Victory at Last?

Victory at Last?

Take a moment with this.

That is the cover of Newsweek from the first week of March, the month in which we will mark the seventh anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It was 2,555 days ago this Saturday, in fact, when televisions all across America lit up with the pyrotechnic images of “Shock and Awe,” when explosions and fire roared over the city of Baghdad, when men, women and children were incinerated, when we all became war criminals whether we liked it or not.

The article behind that triumphalist cover argued that this last election in Iraq is proof positive our war has at long last borne the fruits of true democracy in that nation, wiping the bloody slate clean and expunging all the grievous errors and tragedies which preceded it. A nice storyline, that, but it’s one we’ve heard a number of times before. Remember the ink-stained fingers held up by Iraqis after one such election? Those who pushed for war declared that to be Victory at Last, too. It wasn’t. Neither is this.

A lot of people have a great deal invested in rewriting the history of our attack on Iraq. The media, of course, would like the whole thing to go away; their for this bloody debacle (“Navy SEALS rawk!” saith Katie Couric; “We’re all neo-cons now!” saith Chris Matthews) was the lubrication that made this death machine hum so efficiently for so long. Were they in it for the money? MSNBC is owned by General Electric, one of the defense contractors that profited wildly from the war.

The motivation to change the storyline for those in power who pushed this war upon us all is no less transparent than the media’s. Recall how we got here. As the now-infamous Downing Street Memo clearly indicated, the Bush administration was in collusion with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, almost a year before the invasion of Iraq was undertaken, to “fix the facts around the policy” of invasion based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction in order to fabricate a pretense for war. This fact was confirmed by none other than Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in a May 2003 interview with Vanity Fair, in which he said, “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

The final nail in Iraq’s coffin was hammered in by George W. Bush during his State of the Union address on January 20, 2003. This was a presidential act of terrorism against the American people, make no mistake, for its purpose was to frighten the citizens of this nation into following a course of action that was against their best interests and would come to no good end for anyone except the few who would prosper financially from the war to come. Mr. Bush, in the most ominous tones, told the American people that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons – which is one million pounds – of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff; mobile biological weapons labs; al-Qaeda connections and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program.

This monstrous, outrageous lie was followed and preceded by many like it:

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
– Dick Cheney, vice president
Speech to VFW National Convention, 8/26/2002

“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
– Condoleezza Rice, US national security adviser
CNN “Late Edition,” 9/8/2002

“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”
– George W. Bush, president
Speech to the UN General Assembly, 9/12/2002

“We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.”
– George W. Bush, president
Speech, Cincinnati, Ohio, 10/7/2002

“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”
– Ari Fleischer, press secretary
Press briefing, 12/2/2002

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”
– Ari Fleischer, press secretary
Press briefing, 1/9/2003

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
– George W. Bush, president
Address to the nation, 3/17/2003

“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense
ABC interview, 3/30/2003

“I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just getting it just now.”
– Colin Powell, secretary of state
Remarks to reporters, 5/4/2003

“But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.”
– George W. Bush, president
Interview with TVP Poland, 5/30/2003

“No one ever said that we knew precisely where all of these agents were, where they were stored.”
– Condoleezza Rice, US national security adviser
“Meet the Press,” 6/8/2003

“I think the burden is on those people who think he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.”
– Ari Fleischer, press secretary
Press briefing, 7/9/2003

The best estimates, seven years later, put the cost of this war into the hundreds of billions of dollars, a sum that nobody in the media will tell you might have come in handy during this recession. The financial side of this disaster, however, is nothing compared to the human cost. Nearly 5,000 American soldiers have been killed, and tens of thousands more have been wounded and maimed. Tens of thousands more suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other war-related maladies. Thousands of families have been destroyed by repeated deployments. More than a million Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded, but we will never know the exact toll because, as one Bush administration official so coldly put it, we don’t do body counts.

Speaking of money:

Investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 new cases in six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions – involving banks, land deals, loan payments, casinos and even plastic surgery – made by some of the Americans involved in the nearly $150 billion program.

Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees and expensive jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts.

Some suspects also tried to conceal foreign bank accounts in Ghana, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain, the investigators said, while in other cases, cash was simply found stacked in home safes.

There have already been dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the new cases seem to confirm what investigators have long speculated: that the chaos, weak oversight and wide use of cash payments in the reconstruction program in Iraq allowed many more Americans who took bribes or stole money to get off scot-free.

One of the central Bush administration arguments for the invasion hinged upon America’s national security. To wit, we had to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. Even a cursory examination of the impact the war has had on our national security, however, exposes that rationale to be yet another lie. For one thing, the US military has been shredded by this conflict in combination with the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The dire financial straits we find ourselves in, thanks in no small part to the spending for these wars, undermine our national security in any number of ways. In order to cover up the lies they told to make this war happen, Bush administration officials deliberately outed a deep-cover CIA agent named Valerie Plame, and, in doing so, destroyed the intelligence network she ran to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our invasion delivered Iraq into the controlling hands of Shiite Iran; the most powerful political parties in Iraq are allied with Iranian groups that were centrally responsible for the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Since this past weekend, a bomb exploded in Ninevah and killed three people. Bombs exploded in various parts of Baghdad, killing several. Gunmen murdered Iraqi policemen all over the country. A US soldier was killed, and two others were wounded, during an attack on their base in Diyala.

There is no victory here. There never will be. There is only shame and disgrace and blood and death. This war will haunt us for the remainder of our lives, and will haunt our children and their children to come. We are the lucky ones, however. We are here, far from the killing fields of Iraq. We have the soothing voices of the media and the politicians telling us it was all for the best, that it was a good and noble thing we did, that we won.

It almost sounds true.