Stephen Zunes : Iraq
Here on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is important to remember that it was not just those in the Bush White House who were responsible for the tragedy, but leading members of Congress as well, some of whom are now in senior positions in the Obama administration. The 4,500 Americans killed, the far larger number permanently wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and millions displaced, the trillion dollars of US taxpayers’ money squandered (and the resulting cutbacks through sequestration), the continued costs of the war through veterans’ benefits and interest on the national debt, and the anti-American extremism in reaction to the invasion and occupation which has spread throughout much of the world all could have been avoided if the Democratic-controlled Senate hadn’t voted to authorize this illegal and unnecessary war and occupation.
Ten years ago, I wrote a series of articles for the Foreign Policy in Focus website in which I put forth a series of arguments against the Bush administration’s push for a U.S. invasion of Iraq prior to the fateful congressional vote authorizing the illegal, unnecessary, and ultimately disastrous war. At the request of the editors of The Nation – the oldest continually published weekly magazine in the United States – I wrote a version entitled “The Case Against War,” which appeared on their website September 12, 2002 and as the cover story of the September 30 issue. It became one of the most widely circulated articles in the magazine’s 147-year old history. Every congressional office received multiple copies.
The formal withdrawal of US troops from Iraq this month has led to a whole series of retrospectives on the invasion and the eight and a half years of occupation that followed as well as a host of unanswered questions, including – given the tens of thousands of Americans and others on the US government payroll, many of whom are armed, who are remaining in Iraq – just how total the withdrawal might actually be.
It was the second week in January in 1991. I was in the sanctuary of a large Catholic Church in Baghdad. Every votive candle in the place was lit, no doubt in support of prayers for loved ones in anticipation of the massive US bombing campaign — which was to be known as “Operation Desert Storm” – that was soon to commence. A member of our group asked the priest whose side the church would be on in the forthcoming conflict. He replied that “The Church can only be on one side. That of the victims.”
The ongoing presence of over 50,000 US troops, many thousands of civilian employees and tens of thousands of US-backed mercenaries raises serious questions over the significance of the partial withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. The August 31 deadline marking the “end of US combat operations in Iraq” is not as real or significant a milestone as President Obama implied in his speech. Indeed, hearing for the umpteenth time that the US has “turned a corner” in Iraq, it makes one think that the country must be some kind of dodecahedron.
Ignoring the pleas of those calling for a more credible figure, Senate Democrats have instead chosen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to lead the Senate Committee on Intelligence. Feinstein was among those who falsely claimed in 2002 — despite the lack of any apparent credible evidence — that Saddam Hussein had somehow reconstituted Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, as well as its nuclear weapons program.
Incipient Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s selection of Joseph Biden as his running mate constitutes a stunning betrayal of the anti-war constituency who made possible his hard-fought victory in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.
It has been five years since you, as a 12-year old 7th grader, joined your classmates in a walk-out at your school in protest of the impending invasion of Iraq….
Many Americans would be surprised to learn that among the most important constituencies backing the Bush administration’s disastrous agenda in the Middle East and promoting anti-Arab policies has been the one million-strong American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT leadership has gone so far as to make a series of public statements and push through resolutions with demonstrably inaccurate assertions in its defense of administration policy. A key constituent union of the AFL-CIO, the AFT – which also represents a significant number of health care and other public service workers – gives over $5 million in contributions to congressional candidates each election cycle….
The strong showings by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in the early contests for the Democratic presidential nomination don’t just mark a repudiation of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy and “war on terrorism.” They also indicate a rejection of the Democratic Party establishment, much of which supported the invasion of Iraq and other tragic elements of the administration’s foreign policy…