Following this introduction is a series of 10 blogs concisely detailing how the George W. Bush Administration falsely made the case for its war in Iraq. The facts will speak for themselves. This is an overview and a call for action.
EDITORAL / INTRODUCTION
When put into practice, neoconservatism proved to be an abject and unequivocal failure. The leading proponents of the ideology were in the very positions of power needed to implement their political theory – and against all good judgment they callously used the lives of American soldiers and billions of dollars of taxpayer money to test it.
That any lives were lost in their egomaniacal pursuit is enough to warrant that it simply wasn’t worth it, but so much more was damaged that it may be years before we know the full extent. The wanton disregard for United Nations protocol and committing grave breaches against the Geneva Conventions alone may sound like accusations against a former Iraqi dictator, but, unfortunately, it was the back room foreign policy of the United States from 2000-2008.
It took two soul-crushing World Wars within 21 years of one another for the human race to agree on the necessity of a league of nations. Formed in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, the United Nations nevertheless remains one of the crowning humanitarian achievements of the 1900’s, just as the Red Cross and the original Geneva Conventions had been the century prior.
Francis Fukuyama, the American philosopher and one-time advocate of neoconservativism, argued in his book The End of History and the Last Man that after the demise of Soviet communism, we had “reached the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
With all due respect to the professor, I don’t think that’s what we, the race, have been striving for. I think liberal democracy is a vitally important oasis, the fruits of which will sustain us on our journey toward the dot on the horizon, but I’d hardly call it the end of new thought.
The Mediterranean civilizations of antiquity had known democracy, and, to put it mildly, the lust for both religious and secular empire sidetracked things. As the centuries gestated along, 1492 sparked the Enlightenment, which gave birth to the American Revolution – the true success of which was only realized after John Adams’ election and the nation’s first non-violent transition of power. Subsequent democratic efforts in France and Germany would not transition so peaceably over the next two centuries.
Which more or less brings us to 2009, and the Western world reconciled with the fact that, after thousands of years of trial and error, liberal democracy is the most reasonable and effective form of rule. After the ruinous legacy of their last emperor, Japan has also come to this realization, as have India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all out from under colonization.
I am of the west, I know it’s history, and I feel this is a fair assessment of our progress, as well as that of some of our Eastern friends. But unlike Professor Fukuyama, I am not confident enough to conclude agreement on liberal democracy has been universally reached.
Millennia worth of history should be enough to prove that China remains a puzzle only the Chinese have the key to decode. My heart aches for the Tiananmen Square generation, but the “one nation, two systems” doctrine is indication that China is trudging toward the pragmatism of democratic principles and away from constraining Maoist ideology. Though, I do not foresee a revolution in China; not after the deep scars of the last one, and the global emergence of Gandhian thought.
No, I think they will continue adding new legs at every corner of their table until they are content to let the old table fall away. I would like to believe this “new table” will be finished by the time the children of the Tienanmen Square generation have matured and are leading their nation, though more likely they will be the ones who have to ensure that national path is set. But when it is finished, perhaps by the end of this century, the world will be gifted a uniquely Chinese democracy – one worth studying, but impractical anywhere else.
Back to point, have Middle Eastern societies reconciled that liberal democracy is the best course of action for them? Have all the nations of Africa – which only exist because they were carved up along colonial lines – reconciled that? Or are they headed toward that same dot on the horizon, but in their own caravan?
Liberal democracy may be the well we in the west drink from, but I would counter Professor Fukuyama that a greater humanism is revealing itself, saying that human worth is above any system; exemplified by the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations and South Africa’s amazing Truth and Reconciliation Commission – though perhaps best epitomized by the nation-less, dogma-less, consumer-less work of Mohandas Gandhi.
It took Gandhi’s shrewd legal mind to fashion thousands of years of Eastern and Western religious principles into a strategy that not only was applicable in the modern world, but one that was also morally irrefutable.
Part of what made his campaign so potent is that he lived it. His was no drawing room philosophy. Like Lincoln, Gandhi put the onus on the individual to be the change they wanted to see, and, like Lincoln, made sure he was the first to follow his own advice.
I counter that Gandhian thought is the emerging philosophy of the human race because we have seen its success in and/or against every ideological constraint – imperial rule, religious fanaticism, liberal democracy and apartheid.
Reason. Truth. And Love. This is the philosophy we are trying to embrace.
Gandhi’s work, the work of others it inspired, the Geneva Conventions, the UN, the TRC are all evidence that we are striving to transform this thought into ongoing practice. Yes, I’m aware Gandhi was slain by a religious fanatic and it holds no irony for me, only further proof that such a philosophy as he lived is one well worth embracing.
As he said, “Man’s nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature.”
