Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This week marks the...

...tenth anniversary of the U. S. invasion of Iraq, and every columnist and blogger is saying "I was right," or "I was wrong," or "I'm sorry," or "I'm not sorry," or blah, blah, blah, blah.

(I'm not exactly sure what Tom Friedman is saying in his column this morning, but I remember what he said in the lead-up to the war ten years ago. And it was, in effect, I'm all for it -- as long as it works. What a profile in courage!)

But one columnist whom I remember -- very clearly -- as not taken in by the baloney sausage being peddled by the Bush administration at the time was Georgie Anne Geyer, above. I've gone back and read some of her pieces in the months before the conflict.

On September 27, 2001, just two weeks after the events of 9/11, Ms. Geyer wrote (all emphasis mine):

Certainly, difficult, even dark, days are to come. The internal debate over taking the fight against terrorism and Osama bin Laden to Baghdad and Saddam Hussein is fraught with the danger of overreaching, and it is being fed by the proponents within the administration of the official Israeli line in place of prudent American interests.

On October 25, 2001:

Parallel to the international war against terrorism, a smaller "war" of interests, beliefs and realities is going on beneath the surface, which could endanger the final outcome of everything that has been accomplished since Sept. 11. So far, this parallel conflict is being contained by cool heads in the administration, but that could change at any time.

Essentially, the discussion is over Baghdad: whether Iraq and its "state sponsorship" is really to blame for the terrorism that has struck America and whether we should not then go "straight to Baghdad." That simple exhortation is deeply misleading.

The "Get Iraq" campaign, which to some people means finishing the Gulf War, started within days of the September bombings, long before the anthrax attacks and the new questions they raised. It emerged first and particularly from pro-Israeli hard-liners in the Pentagon such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and adviser Richard Perle, but also from hard-line neoconservatives, and some journalists and congressmen.

Soon it became clear that many, although not all, were in the group that is commonly called in diplomatic and political circles the "Israeli-firsters," meaning that they would always put Israeli policy, or even their perception of it, above anything else.

On November 29, 2001, Geyer warned against a second war:

With its careless talk about "getting Iraq next," the administration is incongruously looking for big -- and totally unnecessary -- trouble.

From the beginning of the anti-terrorist campaign nearly three months ago, some groups have been push-push-pushing to also attack Baghdad, including itchy neo-conservatives from the Reagan administration (who seem to want the U.S. to attack everywhere), spokesmen for the Israeli government position (whose genuine intention is to drive a wedge between America and the Arab world) and various journalists and thinkers (who need "the story" to change at least every week for their own purposes).

But last week, the administration joined the "Get Iraq!" fray as well in voices that were so strident and repetitive that one had to suspect something was "up." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice chimed into the discussion: "There is plenty of reason to make very clear to the Iraqis that the United States does not intend to let the Iraqis threaten their own people ... or threaten our interests by acquiring weapons of mass destruction." President Bush said pugnaciously of Saddam Hussein that "he'll see" what America would do next.

On February 28, 2002:

The White House is talking as if an attack on Iraq is an obvious outcome of the Afghan operation. Officials say, however, that they are being cautious -- they plan to have Saddam eliminated by the year 2005, not next week. In the same breath, the Pentagon announces that arms producers are working three shifts, 24 hours a day, to replenish all the Air Force and Navy inventories that have run dangerously low during the Afghan war. In a kind of offhand afterthought, they all acknowledge that the United States would have no allies, no coalition and no bases in such a war. The fierce looks of ideologically impassioned men and women who don't have to fight elite-group wars seem to be saying: "So what?"

In the last few weeks, I have spoken to several prominent and public conservatives pushing for a war against Baghdad -- yesterday, if possible! One smiled with an air of strange excitement when he talked of the eventuality of "marching 100,000 American troops across Iraq." For another one, that wasn't enough: He wanted us to take on Somalia at the same time and "wipe out every man, woman and child who had anything to do with the killing of our American troops in 1983." And polls show Americans support the general idea of attacking Iraq.

Did I miss a beat somewhere? Have we somehow gone overnight from the "common wisdom" of the 1990s, when supposedly Americans would not risk the life of one single American boy, to an era when we're looking around for, shall we say, "challenges"?

On March 19, 2002:

The obsession with "getting Iraq" or "going to Baghdad" seems to have begun with some of President Bush's own personal impulses. Observers in and around the White House have noted repeatedly, for instance, that the president feels that it has fallen to him to complete his father's unfinished Gulf War. At the same time, he is surrounded by both perfervid and pugnacious neoconservatives and Israel-supporters who enjoy the prospect of battle -- and who have become virtually the only voices he hears.

