The back story to America’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq and what lessons they teach us today
December 28, 2015
In these early days of the current US Presidential election nominee campaign there is much tough talk and saber rattling underway among the candidates, the Chicken Hawk set in Washington, talk show pundits and various elected officials.
In fact, a new CNN poll says Americans are more likely to say that terrorists are “winning the war against the United States” than they have been at any point since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Thus the current saber rattling talk is being met by a public “broadly unhappy with the nation’s progress, with nearly three-quarters of Americans saying they are not satisfied with how the war on terror is proceeding.”
That figure, following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California this fall, is well above the previous high of 61% who said they were dissatisfied in August 2007, according to CNN.
But those who forget the hard lessons that history teaches often are doomed to repeat them.
The public premise given to the American people for the calamitous invasion was that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” — a claim that turned out to be untrue and based on manipulated (and often faulty) US. intelligence data that was gathered to support the then already decided upon invasion decision.
Americans were told they could face a “mushroom cloud,” if the US military did not act to change the regime in Iraq. Scare tactics. Make Americans fearful in order to garner their support for an invasion of a country on the US national credit card.
Sound at all familiar to anything happening in the US today in 2015?
In Baghdad, Iraq today, “Bombs go off on average every 12 hours (and) the awful routine that follows each bomb looks hauntingly familiar to Americans who watched the Iraq war play out on television,” CNN reported over the weekend.
Today, many politicians and would be Presidents want to send American troops back into Iraq and Syria as well. Will another American “intervention” in the middle east be any more successful than the disaster that Iraq turned out to be?
That is why, according to a CNN report Sunday, it is crucial Americans understand how the Iraq war went so terribly wrong.
THE MAN WHO PREDICTED AN AMERICAN QUAGMIRE IN IRAQ
What if there had been someone in 2002-2003 that could have warned us what would happen if the US. invaded Iraq?
It turns out there was one man who did that and it was long before 2003. Listen to this:
“Once you got to Iraq and took it over and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world and if you take down the central government in Iraq you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. It’s a quagmire.”
That is the voice of Dick Cheney in 1994 after he served as US. Secretary of Defense, predicting that Iraq would become a “quagmire” for the US should this country intervene militarily there.
But move ahead to 2003 when Dick Cheney is then Vice President in the George W. Bush administration.
Now listen to the words of Cheney as he made the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows on the TV networks. This is what Cheney said on the “Meet The Press” TV show:
“From the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is that we will be treated is liberators,” if America invades Iraq.
He was asked by host Tim Russert, if Cheney’s assumption was wrong and American troops were viewed as conquerors, “Do you think Americans are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle?”
So what flipped by 180 degrees Cheney’s opinion about intervening in Iraq and why was George W. Bush so determined to go to war with Iraq?
THE LONG ROAD TO HELL
On October 26 of this year, CNN broadcast a special news program called “The Long Road To Hell” examining this very question. On Sunday, Dec. 27, CNN re-broadcast the program.
And the answer to the question of why President Bush, Dick Cheney and then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were hell bent on invading Iraq may surprise you.
Here is the back story.
The reason had nothing to do with the imaginary “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq
That story was simply fodder to soften America up, to get American citizens eager to support an invasion of Iraq, according to the CNN program broadcast Sunday.
The 9/11 attack on America was the key to understanding why America invaded Iraq.
That is the catalyst that changed President Bush and Dick Cheney into two people hell bent on becoming invaders in the middle east.
“911 pushed him (Bush) and Cheney into a very dark place….I think it meant for George W. Bush “I have to prove that we’re a tough guy”…I have to prove we can reshape the middle east, otherwise the rest of my administration various terrorist groups and tin pot dictators are going to take advantage of me.”
Those are the words of Richard Clarke, who was in charge of counter-terrorism in the White House on 9/11/01, as broadcast on CNN’s report Sunday.
President Bush wanted to be perceived by the world as a tough guy. Someone who could not be pushed around. Sound like any posturing that might be going on today?
Clarke says it was that very night, the night of the 9/11 attacks, when the Iraq war really began.
Clarke’s words again:
“On the night of 9/11 we all meet in the situation room in the east wing, in the bunker and Rumsfeld is there straight from the Pentagon which is still on fire at the time, and the President is there and in that conversation Rumsfeld starts talking about invading Iraq…while the Pentagon is still burning.” (Italics ours)
This is long before the United States had any inkling of who was behind the 9/11attacks. At that point it could have been anyone or any group or any nation that staged the attacks, up to and including the Crips or the Bloods, two L.A. street gangs.
So while the Pentagon was still burning, “One of the most disastrous chapters in the history of American intelligence began. Building a case to go to war against Saddam Hussein,” said the CNN report.
Building a case to get “American boots on the ground” in the middle east — even though Hussein had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks.
“When you want to believe something, and you say to the world “give me intelligence that says this,” they will give you intelligence that says that,” said Clarke. “9/11 changed everything.”
