2003 and All That
Wait a minute. What year is this?
Anyone turning on the TV these days may have a flashback. It doesn’t matter how spectacularly wrong the Iraq War’s promoters were in 2002 and 2003, they are back. Check in on the news of the day and you’ll see them giving us guidance about the situation in Iraq once again.
For more than a decade, we’ve tried to figure out the least worst of the alternatives in a hellish nightmare caused in large part by decisions made or advocated by these same people. And the media brings them back for more. The TV screens are thinner, slicker and crisper than the first time around, but there’s not enough turnover on the talking heads roster. There should be mandatory term limits for these people, especially for those with such a poor record on the topic.
Without irony, Dick Cheney wrote a scathing criticism of Barack Obama in the Wall Street Journal and takes a seat at the cable news desks to tell everyone that things have gone sideways ever since he and the gang left Washington.
“Al Qaeda and its affiliates are resurgent across the globe. According to a recent Rand study, between 2010 and 2013, there was a 58% increase in the number of Salafi-jihadist terror groups around the world. During that same period, the number of terrorists doubled.”
But this was exactly what many believed was a natural outcome from the Bush-Cheney’s hell-bent run into Iraq in 2003. Even those within the administration were concerned. But it was no time for second-guessing. Shortly before our troops were dispatched, the issue was raised in a meeting George W. Bush held with his CIA Director, George Tenet, and others to discuss the “war on terror.”
“One of the biggest challenges they faced, Tenet said, was al-Qaeda’s continued success in attracting new foot soldiers. Rice and Wolfowitz agreed, fretting that American efforts had failed to stem the influx of jihadist recruits.
Bush waved a hand dismissively. ‘Victory will take care of that problem.’”
– from 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, by Kurt Eichenwald
Some believe that the current desire to rush the U.S. military back in to the Middle East plays right into the hands of the thugs, including the newly formed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (“ISIL”), the Sunni Muslims who are bound and determined to blur the Syria/ Iraq border and call the whole thing theirs. ISIL is playing for the long-term. Any reaction from the U.S. or others from outside the region helps them recruit like-minded religious fanatics from around the world. They understand that their religious conviction and appetite for violence will outlast our mettle and resources.
I could go on forever with the predictions we received and the bravado we endured before the war in 2002 and 2003. We all remember the speeches and proclamations from the administration and its cheerleaders. Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and others assured us that our troops involvement would be short-lived. All the messaging was carefully crafted and delivered. They sold the war to us like beer or laundry soap.
They had a meticulous and detailed roll-out program for their Iraq policy. The launch was held on the first year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The strategy was to put pressure on the incumbents running in the upcoming mid-term congressional elections to show their patriotism and support for the war. Andrew Card, Bush’s Chief of Staff and former lead executive for the lobby group that represented Detroit’s Big Three automakers, coordinated the opening event. He knew how these things work. The entire country would be thinking about the 9/11 attacks that day. The President spoke to the country with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop. What could be better?
”From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
– Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff
We opened our wallets for them. We’ve spent nearly a trillion dollars on Iraq since then. Over $100 billion in taxpayers’ money from California, nearly $5 billion from my county and about $500 million from the town I live in.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. service men and women lost their lives, 97% of them after Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” declaration, 81% since we turned things over to the Iraqi government in 2004 and 256 since Obama’s been in the White House. Many more have come back physically wounded or with mental health disorders or both. Lives and families were ruined. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, with more violent injuries and deaths each day. And even worse than that, the region’s Muslim sectarian violence continues unabated with no end in sight. The death and destruction will continue.
I wonder if these people ever saw a war they didn’t like. Syria, Iran, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq – the list is long. And cost is no object. How do you feel about a sixty-year occupation in Iraq? Not long enough for you? How about one hundred years, as John McCain spoke about when he was running for president in 2008?
These people failed. Thankfully, some of them are now out of office. But they all are in positions of power and influence and the media’s penchant to run to them for commentary to sway the national discussion is irresponsible. It’s time for new ideas.