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Ten Years After the Iraq War and What Do You Get?


Thursday, March 21, 2013
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TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS: There’s a juicy rumor making the rounds that former vice president Dick Cheney bought a home in Santa Barbara. I’d very much like for it to be true. It comes from a plausibly reliable source, so it might even be accurate. Although I have yet to confirm this via county real estate records, I’m going to just assume it’s correct. I met my source while we were both riding our bikes to the synagogue for a memorial service. I got tangled up in some side streets, momentarily losing my way; she did not. That alone establishes her reliability as a source. She had come to this info from an unnamed guy she knows who claims he did some work on Cheney’s home. Why should I be squeamish about asserting such information as gospel on the basis of such unsubstantiated “fact”? Clearly, Dick Cheney never was.

Angry Poodle

Relying on information he knew to be far less reliable than mine, Cheney successfully stampeded this country into waging a war against Iraq 10 years ago this week. In Iraq, suicide bombers celebrated the 10-year anniversary by blowing themselves up, killing 65 and wounding 240. In the United States, we celebrated by pretending it never happened. In some ways, it never did. There never were any weapons of mass destruction, as Cheney told us. There never were any aluminum tubes, no yellowcake uranium, no program to build a nuclear bomb, as he also alleged. And, as we would also learn, there was no legitimate ​— ​however mistaken ​— ​basis for Cheney to sincerely pretend to have believed Saddam Hussein harbored active nuclear intentions. It was all a big deliberate lie. For me, the $2.2 trillion question remains, why? What did we hope to achieve by attacking Iraq? I didn’t get it then, and 10 years later, I’m still in the dark.

It’s inviting to blame Cheney for everything. With his ramrod righteousness and unswerving resistance to reflection of any sort, he makes the perfect fall guy. But if Cheney lied, we made it way too easy for him. With a few notable exceptions ​— ​like the Knight Ridder newspapers ​— ​the media swallowed Cheney’s concoctions and amplified them as urgent, unalloyed fact. It’s undeniably true, as well, that the Republican White House was diabolically duplicitous. But the Democrats ​— ​with a few notable exceptions like Santa Barbara’s Lois Capps ​— ​not only drank the Kool-Aid, but asked for seconds. Blaming Cheney for getting us into the war on Iraq is akin to cancer victims blaming the cigarette industry for covering up how smoking is bad for you. Sometimes, you should just know better. Collectively, we clearly chose not to. As a nation, we can accept being lied to. Less forgivable, however, was the ruthless incompetence with which the war was waged.

We’re still paying the price. We all know that 4,500 American troops paid the ultimate price, 30,000 incurred serious bodily injury, and untold hundreds of thousands have had their brains sufficiently scrambled that returning vets are killing themselves at a rate of 18 a day. Women who served in Iraq were at such a high risk of rape ​— ​by their own side ​— ​that they were advised not to visit the latrines without an escort. That doesn’t take into account the estimated 134,000 Iraqi civilians ​— ​those are the ones we were liberating ​— ​who lost their lives. Only by torturing the definition of “torture” beyond recognition can the United States now state this is something we, as Americans, don’t practice. We have capitulated utterly to the primacy of unseen, unseeable intelligence agencies that are now empowered to detain American citizens ​— ​suspected of collaborating with enemy noncombatants in the war on terror ​— ​on American soil without ever having to file charges. Where is the Tea Party when you really need them? Now we find ourselves debating under what circumstances the United States can ​— ​and cannot ​— ​kill its own citizens, who are suspected of collaborating with the enemy, without ever filing charges? We’ve come a long way, baby, and it’s all backwards.

Who can forget how in the early days of the war, we flew in 360 tons of shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills ​— ​that’s $12 billion in case you’re wondering ​— ​and passed it out as walking-around money? Presumably, the money helped buy friends and influence people who might otherwise try to kill us. But half that cash mysteriously disappeared and has never been accounted for. New estimates just released by economists at Brown University put the total price tag for the Iraq War at $2.2 trillion. That’s about $500 billion more expensive than they estimated last year, due in large measure to revised health cost estimates for returning vets. With interest, that figure could climb as high as $6 trillion. It was Cheney’s sick genius to hide the costs of war. Just as he successfully prohibited the media from photographing the flag-draped coffins, he and the White House kept the Iraq War off the books and out of the budget process. What we didn’t know is now biting us in the ass in the form of sequestration-induced budget cuts and a massive federal debt for which we will all make many painful sacrifices. If this bought stability in the Middle East, maybe all this would have been worth it. But last I checked, the region seems as much of a time bomb as ever, if not more so.

