IRAQ 20 YEARS: Caitlin Johnstone — Bush-Era Neocons Should Shut Up About Iraq (And Everything Else)

It is absolutely insane that the people who helped unleash the horror that was the Iraq War upon the world are not only not in prison, but are actively uplifted and celebrated on the most influential platforms in the West.

Listen to a reading of this article:

By Caitlin Johnstone

David Frum and Max Boot, two neoconservatives who helped grease the wheels for the invasion of Iraq, have some thoughts they’d like to share with us as we approach the 20th anniversary (on Sunday) of that horrific and unforgivable war. Both of these perspectives can be read in widely esteemed mainstream publications, because everyone who was responsible for inflicting that war upon our species has enjoyed mainstream influence and esteem to this very day.

Both men concede in their own ways that the war was a mistake, while simultaneously cheerleading the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine that has brought humanity closer to nuclear armageddon than it has been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both men mix their Iraq War retrospectives with war apologia, historical revisionism, and outright lies. And both men should shut the fuck up. About everything. Forever.

Frum’s article is posted in The Atlantic, where he is a senior editor, and it is titled “The Iraq War Reconsidered“. Frum is credited with authoring George W. Bush’s infamous “Axis of Evil” speech, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of U.S. military expansionism and “humanitarian interventions” in geostrategically valuable nations after 9/11.

In just the second sentence of his article Frum opens with an absolute scorcher of a lie, saying “an arsenal of chemical-warfare shells and warheads” were discovered in Iraq to suggest that the weapons of mass destruction narrative had been proven at least somewhat true. As The Intercept’s Jon Schwartz explained back in 2015, the only chemical weapons in Iraq were either (A) munitions sealed in bunkers at an Iraqi weapons complex by U.N. inspectors in the nineties and left there because they were too dangerous to move, and (B) some old munitions that had been lost and forgotten after the Iran-Iraq War. In neither of these cases is it true that Saddam Hussein was hiding any weapons of mass destruction.

Frum claims that “The United States went to war to build a democracy in Iraq,” which is an infantile fairy tale only idiots and children believe. Iraq was invaded because it was an oil-rich nation in a geostrategically crucial region whose leader had been insufficiently servile to U.S. energy interests. Probably didn’t help that it was also moving toward re-normalizing relations with Iran.

Frum hilariously claims that “What the U.S. did in Iraq was not an act of unprovoked aggression,” and shows that he has learned absolutely nothing about anything by criticizing the Obama administration for not invading Syria to enforce “its own declared red lines” on chemical weapons allegations.

Frum begins the article by calling the war “a grave and costly error,” but by the end he has completely walked this back by gushing about how much better it made things for Iraqis. He says that “ISIS has been destroyed in Iraq and reduced to a tiny foothold in Syria” and “Jihadist terrorism has receded across the Arab Middle East,” and that the ensuing “stability” has had “economic benefits” for Iraqis, like greater oil exports.

Frum makes the unfalsifiable fantasy claim that things would have been just as bad for Iraqis if the U.S. hadn’t invaded, saying “Whether Iraq had an alternative future that would have been much better for the country and its people seems very doubtful to me.” [For one thing, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive.]

“Imperfect as Iraqi governance is, thanks to the U.S. intervention, the country has for the first time in its independent history a political system that is in some measure accountable to its people,” Frum writes.

Frum closes with a paragraph that continues The Atlantic’s long and ongoing pattern of churning out think pieces which use the war in Ukraine to rehabilitate the image of the neocons:

“The invasion of Ukraine has recalled the peoples of the Western democracies to themselves. There are times when free people must fight in self-defense. That truth must not be lost, whatever lessons we draw from the Iraq War. And perhaps the commitment to share that freedom with the people of Iraq is not yet lost either. They have gained a chance, and their story is not over.”

Max Boot’s article is titled “What the Neocons Got Wrong“, and it’s published in Foreign Affairs. Boot was one of the earliest influential proponents of the Iraq invasion, penning a now-notorious essay for the neoconservative Weekly Standard titled “The Case for American Empire” a month after 9/11. Boot’s 2001 screed called for “a U.S. invasion and occupation” of Iraq, predicting a swift and easy victory and saying that “Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul.”