CNN reported that information was gathered very fast, so fast that many Iraqi intelligence sources were “barely vetted.”
A WAVE OF PATRIOTISM, FEW IN POWER ARE SKEPTICAL OF THE BUSH WHITE HOUSE
From then on, President Bush was riding a “powerful wave of patriotism,” says CNN. His approval ratings soared. He was John Wayne, Chuck Norris and Duane “The Rock” Johnson all rolled into one man.
How powerful was this wave of patriotism? Even journalists, who are supposed to be both skeptical about government claims and neutral in their positions, were jumping on board this amazing jingoistic juggernaut.
Then CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather – before his disgrace and downfall over a false story CBS News broadcast about President Bush – was seen on the NBC Tonight Show saying, “George Bush is the President. He makes the decisions. And, you know, this is one American…wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where.”
Thus it was that Rather and most of the mainstream news media at that time found itself already in the bag and on board for the Bush administration’s reasons to get “boots on the ground” in the middle east.
And three months after 9/11, the US. went to war in Afghanistan against the Taliban.
Despite grim predictions from experts about what the long range consequences of US. boots on the ground in the middle east would be, the Taliban was toppled, “Boosting the Bush administration’s confidence and the nation’s trust in him,” says CNN.
“As the months went on, the rhetoric grew increasingly fightening,” reported CNN.
THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION THAT NEVER EXISTED
Over and over on TV news programs and TV and radio talk shows, President Bush and others in the administration – and most of all perhaps the pundits and anchors on the right-wing oriented Fox News – kept hammering the same theme over and over: “weapons of mass destruction,” and (implied) we must be fearful of a “mushroom cloud” (e.g., a nuclear attack on the US.) as long as Saddam remains in power.
Fear. Americans must be fearful of what will happen to them unless the US, headed by a strong, tough leader goes after and topples Saddam Hussein.
This is what was sold over and over to the American public with the news media’s help at the time.
Sound familiar to anything that is happening in America today?
“The ensuing war and dismantling of Saddam’s government plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly sectarian violence and the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq, a precursor of ISIS. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, more than 4,000 US. troops and 179 British service members were killed in the lengthy conflict,” reported CNN on October 26, 2015.
In May of this year CNN reported that barring a miracle, “Whoever wins the White House will become the fifth consecutive American president ensnared by a nation that has consumed trillions of US. dollars and thousands of American lives. It has also blighted a string of high-flying political careers. If the last week on the 2016 campaign trail has proved anything, it’s that American politics is still nowhere near purged of the bitter political divides of a war undertaken 12 turbulent years ago, somewhat like the Vietnam War that reverberated through successive presidencies.”
The CNN report noted that America’s “quagmire” with Iraq started under President George H.W. Bush when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait in 1989, and much later erupted into a full-scale invasion under George W. Bush.
“And now under President Barack Obama a quarter of a century later, America’s misadventure in the fractured Middle Eastern nation has transformed into a slog against the bloodthirsty Sunni radicals of ISIS. With no end in sight,” said the CNN report.
A link to the original October 2015 CNN broadcast of the “Long Road To Hell” is below.
BUSH & COMPANY MADE OVER 900 FALSE STATEMENTS
“In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003,” reads a description of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
According to this study, Bush and seven top officials — including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years in a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. “Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion…an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”
The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources such as quotes from major media organizations.
The study says President Bush himself made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein’s possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda.
The report also says, “It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda.”
This view is based on multiple government reports, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the 9/11 Commission and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, which reported that Hussein had suspended Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to get it up and running again.
AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA WAS COMPLICIT IN THE RUN UP TO THE IRAQ INVASION
That study also calls the American news media to task, saying most media outlets didn’t do enough to investigate the claims — in other words, they did not do their jobs.
According to the report, “Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical.”
In June of 2014 investigative journalist Charles Lewis published a book that details the many “government falsehoods” that have led us into the current quagmire that is Iraq.
The book is called “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity.”
A video introduction to the book by the author is found here .
ON LIES AND MANIPULATION OF DATA AND THE NEWS MEDIA
According to Lewis his book, “Explores the many ways truth is manipulated by governments and corporations.”
Through examples ranging from the countless lies administrations of both parties have used to justify needless wars to the successful decades-long “corporate suppression of the truth” about tobacco and other dangerous products, Lewis explains the “political, social, and business changes that have increasingly weakened the ability of journalists to play their traditional truth-telling role.”
And he describes the new trends, from the rise of nonprofit reporters to the growing numbers of “citizen journalists,” that give reason to be hopeful about the future of truth.
Lewis was a guest in 2014 on journalist Bill Moyers television program in which he said of the Iraq invasion and war:
Curiously perhaps, the interview with Lewis begins with a lead-in by Moyers about, “The foresight of the legendary Lawrence of Arabia, who, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, predicted the trap in which the West would fall attempting to interfere in the Middle East.”
According to Lewis and many others, America is still deep, deep within that trap.