On April 9, 2002:

Most of the people now influencing Bush strongly on the road to a seemingly perpetual warfare -- men like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, military adviser Richard Perle and Irving and Bill Kristol -- are either combative neoconservatives, fervent Israeli supporters or Christian conservatives. The majority of them, including their most aggressive spokesmen, have never served in the military.

Yet they don't hesitate to express their views; indeed, their influence has led the president from fighting the immediate war against palpable anti-American terrorism in Afghanistan and al-Qaida cells, to helping Ariel Sharon dissolve Palestinian institutions and structures so he can keep hold of Palestinian lands, to (in the works -- really!) overthrowing governments from Iraq to Syria to Iran to North Korea. (And I know I've missed a few.)

On April 25, 2002:

But larger messages are accompanying the "war fever" (invade Iraq, change governments across the Middle East) being pressed upon the president by the neo-conservatives, the Israeli lobby and his Christian fundamentalist supporters. Surely the president's current posture has stunned most analysts, who never expected these kinds of actions from George W.

On June 18, 2002:

Such an attack is not a game over here, where you have real and dangerous neighbors and not only distant obsessions.

The talk in Washington about invading Iraq, after having dropped off a while because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is crescendoing again -- without a Middle East solution, without a coalition, without even our old allies, like the Turks.

The administration's increasingly arrogant sense that America can do anything in the world bumps rudely up against reality here. 

Jump to January 7, 2003:

But the strangest factor about all of this news, to me at least, is how silent the country is. Where is everybody? I'd say, "Cat got your tongue?" but my cat wouldn't like it at all. Is anybody in the country thinking about what is going on? And exactly what IS going on?

Current events indicate to me a discordant pattern of leadership in the country, a leadership ruled by obsession over Iraq, despite the fact that Afghanistan is still a dangerous and, at best, only half-finished mission. They indicate to me a country in which the public is disconnected from the acts of its elected officials; the real cost of these wars is disconnected from the desire to wage them; and most serious of all, the military is ever more disconnected from the public as power flows to less traditionally controlled groups, such as the Special Forces.

And at the top of the political pyramid, especially from the White House to the Pentagon (the State Department still has some good sense left), one hears repeatedly the siren call of "empire," like the lotus-eaters on the Isle of Djerba in ancient times crying out to Ulysses' sailors with their delicious narcotic treats and then holding them enchanted in the prisons of their desires.

Behind Iraq and all the war talk, beyond the strange and excited looks in the eyes of so many in the administration, they are really thinking -- yes, really! -- that they are incubating a New American Empire.

Did Americans really vote for empire when they elected this president in 2000? Did they foresee a group of officials who would boast about American-led wars stretching gloriously across the globe and essentially subsuming our diplomacy, our humanitarian work, our conflict-resolution, our political negotiating ability and our principles into only The Military?

I know the answers. What is strange to me is that so few Americans are asking the questions.

On February 6, 2003:

The real questions, the ones lying somewhere in the shadows outside the war fever that has seized this administration, are whether the Iraqi dictator was behind 9/11 and whether he and al-Qaida are banded together in terrorism. (You do remember back that far, don't you, when those were the supposed reasons for going to war?) Those questions remain unanswered.

On March 4, 2003:

With Iraq, the administration has all the fevered rhetoric, but not even estimates for cost or casualties and no idea whatsoever about how the military invasion of a country by a hostile power will lead to the systematic transformation of an eternally embittered and brutalized tribal people. Lucky country, Iraq: It must endure only the wild and unquantifiable dream of Transformation and Empire.

Finally, on March 18, 2003:

So on what is the very brink of an American war against Iraq, all the reasons for that war are dissolving, one after one, like drops of water in the Iraqi sands.

First we saw the administration's "great truth" that al-Qaida was actually sponsored by Iraq turn out to be totally false. No matter: They moved on.

Now it would be weapons of mass destruction. When none were found (but surely are there), the Bush zealots reverted to what has always been their primary goal: to "reconfigure" first Iraq and then the entire Middle East, with Israel as America's pro-consul in the region.

But if the State Department report, produced by its prestigious Bureau of Intelligence and Research and provocatively named "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," is correct, this war is truly being fought for a series of dangerous and deliberately orchestrated delusions.

Go back and read some of these columns. Ms. Geyer was one of the only people I can remember who was spot-on in the lead up to this disastrous war.

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

Scott Ritter and Hans Blix were right.