9/11 presented us with an immense opportunity. A few days after that horrendous event I wrote that one thing had been accomplished by the appalling actions of the terrorists: We had come together as a nation in support of those in need. And not only that; the world community joined in mourning our loss. Many nations pledged their cooperation in confronting the challenge of terrorism, and we had considerable solidarity in this effort . . . for a while.
In the months following 9/11, however, President George W. Bush hijacked our interval of unity. Intent on retribution, Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and others told us that that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They were not. These same men told us that Iraq posed a grave threat to our nation. It did not. We were told our troops would be welcomed by the Iraqi people with open arms. They were not. We were told that weapons of mass destruction would be discovered in Iraq. They were not. We were told that the conflict would end quickly. It did not. We were told that selling Iraqi oil would pay for rebuilding that nation. It did not even come close, and the tab is still running.
The vast majority of the members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, bought into the propaganda put forth by the Bush Administration immediately after 9/11 and voted overwhelmingly to give President Bush a virtual blank check to go to war whenever, wherever and however he saw fit. Of course, there are also the actions by Congress curtailing our civil liberties right here in the United States, such as the Patriot Act and the growing surveillance society, among others, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.
The nation’s mainstream media became the Administration’s stenographers, merely repeating their pre-Iraq War propaganda and feeding it to us devoid of opposing views. I spoke out against the Iraq War before it began in my op ed “A few illogical arguments for the elimination of Saddam Hussein,” that was published on October 12, 2002 in The Asheville Citizen-Times and on a number of progressive news websites.
If the media giants, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Newsweek and numerous others, had done more critical analysis, or if the citizens of the U.S. had been discerning enough to recognize the misinformation for what it was, perhaps the war in Iraq could have been avoided. Rick Mercier, then a columnist for The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA) issued a rare mea culpa on March 28, 2004 after the Iraq War was underway:
Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn’t bring ourselves to hold the administration’s feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered. Maybe we’ll do a better job next war.
The total financial cost of the Iraq War is estimated by some to eventually balloon to $4.8 trillion. The human cost? More than 4,000 Americans killed and approximately 32,000 wounded. While we may never know the full extent of Iraqi civilian casualties, no matter who’s doing the counting, the toll is in the hundreds of thousands. Of course, these statistics don’t include the loss of life nor the financial cost of the conflict in Afghanistan, a war which some believe was justified since that nation harbored the Al Qaeda militants believed responsible for the 9/11 attacks. One thing perhaps on which we can all agree: the Middle East is in much greater turmoil now than it was before we began our ill-advised misadventure(s).
In my mind, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al are war criminals and should be tried as such.
“The first casualty when war comes is truth.” ~Hiram Johnson
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