Not that it did any good, but Santa Barbara distinguished itself by the relentless opposition of its residents to the war. In the months leading up to the invasion, Santa Barbarans organized a consecutive string of Saturday-morning demonstrations, unrivaled in its consistency anywhere in the country. Once the war started, Veterans for Peace sprung into action with Arlington West ​— ​its Sunday-morning installation of crosses honoring the war dead at the beach by Stearns Wharf. I don’t care how drunk you got the night before; those crosses sobered you up. Welcome to Santa Barbara, Dick Cheney. We’ll leave you alone. But when you get through telling us ​— ​yet again ​— ​how you have no regrets, maybe you could explain why we really attacked Iraq. It’s been 10 years, and we still don’t know

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I suppose we could say it started ten years ago, and of course, it's sometimes referred to as "Bush's war" but I'd only agree with the second part. Yes it's Bush's war, but that of Bush Sr.

When did all this start?...from what I can see, it started when the U.S. got into that whole Iraq-Kuwait deal and we were convinced we'd be in there a short while and the whole mess would be over. Think on this: Soldiers are going over there to fight who weren't even born when this started. It's the morphing war in the sense that it just goes on and on and on. Bush Sr, Clinton with inspections, 9/11, Afghanistan, and so forth.

Of course, we could even connect the dots to the beloved Shah of Iran and his SAVAK goon squads who killed something like 37,000 people and were very good at torture. The Middle East has been a balancing act and we keep falling off the tightrope.

In the words of George Washington: "Beware of foreign entanglements" and of course Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex. Funny how right-wing Hawks miss that irony.

Stay tuned, the snake oil salespeople out of D.C. have been very good at conning the American people so far.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 3:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey, Bill, remember the WAR Bonds of the 1940's? We didn't even have those to fund America's hunger to make War! I remember the Secretary of Defense just before the decision was given to Invade Iraq, where the General said 'the war would be very expensive and costly in human lives', but we as American's weren't having it, we wanted the Middle East to pay in blood and bodies for 9-11 and we would've Invaded everyone of those countries if we could stack the bodies to prove we are still the best at Killing.
Your right, this was Bush One's war, Chaney was advisory back then and had always thought we should have Invaded back then instead of just chasing Saddam out of Kuwait but we did the job we said we were going to do but Chaney and Senior Bush wanted more, they got their wish while the Country was screaming for BLOOD and lots of it! I call the War; Vietnam Two, cause it has done the same as Vietnam One did but on a grander scale.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 6:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

WHy did we go? OIL, Oil, oil, of course! To control that resource, which was by Iraqi law a nationally controlled resource, and is now (by the laws that we wrote for them) controlled by international conglomerates. These BIG OIL (and Cheney's Haliburten) companies are now doing quite well, lining there pockets with billions$$$ in profits; at the expense of the American people who were told we must all do our part (except for the wealthiest citizen, who got a tax cut). And the biggest loser, the American child of course. Cut Cuts cuts to education, health care funding, etc f-ing fascism, etc.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion...

tammy (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 11:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Americans, once again were stupid enough to agree to war. The republican revolution has been planning on ruining the budget for decades, and they finally got the vehicle by starting an expensive war. So now they can dismantle the middle class by cutting social security, medicare, and giving billionaires a free ride. Congratulations, America, you got ripped off for the next few generations.

cynic9 (anonymous profile)
March 22, 2013 at 9:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

