer Prize for this.

  9. JDavidS March 11, 2013

    Bush, Cheney et al should be sitting in the dock at the Hague. War criminals and guilty of crimes against humanity, up to and including U.S. service personnel.

    1. idamag March 11, 2013

      JD, there are some countries that have tried bush, cheney and rummy ab-sentia and found them guilty. They will be arrested if they go to those countries.

      1. JDavidS March 11, 2013

        Sadly they will not face international condemnation in the Hague as the U.S.isn’t a signatory to this particular court. Mores the pity. Cheers, idamag!

  10. Steven Lonergan March 11, 2013

    The whole War was wrong, from the thousands of lifes lost due to spinning, to the theatrics of Jessica Lynch, Pat Tilman, and yes how can we forget the landing on Abraham Lincoln AirCraft Carrier with the banner proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished.” I too was speaking out against this war for one basic reason, most the hijackers haled from Saudi Arabia, and the only thing we ever saw was President Bush walking hand in hand with Prince Badir of Saudi Arabia down the tarmac everytime he came to the United States. This doesnt even take into consideration the 3 Trillion dollars that this war has cost us so far…The cost will be higher from that due to these one time members of the armed services will be the Veterans we “Need” to take care of. So on reflection of all this, when is the oil from this war going to pay for this war again??? I think Courts suing the Bush’s and Chenney’s into abject poverty to help pay for this war will happen before the oil starts paying for what helped lead us into this debt.

    1. idamag March 11, 2013

      I remember the hi-jackers were from Saudi Arabia and I remember the cozy pictures of the prince and bush hand in hand.

  11. roguerunners March 11, 2013

    “History will be kind to him” because certain atrocities are swept under the rug.
    Is this another “too big to fail” thing? I hope not.
    It is however, a too big to forget thing. Especially to those of us who lost loved ones in Iraq.

  12. m8lsem March 11, 2013

    The image on page 1 of 3 soldiers with rifles looks like 2 of them are, or are in danger of, resting the barrel on the ground, which is an excellent way to plug the same with nasty consequences for the later shooter … I dealt with one casualty who had done that, and the works blew down from the magazine into his leg …

  13. elw March 11, 2013

    Except for those on the radical right, it seems to me that common knowledge is pretty much on the side of those who felt that the Iraq war was based on lies and personal gain for those in the Bush administration. That Bush, Cheney, Rice continue to walk free and are by some considered heroes is the second greatest shame that has resulted from that war. They are no heroes, but nothing more than unethical, immoral people who are no better than the man they waged war against.

    1. plc97477 March 12, 2013

      some might say worse

      1. elw March 12, 2013

        Well, I would not disagree with that.

  14. PhysicsCarlsh March 11, 2013

    Thanks, Idamag. You are right. I was a District Urchin, raised on the Manhattan District.

    Chancellor Kohl once called the 20th century that horrible century. We never want to see those atrocities again.

  15. Dirk Vanden March 11, 2013

    something no one has mentioned, W believed he was entering Armagedden in response to 911. Remember, he was a “Born Again” and believed the end of the world was at hand. Islam was the mortal enemy of Christianity & had to be smitten, according to all the prophesies. He believed he was helping Jesus by killing Sadam. Cheney encouraged W’s fantasy. Both of them should be tried as War Criminals and maybe then reveal’ some of the real truth behind the worst president in history. Like that’s going to happen!

    1. idamag March 11, 2013

      I can proudly say that I never, once, believed Iraq was a threat. We were visiting in Bisbee, AZ and I joined a protest there. God save us from born again Christians.

  16. steveh46 March 11, 2013

    Third paragraph: “From late August 2002 until March 19, 2004…”
    Don’t you mean March 19, 2003?

  17. HOFER47 March 11, 2013

    Ever since there was talk of starting the war in Iraq, I remembered Vietnam. And Iraq was like Vietnam – no mistake about that. I only wish the known Vietnam protesters, such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Tom Hayden, Peter, Paul, and Mary, had been equally active. Also, where were Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice Albertine King? Theri father opposed the Vietnam war and co-founded Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam – why did they not follow in his footsteps? Shame on these three!!

  18. Robert P. Robertson March 11, 2013

    Man, I really love this NM article! It reminds me of an old Bobby Womack song: When the skeletons come out of the closet and chase you all around the room, and memories float like ghosts and dance around in a sad slow tune! . . Just listen to those old 60 Minute videos and no more need to be said. The only intel the CIA missed was the insurmountable greed, corruption, treason, astronomical terrorism of Bush/Cheney. Thank you! Investigations, anyone?

  19. Bradley P O'Brien March 11, 2013

    The USA should have never stopped the first Gulf War. Back then the USA could have marched into Baghdad easily. But the elder Bush said to stop and we did. And Hussein was able to tighten his grip over the Iraqi people.

    1. Michael Welch March 13, 2013

      At least Daddy Bush went to war for a purpose, to liberate Kuwait, then got out before digging into a quagmire. It makes his intentions look more sincere. Bush Junior and Cheney clearly went to war to feed the War Profiteers.

      1. Bradley P O'Brien May 12, 2013

        I hope now we have a bipartisan consensus on one vital issue: Islam so thoroughly dominates and controls those cultures where it is THE state religion that there simply is NO WAY for any western concept of limited democratic govt to take place at all. The western nations are heavily influenced by the concept of humanity’s failing. As fallen humans we recognize how unchecked power will lead to tyranny. But Islam denies any type of fallen human nature due to sin. Hence the muslim govts do not have any restrictions on the power of the state. If folks are basically good no need to limit the power of the state, and tyrants seize power.

  20. Bradley P O'Brien March 11, 2013

    And now the entire world realizes that Islamic religion and multi party limited democracy are completely incompatible.

  21. Michael Welch March 13, 2013

    A trillion dollars of American wealth didn’t just disappear. If I have a 1 oz bar of gold, then I pay it in taxes or otherwise spend it, it hasn’t disappeared, it’s only changed hands. That trillion dollars only changed hands from American taxpayers to those who profit from the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). That was, after all, the only justification for the Iraq war: war profiteering.

  22. MozartFX March 14, 2013

    WARNING: Delusional, uninformed, angry, selfish, short-sighted, Obama voters who take their freedoms for granted abound in this comments thread.

  23. Marcia M. March 15, 2013

    Don’t forget Paul Krugman… and me. I’m nobody you know about, but when everybody else had a Bald Eagle posted on their office door, I had Mark Twain’s War Prayer. I got in trouble with HR.

  24. Marcia M. March 15, 2013

    And MozartFX – rather than asking that woman in med school, why don’t you ask the 100,000 dead and displaced Iraquis whether they’d rather have had the invasion? Saddam may have fallen a few years later in the Arab Spring, RELATIVELY bloodlessly, like Hosny Mubarak.


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