Boot’s sentiments on Iraq today are more contrite than Frum’s, unequivocally denouncing the war and the idea of promoting democracy by military force, but there’s still a lot of warmongering bullshit in his Foreign Affairs piece.

“Both South Korea and South Vietnam were worth defending from communist aggression, but the Koreans showed greater skill and willingness to fight for their own freedom than the South Vietnamese did,” Boot proclaims out of fucking nowhere.

“I am a neocon no more,” Boot declares, before making it clear that he has simply pivoted from supporting Republican wars to supporting Democrat wars like the proxy war in Ukraine. Boot says “Ukraine easily meets the test” for justifiable U.S. interventionism, and calls President Volodymyr Zelensky “a Churchillian figure worthy of the United States’ unstinting support.”

Despite his denunciation of neoconservatism, Boot has been an exceptionally hawkish supporter of the same U.S. proxy war that all his Bush-era neocon buddies have rallied behind in the last year. In his regular opinion column for The Washington Post he has been one of the loudest voices pushing for the U.S. to pour more powerful weapons into Ukraine, and even went on a trip with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to write war propaganda about the need for the U.S. alliance to send more tanks there.

(While we’re on the subject, why does The Washington Post need to give regular opinion columns to Max BootJohn BoltonJennifer Rubinand Josh Rogin? They’re all warmongering neocons. I think even neocons would agree that’s too many neocons.) 

But of greater significance than the specific words that David Frum and Max Boot have published is the fact that their words are being published at all. It is absolutely insane that the people who helped unleash the horror that was the Iraq War upon the world are not only not in prison, but are actively uplifted and celebrated on the most influential platforms in the western world. These freaks shouldn’t be able to get jobs of any greater influence than working behind a cash register, and they should have a harder time getting those jobs than convicted felons. They certainly shouldn’t be given a platform to write about the very crime they helped orchestrate.

But such is the civilization we find ourselves in. The empire elevates those who serve the empire, and marginalizes those who speak out against it. David Frum and Max Boot are massively amplified celebrity pundits not in spite of their past misdeeds but exactly because of them. They have proved themselves to be reliable servants of the empire, and the empire has rewarded them accordingly.

In a remotely sane society, this would not be the case. In a remotely sane society, such creatures would be regarded with the same revulsion and rejection as child molesters. These people are worse than serial killers, because they’ve got body counts that Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy could only dream of.

Here’s hoping that one day we live in a society that has become so healthy that it is no longer acceptable to be a neocon.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

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

29 comments for “IRAQ 20 YEARS: Caitlin Johnstone — Bush-Era Neocons Should Shut Up About Iraq (And Everything Else)

  1. Michael Emmons
    March 20, 2023 at 00:47

    The Iraq war conducted by the US does not compare in any way to Russia’s military operation in the Ukraine. Iraq is (I’m guessing) 10,000 miles from the US border. Iraq was not being used as a catspaw by a coalition of wealthy countries to subjugate the US as NATO is trying to do to Russia through the Ukraine. When the US conducted “Shock and Awe” against Iraq they simply destroyed all civilian infrastructure, as well as hundreds of thousands of civilians. In contrast, many friends of Russia are angry at Vladimir Putin for not doing likewise to the Ukraine. The old saw about “the pot calling the kettle black” does not fit here. The US is trying to put Russia back to where it was under the US crony Yeltsin, and they’re not having it.

  2. Mary Caldwell
    March 19, 2023 at 21:09

    The Washington Post gives Boot and others of his ilk room to spread neo-con propaganda for the simple reason that they represent the interests of the paper.

    It is not a Liberal publication, it is instead an oligarchical , warmongering rag.

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    March 19, 2023 at 12:47

    Exactly the same fate should befall them that befell over 2 million Iraqis and 500,000 infants who had to die because of US sanctions. What a totally odius nation you are, US.

  4. gcw919
    March 19, 2023 at 11:32

    Just watched “Body of War” (hxxps:// This documentary about the Iraq War should be mandatory reading in all High Schools. That the very warmongers who sent millions to their deaths should continue to have platforms for their venomous “opinions” is unconscionable.

  5. Elial
    March 19, 2023 at 03:00

    Brilliant piece! Spot on. They are more dangerous and psychopathic than Dahmer and Gacy.

    These pieces are written to allow them to draw a line under the great crime of Iraq and keep doing what they’ve always done. They shrug and ‘yes but’ all the historical facts and dead bodies in Iraq. They are not Neocons but old cons.

