“It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.” Ah, if only it were true. The reality is, it was twenty years ago today (or tomorrow, depending on when this posts) that the United States, without provocation or legitimate reason, invaded the sovereign country of Iraq. The reasons are complicated and hideous in retrospect. Allow me to attempt a recap.
On 9/11/01, Islamic extremists hijacked four of our commercial jets and launched the most destructive terrorist attack in our nation’s history. Nearly 3,000 citizens were killed. Two of the planes hit The World Trade Center in Manhattan, bringing down both towers. Another plane struck the Pentagon, and a third crashed in Pennsylvania after heroic passengers overpowered the hijackers. The aftermath was a time of national tragedy, and a long period of mourning ensued. The American people wanted peace and stability returned, but, perhaps more vehemently, they wanted revenge. We initially weren’t sure who the culprits were or of their motivation, but we must retaliate, at least at someone, and in times of war the people (most people) are acutely receptive to what the government tells them.
In 1997, a think tank called The Project For The New American Century issued a statement paper declaring that with the crumbling of The Soviet Union, “American global leadership” should be promoted, and that “American leadership is good both for America and the world.” The promoters of these ideas, after the 9/11 attack, pushed strenuously for regime change in Iraq, even though there was no evidence Saddam Hussein had any connection to the attack or harbored “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” to be used against us. The Project For The New American Century (PNAC) had written before the attack that “The process of transformation” (regime change), to be politically viable, required a “catastrophic and catalyzing event- like a new Pearl Harbor.” Bill Clinton was president at the time of PNAC’s proposal of militarily imposed regime change, and smart president that he was, dismissed it on face. Unfortunately, his successor was not so smart.
When George W. Bush became president, he was surrounded by signers of PNAC’s proposal (the so called “Neo-Cons”). Chaney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al had his ear. He was convinced by them that the Middle East Muslim countries somehow had a dormant yearning to live in a Western Style democracy (the idiotic expression of “Spreading Democracy” became a favorite of the Bush administration, as if democracy could be spread like margarine over an English muffin.) And then the brain washing began.
During the nearly two years after 9/11, there was a concerted effort by the Bush administration and affiliated ideologues to literally transform the American psyche through classic brain washing techniques, specifically through repetitive juxtaposition. Any time 9/11 was mentioned, you could bet that soon thereafter Saddam Hussein and “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” would follow. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, famously warned, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” The House and Senate signed off on Res. 114 (Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq) in 10/11/02. By March we had invaded Iraq, a country never to show aggression toward us and arguably was the most secular country in the region.
Were the Iraqi people ecstatic to have us liberating them from their ancient culture and values? No. And soon the carnage began. In the years to follow the Iraqi death toll was estimated by the Opinion Research Business (ORB), an independent British polling agency, to be over a million (other polls arrived at different numbers). In the states, unlike during the Viet Nam War, the press became willing lap dogs, more cheer leaders than journalists, many of whom “embedded”with the troops (sounds a bit like “in bed with.”) Fox Network color coded the degree of terror we should feel in inexplicable daily graphs appearing on the t.v. screens’ bottom. The wise and prudent French refused to join our war effort, resulting in French Fries renamed to “Freedom Fries.” At the prison for suspected terrorists in Iraq (Abu Ghraib) hooded American torturers resembling Inquisition inquisitors gleefully photographed one another tormenting the prisoners. Through embarrassing Orwellian New speak, torture, like water boarding, became “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The enormous death toll was exponentially eclipsed by the number of injured and maimed. An estimated 758 billion dollars was spent on our noble liberation of the Iraqi people. Money comes and goes, but death and carnage are forever. For every bomb dropped on civilians, a new generation of terrorists was spawned.
And so, as difficult as it is to say for a life long progressive and Trump despiser, Donald Trump was the first Republican candidate to condemn the Iraqi slaughter. During his administration, we never invaded another country, and as far as I know, no one was tortured (except when listening to his rants). Was he the worst person to ever be president? Strong argument for. Was he the worst president? Hand the prize to the grinning, bumbling war criminal whose stock has risen because of the odious Donald. And damn those who ever made an order at a drive-thru for “Freedom Fries.”