Part of a Series
The fourth anniversary of the Iraq war this week has led many in the media to look for the milestones in the conflict—the casualty figures, both American (3,223 dead, 15,129 wounded) and Iraqi (perhaps as many as 65,160 in media-reported violence and as many as 601,000 in the entire course of the conflict); the changes in personnel and policy; and the swings in public opinion. But one memory worth recalling, since so many in the pro-war punditocracy appear to have caught a rare case of collective amnesia, is the president’s sell to the American people at the outset of this catastrophe four years ago this week.
“My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm
These are the bold words that launched the
“The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military. In this conflict,
How many could have predicted that those words would lead to Abu Ghraib, to Hadaitha, and the sex crimes—many of them directed at female soldiers—committed by American
troops; to an increase in the terrorist threat against us; to the destruction of our international reputation; to the disintegration of any kind of personal security for most Iraqis; and the collapse of Iraq’s economic infrastructure, to say nothing of the hundreds of billions—potentially trillions—of dollars thrown away in this never-ending sinkhole. And oh yes, the thousands of American soldiers killed, the tens of thousands wounded, and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis similarly maimed and killed.
Bush has even managed to turn the murderous Saddam Hussein into a martyr across the Arab world with a Kangaroo Court murder trial and botched execution of the dictator and his sons and collaborators.
“I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm.”
The casualty figures here speak for themselves, as do the fact that 2 million Iraqis live as refugees outside their country. Even after invading Iraq with questionable motives in the first place, numerous policy choices led to the insurgency and now the civil war that daily threatens Iraqi and American lives, whether failing to prevent looting after the fall of Baghdad, disbanding Hussein’s army and leaving it nowhere to go, or not sending enough troops to maintain order despite repeated warnings force.
“More than 35 countries are giving crucial support—from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units.”
Thank God for
“The people of the
It hardly bears repeating that, there were no weapons of mass destruction in
Of course, the constant demagoging of the non-existent connection between Iraq and 9/11—a notion finally and authoritatively debunked by the 9/11 Commission Report—convinced 55 percent of Americans the relationship existed. But there was no genuine threat to the
“Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly—yet, our purpose is sure.”
The administration’s phony scare stories led the vast majority of the country into war with the support of about seventy percent of the country. Thank goodness for the dissenting voices that spoke out in the midst of the campaign of vilification against those who disagreedand the high spirits following the fall of
In the elite media, The Weekly Standard excoriated war critics in an article headlined, “The Cassandra Chronicles: The Stupidity of the Antiwar Doomsayers.” The New Republic joined in, as did blogger Andrew Sullivan who now shares the views of people he called traitors. But as Paul Krugman noted in a December New York Times article recognizing the accuracy of these pre-war pessimists, the thing to remember about Cassandra is that she was right. If only one could say the same about the Bush cheerleaders who dominated our media—and amazingly, still do.
“[H]elping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment. … And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.”
Half measures have characterized the entire campaign, from the lack of body armor and now rest and training for the troops, to the incompetence and political prioritizing of the civilian administration. Military commanders during the first weeks of the war weren’t expecting insurgents, and there was never a plan for the post-war occupation and reconstruction—the famously lacking “Phase IV.”
“We come to
Bush’s war lacka a military solution and is facing rapidly dwindling chances for a political solution, yet it will continue through the end of his presidency because no one of authority in the administration is capable of admitting a mistake. The saddest part of this entire horrific story is how much of it was predictable from the start. Remember John Kerry’s question about being the last person to “die for a mistake?” How would you like to be the mother, father, son, or daughter to lose your loved one for the same damn mistake a second time?
Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress and the author of six books. His popular blog, “Altercation,” has moved from MSNBC.com to Media Matters. The new URL is http://mediamatters.org/altercation/.
Research assistance: Tim Fernholz
Read Center for American Progress resources on this topic:
- Iraq By the Numbers: On the Fourth Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion
- Four Years Later: Assessing U.S. Policy in Iraq and the Middle East