Today marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It’s tough to believe an entire decade has actually passed. Any war is a sad, catastrophic affair. But, this conflict is made even worst when we realize it was not only completely unnecessary; it was based on a pack of lies.
The nexus of the invasion was that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” or yellow-cake uranium from Nigeria, or something that could wreak havoc on our world. I knew almost from the moment that President George W. Bush stood before the United Nations in September 2002 that he was lying about Hussein’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
It’s equally sad that the U.S. media followed suit with the Bush Administration’s lies, and – to make matters worse – so did much of the American public.
The Iraq War did have one clear winner: the American oil conglomerate. Before the invasion, Iraqi oil reserves were closed to Western oil companies. Now, it is largely privatized and almost completely dominated by foreign entities.
“Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007.
Then Senator and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pretty much agreed, when he said also in 2007, “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are.”
The Iraq War was a long time in the making. You only have to look back to 1998, when Kenneth Derr, then CEO of Chevron said, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas-reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.” Derr later became CEO of Halliburton – the same company Vice-President Dick Cheney lead until May of 2000, when he abruptly resigned and moved from Texas back to his native Wyoming.
In 2000, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell dumped millions into the Bush presidential campaign; more than any other presidential race. Their efforts seem to have paid off. Less than two weeks after Bush took office, Cheney chaired the newly-formed National Energy Policy Development Group whose entire purpose was to lay out the course for America’s energy future. In March 2001, the group outlined Iraq’s oil production capacity and produced a final report two months later.
In 2004, Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, said, “Already by February (2001), the talk was mostly about logistics. Not the why (to invade Iraq), but the how and how quickly.”
They found a way: the September 11, 2011 attacks on New York and Washington. Dancing on the graves of the nearly 3,000 people killed in those attacks, the Bush Administration shifted attention to Iraq; accusing it of complicity in the calamity. But, even before our troops landed in Baghdad, Cheney’s group was already making plans for Iraq’s postwar oil and energy industries. Now, Chevron, Halliburton and several others have full access to Iraqi oil. They must be happy – and proud.
It’s easy for draft dodgers like Bush and Cheney to wrap themselves in the American flag and cry freedom, before sending others into battle. Like most wars, this one was commandeered by old men lounging safely ensconced in their leather chairs and fought by young people who often had no other opportunities in life, except to join the military.
Here’s what we have to show for the Iraq War:
- 4,488 total U.S. service member deaths;
- 100,000 estimated U.S. wounded;
- 1,455,590 estimated Iraqi deaths;
- 32,000 to 54,000 estimated deaths of aid workers, journalists and security forces;
- $1.7 trillion in overall costs as of now;
- $490 billion estimated in benefits to war veterans;
- $60 billion estimated in taxpayer expenditures for aid and reconstruction;
- $8 billion estimated lost to fraud and waste.
Social conservatives always seem to find money for war – but never enough for education or health care. Aside from the tangible costs, there are the emotional and psychological effects endured by military personnel and their families. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one – even if that person willingly joined the military, knowing they may never return alive. The level of arrogance in the Bush Administration extended to the display of flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S. In an effort to hide the true impact of war, photos of these coffins were banned from publication by the White House; a move you’d expect from the military dictatorships of Myanmar or Uganda.
Making matters worse, President Bush’s own mother, Barbara Bush, appeared on “Good Morning America” just a day before the Iraq invasion and said, “But why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or that or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that, and watch him (her husband, former president George H. W. Bush) suffer?”
God forbid if Barbara Bush’s quaint little tea parties should be disrupted by the sight of body bags on television! I mean, that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? I remember Bush, Jr., saying that he still listened to his mother. Now, we know why he’s such an arrogant bastard.
A few years ago my local ABC News affiliate showed a young man returning to his home in a small East Texas town on Mother’s Day weekend and surprising his mother who worked at a Dairy Queen. Only his father knew he was coming back, but kept it a secret, so the kid could surprise his mother. I thought, ‘That’s who’s fighting this war: kids from small towns whose mothers work at Dairy Queen.’ Not Ivy League lawyers and Harvard graduates; not the sons and daughters of hedge fund CEOs – kids with few options in life. Many of them are dead now; their promising futures squashed so cowards like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can look good in the eyes of their blind supporters and large oil companies can earn extraordinary profits.
I know that the Great Creator will damn the likes of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice for fabricating this mess and trying to sugar-coat it with layers of patriotic fervor. Until then, I pray for the welfare of those who actually did the dirty work of fighting this war.