On March 19, 2003 George Bush, Dick Cheney and the cabal surrounding them launched their war of Shock and Awe on Iraq. The stated purpose was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”1
This war that no one is celebrating was based on a nest of lies and deception not only by the President but many others in the government. It failed to accomplish its three goals. In the case of the first two objectives because the facts did not then nor now support the asserted bad behavior. As to the third, I would leave it up to the Iraqis to decide whether their present state is “freedom”.
In a world where political and military leaders from the Balkans, Africa, South America, and South Asia are brought into courts and tried for war crimes, a group of Americans whose crimes are similarly egregious if not numerically significantly worse, remain free to cut brush in Texas (is Bush still doing this?) or glower into the interviewer’s lens (see the documentary “The World According to Dick Cheney”), remain safely beyond reach. Our politics is so supine in the face of Presidents that we have not seen even the mild treatment handed out to Tony Blair who was forced to face down members of Parliament. And this ten year anniversary has brought numerous stories concerning the origins of the war into the media. The Guardian’s “MI6 and CIA were told before invasion that Iraq had no active WMD” is an example. At least one of the culprits, Paul Wolfowitz, is now backtracking.2
Unfortunately we have a long tradition of accepting Presidential overreach and deceit as acceptable behavior. Compare LBJ’s Vietnam War or Reagan’s wars in Central America. And it continues under Obama with his drone wars. No President seems capable of denying themselves the toys of power provided by the American military establishment and, in the post 9/11 era, the burgeoning domestic security state.
Now one might challenge the assertion that there are crimes against peace in Bush’s War on Iraq. It is clear to this observer that Bush’s war does not meet the qualifications for a preemptive war (or a war of self-defence for that matter). An early definition, the Caroline Test, describes a valid preemption as a “necessity of that self-defense is instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”3 The UN Charter uses the phrase “imminent danger”. The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has been so thoroughly debunked that no comment about their imminent deployment is required. Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorists seems likewise to be a fiction of war fervor. On April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes, “We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period.”
I will leave it to the psychologists and conspiracists to determine the motives of Bush’s War. The human consequences have been enormous, by far the worst being on the Iraqi side. The financial consequences of spending 100s of $ billions of borrowed money to carry out the war will be felt into the future.4 Finally, the political consequences in the Middle East and more generally throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds seem undeniable if somewhat murky.
In the end, Americans love a war. With rare exceptions of the Revolutionary War and Civil War they are never fought here. Increasingly the human toll is limited to a tiny portion of the population and now even that has been reduced largely to the threat of hemorrhoids in our drone drivers. The American people simply enjoy trotting out our awesome military machinery and waving flags. They do not seem remotely concerned that our government lies to us and wastes our resources terrorizing remote “threats”.
- http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030322.html [↩]
- see The Sunday Times story [↩]
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caroline_affair [↩]
- Does it seem strangely coherent that Bush gave a huge tax break to the wealthy at the same time he was spending borrowed money to fight a war? [↩]