Iraq War Actors Have No Shame

As wretched as the Iraq War was, the absence of any meaningful accountability for the U.S. policymakers and pundits who made the catastrophe happen is nearly as stomach-turning. Every day the same faces show up on the TV talk shows and Op-Ed pages spouting more of their “wisdom,” as Adil E. Shamoo notes.

By Adil E. Shamoo

The only message our children will take away from the war in Iraq is that if you repeat a boldfaced lie enough, it will someday become accepted truth. And as a corollary, saving face is much more important than admitting a mistake, no matter how destructive the outcome.

Unfortunately for our children, manipulating the truth became the norm for the Bush administration, which invaded Iraq on what we know now (and the administration almost certainly knew then) were utterly false pretenses.

Dan Senor, former spokesman for the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

Thanks to these lies, Americans, including our soldiers and civilians serving in Iraq, were convinced Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 attacks and had weapons of mass destruction, two of the ever-evolving reasons for getting into the war. Many still believe this. Engaging in mass deception in order to justify official policy both degrades and endangers democracy. But by far, it is ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most.

We know now beyond any doubt that Iraq was not involved in 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction. But as Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA analyst with the Iraqi portfolio, wrote on March 14, “Intelligence did not drive the decision to invade Iraq – not by a long shot, despite the aggressive use by the Bush administration of cherry-picked fragments of intelligence reporting in its public sales campaign for the war.” Indeed, this was a war in search of a justification from the very beginning, and any little lie would have worked.

It is very fortuitous for all those politicians, policy makers and bureaucrats with Iraqi blood on their hands — Republicans and Democrats both — that the only courtroom they’ve been shuffled into is the court of public opinion, where most received light sentences. Indeed, the Iraq War boosters are still a fixture on our television screens.

Dan Senor, who served as a spokesman for the U.S occupation authorities and willfully misrepresented events on the ground during that time, is a regular commentator on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a veritable roundtable of Washington establishment punditry.

Kenneth Pollack, a longtime Brookings fellow and CIA analyst who wrote the 2002 book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (which is barely mentioned today on the Brookings website), is a familiar face on the commentary circuit and among think tank salons. Ex-Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, who each left their most recent posts in disgrace, are raking in thousands of dollars for speeches, lectures, and consulting work.

Sure, there are pundits and reporters who admit they wrongly supported the war, but their regrets are usually reserved for their blind faith in the war planners and their own lack of inquisitiveness. For example, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius confessed in a March 21 column that Iraq was one of “the biggest strategic errors in Modern American history.” But the thrust of his own mea culpa was that he did not write enough “on the overriding question of whether the war made sense,” which would have allowed him to see that the U.S was not strong enough nor flexible enough to succeed.

Rarely do pundits apologize for the horrendous Iraqi losses inflicted by the war: more than a million deaths and millions more wounded with varying lifelong disabilities, including thousands of tortured prisoners, with an estimated 16,000 of them still unaccounted for. Twenty-eight percent of Iraqi children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and 2.8 million people are still internally displaced or living as refugees outside the country.

Add to that the complete upheaval of the Iraqi economy, as well as its transportation, education and medical institutions. Don’t forget the countless people suffering from trauma and depression, sectarian strife, terrifying birth defects from toxic pollution, and a brain drain that has left the country illiterate.

Not since the American Civil War has the U.S citizenry had to endure such horrors. Yet discussion of these repercussions is noticeably absent as we still struggle to understand the scope of the Iraq War and what all of its lies have wrought.

Let us start with a sincere apology to the Iraqi people for the crimes the U.S government has committed. A long-range plan for restitution is a second step. Empires decline due to moral decay from within. Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, our nation is looking at the moral abyss. If lies have delivered us to this place, then only the truth will begin our journey back.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth – When Humanity Will Have Peace. He can be reached atashamoo@som.umaryland.edu. This article appeared as: http://www.fpif.org/articles/after_iraq_climbing_out_of_the_moral_abyss

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3 comments on “Iraq War Actors Have No Shame

  1. Guy Montag on said:

    “As wretched as the Iraq War was, the absence of any meaningful accountability for the U.S. policymakers and pundits who made the catastrophe happen is nearly as stomach-turning. Every day the same faces show up on the TV talk shows and Op-Ed pages spouting more of their “wisdom”… if you repeat a boldfaced lie enough, it will someday become accepted truth. … Ex-Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, who each left their most recent posts in disgrace, are raking in thousands of dollars for speeches, lectures, and consulting work.”
    . . .

    Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s memoir, “My Share of the Task,” promises to “frankly explore the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career.” McChrystal has said, “The one thing you can never, and should never want to dodge, is responsibility.”

    However, despite McChrystal’s vaunted “candor,” his memoir whitewashes or ignores all the controversies of his career. He has “dodged” responsibility for his role in “Gitmotizing” Abu Gharib, for the routine use of torture by JSOC forces under his command, for his strategically flawed Afghan War “surge,” for the “Rolling Stone” profile that got him fired, and for his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.

    For more details, see the post, “Never Shall I Fail My Comrades” — The Dark Legacy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the Feral Firefighter blog.

  2. Don Bacon on said:

    General McChrystal has made some major errors, but unlike most general officers he has provided some beneficial advice.

    In remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations, in October 2011, McChrystal said that the biggest problem facing the U.S. will be to create a stable, legitimate Afghan government that can serve as a counterbalance to the Taliban. McChrystal pointed out that coalition forces have lacked — and still lack a solid comprehension of Afghanistan’s situation, culture and history, and made the bleak assessment that the work is only about half done. “We didn’t know enough, and we still don’t know enough,” he said at the Council on Foreign Relations, reports the BBC. “Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”

    The retired four-star general said that U.S. forces did not know the country’s languages and did not make “an effective effort” to learn them.
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/65398.html

    and McChrstal has been the only US general honestly to appraise AfPak, in August 2009:
    ##’Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. . .and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI [Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ].”
    ##”Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”
    http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdf

    Many American lives have been lost because McChrystal was ditched and his appraisal has been disregarded.

  3. gregorylkruse on said:

    Isn’t increased influence for India in Afghanistan just part of what the US wanted?