    If there is any consolation, they are also the termites that will bring the architecture of the American Empire crashing down.

  6. Peteo
    March 19, 2023 at 00:11

    “Here’s hoping that one day we live in a society that has become so healthy that it is no longer acceptable to be a neocon.” These endless wars all take place ‘over there …. somewhere’. I fear our turn in the US is coming, much larger than a 9/11. I pray it doesn’t happen. But we have zero security on the southern boarder with who knows how many radical cells of who knows who possibly sprinkled amongst us. Not sure there’s any other way for the neocons to lose broad support, but I fear our turn is coming. Excellent piece Caitlin as always.

    • J Anthony
      March 19, 2023 at 09:10

      I think about this often. After over a century of bullying, it is difficult not to think that eventually the “blowback” will hit us, and hard

  7. lester
    March 18, 2023 at 22:16

    Great essay, Ms. Johnstone! Bush, as a Fudamentalist and a Dispensationalist, hoped to fulfill prophecy and speed the Second Coming of Jesus, the Judegement, the End of th e World, etc. Cheney and Wolfowitz hoped to steal the oil. All failed in amazing ways. Perhaps a million Iraqis have died as a result.

    Bush surely deserves a war crimes trial at least as much a Putin.

  8. Graeme
    March 18, 2023 at 21:13

    The 2003 invasion of Iraq by US, UK and Australian forces (among others was the continuance of decades long ‘western’ interference in the region.

    An arbitrary, but more contemporary, date to bear in mind is the Gulf war of 1990-1, and the ongoing enforcement of no-fly zones by US & UK military and the ten year war on the people via the sanctions regime.
    Which the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described as
    “acts of aggression on the Iraqi civilian population, which were sanctioned and carried out primarily by the US and UK governments.”

    Again, citing the ICRC Iraq: 1989-1999, A Decade Of Sanctions Report:
    “… the situation of the civilian population is increasingly desperate. Deteriorating living conditions, inflation, and low salaries make people’s everyday lives a continuing struggle, while food shortages and the lack of medicines and clean drinking water threaten their very survival.”
    Adding that
    “People have had to sell their belongings in order to survive — first their cars, then household appliances, even their books and furniture. Regular school attendance by children under 15 has fallen drastically since 1990 for ” school does not give us money in order to live.”

    One of the more powerful statements in The Report
    – “As in war, it is civilians who are the prime victims of sanctions” –
    is beyond dispute, and only goes to reinforce the cruelty of the governments that ordered the sanctions, but in particular those who enforced them.

    As was made clear in 1999, it was children who were (probably) impacted the most:
    “… survey results, published in August 1999, clearly showed that children in the center/south of Iraq were dying at over twice the rate as a decade earlier.
    Due to the ongoing humanitarian emergency brought about by the sanctions, 500,000 more child deaths occurred during 1991–1998.
    Based on the findings, concern was expressed that the imposed economic sanctions have an extremely detrimental impact on children.”

    Caitlin’s assessment of the roles of Frum and Boot is pertinent, but they are only two participants in a culture that sought the total denigration of people over decades – the 2003 invasion was just another facet of an outright assault on Iraqi citizens that started in 1990, which continues.

    Little wonder that successive US administrations, aided by the UK, Sweden and Australia, have sought to punish those brave souls who exposed the callous and inhumane persecution of civilians.


    • vinnieoh
      March 19, 2023 at 14:27

      And, confronted with the results of those reports, Saint Madeline Albright pronounced that “It was worth it.” So, there you have it from the mouth of a heroine of US reconstitution, no less memorable than her contemporary GHW Bush proclaiming victory over that particular US mental and moral incapacitation (sarc) – ‘Viet Nam Syndrome.’

      The arc of the trajectory of US national and foreign policy has remained remarkably unperturbed for over 70 years.

  9. Tim N
    March 18, 2023 at 19:12

    In a sane world, it would be Caitlin writing in all major journals and papers, and those two neocon warmongers and liars would be low-level functionaries in some government agency. Of course, Frum, a Canadian, comes from a very wealthy family in the shipping business, so he can always afford to do whatever he wants.