Another reason I contest that Fukuyama overstated the end of mankind’s ideological evolution (in the professor’s defense, he has amended his original thesis to acknowledge that biotechnology is throwing a whole new wrench into the philosophical works), is because even if an ideal state of governance is reached, philosophies would develop trying to achieve the ideal state of other matters, probably starting with the tactile, such as economics, and eventually, communally, into the existential. As long as death remains a riddle, there will always be philosophy.
Now picture if you will a brontosaurus, lumbering along at her glacial pace toward the dot on the horizon. This is human intellectual progress. A dinosaur because apparently the largest among them were something akin to walking ecospheres, too huge to know or care that different creatures were nesting on their frames. So the bronto of human intellectual progress shambles along, and things like neoconservatism, the right of kings, cold war, and rampant consumerism will go through their lifecycles just as the parasites that lived off the actual dinosaurs went through theirs.
The obvious point is that intellectual progress carries on, and I believe it’s toward the humanism of reason, peace and love. The argument at it’s most basic is that humankind, like all animals, lives off a certain degree of instinct. As the bird knows to fly south for winter, we know to progress toward such humanism, because there ultimately is no benefit to being stuck in the winters of war, poverty and isolation.
Completely contrary to this instinct, and seeing history as nothing but a blank slate, the Bush Administration went through with their stratagem to realize the neoconservative goal of regime change in Iraq.
From day one, Bush and his associates knew what they wanted. However, the more I researched, the more it became apparent how much their achieving of that goal was just playing it by ear. They barnacled on to whatever they could – 9/11, aluminum tubes, hijacker Atta – and assembled the justifications for invasion around those instances, however disputed.
Never mind the fact that the core philosophy of neoconservatism was unsound. Repeated calls to significantly raise defense spending rang more suspicious than practical, as one need only look at the American Revolution and the Vietnam War to know that military spending could not guarantee victory for one king or four presidents. Considering Rumsfeld and Cheney were maneuvering in the White House and Pentagon during the Vietnam Era, you’d think they’d have remembered.
Worse was the neocon notion of benevolent hegemony, where the United States was to be God on the throne, taking care of, policing and smiting the rest of the world. Not since manifest destiny had such an ignorant belief poisoned policy.
In its hubris, the neoconservative agenda denied Iraqis ownership of their country. From the Iraqi perspective: a generation ago, the United States helped cement Saddam, and now it was coming to take him away and install something else. There was no political movement within Iraq that the invasion supported, as the French had aided colonial America.
There would be no shared victory with the Iraqi people, and the chance to develop any good will with them was completely obliterated because – for all the planning to get into Iraq – no Bush Administration official had even the most basic common sense to draft a plan establishing what to do when they got there. People don’t go to the grocery store without making a list, but these intellectuals and policy makers had no foresight to make a plan to secure the country they were invading. And while they twiddled their thumbs, it was some 18-year-old from Alabama who was the one trying to avoid car bombs.
I still believe de Tocqueville’s nineteenth century assessment that America has a special place among nations, but unlike the outward neocon point of view, that doesn’t mean our role is to act above all other nations. Our obligation is inward, to ensure that we uphold the Constitutional values that set us apart in the first place.
Ultimately, that was the biggest flaw in the Bush Administration. The neoconservatives could only imagine an America that led by force, and not by example.
Five minutes online and you’ll be directed to a number of resources that detail every painful step of the Bush Administration’s march to war in Iraq. Mother Jones’ “Lie By Lie” feature is an exhaustive database concerning the war and everything orbiting its nucleus, such as Abu Ghraib and the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. As of this writing, the Center for Public Integrity’s “Iraq: The War Card” lists no less than 532 false statements by key administration officials about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda, 260 of which are by President Bush himself.
Another five minutes online and your research might point you to Elizabeth de la Vega’s book United States v. George Bush, et al., in which the former prosecutor makes her case to an imagined grand jury for an indictment of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell. That particular book has been in print since 2006, but if you prefer something more recent, you’ll find there are more of the same to choose from. If TV is more your thing, the producer of the venerable Law & Order promised that for the first episode of the 20th season, they’ll be “putting Dick Cheney and the torture clique on trial.”
The reason I compiled my 37 pages of research from the 100-odd pages of articles, profiles and factoids that I started with was because I was a writing a political comedy sketch for Little Fuzzy Bunnies, and wanted to get my facts right. I was a journalist in college, and I guess old habits never die, hard or otherwise.
Why, at this very sitting, I just now discovered that in May 2009, Obama’s Justice Department argued that Joe and Valerie (Plame) Wilson have no grounds to sue former Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Richard Armitage over outing Plame, the same position that has been argued by Bush’s Justice Department since the lawsuit was filed in 2006.
Yet, on September 4, 2009, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held liable for people who were wrongfully detained as material witnesses after 9/11.
