Lessons from Iraq tragedy – excerpts


The Worst Mis­take in U.S. His­tory — Amer­ica Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great For­eign Pol­icy Dis­as­ter By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dis­patch , March 7, 2013 …by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we — and so many others — will pay the price for it for a long, long time.

Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by  The Observer,   Sep­tem­ber 1, 2012   — Arch­bishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the inter­na­tional crim­i­nal court in The Hague and deliv­ered a damn­ing cri­tique of the phys­i­cal and moral dev­as­ta­tion caused by the Iraq war.

The Siren Song Of War: Why Pundits Beat The Drums For Iraq by Kathleen Geier, nationalmemo.com, March 22, 2013   Pundits like to imagine that they take political positions only after a careful consideration of the merits — listening to arguments, studying position papers, weighing the pros and cons, and coming to a decision. But politics is not necessarily so rational, and never was irrationality more plainly on display than in the months leading up to the Iraq War. Ten years later, it is worth exploring why so many opinion-makers – including those who were otherwise critical of the Bush administration — passionately advocated war. For at least some leading pundits, their position seems to have been shaped less by “reason” or “ideas” than something more primal and even tribal, reflecting their fantasies about who they imagined themselves to be. What follows is a taxonomy of certain pundits on the center and the left who, to their eternal shame, beat the drums of war — hard…Matthew Yglesias…Dan Savage…Christopher Hitchens…Paul Berman…David Rieff…Peter Beinart…Thomas Friedman…Next up are those heroic journalists – sometimes dubbed the “Keyboard Commandos” — who wanted to re-fight World War II in Iraq. This crew saw Islam as a noxious, world-conquering ideology akin to Nazism: Islamofascism, as the late Christopher Hitchens once coined it. He and Andrew Sullivan flattered themselves as intellectual heirs of George Orwell, saving the world from both fascism and left-wing appeasers. Sullivan’s smearing of war opponents as a “fifth column” made that abundantly clear……The inability of these pundits to think straight may simply be a symptom of narcissism poisoning. For them, invasion and war were all about presenting their preferred face to the world — and to themselves. Henry James once wrote that a writer should be “one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” For these pundits, everything was lost — everything, that is, but their own overgrown egos.

Democ­rats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War, 17 March 2013 06:59 By Stephen Zunes, Truthout | Op-Ed  The Democrats who voted to support the war and rationalized that vote by making false claims about Iraq’s WMD programs – a minority of Democrats, but much over-represented in Democratic leadership councils – were responsible for allowing the Bush administration to get away with lying about Iraq’s alleged threat. in most cases these members of Congress had been informed by knowledgeable sources of the widespread human and material costs that would result from a US invasion…As a result, support for the resolution authorizing the Iraq War is not something that can simply be forgotten…

10 years after Iraq War: What do we have to show for it? By Eric Black, MinnPost.com, March 14, 2013 Perhaps something in the neighborhood of 1 million Iraqis died as a result of the U.S. decision to liberate them from the tyrant Saddam Hussein…a huge portion of the Iraqi dead were not our enemies. They were neither soldiers of Saddam Hussein nor terrorists. They were just Iraqis who were in the wrong time and place when this war blew things up…the nation seethes with ethnic, sectarian, tribal and ideological grievances. All of the post-war governments have been corrupt. Hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars intended for post-war “reconstruction” of Iraq have been wasted or stolen.

How the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wil­son and Valerie Plame Wil­son, The Guardian, Feb­ru­ary 28, 2013 – We knew WMD intelligence was flawed, but there was a larger failure of officials, media and public to halt the neocon juggernaut…The Bush administration was determined to go to war, however bad the intelligence…That it was so successful is an indictment of a corrupt administration. But it is also emblematic of the failure of the checks and balances that are the hallmark of our democracy…the US Congress was ineffective, to say the least, in the exercise of its oversight responsibilities…Washington press corps was dilatory in its investigative reporting – valuing access and cozy relationships with senior officials above the search for truth; ultimately, the media served as lapdogs rather than watchdogs.

10 Years Later: Look­ing Back on the Iraq War So We Can Clearly Look For­ward by Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, Huff­in­g­ton Post,03/06/2013 …March 20, the 10th anniversary of one of the biggest disasters in the history of the United States. That was the day George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and a team of others — along with much of Washington and a very complicit mainstream media — took the nation to war against Iraq. The devastating consequences of that war will continue for decades, but a full accounting has still yet to happen. And that in itself has consequences. Allowing the toxic mixture of lies, deception and rationalizations that led to that war to go unchallenged makes it more likely that we will make similar tragic mistakes in the future. So I hope we can use this moment to assess what really happened, to look back in order to look forward…In the seemingly endless manufactured crisis over the “fiscal cliff” and the sequester, it’s amazing how much airtime and print space have been devoted to the deficit with the word “Iraq” barely getting a mention. Clearly a triumph of forgetting. … the consequences of this disastrous war are still very much with us……it’s vital that our accounting of the failures that led to this tragedy not be relegated to the past…for the 10th anniversary, let’s also build online monuments dedicated to those who planned and provoked and fomented the war, so we can join in the struggle of memory against forgetting.

