What a debacle! With Iraq virtually in full-scale civil war, American interventionists are scrambling like crazy to put a positive spin on their bankrupt foreign-policy philosophy. It’s all Obama’s fault for being weak, Republicans are saying. Others are blaming the Iraqis themselves for squandering the “opportunity” that U.S. troops so selflessly granted to them.
Let’s back up a minute.
How come the interventionists are so insistent on coming up with excuses for their nation-building debacle in Iraq? After all, didn’t they invade Iraq to protect the United States from an imminent WMD attack by Saddam Hussein? Isn’t that how they scared the American people into supporting the invasion? If U.S. troops didn’t invade the nation, we were told, it was a virtual certainly that Americans would be seeing mushroom clouds over American cities. Saddam’s attack on the United States is coming, we were told, and so a preemptive attack on Iraq was fully justified.
Did they say anything about nation-building before the invasion? Of course not. That wouldn’t have excited the American public. It also would have made the United States a criminal actor under the principles set forth at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.
In retrospect, however, everyone knows that the invasion of Iraq was all about regime change and nation-building. The WMD scare was bogus from the get-go, as bogus as the fake attack at the Gulf of Tonkin. Even if Saddam had retained some of the WMDs that the United States had furnished him during the 1980s, when U.S. officials and Saddam were partnering in Iraq’s war against Iran, the notion that Saddam was going to unleash mushroom clouds of U.S. cities was always ridiculous.
U.S. officials needed a way to garner support among the American people for the invasion, and they knew that alluding to a nuclear threat is the best way to scare the heck out of the American people.
And let’s face it: it worked. Americans placed their blind faith in President Bush, the CIA, the Pentagon, and those nice, colored charts and graphs prepared by the State Department. Recall the many Americans who exclaimed, “We have to trust our public officials because they have access to information we don’t have.”
The WMD justification was false and fraudulent. After all, if it had been legitimate, President George W. Bush would have apologized for his “mistake” and ordered all U.S. troops to come home immediately on discovering that there were no WMDs after all.
So, why didn’t Bush order the troops home? Because the invasion was about regime change and nation-building the entire time. Conservatives, including Bush, were upset that Bush’s father, President H.W. Bush, had left Saddam in power after the Persian Gulf War. They wanted him out. That’s what the national obsession was all about throughout the 1990s, when the Cold War had ended: Saddam, Saddam, Saddam! That’s what the brutal sanctions, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, were all about—getting rid of Saddam and installing a pro-U.S. dictator into power.
The interventionists were going to remake the Middle East, with U.S. military might and the CIA. Iraq was going to be their model for what interventionism could accomplish. They were going to oust Saddam and install a pro-U.S. regime, one that would build a paradise of peace, prosperity, and harmony. Iraq was to be their national-security state model for the Middle East and the world.
During more than a decade of brutal occupation, U.S. troops and the CIA had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to bring their model society into existence. They killed as many people as they wanted —hundreds of thousands of them. They tortured and abused Iraqi people at Abu Ghraib. They bombed homes and businesses to their heart’s content.
It bears emphasizing that not one single one of the Iraqis who were killed, tortured, abused, injured, or maimed had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, and neither did their government.
At some point after it was clear that the WMD scare was baseless, the mission changed — from one of defending us from a supposedly imminent WMD attack to one supposedly designed to bring “democracy and freedom” to the Iraqi people.
Isn’t that gracious? The U.S. military was willing to sacrifice any number of Iraqis in order to bring the survivors of the onslaught “freedom and democracy.” Isn’t that a nice attitude toward one supposedly cares for? That’s like loving people to death.
In actuality, the U.S. government, including the military and the CIA, didn’t give one whit for the well-being of the Iraqi people, as manifested by the brutal bombing campaigns, the no-limit on the number of Iraqis who they could kill, and by what they did to Iraqis inside that Abu Ghraib horror facility. The Iraqi invasion and occupation was about empire and imperial power — on invading a nation where sanctions had failed to oust a dictator from power in order to install a pro-U.S. dictatorial regime in its place.
And it has been a brutal dictatorial regime from the inception. It continues to be. The tyranny of the Maliki regime is not different in principle from the tyranny of the Egyptian military dictatorship or, for that matter, any of the other dictatorial regimes that the U.S. government partners with and supports in the Middle East.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons why so many Sunnis in Iraq are welcoming the rebels, notwithstanding the fact that the rebels are just as tyrannical and brutal as the Maliki regime. They’re sick and tired of Maliki’s tyranny.
What about U.S. troops, who have convinced themselves that they killed and died in Iraq to “keep us safe,” or to “defend our freedoms” here at home, or to bring “freedom and democracy” to Iraq?
They are being hit by a strong dose of reality, and, not surprisingly, they are befuddled and confused. That’s what happens when a mind has been indoctrinated with falsehood. When it’s confronted by truth and reality, it becomes disoriented, especially when it desires to continue hewing to the false reality created by the indoctrination.
But the truth and the reality are: Those U.S. troops who died in Iraq died for the same reason U.S. troops died in Vietnam — for nothing. That’s also what they killed all those innocent people for — nothing.
Or perhaps to be more precise, they died for empire, enabling all those well-heeled “defense” contractors to remain in high cotton with ever-increasing budgets.
Hopefully, Americans will use this opportunity to question the entire philosophy of interventionism. Iraq was the pride and joy of American interventionists. It was supposed to be their first success story. It has turned into the same type of debacle that all their interventions have produced.
What better time than now to reject interventionism and empire and embrace the libertarian philosophy of non-interventionism and republic?
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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