The Mix

It wasn't just the intelligence, it was the War

Even if you believe that all the pre-war misinformation was just an honest mistake, the war was still counterproductive and wrong.
Throughout the last three years we have been given three principle reasons for the Iraq War by the White House.
  1. We had to launch a pre-emptive strike to make sure we hit Iraq before they hit us with their arsenal of WMD.
  2. Iraq is tied into the Global War on Terror that was brought to our shores on 9/11.
  3. By bringing democracy to Iraq we will stabilize the region and make it friendlier to US interests, thereby defeating terrorism in the long term. All of these reasons might have sounded good at some point, but time has proven that they are all terribly wrong.


The first reason for the war seems the most comical in hindsight. At different points, the administration warned the American people about nuclear attacks, drone planes spraying us with chemical and biological weapons and imminent strikes against the United States. Let alone the hidden mustard gas on turkey farms (I'm not kidding). Condoleezza Rice told us that we could not wait for actual evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction because, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

As we all know now, Iraq did not have a plan to invade the US, or any drones, or nuclear weapons made in Niger, or even a single weapon of mass destruction. Whether you think that was an enormous fraud perpetrated upon the American people or you think it was unprecedented negligence leading to a terrible but honest mistake, the conclusion is beyond obvious - we were wrong.

We weren't just wrong on the intelligence - we were wrong to invade. We launched a pre-emptive strike against a non-existent threat. I don't remember the Iraqi people, let alone the American people, receiving an apology for this grave error. In the best case scenario, the administration invaded a country - invaded a country - based on an error.

If the intelligence was not manipulated by the administration for the express purpose of taking us into war, then they have committed the largest error in US history. Someone has to take responsibility for this act of colossal negligence. Usually the person ultimately responsible for this type of decision is the President. Has he ever accepted responsibility for this historic error?

The second reason given for the war was that Iraq was somehow involved with the Global War on Terror before we invaded the country. President Bush said on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, in his famous "Mission Accomplished" speech, "We've removed an ally of al-Qaeda." Really?

Then why did the 9/11 commission conclude that there was "no credible evidence" whatsoever that Iraq had anything to do with al-Qaeda before the invasion? The commission reported there was no "collaborative relationship" between al-Qaeda and Iraq. How much clearer did they have to be?

In fact, before the Iraq war, the Pentagon gave the White House three different opportunities to take out the only person who might have been related to al-Qaeda in Iraq. All three times, the White House refused to order the air-strikes because it might undercut their reason for going to war. That person's name was Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The Bush administration, after specifically turning down all of those opportunities to strike Zarqawi, then claimed we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was giving shelter to Zarqawi. By the way, of course, this Saddam-Zarqawi link has also been debunked and discredited.

So, by letting Zarqawi go so that we could theoretically have a better case against Saddam, we wound up handing al-Qaeda a huge present in Iraq (according to most sources Zarqawi started working with al-Qaeda after the Iraq war began). After Saddam was toppled, Zarqawi was free to go on a campaign of terror he never came close to mustering under Saddam's rule.

Now, that al-Qaeda has been unleashed in Iraq by our gross negligence -- again, it is horrific negligence if you are being charitable and accepting that the Bush administration didn't want any of this to happen -- President Bush has the nerve to say that we should have gone into Iraq in the first place because it is now the central front in the war on terror.

At one point Vice President Cheney tried to justify the war by saying that through defeating Iraq, "we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." Could you imagine if after Pearl Harbor, FDR launched an invasion of China because it was in "the geographic base" from which our enemies launched their attack, namely Asia?

Then, if he sent Truman to the talk shows to argue that starting a second war against a country that was not part of World War II was a great idea. That we should be busy fighting the Chinese instead of fighting the Japanese and the Germans. I imagine they would have been thrown out of office immediately. But since Iraqis look like "the terrorists" we think we're fighting, I guess attacking the wrong country these days while we're in the middle of the war on terror is no big deal.

Or could you imagine if President Clinton said after the Oklahoma bombing that we were going to invade Iraq because of the global war on terror? Iraq was as tied to 9/11 as it was to the Oklahoma City bombing. But since it was mainly Saudis who carried out the terror on 9/11 and white people who carried out the terror in Oklahoma City, invading Iraq in one case makes sense but doesn't in the other?

Knowing what we know now, isn't it obvious that there would have been a much smaller, if not nonexistent, presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq if we had not invaded? That there would have been far less acts of terror in Iraq and throughout the Middle East if we had not invaded? Even the CIA has acknowledged that we have created more terrorism through the invasion than we have stifled. Given these obvious mistakes, couldn't we at least expect our elected officials to admit we have made a grave error in launching this attack, even if they still hold on to the delusion that it was all an honest mistake?

Perhaps they are holding on to the third reason for invading as the one thing that will come to the rescue of their folly. I don't remember any grand speeches about democracy in Iraq before the invasion. Nonetheless, let's be charitable again and say that was their secret intent and that they thought we were too dense to comprehend such a global worldview (I believe the neocons did actually believe this, so I don't think we're being too charitable in thinking they had the intention of deceiving us for what they viewed to be our own good).

So, whatever became of this democracy? Now that we have had two and a half years of "tremendous progress" in the Iraqi political process, we should have less terrorism in Iraq, right? Apparently not, US government analysts told the Los Angeles Times recently that they realize the insurgency has not weakened as "democracy" has taken hold in Iraq.

General George Casey indicated to the Senate recently that the Iraqi insurgency might last a decade and that the US could leave before the insurgency is defeated. The Washington Post reported several months ago that inside administration sources have quietly given up on the idea of democracy in Iraq. Why that didn't make headlines everywhere I will never know. But that is a matter of the disheartening negligence of the American media, as opposed to the disheartening negligence of American politicians, which is the matter presently at hand.

The White House has given up on democracy in Iraq! What else is left then?

Apparently, the orchestrated leaks to the Washington Post were supposed to dampen the expectations of what could be accomplished in Iraq. Believe me, they were dampened already.

But this should have come as no surprise because the Washington Post also reported earlier that the White House at one point authorized the United States to rig the Iraqi elections -- or as they say, "influence the outcome of the Iraqi election by covertly helping individual candidates for office." There is disagreement on whether this plan was actually put into effect in the past January elections, with Seymour Hersh reporting in The New Yorker that it was. But again, being charitable, with all of the flowery talk about how the real reason for the invasion of was to bring democracy to Iraq, the White House at one point authorized a covert plan to influence the Iraqi elections, so that the people we supported won the elections rather than whoever might win without our "influence." Is it me or does that sound like colossal hypocrisy?

More importantly, it tells you that this White House never believed in bringing democracy to Iraq in the first place. On top of this, they have already admitted that they will not accomplish that goal or defeat the insurgency before we leave. We will leave Iraq a bloody mess without even coming close to any of the stated goals of the invasion.

There is nothing left. This war is indefensible. Yet, the administration has not admitted that they are responsible for a single mistake in the war, let alone the colossal mistake of invading in the first place.

It makes you despair of democracy. This invasion was so thoroughly wrong and so thoroughly botched that it not only makes you worry about democracy in Iraq, but it makes you worry about democracy here as well.
Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.