Replace ‘Conspiracy Theory’ with ‘Remember Iraq’

While watching “Official Secrets” Caitlin Johnstone kept thinking about the conspiracy behind the invasion of Iraq. 

Secretary of State Colin Powell testifying before the UN’s Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, presenting what turned out to be false claims about Iraq’s WMD.

By Caitlin Johnstone

I watched the film Official Secretsthe other day, which I highly recommend doing if you want to rekindle your rage about the unforgivable evil that was the Iraq invasion.

Which is a good thing to do, in my opinion. Absolutely nothing was ever done to address the fact that a million people were murdered with the assistance of government lies just a few short years ago; no laws were passed mandating more government transparency or accountability for its military operations, no war crimes tribunals took place, no new policies were put into place. No one even got fired. In fact we’ve seen the exact opposite: the people responsible for unleashing that horror upon our species have been given prestigious jobs in government and media and the U.S. government is currently collaborating with the U.K. to set the legal precedent for charging under the Espionage Act any journalist in the world who exposes U.S. war crimes.

The corrupt mechanisms which gave rise to the Iraq invasion still exist currently, stronger than ever, and its consequences continue to ravage the region to this very day. The Iraq war isn’t some event that happened in the past; everything about it is still here with us, right now. So we should still be enraged. You don’t forgive and forget something that hasn’t even stopped, let alone been rectified.

Apart from the howling rage surging through my veins during the film, the other thing I experienced was the recurring thought, “This was a conspiracy. This is the thing that a conspiracy is.”

And, I mean, of course it is. How weird is it that we don’t use that word to describe what the architects of that war did? Conspiracy is defined as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” From the secret plan between the NSA and GCHQ to spy on and blackmail UN members into supporting the illegal invasion which is the subject of “Official Secrets,” to the mountain of other schemes and manipulations used by other government bodies to deceive the world about Iraq, it’s absolutely insane that that word is never used to describe the conspiracy within the Bush and Blair governments to manufacture the case for war.

The engineering of the Iraq war was a conspiracy, per any conceivable definition. So why isn’t that word reflexively used by everyone who talks about it?

Easy. Because we haven’t been trained to.

The use of the word “conspiracy” is studiously avoided by the narrative managers of the political/media class who are tasked with teaching us how to think about our world, except when it is to be employed for its intended and authorized use: smearing skeptics of establishment narratives. The pejorative “conspiracy theory” has been such a useful weapon in inoculating the herd from dissident wrongthink that the propagandists do everything they can to avoid tainting their brand, even if it means refraining from using words for the things that they refer to.

This is why the word “collusion” was continuously and uniformly used throughout the entire Russiagate saga, for example. It was a narrative about a secret conspiracy between the highest levels of the U.S. and Russian governments to subvert the interests of the American people, yet the word “conspiracy” was meticulously replaced with “collusion” by everyone peddling that story.

Syria narrative managers on Twitter have been in meltdown for a week ever since the Rolling Stone podcast “Useful Idiots” featured oppositional journalist Max Blumenthal talking about the U.S.-centralized empire’s involvement in the Syrian war and its pervasive propaganda campaign against that nation. The entire site has been swarming with high-visibility blue-checkmarked thought police demanding the heads of the show’s hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper for giving this evil conspiracy theorist a platform to say we’re being deceived about yet another U.S.-led regime change intervention in yet another Middle Eastern nation.

Narrative managers use the “conspiracy theorist” pejorative to shove skepticism of establishment narratives into the margins of political discourse, far away where it can’t contaminate the mainstream herd. Whenever you see a dissenting interpretation of events getting too close to mainstream circles — as with Blumenthal appearing on a Rolling Stone podcast, Tulsi Gabbard saying on national television that the U.S. government has armed terrorists, or Tucker Carlson interviewing Jonathan Steele about the OPCW leaks — you see an intense campaign of shrieking outrage and public shaming geared at shoving those dissident narratives as far into the fringe as possible by branding them “conspiracy theories.”

My suggestion then is this: whenever you see the label “conspiracy theorist” being applied to anyone who questions an establishment narrative about Syria, Russia, Iran or wherever, just mentally swap it out for the term “Iraq rememberer.” When you see anyone shouting about “conspiracy theories,” mentally replace it with “Iraq remembering.” It makes it much easier to see what’s really going on: “Oh those damn Iraq rememberers! Why can’t they just trust their media and government about what’s happening in Syria instead of indulging in Iraq remembering?”

Powerful people and institutions secretly coordinating with each other to do evil things is the absolute worst-case scenario for the rest of the population; it is precisely the thing we fear when we allow people and institutions to have power over us. We need to be able to talk about that worst-case scenario occurring, especially since we know for a fact that it does indeed happen. Powerful people do conspire to inflict evil things upon the rest of us, and we do need to use thoughts and ideas to discuss how that might be happening. We are not meant to think about this, which is why we’re meant to forget about Iraq.