News reports such as these give me conflicting hope that Bush Administration officials may or may not be prosecuted or indicted for any more of the numerous offenses regarding the war on terror, be they illegal wiretapping, making false statements about the cause for war, or torturing prisoners.
It is an unfortunate but necessary and morally correct step that our former heads of state must be brought to trial. The Constitutional crisis of Watergate was bad enough. The subterfuge of Iran-Contra was bad enough. But it is wholly unacceptable that American soldiers died based on false pretenses, and someone must be held accountable.
That’s really the heart of it, for me. The square peg of neoconservative ideology the Bush Administration jammed into American foreign policy had no appreciation for the United States Military as dedicated men and women, but as a pet organism that could be flung against dictators, blanket a country, or surge against nuisances at their whim. To them, the military was nothing but the dirty engine that made their pretty car run.
For example, there’s a chilling moment in a January 2003 Downing Street memo when Bush tells Tony Blair his administration went so far as to consider “flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions].” Bush fails to mention these particular planes require human pilots.
In this one example alone, Bush and his cronies were willing to: send American soldiers to their deaths; so as to create a lie; so as to justify their otherwise illegal war.
That notion is so gruesome a thought, one could almost overlook Bush and Blair’s farcical public insistence Saddam adhere to UN sanctions while they maneuvered behind the scenes to snow the very same organization.
One could almost overlook Condoleezza Rice’s distasteful likening of the war on terror to America’s Civil Rights Movement, as though Dr. King’s successful and morally clear Gandhian strategy could have any place alongside the neoconservative’s diplomatic and moral quagmire of preemptive warfare.
One could almost overlook those and other repugnant instances if it weren’t for the fact that every statement made about Iraq by the Bush Administration had been so calculated and so deliberate that they’ve burned through all good will and any lingering benefit of the doubt.
Strip away all politics and one is left with the motive, the opportunity and the heist.
But to commit such an egregious act at the expense of so many American lives is entirely inexcusable. For whatever momentary catharsis the American people may be offered through books and TV shows about Bush and company, real lives were lost, and the Bush Administration must answer for that in a court of law.
No soldier ever died in vain. They performed what their superiors commanded because they swore an oath to do so. If a soldier ever failed his oath, he might be sent to the brig, or to face a judge.
Well, their superiors also took an oath when they accepted the responsibility of public office, and they should be held to a higher and stricter example, in regard when they are noble, and in punishment when they have wronged.
To the American soldier, thank you for your service. It is now for the courts to determine how your White House commanders must live up to your sacrifice.
As I thumbed through all of this research, it occurred to me how thankless a task the United States intelligence community is often relegated to. At every instance throughout the Bush years, analysts, researchers and operatives did the jobs they were sworn to do to protect this country, only to see their reports bastardized, all to accommodate one administration’s intransigent agenda.
To the United States intelligence community, thank you for your tireless work.
And to better journalists than me whose work I have plundered, thank you for struggling to keep the Fourth Estate from becoming a gated community.
Neoconservatives may have spoke of human rights, but their wake is lined with torture by physical and sexual assault, an American government spying on and detaining it’s own civilians, an estimate of over a million dead Iraqis, and over four thousand confirmed American dead.
We are the country proud to have put Osama bin Laden in a grave. We rightly did so – not because he held and spread his beliefs, but for the real world impact those beliefs wrought.
No doubt the supporters of neocon philosophy will regroup under some other banner and continue to plague American policy from within the Republican Party. One need only hear the vitriol that was spewing during John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign rallies and concession speech to know how the subsets of conservatives, neoconservatives and the Religious Right can all call the same party home: since that fateful June night at the Watergate Complex, the overarching philosophy of the Republican Party has been win at all costs.
If that meant breaking into Democratic headquarters in 1972, or Ronald Reagan announcing his candidacy for president preaching “state’s rights” in the same town where three civil rights workers were slain 20 years prior, or exploiting racial fears through the Willie Horton advertisement in 1988, or shutting down the government in 1995 because President Clinton refused any more cuts in Medicare and other social services, or fanning the flames of the pro-life issue for decades only to support the openly pro-choice Arnold “household name” Schwarzenegger for governor of California in 2003, so be it. In 2000, the Republicans won an election, but the neocons won the White House; hollow tenets, hollow yields.
As children, we are made to pledge allegiance to the flag. As adults we must pledge equal heart to the philosophy laid out in the Declaration of Independence that says it our right and duty as beings to stand up to unjust rulers; and pledge again to the Constitution that has given us the system with which to address all unjustness. Before the Bush Administration, America was the nation that ended wars, rescued the innocent from torture, and valued the life of her soldiers. We must accept no less than the Bush Administration see their day in court – not for the temerity of their beliefs, but for the evidence of their actions.
Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” So unto us all.
(Updated August 2011)