An Anniversary Many Would Like to Ignore

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Ten years ago this week, the United States pre-emptively attacked Iraq igniting a war that would last for eight years, claiming an estimated 189,000 lives, costing over $2 trillion and causing untold economic and emotional devastation for the Iraqi people.

Despite these horrific outcomes, the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion passed with little fanfare in the nation’s capitol. As Peter Baker writes in today’s New York Times, Tuesday came and went “with barely passing notice in a town once consumed by it” in what amounts to a “conspiracy of silence.”

Neither party had much interest in revisiting what succeeded and what failed, who was right and who was wrong. The bipartisan consensus underscored the broader national mood: after 10 years, America seems happy to wash its hands of Iraq. …

President Obama, who rose to political heights on the strength of his opposition to the war, made no mention of it in appearances on Tuesday. Instead, he issued a written statement saluting “the courage and resolve” of the 1.5 million Americans who served during eight years in Iraq and honoring the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans “who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

On the other hand, a few members of the Bush White House that led us to war have been talking this week angering some with their comments as they looked back at the actions they took a decade ago. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started a virtual firefight with a tweet he (or his office) sent out yesterday afternoon.

Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board — and one of the war’s most outspoken champions — told NPR’s Rene Montagne this morning that “it was not a reasonable question” to ask whether the Iraq War was worth it. Here’s the exchange:

MONTAGNE: …There’s no question you were a great proponent of going into Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Ten years later, nearly 5,000 Americans troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded; when you think about this, was it worth it?

PERLE: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.

Huffington Post political writer Amanda Terkel notes that politicians aren’t the only ones reticent to revisit the roles they played in the war effort. She points out that The Washington Post‘s editorial page — which in the months leading up to the war ran 27 editorials in its favor — have yet to print anything about the invasion so far this week. Terkel reports that Fred Hiatt, then and now the Post’s editorial page editor, wrote her an email saying there will be a “couple of pieces coming this week.”

One came three hours ago in the form of a mea culpa from Washington Post foreign affairs columnist, David Ignatius. “I owe readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense,” he said:

Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history. We’ll never know whether the story might have been different if better planning had been done for “the day after,” or the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, or several other “ifs.” But the abiding truth is that America shouldn’t have rolled the dice this way on a war of choice.

Earlier today, HuffPost Live hosted an interesting video discussion with journalists Richard Engel of NBC and NPR’s Tom Bowman as well as two public affairs officers from the Pentagon, talking about who shaped the news before, during and after the invasion of Iraq, and what they would have done differently.

Big media’s culpability in the run-up to the war was explored in a documentary that originally aired on Bill Moyers Journal in 2007. Buying the War investigated the media’s pro-war cheerleading in the months preceding the March 19, 2003, invasion. Watch it now:

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  • Richard Darvas

    The worst of it is that nothing has changed. Rumors of the use of gas (read WMD) are close to sending us into Syria and Iran beckons with no justification. I am a 26 year military veteran and worked for 21 years in the defense industry so I believe I have a right to an opinion. Going into war, which involves the taking of lives both our’s and their’s is a very, very serious undertaking which should personally involve every single citizen of the country. War is last resort to protect the viability of the country’s existence. It is not to bring profits to big business. War should immediately involve a full return to the draft, potentially calling up everyone’s son or daughter. War should immediately generate a separate War Tax to support it. War should stick it’s ugly nose into the life of every person in the country! If that is not true, then we do not need to go to war!

  • Ike

    Thank you, Richard.

  • Anonymous

    Well said on every point and thank you for your service.

  • Anonymous

    “You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.”

    So, even his hindsight isn’t 20/20?

  • Omani

    It is shame that people still believes they were liberating Iraqis!. More than 500000 children were killed before the invasion and due to UN and US penalties on Iraq. After the invasion, Iraqis become “Suni” and “Shia”, this is not when Sadam was in charge. After 10 years what did USA do !! they dismantled the Iraqi Army and brought the country to below “zero” stage !!. Iraq was not a threat to USA nor to any country on the deployment days. They did not have mass destructive arms and the UN teams stated that. The question is why USA invaded Iraq and why they caused such a miss, targeting Iraqis scholars and scientist ???!!!.

  • Colin Mann. UK.

