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From left: former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former vice president Dick Cheney attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, April 25, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)
I wrote my first article on the folly of an Iraq invasion in August of 2002. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I argued. There are no 9/11 connections in Iraq. There is no al Qaeda presence in Iraq, because Saddam Hussein was notorious for hanging Wahabbists from the nearest available light pole. An invasion would tear the country apart, explode sectarian tensions, and plunge the region into chaos.
Neither I nor the world knew at that time that George W. Bush and Tony Blair had decided four months earlier that the deal was going down no matter what. Neither I nor the world knew at that time that a decision had been made one month earlier to ensure that "intelligence and facts" would be "fixed around the policy" of invasion. I stayed on the no-invasion beat for the next seven months, writing dozens of articles and a book, as the world watched millions of people take to the streets in an attempt to stop something that was, as it turns out, inevitable.
Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Condoleeza Rice, and of course, George W. Bush, piled the sandbags high and deep around a decision that had already been made. We know they have these weapons, we know where they are, we don't want the evidence to be a mushroom cloud, plastic sheeting and duct tape, 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11. Save for 23 bold souls, a craven Senate caved to the pressure and delivered the Iraq War Resolution to the Bush administration, and in late March of 2003, the skies over Baghdad glowed orange as the city was turned into a bowl of molten fire.
As the WMD argument fell to ashes, I kept writing. As the 9/11-connection argument collapsed, I kept writing...and then, first in a trickle and then a flood, people started writing me. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of American soldiers who had died in Iraq wrote me letter after letter, email after email, demanding answers. Why? Why did this happen? Why did my loved one die over there?
Well, you see, I didn't have the heart to tell them, this is about election-year politics, as Karl Rove demonstrated in 2002 when he told Republicans facing midterm elections to "Run on the war." This is about an enormous payday for the oil industry, the arms industry, and Dick Cheney's friends. This is about the fever dream of a pack of neo-conservatives from think tanks like the Project for a New American Century, who believed that just because they want something really bad, and have the lives of soldiers to play with like pawns, meant it would happen just as they planned it.
Eleven years later, the worst tidings from those of us who saw this coming have arrived. I am sure you've been watching the news, and others have taken the time to detail exactly what is unfolding in Iraq. Syria has become a major factor in the situation, also because of the Iraq invasion of 2003: as that war grew larger and more ferocious, millions of refugees poured over the border into Syria and destabilized the country. The current civil war in Syria, which has become umbilically connected to the events in Iraq, owes its roots to no small degree to the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq eleven years ago.
The Iraqi regime is begging the Obama administration to deliver airstrikes in order to slow the advance of ISIS troops as they draw nearer and nearer to Baghdad. Several large cities have fallen into ISIS hands. Iran has sent Quds soldiers to help defend Baghdad, 275 American soldiers have been deployed to defend our massive Iraq embassy, and the USS George H. W. Bush has steamed into the Gulf.
And I have never, ever been angrier in my life.
Never mind the fact that I and so very many others spent so much time and energy for so many years trying to stop all this from happening. Never mind the fact that the perpetrators of this enormous fraud, this smash-and-grab robbery, this looting of the Treasury, this act of first-degree murder on a massive scale, all walked away scot-free to pursue new careers and live lives of comfort. Amazingly enough, that's not the worst part.
Tony Blair: "We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that 'we' have caused this. We haven't."
Paul Wolfowitz: "Look, it's a complicated situation in which you don't just come up with, 'We're going to bomb this, we're going to do that.'"
Doug Feith: "This is the education of Barack Obama, but it's coming at a very high cost to the Syrian people to the Iraqi people [and] to the American national interest."
John McCain: "What about the fact that General Petraeus had the conflict won thanks to the Surge and if we had left a residual force behind that we could have - we could, we would not be facing the crisis we are today."
Karl Rove, when asked about the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq: "Yeah, that's an old argument that we waste time on."
Dick Cheney: "He (Obama) abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory."
Amazing, no? And just as it was eleven years ago, the facts have no bearing on the duck-and-cover these scumbags are deploying:
A little history on the SOFA: It was being negotiated after the surge had quelled daily violence to a considerable degree. But even so, more than 100,000 Iraqis had been killed, millions had been displaced or left their country, basic services in most cities were plenty iffy, and so on. Iraqis all of sects were desperate for the Americans to leave. So they negotiated a timeline that many Bushies thought too tight, but the pressure on the Iraqis was enormous to get the United States out. Iraqi negotiators insisted on more than 100 changes to the document. From Bush's end, he basically had to take what the Iraqis gave him, because if he didn't negotiate the 2012 deadline, all U.S. forces would had to have been gone by the end of 2008. That would have been a highly precipitous withdrawal and would have looked suspiciously like defeat. I'm so glad we had a "tough" president.
In other words, the timetable here was Bush's, not Obama's. Should Obama have stuck to the negotiated timetable? Maybe not. But the Maliki government wasn't exactly eager for a renegotiation. Neither were the American people. Sure, Obama wanted to be able to campaign in 2012 saying he'd gotten our forces out. But a renegotiation of the SOFA to keep up to 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for a longer period would have been extremely difficult politically, more so in Iraq than in the United States. And of course it goes without saying, although I'll say it, that if Obama had negotiated such an agreement, John McCain and Boehner and Mitt Romney, instead of attacking Obama for keeping too few forces, would have attacked him for keeping too many.
So it's fine to give Obama some of the blame for the current Iraq mess. But he's like the guy the captain of the Titanic turned to when he heard the scout yell "Iceberg!" and said, "Here, you take the wheel." It was clear enough back in December 2008, when Bush negotiated the SOFA, that we were just ducking and running according to a politically acceptable timetable that had nothing to do with the reality on the ground. Everyone knew that that reality could easily, indeed would likely, devolve into the sectarian disaster we see now. And as a side note, let's not forget the decision by Bush's man Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi army. That left a lot of unemployed officers who, according to regional expert Fawaz Gerges, went and joined...ISIS.
Let me put it plainly: these people do not belong on my television. They belong in prison, for the crimes of theft, torture and murder. They shattered the lives of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Iraqi civilians. They savaged the American economy paying for it all, and several of them got very rich in the process. They should be in orange jumpsuits and fetters, picking mealworms out of their gruel while shuttered in very small, very grim, very inescapable metal rooms.
I spent the first decade of the 21st century dealing with these blood-sodden bastards. Now, it appears, I will spend a chunk of a second decade watching them run around trying desperately to wash that blood from their hands...and the "news" media, also thoroughly culpable in this ongoing debacle, is all too happy to help them do it.
That, too, should be a crime.
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