A good friend from my framing days in Nebraska sent me a YouTube video about the Gary Sinise Foundation taking WWII vets to the National WWII museum in New Orleans. As Sinise thanked the veterans for their service he quoted Ronald Reagan speaking at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of D-Day: “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.”
In my last blog I was writing about the frailty of man in general and leaders in particular, and how civility is markedly lacking in public discourse these days and used as an example Joe Wilson’s outburst in Congress interrupting President Obama’s address, and calling him a liar.
Curt responded to my blog, writing that Obama had repeatedly lied to the American people, and I want to look into that, but at the time I could only think of the lie that led us to where we are today in the Mideast, the lies that led to our invasion of Iraq.
And I’ve been pondering that ever since, and the video from Ron with the Ronald Reagan quote pulled it all back to the surface today.
And I wonder where is the outrage over the lie that led to the deaths of 3,000-plus US military personnel at a cost of more than one and a half trillion dollars and counting. More than 100,000 Iraqis dead. The lie that led to the rise of legions of fanatic fundamentalists bent on eradicating the hated Great Satan.
“There is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.”
James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic said, “In the late summer of 2002, the public began hearing about the mounting WMD menace as the reason we had to invade Iraq. But that was not the reason. Plans for the invasion had already been underway for months. The war was already coming; the “reason” for war just had to catch up.”
Paul Krugman, writing in Truthout May, 2015 said, “First, as Mr. Marshall, the editor of Talking Points Memo, recently wrote, the Iraq invasion was not a good faith mistake. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn't sit down with the intelligence community, ask for its best assessment of the situation and then reluctantly conclude that war was the only option. They decided right at the beginning - even before the dust of 9/11 had settled - to use a terrorist attack by religious extremists as an excuse to go after a secular regime that, evil as it was, had nothing to do with that attack.”
James Fallows again, “I was in Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001. When the telephones started working again that afternoon, I called my children and parents, and my then-editors at The Atlantic, Michael Kelly and Cullen Murphy. After that, the very next call I made was to a friend who was working inside the Pentagon when it was hit, and had already been mobilized into a team planning the U.S.-strategic response. “We don’t know exactly where the attack came from,” he told me that afternoon. “But I can tell you where the response will be: in Iraq.””
I remember having many discussions with friends during the run-up to the invasion, questioning the wisdom of that decision, questioning the link from 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. The Senate passed the war resolution with 23 Senators voting no, (including Bernie Sanders), and the House passed it with 133 Representatives voting no. Some politicians had enough backbone to refuse to bend to the will of an administration painting anyone not fully aligned with their agenda as being “un-American.” The ghost of a junior senator from Wisconsin hovering near.
The administration launched a full-out propaganda blitz to convince America we had to go to war with Iraq, and it worked. Seventy percent were convinced by the half-truths and innuendos, the constant drumbeat of war and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, that Donald Rumsfeld assured us were there, “There's no debate in the world as to whether they have these weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that.” And Dick Cheney assured the VFW, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
There were no weapons of mass destruction. Seems all the trained apes were wrong.
There was no link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
As critics heap condemnation and vilification on President Obama, they are oh so very quiet about what exactly it was that he inherited, a war that Cheney said would,
“…go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months." (March 16, 2003) Echoing Rumsfeld from 2002, “I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
A war where, “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators" (Cheney, March 2003) and where "You're going to find Iraqis out cheering American troops." (Paul Wolfowitz, Feb. 2003).
Chuck Hagel, in his book Our Next Chapter wrote, “To the astonishment of those of us who lived through the agony of Vietnam, these lessons were ignored in the run-up to the Iraq War.
“The administration cherry-picked intelligence to fit its policy, used fear and the threat of terrorism to intensify the war sloganeering (particularly in speeches by the vice president), and dampened the possibility of dissent by denying that it had decided to go to war even though it had already made that decision before the debate even began.”
“Unlike Vietnam, however--which did not represent vital strategic security interests for America--the war in Iraq and its consequences are playing out against a backdrop of the world's largest reserves of petroleum, and the contagion of a virulent strain of religious fanaticism that threatens to inflame the entire Middle East.”
Hagel was prescient indeed. A virulent strain of religious fanaticism has inflamed the entire Middle East, in no small part thanks to the fanaticism of an administration bent on war based on lies.
The big winner: The Military-Industrial Complex.
It is more than just sad that America went to war based on lies; tens of thousands of men, women and children died. A trillion and a half American dollars was thrown down the sewer of war. And we have guaranteed a steady diet of random shootings, bombings and suicidal fanatics bent on the destruction of everything we thought we knew.
Perhaps this current administration has lied.
I don’t know that.
What I do know is that the prior administration certainly did. And that lie has tarnished for generations the very idea of America being the shining city on the hill.