Why Does the National Security Establishment Stay Unconcerned Following the Iraq Debacle?

Date:

Why Does the National Security Establishment Stay Unconcerned Following the Iraq Debacle?

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, March 30, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The most significant US foreign policy failure since Vietnam—”war America’s of choice” against Iraq, with 130,000 US soldiers invading the nation to overthrow its government—happened 20 years after President Joe Biden denounced the lawless Russian invasion of Ukraine in Warsaw: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country—since World War II, nothing like that has happened.

  • On the eve of the war, two-thirds of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and nearly four-fifths thought he was close to possessing nuclear weapons.

  • Bret Stephens, a Times columnist, argues that Saddam Hussein was a nasty man and “the one unquestionably actual WMD in Iraq” to promote the war.

  • Despite the West’s errors, Iraqis chose to engage in sectarian conflict.

  • One of the lasting horrors of Iraq is that despite the tragedy, our foreign policy establishment remains unshaken, and its worldview remains unchanged.

The most significant US foreign policy failure since Vietnam—”war America’s of choice” against Iraq, with 130,000 US soldiers invading the nation to overthrow its government—happened 20 years after President Joe Biden denounced the lawless Russian invasion of Ukraine in Warsaw: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country—since World War II, nothing like that has happened.”

Given the magnitude of the mistake, it seems sensible that Biden would wish to erase it from memory. Although if it wasn’t as Orwellian as Biden’s remarks, a lot of the rhetoric around the 20th anniversary aimed to justify, excuse, or downplay the tragedy. This is hardly shocking considering how little punishment was given to the culprits, propagandists, and supporters who led us into the war. Their standing in the foreign policy establishment of America was preserved, and their reputations were restored. Strangely, people who caused the catastrophe still control the major media outlets in America, while others who issued warnings are primarily relegated to the periphery.

It’s challenging to make the Iraq War look bad. During the height of its unipolar moment, the Bush administration bragged about its preventive war strategy and disregarded the need for America to seek approval from the UN, support from NATO members or adherence to international law. Neoconservatives had had Iraq as a goal since before 9/11, as the Project for the New American Century’s propagandists made apparent. Even though Saddam Hussein was an outspoken adversary of Al Qaeda, the call for war started shortly after 9/11. The Bush administration hired professional PR gurus, such as Charlotte Beers, the Queen of Madison Avenue, from award-winning campaigns hawking Uncle Ben’s Rice and Head & Shoulders Shampoo, for message advice. As Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote at the start of the Cold War, the administration ran a campaign to sell the threat, making it “clearer than the truth.” From the president on down, they attempted to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11 despite the lack of supporting data for such a claim. After that, they concentrated on the danger that Hussein’s purported WMDs presented. Vice President Dick Cheney established his intelligence unit to win over the CIA’s sceptics. At the same time, super-lobbyist John Rendon created an Iraqi National Congress under the control of the shady financier Ahmed Chalabi, who produced “information” on demand.

Germany, France, NATO, and the UN refused to back the administration; despite the scare tactics, there were the most prominent anti-war protests planned before the war started, which The New York Times called “a new superpower.” Yet, mainstream media reporters and editorial writers repeated the administration’s assertions, and liberal intellectuals hastened to display their ardour for their country. The daily barrage of lies and distortions succeeded. On the eve of the war, two-thirds of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and nearly four-fifths thought he was close to possessing nuclear weapons. With few exceptions, liberal politicians signed on to maintain their “credibility.”

The calamity followed. Around 30,000 people were injured, and 4,600 Americans died in the battle. In addition to the astonishing 7 million refugees and millions of internally displaced people, estimates of Iraqi casualties exceed 400,000. The conflict between sects devastated Iraq. A brand-new batch of jihadists emerged and multiplied. Iran expanded its sway in the area.

The image of America has never fully recovered. Most of the world has avoided the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, viewing the US lecture about the “rules-based international order” as hypocritical. China’s influence grew as the US struggled in the continuous battles in the Middle East. Americans were sick of losing wars. The media wasted its authority. Also, the establishment’s foreign policy hubris and negligence were revealed, aiding Donald Trump’s triumph in 2016.

Twenty years later, the war’s supporters and defenders still battle to defend their disastrous course, appease critics, and reach what former Foreign Policy Association president Richard Haas called “an elusive agreement regarding the war’s legacy.”

Present problem

One common justification is that the conflict was an accident or a tragedy rather than a crime. It is asserted that the government genuinely thought Saddam possessed WMDs. Despite the lack of evidence, a “critical mass of senior officials…talked one another into believing the most readily available justification,” wrote Max Fisher in the Times. Hal Brands writes in Foreign Affairs that it was “an understandable tragedy, born of honourable motive and genuine concerns.” The “war of choice” was the product of arrogance when the US was at the height of its strength, driven by fanatics who disregarded law, evidence, and the “rules-based system.” Or as Secretary of State Colin Powell phrased it, examining the material presented for his UN speech, “This is crap.”

Some laughably assert that the invasion made Iraq better off than it was before. Bret Stephens, a Times columnist, argues that Saddam Hussein was a nasty man and “the one unquestionably actual WMD in Iraq” to promote the war. This breathtaking conclusion can only be drawn by ignoring the destruction of the country, the region, and America’s credibility. Stephens claims that getting rid of him benefits the Iraqis, with “Iraq, the Middle East, and the world better off for having gotten rid of a dangerous tyrant.” The same conceit that resulted in the overthrow of the Libyan government has now led to another horrific civil war.

Some argue that Iraqis are primarily to blame, including David Frum, the Bush speechwriter credited with coining the term “the Axis of Evil” (the absurd alliance between Iran and North Korea, two fervent rivals), and Iraq and Iran. Frum tweeted that we “promise Iraq a better future.” “Despite the West’s errors, Iraqis chose to engage in sectarian conflict.”

Failure to bring those responsible for this disaster accountable has cost America’s national security establishment its ability to function. Biden took office promising to develop a foreign policy for the middle class. Still, he has instead continued to uphold America’s imperial delusion, which holds that we have the means, the knowledge, and the right to police the world, confront China and Russia in their backyards, hunt down terrorists, use drones to drop bombs in seven nations and send troops to more than a hundred different nations. We rightfully denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a breach of international law. One of the lasting horrors of Iraq is that despite the tragedy, our foreign policy establishment remains unshaken, and its worldview remains unchanged. Richard Haass, a founding member of our foreign policy establishment, can write — apparently without irony — that the lesson to be drawn from Iraq is not opposition to aggressive war but that “wars of choice should be undertaken only with extreme care and consideration of the likely costs and benefits.”

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