The Iraq invasion was like if a family were sitting around the dinner table one night, then the father stood up, decapitated his daughter with a steak knife, then sat back down and continued eating and everyone just went back to their meals and never talked about what happened. That’s how absolutely creepy and weird it is that the news churn just moved on after a conspiracy within the most powerful government in the world led to the murder of a million human beings, and now we’re all somehow only supposed to care about Trump’s rude tweets.

Never forget the Iraq war conspiracy, no matter how hard they try to make you. They did it before, they’ve done it again in Libya and Syria, and they’ll continue to attempt it in the future. When you sound the alarm about this, they will call you a conspiracy theorist. All they’re really saying is that you’re one of those annoying pests who just won’t shut up and forget about Iraq.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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22 comments for “Replace ‘Conspiracy Theory’ with ‘Remember Iraq’

  1. Jurgen A.
    December 14, 2019 at 20:51

    I don’t think it was a conspiracy, at least within the US government. Our lot, here in the UK, are a different matter.

    The picture we have, from the reporting of people like Seymour Hersh, is US officials cherry-picking raw intel to suit their needs, rather than intel being properly analysed by agencies and given to them. The well-known psychological phenomenon of “seeing what you want to see” seems pertinent in the American case.

    • Skip Scott
      December 15, 2019 at 07:26

      You are ignoring the intimidation that Dick Cheney placed on analysts to fix the intelligence around the intended goal of regime change. It was way beyond cherry picking. Ask Valerie Plame.

  2. T
    December 13, 2019 at 11:15

    On the podcast Useful Idiots linked to in the article: the part with the interview with Blumenthal starts at the 40th minute.

  3. December 13, 2019 at 03:23

    The lack of consequences for Iraq was a replay of the lack of consequences for Libya, which was a replay of the lack of consequences for Viet Nam which was a lack of consequences for ….

    With the fresh headlines about the lies about Afghanistan there’s an opportunity to start a movement to impose consequences, which even if unsuccessful might influence other flag officers down the line.

    I propose a campaign to demote every general who publicly lied about Afghanistan by one rank as a penalty for lying to the public. Hit them in their retirement paychecks.


    Paul E. Merrell (who dodged bullets in Viet Nam for 27 months because of Gen. Westmoreland’s lies)

  4. Zhu
    December 12, 2019 at 21:21

    Tbe problem is, a lot of the
    “conspiracy theories” Americans like to belive un are just low level thriller fiction. We believe because it feels good, because it wiuld nice if XYZ were ltrue. But things are not true just because they feel good. I’d like to be a foot taller and to have a couple million vucks in the bank. Neither are true.

  5. Brian James
    December 12, 2019 at 19:23

    January 26, 2019 CIA Was Aiding Jihadists Before Soviets Invaded Afghanistan

    According to recently declassified documents [1] of the White House, CIA and State Department as reported by Tim Weiner for The Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviets invaded in 1979. The then American President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.


    SEPTEMBER 10, 2001 Defense Business Practices

    Secretary Rumsfeld and other officials talked with reporters about the need to refine the Defense Department’s business practices.?An opening ceremony will kick off Acquisition and Logistics Excellence Week.?They answered questions from members of the media.

  6. RomeoCharlie29
    December 12, 2019 at 18:28

    Like to add my support to those congratulating Caitlin, and Caitlin herself. The wickednessof the the US involvement in regime change around the world need to continually be reinforced. And, like ANT, I would remind Caitlin not to let Australia’s own lying warmonger, John Howard, off the hook. He was as enthusiastic a warrior as Bush and Blair. Not for nothing was he called the deputy sheriff. Australia has a long history of involvement in the Us’s misadventures.

  7. Grady
    December 12, 2019 at 17:24

    Agree with the comments and another good read here at CN. Yet, the Israelis had us invade Iraq as it was their priority for decades. Same with Syria and Libya, next up Iran. They control all 3 branches of US government, not just the legislative. Read Mersheimer and Walt re the legislative branch, and its blatantly obvious who Trump works for in the executive. That tail wags a very big dog. Omitting the Israeli conspiracy is a poor mistake even if not the focus of the article.

  8. Faith Peeples
    December 12, 2019 at 13:02

    Caitlin, a more accurate estimate of the number of people killed in Iraq is 2.398 million. See

    • December 13, 2019 at 12:15

      It is a quibble how to count the killed, victims (who could die of natural causes, like preventing Iraq, and more recently, Yemen, from proper treatment of drinking water) etc., so perhaps it is better to notice that the entire societies were torn, leaving decades of strife, vanished loyalties on national level leading to monumental levels of corruption etc. Guatemala after Arbenz and Colombia were La Violencia never really ended are early examples. Iraq society was torn and it is a huge question when it will be able to recover.