    Well said..the WMD issue should not go away…and your take on every person being made to be responsible BEFORE the event in the pocket and the heart strikes a chord. My concern is that bunch of so called elected representatives will always decide they know better…..if we can’t look back and learn…and hold those representatives to task…where do we go next?

  • Rob Oppenheimer

    Here’s a deterrence strategy: the first act following a declaration of war between two nations should be the immediate assassination of all government officials, on both sides…then the war could proceed.

  • Rainadustbowlstory

    As a writer, I believe words are the only way to keep things from going down “the memory hole.” I was shocked this week to realize that my college students, whom I mistakenly assume to be “up to date” about the Iraq War, were only nine years old when it started. They need to watch Buying The War and MSNBC’s Hubris–and, of course, Bill Moyers.

  • Loraine Lawson

    I wish you or someone would talk about the birth defects in Fallujah that by all circumstantial evidence seem to have been caused by our attack on that city. It’s horrible: We need to clean up our mess. i’m ashamed that I only learned about it yesterday.

  • dom

    sadly we hear the drums a beatin’ about iran … please, let it not happen again. moyers is so correct on this – shame on all who never questioned authority on any of this.

  • Anonymous

    My local PBS channels (WGBH-TV and WGBX in Boston and WENH in Durham, NH) are awash in fundraising with washed-up-pop-stars-who-were-overrated-in-their-day, and I do mean you Barbra Sreisand. Instead they should promote and then broadcast this video when people will see it. I don’t know about you, but sitting in one place just inches from a computer with earphones on for 90 minutes is not my idea of a good time.

  • George Capehart

    Richard, I am a Vietnam vet and feel exactly the same way. On every topic. Thank you for a most articulate posting.

  • Michael Johnson

    Anybody that thinks you can use ammunition made from something called depleted uranium and not cause genetic damage from the debris of a massive invasion is delusional.

  • Michael Snow

    Let’s not forget that part of the drumbeat for war came from Evangelical leaders. In his day, Charles Spurgeon spoke out clearly against Christian war fever.

    “What pride flushes the patriot’s cheek when he remembers that his nation
    can murder faster than any other people. Ah, foolish generation, ye are
    groping in the flames of hell to find your heaven, raking amid blood
    and bones for the foul thing which ye call glory.”

  • j. adam milgram

    Denial, denial, denial….that’s what the media, politicians and especially Cheyney and his ilk are continuing to do….denying responsibility for an illegal, unconstitutional war. Iraq was no threat to the USA even with WMD’s. How ridiculous to propose that. This war has left devastation for the Iraqi people…a sectarian, civil war. a ruined infrastructure, another authoritarian regime, hell for women and freedom, and for us a ruined, dysfunctional military with sufficient casualties to last several decades of suffering and monetary cost. Bush, Cheyney and others should at least be prosecuted for war crimes! Torture, rendition, drones killing civilians…What a crime. And at present they are both living off the dole…an incredible government pension and full medical benefits. How shameful!

  • Tom Charles

    I agree with Mr.Darvas but I would add that the only way anything will change is to have George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. brought before the International Criminal Court and prosecuted for their crimes against humanity

  • Dh Fabian

    I think our minds are on the next chapter of war, or wondering if/when the international community will finally have had enough of US military aggression, deciding end it for the sake of the survival of all mankind. We’ve been engaged in war more often than not for the past century. War is what we do. Maybe it’s all that we’re still able to do. We can no longer afford to maintain the US.

  • Llyn Kidner-Williams

    What happened in Fallujah and it’a residents is a story well known to those of us who either live or are able to read newspapers from other countries that were available, especially when this warcrime was being conducted by the US Forces. It was horrific and so was the forced rebuilding of Fallujah. The only way to ensure that this never happens again is to put the people who planned the invasion ie: Wolfowitz, Perle, David Frumm, All the Jewish Neocon Cabal at the Pentagon, Ffeith, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush Jr, Condoleeza Rice, Powell, etc. on trial at the Hague for Crimes Against Humanity. Add in Blair of the UK and Barak and the then Intelligence Chiefs of Israel for false information. Contrary to the current talk on American talk and news shows (that everyone in the world believed that Sadaam Hussein had WMDs), the fact is that the populations of most countries took to the streets to demonstrate to their leaders that they did not believe this. Perhaps putting these irresponsible, shallow “men” on trial now will ensure that our children will not have to be sacrificed on the alter of such fools again.