  10. jamie
    March 18, 2023 at 17:27

    I believe that the real difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is not their political system, but how and if transparent unbiased information is delivered and available to the people. Under this assumption, to me our democracies are an evolution of dictatorship; Under a dictatorship people are aware that information is controlled, hidden, manipulated, non-state media suppressed, while under democracy leaders/establishment have learned that information can be controlled, hidden, manipulated and media bought to serve the state without coercion and being overt, without enraging the population and maintaining them compliant (as long as the democracy remain wealthy); in such democratic system, people are (or as of today were) unaware of being deprived of transparent unbiased information, they vote and support anything the “good” government and “free” media says. Switzerland is an interesting case, having a direct democracy they know that information control is key to guide voters, most Swiss media form an “echo chamber”, through them the voice of the state resounds in every corner of this tiny country.
    During the pandemic the Swiss government even tried through subsidies to “help” the newspapers, but the the Swiss people rejected the government’s proposal; at least, in this case, Swiss people had the luxury to vote on that, and that remain a great difference between democracy and dictatorship… If the Swiss government had succeeded, perhaps the newspapers would have been even more in the Swiss government/EU’s pocket…
    our democracies needs low-lives like Boot, Frum, Bolton, Rubin etc. they are the Gollums, the Ephialtes of Trachis, the businessmen in the little prince, the wretched, the liars, the traitors, the materialistic, the narcissists, the lost, the weak, the cowards… we feel sorry for them at times, but we need them as well, to remind us how lucky we are that our last name is not Boot, Frum etc.

    • Waltrer Wirlo
      March 20, 2023 at 12:51

      In the former Soviet Union, Russians didn’t believe a thing that was printed in Pravda. In the US, just about all the citizens, like naive little children, believe all the lies printed by despicable characters like Frum , Boot and Judith Miller, in the government controlled media. Frum, Boot, Judith Miller and others are what they used to call in the Soviet Union Apparatchiks, men and women who sell their souls for a few pieces of gold. According to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal rules, the invasion of Iraq by the US is a war crime against humanity and most of the leaders and Generals who started a war against a country that did absolutely nothing to the US, should have been tried for war crimes against humanity.

  11. CaseyG
    March 18, 2023 at 15:40

    I remember the headlines for Bush’s war: “Shock and Awe.” Actually, “Shit and Insanity,” would be the better 2 words. I remember seeing Bush on the news walking out in a flight suit and saying,” Mission Accomplished.”
    Yet, Bush, many years later nothing was accomplished except for ruining a nation.

    Aside from killing so many IRAQIS—WHAT did Bush accomplish? Oh right, lots of money for those who make murderous war materials of so many kinds. Who can forget the awful RUMfilled man saying, as the museums were being turned into FREE stuff for whoever wanted historical items, as .
    ” When you seen one vase you’ve seen them all, “: re: the pilfering of the museums.

    Then Biden comes along and decides to give the money of the people of Afghanistan to Americans killed on 9/11.
    And somehow, in spite of all those Nazi types in Ukraine —–and all that money given, America still has homeless and more poor than ever before.
    LET US SING: “MY COUNTRY TIS I SEE, LAND OF HYPOCRISY…….. America, you make me cry.

  12. Lorna Hillman
    March 18, 2023 at 15:15

    As history has shown – too true, too true. Thanks Caitlin.

  13. JonnyJames
    March 18, 2023 at 15:06

    Frum, Boot, Bolton, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Blair, Bush Jr., and the gang all walk free, and are all much more wealthy than before.

    War crimes of imperial officials and their lackeys are never punished, they are rewarded. Just like the “too big to fail” banksters are rewarded for financial crimes.

    Meanwhile, folks like Julian Assange are being persecuted in a kangaroo court. How bout that “democracy and rule of law” BS eh?

    • Larry McGovern
      March 19, 2023 at 10:32

      And who do we have to thank for the fact that these criminals are not already prosecuted and behind bars? Why, none other than “Looking-Forward-Not-Backward” Barack Obama!!

      • JonnyJames
        March 20, 2023 at 12:30

        Yes, of course, he’s a fellow criminal, they protect their own. No investigations, let alone prosecutions of war crimes or the largest financial crimes in US history. The law, prison and taxes are only for the “little people”

  14. Taras 77
    March 18, 2023 at 13:58

    Exceptional article! Absolutely nails the neo con rot which has been inflicted upon this country and it continues.