      Collecting reliable statistics in a torn society may be hard for obvious reasons, but this way or another, the tragedies are deep.

      The mainstream “sane opinion” views lying malicious wreckers as heroes, eternal good guys, while those like Caitlin are maliciously spreading “incredulity toward metanarratives”.

      Metanarrative: how the reliable information is formed. High school students flock to very competitive exams and the best of them are admitted to top universities. There they learn from the most illustrious people in the respective fields, like Fiona Hill from Prof. Richard Pipes. They graduate and find employment in the finest intelligence agencies and analytic institutions on the planet. There they collect, sift and analyze information and mold them into narrative, and as the population, we should gratefully welcome these narratives as the balm for our minds, salve for the confused world etc.

      As the world has a presence of evil, inevitably there exists a degree of chaos so the narratives have to be pruned from confusing bits and pieces. At rare occasion, the bright idealistic narrative builders go a bit overboard, and that lamentably happened with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The entire episode is behind us at has the status of a piece to be pruned.

      That gives Caitlin an opportunity to saw incredulity, but if we are wise, we should resist. After all, the best of the best have established already what is most beneficial to believe, so who does Caitlin think she is?


      I got “incredulity toward metanarratives” from the diagram illustrating the central position of Jeremy Corbyn in the network of Marxist evil (sorry Vladimir Vladimirovich, you are a mere marginal figure) in the box annotating “Post-modern neo-Marxism”, one of the illustrations of the recent CN article “US & UK Military-Intelligence…”.

  9. Ant.
    December 12, 2019 at 11:27

    How short our memories are.

    The first Gulf War was also based on a pack of lies. Iraq re-aquiring the break-away province of Kuwait (who was stealing rump Iraq’s oil by drilling sideways under ill-defined borders) wasn’t enough.

    – Iraq was on the verge of invading Saudi Arabia;
    – Iraq killed 500,00 Kuwaiti babies by tossing them out of their incubators (sobbed the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US)

    At least Bush the Elder got an OK from the UN Security Council to invade Iraq, thereby satisfying the Nuremberg Principles or War.

    Bush the Younger, along with his various c0-conspirators, majorly Tony Blair (yes Caitlin, John Howard as well), had no such justification. Which makes them unquestionably war criminals by internationally-accepted standards.

    There’s no justice for the wicked.

  10. Mike from Jersey
    December 12, 2019 at 10:33

    I usually like Caitlin’s articles but I disagree with this one.

    “Iraq remembering” minimizes the extent of government/corporate media duplicity. Even the heavily propagandized American citizenry knows that Iraq was based upon lies. If you say “Iraq remembering,” it makes it look like they were caught once in a lie. What about Russiagate, what about the “Syrian gas attacks on Douma,” what about American attempts to overthrow the duly elected “dictator” Maduro in Venezuela, what about the Victoria Nuland being caught on tape discussed who was going to be approved as the new Ukrainian president and so on and so on and so on.

    If someone calls me a “conspiracy theorist,” I confront them with facts that they cannot contest. For instance, if someone talks about the “Russian invasion of Crimea,” I tell them Crimea wanted to be reunited with Russia. If they call me a “conspiracy theorist,” I ask them “how many people in Crimea are Ukrainian speakers or are of Ukrainian descent and how many are Russian?” Invariably, they say that they don’t know. I then tell them to look it up in the CIA fact-book which is online. That usually ends the argument since they then know that I know what I am talking about and they don’t.

    Similarly if they deny that the overthrow of Ukraine was US sponsored and call me a “conspiracy theorist” I ask them if they know who Victoria Nuland is. If they don’t I tell them and then tell them to look up Nuland’s “%uck the EU” recording which is available on the internet. I tell them that if they listen to that recording they will hear Nuland discussing who the US will approve of to be the new president of Ukraine after the coup.

    Do that a few times and people won’t dare try to put the “conspiracy theorist” tag on you.

    • December 13, 2019 at 12:26

      “Iraq remembering” minimizes the extent of government/corporate media duplicity. <– So a focus on Mt. Everest minimizes the extend and impact of the enormous Karakorum-Himalaya mountain chain? A focus of Battle of Kursk minimizes WWII?

      I say, the Iraq lies were sufficiently notable among episodes of Establishment duplicity (government, private sector, non-profit institutions) to be remembered as a particularly important example.

  11. December 12, 2019 at 10:22

    Which leads to a least two major issues, legislators free to act in the national interest. Ditto our media. The latter is in dire need of structural renovation, where like the legislators, the are free to act in the best interests of ordinary folks. The latter is about ownership and concentration of media power. The problems cited by so many CN writers will not go away unless at least these two things happen.

    • Mike from Jersey
      December 13, 2019 at 10:46

      Herman, you are absolutely right. There can be no democracy without access to accurate information. The first thing that must be done is a massive anti-trust action to break up media conglomerates. But beyond that there must be a constitutional amendment to restructure the press back to doing journalism to protect the public. What we have now is not journalism.

