Editorial: Do You Want to Avoid the Next Iraq?

The most powerful argument for a strong, independent media is the Iraq invasion. George W. Bush probably made the worst decision ever made by an American President in invading that country.

But Bush had plenty of enablers, and not just in the conservative media.  A "who's who" of establishment media, often misnamed the "liberal" press, gunned for war in the lead up to the invasion. 

But AlterNet was fiercely against the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. Writing for AlterNet I penned this in September of 2002, 6 months before the invasion: "How did we arrive so quickly at this potentially apocalyptic moment in history?" "The fact that an attack on Iraq seems irrational in light of the known facts, out of proportion to other existing threats, and a dangerous adventure risking continuing conflict throughout the region for years to come, appears irrelevant to the Bush administration. The Bush approach may be mistaken, irrational, self-defeating and illegal by basic international standards…but none of that seems to matter.  The longstanding paradigm of debate and multilateralism that many of us trusted was the American way has been tossed aside like an old shoe."

Without a strong independent press, stupid, criminal decisions will be made again.

It will not take much for the saber-rattling over Iran to reach a fever pitch. Disinformation and lies will spread, as they did in the lead up to the war in Iraq.  AlterNet will never swerve from fighting American empire and we hope we have earned your support.  

Media that supported the invasion included the New York Times, which was among the worst, with Executive Editor Bill Keller, and star columnist Thomas Friedman, arguing vigorously for war. Friedman actually wanted France kicked out of the Security Council because it resisted. And who can forget the role that Times reporter Judith Miller played, providing enormous cover for the invasion by printing a pack of lies?

The Washington Post was filled with warmongers.  George Packer lobbied for war in the pages of the New Yorker. Andrew Sullivan and Peter Beinart of the Atlantic, Joe Klein of Time, Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic, Jeffrey Goldberg of Newsday, Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, all pushed us towards war. So did Christopher Hitchens, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Paul Berman, surprisingly Glenn Greenwald, and even the sex columnist Dan Savage.  

  I know it is painful to consider but it is worth contemplating just how horrible and truly heart-breaking this war was and continues to be:  

  • The enormous human toll. In Iraq, nearly one million dead, five million displaced, hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans, untold misery and suffering.
  • As David Swanson has documented, the 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, as the U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances.  It also made use of what some might call "weapons of mass destruction," using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas.
  • The United States military sustaining more than 4,480 deaths.  More than 32,000 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq. Countless other Americans are forever maimed, while many suffer mental traumas from which they will never fully recover.
  • Brown University’s “Costs of War” project estimates that the total cost of war in Iraq was  $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades when interest is included.
  • And the result?  Iraq is in turmoil today, allied with Iran, perhaps on the brink of another civil war. There is enormous corruption and profiteering, but very little infrastructure. Millions still suffer every day as a result of our invasion.

Writing about this is very depressing, in part because clearly not enough has changed. Many of the perpetrators of what the Economist calls "The Grand Delusion," still defend the war, with reality defying statements.

So the battle is still on. 

We truly need a strong independent media to stand a chance of preventing such debacles in the future. And we need a strong group of well-informed citizens, activists, and leaders, to keep standing up and fighting. We are in this together. Please join us in the struggle.

As I wrote ten years ago:  "There are a hundred good reasons not to invade Iraq. But they appear irrelevant, trumped by the all-powerful legacy of 9/11 and the frame of the war against terrorism." 

As we know, the frame of the war on terror is still with us. It is something we fight against every day. And we need your support to continue.

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