  • martyfromdc

    In a good and decent world that is what should happen but of course it never will. He will hold the record for all of history as the most despised former president. A distinction which is well deserved. He and Cheney have earned themselves that spot in history.

  • Tom Davis

    So what’s new. Not long ago Bill interviewed Nick Turse about his book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. To this day, the WPPA (West Point Protective Association) shelters murderers in high places by burying investigations into attrocities. I was a Naval Officer on Cruisers and Destroyers providing artillery support to (in my case) mostly USMC units in Quang Tri Province (I Corps). Our GDA (Gun Damage Assessment) frequently cited bumkers and military structures destroyed. Now I learn that we were complicit in killing civilians living in the combat areas. I am saddened beyond words about that, and “mad as hell” that it continues.

  • Guest

    What so many find hard to remember, we (Gold Star Families) find the same thing hard to forget. We will not let our loved ones be forgotten.

    The statements on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the invasion were crass, arrogant, insincere and disturbing. Regardless of when our loved ones died in the past 10 years, *this* was the week that changed our lives forever. I’m not sure that we will ever know the truth about why we invaded, in fact, it is likely that each of the perpetrators more than had their own one truth. May they all burn in hell!

    Proud Mother of 1Lt Ken Ballard- KIA 5.30.2004, Najaf, Iraq

  • Llyn Kidner-Williams

    No groups spoke out louder than Jewish and Israeli Groups and Lobbies and once the Americans had reached Baghdad, Sharon who was still PM of Israel then called for either Iran or Syria to be next.

  • Karen Meredith

    What so many find hard to remember, we (Gold Star Families) find the
    same thing hard to forget. We will not let our loved ones be forgotten.

    The statements from members of the Bush administration and other neo-cons on this 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq were crass, arrogant, insincere and disturbing. Regardless of when our loved ones died in the past 10 years, *this* was the week that changed our lives forever. I’m not sure that we will ever know the truth about why we invaded, in fact, it is likely that each of the perpetrators had their own reason. May they all burn in hell!

    Proud Mother of 1Lt Ken Ballard- KIA 5.30.2004, Najaf, Iraq

  • Mike_Ga_Khi

    What are you guys complaining about? The Iraq war has been a fantastic success ! BP and US oil companies are busy right now stealing Iraq’s oil. Defense contractors have ripped off $1 Trillion from American tax payers and hidden the cash in offshore bank accounts. Now they are funneling that money back to Congress to start up more wars with drone bombing and propaganda. Congress and the President are protecting you from any Arab retaliation by destroying the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Posse Comitatus Act with their brilliant NDAA 2013. Don’t worry. Go back to sleep Winston. Everything will be fine.

  • Jeanne Armstrong

    Amen! Beautifully said.

  • TDubs

    Very good essay. It might also be worth an essay to mention those who opposed the war and why they did so.

  • Mirror Mirror

    If your own children were killed and the assailants were known; would you say, “You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.”?

  • Steve

    War Is A Racket. Major General Smedley Darlington Butler had it 100% correct, and this has been proven time and time again.

  • Janet Gallagher Warren

    Those who don’t know or acknowledge history will repeat it. That is some very loose paraphrasing, but it is the on target truth.

  • Steven Wolfe

    WE, the American People, have every right to ask the questions about the Iraq War #2, since hawks like Richard Perle stuck the American People with a very large bill, in the form of lives lost or shattered, and the US Treasury substantially depleted! Iraq posed NO immediate threat to the US and once their was a regime change in Iraq, this allowed Iran the breathing space it needed to develop a nuclear weapon as we eliminated their worst enemy, Mr. Hussein.

  • Mark Mccurry

    Worst foreign policy mistake since Viet Nam

  • Ronald Atwood

    It was obvious from the beginning this war was wrong. It should never ave been fought.

  • Nina S. Flanders

    The media played a big part in “selling” the war. When thousands marched on the Minnesoa State capital in protest, the Minneapolis Star Tribune refused to even acknowledge the event as “news”: they claimed it was merely a political statement. My family represented three generations: me (age 74) my daughter and grandaughter. We were called traiters, spit on and cursed by the true believers. Our nation seem to be addicted to killing, to violence and war.

