This past weekend, the last American troops crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait. It has been almost nine years since the invasion of Iraq commenced in March of 2003, much of it passing through the same spot on the border the troops crossed on their way home. The costs of the war have been measured and reported, to the point they have become abstractions. 4,800 American and coalition dead, somewhere around 30,000 belligerents dead, over 100,000 civilians dead, and over $800 billion drained from the national coffers. It was a war of choice begun on false pretenses. We toppled a toothless dictator at enormous cost to ourselves in the form of lives, treasure, moral standing, and freedoms at home. We destabilized a region of the world hardly known for its rigidity, and emboldened Iran, one of our more consistent enemies.
Our leaders here at home betrayed the public trust in extraordinary fashion. Simply put, they lied this country into a war. The Bush administration had their sights set on Baghdad the moment W took the oath of office, and they used the worst terrorist attack on this country as justification for the invasion of Iraq, among other reasons, even though Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. The campaign of disinformation ran so deep that even years after the invasion, large segments of the public believed that Iraq had a pivotal role in the attacks. It disgusts me to no end that our leaders wept over the graves of our fallen, then used their deaths so shamelessly to achieve their own ends.
The other great justification for the invasion of Iraq were the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq supposedly possessed. Any mildly serious watcher of world politics before the invasion had to be scratching their heads when the Bush administration first made these charges. Iraq was contained. Iraq was not a threat. There wasn’t a single shred of evidence that Iraq had any active WMD programs until the Bush administration made such evidence out of whole cloth. I remember it being obvious that everything we were being fed from Washington was total bullshit. I also remember wondering what Bush and company were going to do after we pored over Iraq and found nothing more threatening than a dump full of rusted drums leaking rotting chemicals. What would they do when their ‘imminent threat’ was exposed for the fraud that it was? How would they wiggle their way out? They had to know that people were going to expect a ‘drugs on the table’ moment from this war, right?
As it turned out, the Bush administration thought no farther than defeating the Iraqi army. There were no plans for what to do after Saddam Hussein fell, so it makes a sort of twisted sense that there were no plans for what to do in the event all the reasons for the invasion went up in smoke. They were that sure in victory — so sure that such a victory would render all other events moot. All they felt they had to do was win and the roads would be showered with rose petals, all the way from Baghdad to Tehran. The amount of hubris shown by the Bush administration was staggering. It blinded them to the perils of owning a broken country with a hostile citizenry. It rendered them incapable of making meaningful strategic adjustments until years after the invasion was begun, and then only after defeat seemed imminent. And it’s also worth remembering that the rush to war in Iraq almost cost us the war in Afghanistan. Resources were directed away from that theater, where we really were hunting down the terrorists responsible for 9/11, to engage in a deadly fiction in Iraq.
It’s horrifying to look back and think that such blatant criminal behavior was coming from leaders of the United States of America. This wasn’t some slush fund or dirty election tricks. This was lying in order to start a war. People died. A lot of people died. That makes anyone in the Bush administration who knowingly ginned up evidence of Iraqi WMD or a connection to the 9/11 attacks, or anyone who pressured government workers to produce such evidence, a murderer. I will never forgive George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and all the other cast of bastards that did this.