    It is not hard to see what their total control of this country has wrought: millions dead, millions’ lives disrupted, countries totally and irreversibly destroyed.

    Exporting democracy ?! indeed!

  15. Eddie S
    March 18, 2023 at 12:56

    Excellent condemnation of some sociopathic neo-cons! Arguably WORSE is the ‘rehabilitation’ of GW Bush, that feckless asshole who signed-off on the regressive war-mongering ideas of the neo-cons! Without his authorization, these chicken-hawks would just have been crazies on the sidelines pumping out their propaganda. And lest we forget, the ~50% of the electorate who RE-ELECTED’ W’ and friends even AFTER the fraud of the Iraq War was revealed — there’s where the ultimate responsibility lies IMO. There have always been militaristic nut-jobs preaching war and more war, but most times they were NOT getting elected…. Now it’s essentially the norm.

  16. Theresa
    March 18, 2023 at 12:48

    Thank you! Makes me sick.

  17. Occupy on!
    March 18, 2023 at 11:57

    Don’t forget the neocon gems below. They’re from part of a letter-to-the-editor I sent into our local newspaper yesterday:

    “Candid authorities in and around Washington DC attribute the war in Ukraine and bankrupting of US’ moral and economic authority to policies spawned by a group of privileged, Ivy League-educated, “neocons”: ie. Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Victoria Nuland (part of the neocon Kagan family of Yale fame), Wm Kristoll III (of the American Enterprise Institute), etc. … as NSA’s Gen. Binney described, ‘people who never had to make a thing work in their lives’.”

  18. Richard Burrill
    March 18, 2023 at 11:00

    How is the U.S. invasion of Iraq any different from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Yes, Russia’s attack on Ukraine is illegal and cannot be denied. But how can the US empire say that what they did to Iraq was a noble and should have been done? That appears to be the pot calling the kettle black. The costs of war are not worth doing in any case.

    • Eddie S
      March 19, 2023 at 22:59

      RB – the difference is that the US invasion of Iraq was WORSE by several orders of magnitude. First off, Iraq wasn’t directly threatening us, unlike Ukraine/NATO was/is threatening Russia with intentions to put missiles virtually right up against Russia’s border. So the US had to concoct lies about WMD concerns and connections between bin Laden & Saddam. Secondly, Iraq is ~6200 miles away from the US, with oceans between us. WTF do we get off going to the other side of the earth to attack another country that wasn’t threatening us, and killing AT LEAST 100,000 people and displacing millions? Thirdly, the US bombed the hell out of Iraq, including civilian targets. Recall ’shock and awe’. Fourth, when the UN Secretary General called it an illegal invasion, the US orchestrated the replacement of him, which obviously destroyed any semblance of UN neutrality and pro-peace positions. I’m sure there’s a couple I missed, but these are bad enough…

  19. Valerie
    March 18, 2023 at 10:38

    “Frum and Boot”. Sounds like a vaudeville act from the late 1800’s.
    Some of the replies to Boot’s twitter post are hysterical. Well worth reading.

  20. mgr
    March 18, 2023 at 10:04

    Thank you. The celebrated neocon reality-creation ability is in fact just a fancy term for making-shit-up. Despite the damage to humanity that these individuals do cause, they are just the symptoms of a severely distorted and unstable society. Neocons embody all the very worse of humanity’s inherent potentials. American culture in turn elevates them to positions where they can do real harm both at home and abroad.

  21. Dennis Rice
    March 18, 2023 at 10:01

    Thank you! This is a great article and tells it like it is. But, Americans have it good and have no idea of what war on their own turf would be like, so most of them are not listening. They are listening to the Media that “play the game” and go along with American propaganda. George W. Bush and Dick Chaney are not behind bars because the Media, not doing its duty, has let them slide. (But not the dude who stole a six-pack at the grocery story. He’s in jail.). Americans are politically and religiously ignorant.

  22. Dfnslblty
    March 18, 2023 at 09:34

    Bravo, CJ!
    Truthful and pointed.
    Empire will crumble by its own lies and by its own hubris — after its lies & hubris become known as they are exposed as above.
    Keep writing, CJ …

    Stop Wars — Protest Loudly!

  23. Richard Romano
    March 18, 2023 at 08:21

    This is an expose’ not primarily of Frum and Boot but of our whole system of Empire. Marvelous!

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