The Neo­con­ser­v­a­tives

The Real New World Order – The American and the Islamic challenge by Charles Krauthammer, November 12, The Weekly Standard, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 09… With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the emergence of the United States as the undisputed world hegemon… American hegemony had no serious challenge. That moment lasted precisely ten years, beginning with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It is now over. The challenge, long-awaited, finally declared itself on September 11 when the radical Islamic movement opened its worldwide war with a, literally, spectacular attack on the American homeland…Radical Islam is not yet a great idea, but it is a dangerous one. And on September 11, it arose. It took only a few hours for elite thinking about U.S. foreign policy to totally reorient itself, waking with a jolt from a decade-long slumber…The first President Bush sought to establish a New World Order. He failed, in part because he allowed himself to lose a war he had just won. The second President Bush never sought a New World Order. It was handed to him on Sept. 11. To maintain it, however, he has a war to win.

Open Let­ter to the Pres­i­dent A let­ter to George W. Bush about our nation’s defense bud­get. The Weekly Stan­dard, Jan­u­ary 23, 2003  Dear Mr. President:  Excerpt – We write to endorse the bold new course you have charted for American national security strategy. Your administration has shown impressive leadership in recognizing new threats and seizing new opportunities to create an enduring “balance of power that favors freedom.” Yet a great risk remains: a continuing lack of military means. For the fact is this: Our current level of defense spending is inadequate to meet the demands of the Bush Doctrine. American strength is key to building the new world you have envisioned…Yet a multitude of threats elsewhere call into question our ability now, and in the future, to defend adequately our interests and our principles around the globe. Removing Saddam is but the first step toward reconstructing a decent government in Iraq and carrying out your strategic vision for the Middle East. Other rogue states remain a major problem…North Korea…[Iran] ..the “axis of evil”

Meanwhile, the war on terrorism, as you predicted, is being “fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over an extended period of time.” … And, lest we forget, American troops continue to keep the peace…and patrol countless other global hotspots. In sum, there is an increasingly dangerous gap between our strategic ends and our military means, and the Bush Doctrine cannot be carried out effectively without a larger military force. By every measure, current defense spending is inadequate for a military with global responsibilities… To rebuild, transform, and man our military adequately for its many missions and responsibilities, defense spending will need to be increased…We urge you, Mr. President, to make it a legislative and budgetary priority to increase defense…over the next few years in order to ensure that the security challenges we face are met.

Sincerely, William Kristol, Gary Bauer – Max Boot – Frank Carlucci, Eliot Cohen – Midge Decter – Thomas Donnelly, Frank Gaffney – Daniel Goure – Bruce P. Jackson, Donald Kagan – Robert Kagan – Lewis E. Lehrman, Tod Lindberg – Rich Lowry – Daniel McKivergan, Danielle Pletka – Norman Podhoretz – Stephen P. Rosen, Gary Schmitt – Randy Scheunemann – William Schneider, Jr., Richard Shultz – Henry Sokolski – Chris Williams, R. James Woolsey

The Project for the New Amer­i­can Cen­tury By William Rivers Pitt, Infor­ma­tion Clear­ing House 02/25/03 - The People versus the Powerful is the oldest story in human history. At no point in history have the Powerful wielded so much control…PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations…When Bush assumed the Presidency, the men who created and nurtured the imperial dreams of PNAC became the men who run the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the White House. When the Towers came down, these men saw, at long last, their chance to turn their White Papers into substantive policy. Vice President Dick Cheney…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld…and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is the ideological father of the group…

Neo­cons and the Iraq War: Their view then and now 10 years later By Eric Black, Minnpost.com, March 15, 2013  – Ten years ago, the Bush administration’s foreign policy was in the thrall of a movement called “neoconservatism”   An influential group of foreign policy thinkers sees the possibly imminent overthrow of Saddam Hussein as just one early step in an ambitious blueprint to spread democracy throughout the world and eliminate threats to the United States… Critics argue that the neocon ideas, including “regime change,” are a recipe for perpetual war…