  • Bob Patterson

    Great insight. As a VN veteran myself I wish our decision makers in government could see, up close and personal, the effects of war on a micro scale. Invoking the draft again is a great idea. Perhaps people wouldn’t be so quick to send a real cross section of Americans to wage war. Another indictment of those quick to wage war was the deliberate decision to prevent the news media from showing the coffins being unloaded as was done in the VN war. This played another role in keeping the people of this country at an arms length from the real impact of war.

  • larry gurthet

    as a Viet Nam veteran I feel the lessons of that war were stupidly ignored by mostly combat avoiders of Viet Nam. No WMD, never were, at least in Nam we were fighting a real enemy, In Iraq phantoms, and yet they defend the crime

  • Eric Goodale

    I agree that in general the coverage and reexamination of this horrible war was neglected. I’m puzzled, however, that no where in the article is mentioned coverage by MSNBC which I thought was full throated and vigorous.

  • Dan C.

    Why did the Bush administration invade Iraq ten years ago this month?

    After it became apparent that the Bush administration was preparing to attack Iraq,
    We decided to research the hawks promoting the invasion of Iraq. At this point we were
    interested in uncovering the motivation since it was obvious that any threat that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed to the United States was clearly exaggerated to the point of deception. In 1981 the Israeli IDF destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear plant at Osiraq and the Americans again obliterated the site in 1991. In 1998, the IAEA concluded: “There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.”

    In researching the hawks promoting the invasion of Iraq, we found a policy paper written
    by Richard Perle et al for the state of Israel in 1996: (A Clean Break: A New Strategy for
    Securing the Realm):
    “This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” And in 1998 Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and notably Donald
    Rumsfeld (and others) wrote a letter to then President Bill Clinton calling on him to remove ” Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.”

    What is especially significant is the fact that the people who signed this letter back in 1998 entered the Bush administration after the presidential election of 2000. After the terror and confusion of 9/11 in 2001 (which had nothing to do with Iraq), they were able to implement their planned invasion of Iraq using the deception of WMD’s and non-existent links between Iraq and al-Qa’ida. And in the last past 5 years since 9/11, the evidence, the facts, all support the conclusion that Jane’s Intelligence Digest hints at in the following report:
    “All of this lends weight to the theory that Bush’s war is part of a master plan to reshape the Middle East to serve Israel’s interests.”

    The American War in Vietnam was a mistake (it was a colonial war of Independence)
    The American War in Iraq was calculated genocide.
    Iran is next on the list…

  • Raymond Tokareff

    Will the Complex Win or will the People THIS TIME say NO to another Eastern Miss-Adventure ??????????? I would not bet on it!

  • Willa Michener

    We need investigations into Bush’s, Cheney’s, Rumsfeld’s, Perle’s, Feith’s, and Wolfowitz’s real motives for the war. Saddam claimed to have WMD’s but he never threatened the US with them, so the “threat” wasn’t the real reason. What was?

  • Hershel Franklin

    Absolutely appreciate this article. The moral depravity exposed by joining the ranks of “invader nations” is shameful and we should never have worn it with pride. Richard Darvas had some wonderful comments 5 days ago to this article. Well worth reading.


    Iraq was a major plunder by US. One day we support Sadam the next day we kick him. Libya same scenario. Afghanistan same scenario. Who next? Iran (Persia)? How about a war to fix Medicare and Social Security? How much more poor people are going to give yet we are “moochers”!!.

  • bluelm

    Very well said!

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  • mole

    It blows my my mind & scares the hell out of me that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld Rice, Libby, etc aren’t in jail for war crimes. What the hell is justice for & about anyway.

  • Patty

    His approval rating is up very high now. Not so of Obama. Can you all not understand he kept us safe. He was not intimidated. We had a voluntary military, not a draft.

  • Sammy Al-Sadoun

    I do not think that what is going on Iraq serves the
    national interests of USA in the Middle East. The growing dictatorship in Iraq,
    rise of sectarian tension and strong political influence of Iran on Al Maliki
    regime are examples that Iraqi has been moving in the wrong direction since
    2003. Iraq today is dominated by extremist militant groups
    that are strongly tied with Iranian regime.
    Iraqi is far from being a democratic state. In another words the current
    Iraqi regime is worse than the previous regime of Saddam Hussein. So the Silence of US on the rising dictatorship
    in Iraq is contradictory and such policy might damage US credibility as well as
    interests in this region.

  • lightingonads

    Welcome to the real world Mole, where the owners manufacture and sell the justice to those who can pay the most. And it ain’t cheap.