  12. bob lich
    December 12, 2019 at 09:27


  13. AnneR
    December 12, 2019 at 07:17

    Thank you, Ms Johnstone.

    On the mark, as ever. “Conspiracy theorist” has proved a very useful weapon against all who seriously, often from knowledge of circumstances, facts, question the establishment’s (i.e. the ruling elite’s and their lackeys in the various governmental institutions, agencies) self-serving, self-exculpatory narratives. So too “Russian/Putin/Kremlin tool, bot, stooge” used against anyone who refuses to accept the anti-Russian narrative that portrays Russia(ns) as the ultimate “evil” meddling, interfering, destroying, invading, annexing empire, that we in the west are weak, pure, good (exceptionally so), humanitarian, democratic and democracy promoting, only fighting the “good” fight against all of those “evil” nations, peoples who are out to destroy us….

    Meanwhile, yesterday on the radio (I think it was on the BBC World service, but can’t find the reference to it) an author of a new book was interviewed, and he was questioned and spoke as a “knowledgeable” pundit on Trump, the impeachment – and the Deep State. This writer told listeners that no one (in the US, presumably) had ever heard of the “Deep State” until the Strumpet started using the term to denigrate those good, gentle souls who ensure our “national security,” safety. Then the writer said: “There IS NO Deep State.” It doesn’t exist.

    Oh, really? Then why are we ordinary taxpayers paying out billions if not trillions of dollars to the seemingly ever-expanding number of secret agencies (including the ones we know about) and their personnel (all with their hands stuck out) if no such thing as the Deep State exists? Why, if it doesn’t, are there such bodies as ALEC? Lobbyists for the corporate-capitalist-imperialists all funding and thus buying not only, albeit significantly, members of Congress and the WH? Why the PACs – and their funders (i.e. paymasters) of the professional politicos – and their legalized ability to bribe and corrupt while remaining unknown to the public?

    Clearly from now onward, anyone speaking, seriously, about the existence of a Deep State, about a vast and unaccountable conglomerate of bureaucrats, government agents spying on us (FBI and NSA particularly, but let’s not forget the CIA despite their remit being beyond these shores), the MIC and the corporate-capitalists and their workers in and around government, are to be tarred as “conspiracy theorists” and thus derided as barmy.

  14. sylvia bennet
    December 11, 2019 at 17:35

    Caitlin Johnstone is a gem. Honourable, truthful, intelligent. Untiring in her desire to discover the truth and to inform. Any who criticise her, do so because they are afraid of her or shamed by what sh, opposed to them, has to offer.

  15. James O'Neill
    December 11, 2019 at 17:32

    What you say applies with equal validity to the invasion of Afghanistan. Decided upon months before 9/11, aimed at oil, the drug trade and foiling China. Nothing changes, only the personnel and the targets. Another fake narrative is being busily concocted over Iran, but here the US and its lackeys are in for a rude shock.

  16. jmg
    December 11, 2019 at 17:11

    As probably many know, a now declassified 1967 secret CIA document launched the use of the terms “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist”. The document mentions CIA’s concern about the growing suspicions that the agency had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. It details instructions to be delivered to CIA-connected politicians and editors to counter this.

    From the report “‘Conspiracy Theory’: Foundations of a Weaponized Term”:

    > Yet it was the Central Intelligence Agency that likely played the greatest role in effectively “weaponizing” the term. In the groundswell of public skepticism toward the Warren Commission’s findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA sent a detailed directive to all of its bureaus. Titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission Report,” the dispatch played a definitive role in making the “conspiracy theory” term a weapon to be wielded against almost any individual or group calling the government’s increasingly clandestine programs and activities into question.

    (“Conspiracy Theory”: Foundations of a Weaponized Term — James F. Tracy — Global Research — March 24, 2017)

    Caitlin Johnstone wrote:
    > I watched the film “Official Secrets”the other day, which I highly recommend doing if you want to rekindle your rage about the unforgivable evil that was the Iraq invasion.

    A good related article:

    Film ‘Official Secrets’ is the Tip of a Mammoth Iceberg — Sam Husseini — Consortium News — August 29, 2019

  17. peon d. rich
    December 11, 2019 at 17:05

    Excellent as usual except the reference to the Russia-Trump collusion, which would better be described as a conspiracy by the Democrats to obfuscate their responsibility for their running such a foul candidate like HRC (she came, she saw, she lost) and, denying the opportunity for Sanders to beat Trump. Fundamentally the same conspirators that brought us Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Bolivia, Honduras, Venezuela, climate denial, etc. Deep state, deep sheep, deep lapdogs.

  18. Jeff Harrison
    December 11, 2019 at 17:03

    Well said!

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