All of this was evident the entire run up to the invasion of iraq. I was stunned when people were surprised in 04 about Joseph Wilson's assertation about the "yellowcake" from Niger was that in 03 the LA Times ran Wilson's op-ed stating the very same facts right before the war. It wasn't a surprise to people who were paying attention but people paying attention such as myself were vilified.
It is no pleasure to say "I told you so" because I can take no pleasure in the thousands of lives lost and the many more damaged physically, emotionally and economically and more.
We are now a country known for torture. The Bill of Rights is still being shredded, what's left of it. Our police and culture are militarized, and the corporate cartel that initiated all this grows stronger and in more control of our lives everyday.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 22, 2013 at 11:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Agree with most of the comments above.
A few additional points:
Saddam Hussein, dangerous despot that he was, did play a significant role in the tangled and bloody checks and balances that existed in the pre-invasion Middle East, especially with regard to Iraq's arch-rival Iran.
While I don't agree with everything she says, Naomi Klein's _Shock Doctrine_ provides ample food for thought regarding the hows and whys of what she labels "disaster capitalism" as implemented in Iraq and other places (including the U.S.) by the industrial-political cabals.

zappa (anonymous profile)
March 23, 2013 at 7:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Cheney Moving to SB - Really?

Thanks, Nick Welsh, for last week's Poodle about Cheney's key role in the instigation of the Iraq War. And now he'll be moving to our quaint town - a sobering thought. Dick, maybe "We'll leave you alone here", as Nick suggests, but I hope your conscience (assuming you have one, which is probably foolish) will never ever let you rest and that not even your walled and gated mega-villa will grant you respite.

Perhaps you'll be chauffeured to Sterns Wharf some sunny Sunday and through the tinted glass of your armored limo will spy the gleaming crosses of Arlington West. Will you connect that sight with the fact that all the fallen symbolically lying there - and so many thousands more - died untimely deaths due to your vicious world view, inhumane greed and cruel tenacity? May our peaceful place not let you live the peaceful life which you destroyed for countless others.

peterlackner (anonymous profile)
March 23, 2013 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A random draft for Congress instead of elections. Flash mob ought to remove any impediment.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
March 23, 2013 at 8:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

+1 peterlackner

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 24, 2013 at 12:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick: Your all-volunteer force of American Marines who willingly, honorably served in Iraq say a collective "you're welcome" for your bastardized use of our motto as the title for this piece.
Very clever, Civilian.

Marine0369 (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 2:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Marine 0369, weren't you fighting for the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech?
Or was the whole Iraq War just a bastardized use of our armed forces?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good job, Nick! What really irritates in all the other many postmortems of the 10th anniversary of our stupid Iraq invasion is how many of the same warped pundits who eagerly supported the invasion now piously wring their hands and point out how crazy it was. Charles Krauthamer, F Fukuyama, other neo-cons, even pseudo-liberals like Dan Rather... when I and other protested vigorously, including marching in demonstrations, we were ridiculed, called unpatriotic and uninformed. While others and I wrote opeds opposing the war, very few made it into the mainstream media, such as the LA Times, NY Times, and so on.
Poodle's correct in writing "But if Cheney lied, we made it way too easy for him." And we can't simply blame the media; the American public was then and remains now grossly uninformed about history and international relations. One example in 2003 (Feb) is when the formerly honorable general, then Sec. of State, Colin Powell, presented blurred aerial images of some trucks unloading "something" at a loading dock in Iraq and claimed this was proof Saddam was creating nuclear weapons. This was on TV, and I remember watching incredulously. The French foreign minister and others present at this meeting openly snickered, yet many Americans said, oh yeah, well, that's proof. Powell disgraced himself, let down the People whom he supposedly served, and did not follow the e.g. of Robin Cook the British foreign minister in openly resigning and calling out Tony Blair and the little twig, Bush. When will Bush and Cheney be charged with war crimes at the Hague?? I notice little Geo. 43 fears foreign travel...hmmm.
One partial solution is a renewed emphasis in public education on history and international relations. This is why we need more $ poured into public education, NOT more online UC courses taught by private companies.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 8:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And remember all that good Bordeaux poured down the streets for no good reason, and French nationals spat upon by infuriated "patriots" outraged that the French would counsel us not to invade Iraq?
What truly kills me is that people like Cheney and Wolfowitz are still asked their opinion on international politics by the mainstream media, and the interviews are not accompanied by a laugh track. You indeed can fool most people all of the time, if you have a loud enough microphone.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 10:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken_Volok: Repsonse to your questions.

1 - Of course. I support and defend the constitution.

2 - Not my place to determine how we Marines are used.

Content of the piece is not the issue for me...I just don't like the title.

Marine 0369, weren't you fighting for the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech?
Or was the whole Iraq War just a bastardized use of our armed forces?

Marine0369 (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 8:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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