Cost/benefit of war

A Fearful Price By BOB HERBERT, Op-Ed Colum­nist, New York Times, Decem­ber 8, 2009 …The idea that fewer than 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are being called on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we’re send­ing them into com­bat again and again and again — for three tours, four tours, five tours, six tours — is obscene. All decent peo­ple should object…the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Amer­i­cans have no desire at all to share in the sac­ri­fices that the ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies are mak­ing. Most Amer­i­cans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their pre­cious time to do vol­un­teer work that would aid the nation’s war­riors and their fam­i­lies, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars…The rea­son it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to con­tinue fight­ing year after year after year, is because so few Amer­i­cans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II com­bined. If vot­ers had to choose right now between insti­tut­ing a draft or exit­ing Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two coun­tries in a heartbeat…Here’s George Washington’s view, for exam­ple: “It must be laid down as a pri­mary posi­tion and the basis of our sys­tem, that every cit­i­zen who enjoys the pro­tec­tion of a free gov­ern­ment owes not only a pro­por­tion of his prop­erty, but even his per­sonal ser­vice to the defense of it.”

War Is a Force That Pays the 1 Per­cent: Occu­py­ing Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy by: J.A. Myer­son, Truthout | News Analy­sis, Novem­ber 14, 2011 …The nexus of power that Occupy is looking to challenge in this country does not stop at Wall Street. Military profiteering is an integral part of the system and it should be challenged…War profiteers benefit from the same corrupt system that bolsters the wealth of stock traders: this country provides more democracy, freedom and protection to the very wealthy than to the average citizen…

Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Tril­lion, Could Grow to $6 Tril­lion, Says Wat­son Insti­tute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13  …The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number

Amer­i­can Mil­i­tarism: Costs and Con­se­quences By Melvin Good­man, City Lights Books | Book Excerpt, Truth-out.org, 05 March 2013  …The United States has the most secure geopolitical environment of any major nation, but sustains a defense budget that equals the combined budgets of the rest of the world. ..The United States has become that militarized nation that President Dwight D. Eisenhower presciently warned against in his farewell address more than fifty years ago… …President George W. Bush … campaigned [in 2000] on the basis of moderation in foreign policy, multilateralism, and the so-called “new world order,” he and [Vice President] Cheney moved quickly to establish a “wartime presidency.” He campaigned on the basis of a modest buildup of the defense establishment, but doubled the defense budget during his presidency. …President Bush enunciated his doctrine of preemptive war in Iraq…His policy of unilateralism, … marked a radical turn in U.S. foreign policy…


The Day That TV News Died by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, March 25, 2013 I am not sure exactly when the death of tele­vi­sion news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the triv­ial and the inane, into the cha­rade on cable news chan­nels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up cor­po­rate polit­i­cal pup­pets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legit­i­mate news. But if I had to pick a date when com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion decided amass­ing cor­po­rate money and pro­vid­ing enter­tain­ment were its cen­tral mis­sion, when it con­sciously chose to become a car­ni­val act, it would prob­a­bly be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Don­ahue off the air because of his oppo­si­tion to the calls for war in Iraq.

Don­ahue and Bill Moy­ers, the last hon­est men on national tele­vi­sion, were the only two major TV news per­son­al­i­ties who pre­sented the view­points of those of us who chal­lenged the rush to war in Iraq. Gen­eral Elec­tric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense con­trac­tors that went on to make tremen­dous prof­its from the war—were not about to tol­er­ate a dis­sent­ing voice. Don­ahue was fired, and at PBS Moy­ers was sub­jected to tremen­dous pressure…

The celebrity trolls who cur­rently reign on com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion, who bill them­selves as lib­eral or con­ser­v­a­tive, read from the same cor­po­rate script…Their role is to fun­nel viewer energy back into our dead polit­i­cal system—to make us believe that Democ­rats or Repub­li­cans are not cor­po­rate pawns…

What mat­tered then and what mat­ters now is likability—known in tele­vi­sion and adver­tis­ing as the Q score—not hon­esty and truth. Tele­vi­sion news celebri­ties are in the busi­ness of sales, not jour­nal­ism. They ped­dle the ide­ol­ogy of the cor­po­rate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omis­sion is still a lie. It is what these news celebri­ties do not men­tion that exposes their com­plic­ity with cor­po­rate power.…They are paid to dis­credit or ignore the nation’s most astute crit­ics of cor­po­ratism, among them Cor­nel West, Medea Ben­jamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chom­sky. They are paid to chat­ter mind­lessly, hour after hour, fill­ing our heads with the the­ater of the absurd…Elite media fea­tures elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Don­ahue spent four years after leav­ing MSNBC mak­ing the movie doc­u­men­tary “Body of War” …about the par­a­lyzed Iraq War vet­eran Tomas Young… Don­ahue noted that only a very small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans have a close rel­a­tive who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller num­ber make the per­sonal sac­ri­fice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is san­i­tized.”… Don­ahue was told that the film, although it had received great crit­i­cal acclaim, was too depress­ing and not uplifting.…I am stunned at how many Amer­i­cans stand mute.”

Updated 3/26/13

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