Dumb Wars – Now and Forever

by on March 20, 2013 · 2 comments

in American Empire, History, War and Peace

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer

By Robert Scheer / truthdig – Nation of Change / March 20, 2013

That the young now approve of an irrational conflict in which 3.4 million Indochinese and 58,000 Americans died suggests that even the madness that was Iraq will come to be viewed by this fatally jingoistic nation as a good war.

It is a staple of our widely trumpeted Judeo-Christian heritage that the acknowledgment of sin is a prelude to redemption. So how is it that there is no palpable sense of soul searching associated with the 10th anniversary of a war based on officially concocted lies and a policy of torture? It is because the presumption of a unique American claim to an original and enduring innocence perseveres, no matter the death and destruction.

Indeed, some of our most celebrated publicists defined moral deceit as virtue in justifying the Iraq War. “As far as I am concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in April 2003, when U.N. inspectors had clearly established that the proclaimed basis for invading Iraq was a lie. “Mr. Bush doesn’t owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue).”

The big lie, that bane of human existence when embraced by obvious dictators elsewhere, is perceived as merely hyping when employed by an American president. Lyndon Johnson hyped the nonexistent second Gulf of Tonkin attack on American ships to justify the U.S. war in Vietnam, and George W. Bush hyped the fraudulent WMD issue when his fabrication of a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack was proven factually absurd.

Even though Iraq never threatened the security of life in the U.S., the Bush administration launched a genocidal civil war replete with a systemic policy of torture directed by U.S. officials at the highest level.

Just weeks ago, a devastating documentary produced by The Guardian newspaper and the BBC provided all the evidence needed for any decent person to demand trials for the perpetrators of an extensive system of Iraqi torture centers, operated and financed by the U.S. government. It was part of a policy of stoking a genocidal war of Shiite extremists against Sunnis that was directed by U.S. government veterans of similar efforts in Latin America and elsewhere. As the lead on The Guardian story put it:

“The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”

This effort, conducted with the full knowledge of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. David Petraeus, utilized the most violent Shiite militias including the savage Badr Brigade to wreak vengeance on their Sunni opponents.

The BBC/Guardian investigation exposed our propensity for moral turpitude, with no thanks to the Obama administration, which brazenly closed the door to any serious investigation of the war crimes of the Bush era, and much credit to Pfc. Bradley Manning and his WikiLeaks trove.

As The Guardian reported, its “investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.” There are no trials or prison time for Americans who directed the torture camps that Manning’s documents exposed.

But such revelations will not likely puncture the sanctimonious stance of presumed American virtue. We make mistakes; we don’t commit war crimes. And if word leaks out that we do, it is handled by throwing out a few bad apples from the otherwise pristine bushel.

Yes, a majority of Americans, 53 percent according to this week’s Gallup poll, think it was “a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq” 10 years ago. But the lessons of our folly will likely not stick for long. The memories fade as we now see in that same Gallup poll with perceptions of the Vietnam War. A majority of Americans ages 18-29 believe sending U.S. troops to Vietnam was “not a mistake.” By contrast, 70 percent of those 50 and older, the generation with contemporary knowledge of the war, think it was.

That the young now approve of an irrational conflict in which 3.4 million Indochinese and 58,000 Americans died suggests that even the madness that was Iraq will come to be viewed by this fatally jingoistic nation as a good war.

About Robert Scheer: Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mr.rick March 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm

After reading Mr. Scheer’s characterization of the war in Vietnam as “a mistake”. I would have to point out, that far from being “a mistake”, it was very deliberate. Now we can argue the wisdom of starting wars on lies. But a mistake is somethjng that is done absently, or using inaccurate facts. But both of the “Assholes” from Texas just flat out lied. There was no mistake to it. Gee, your Honor, I mistakenly pulled a gun on those sailors under the pier. Guess what? 10 years to life. These lies need to be called out every time the show up in print.


John March 27, 2013 at 6:46 am

” in April 2003, when U.N. inspectors had clearly established that the proclaimed basis for invading Iraq was a lie. ”

That’s a lie. Hans Blix’s last interim report in country, of March 7 2003, repeatedly mentioned unresolved disarmment issues:


His exit statement issued days before the war started, gave no evidence they had made any progress on that.

“when his fabrication of a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack was proven factually absurd.”

I don’t recall Bush ever promoting any such thing, though Cheney dropped a few hints on Meet the Press in September 2002- which he never promoted again publicly. However here is your association: Our policies to contain Saddam caused the 9/11 attacks and were not a tenable situation afterward. Additionally we could not hope to prosecute a war on terror with Saddam blatantly paying bounties to suicide bombers.

“Even though Iraq never threatened the security of life in the U.S.,”

I’d call that a lie too but it’s probably out of ignorance. Said suicide bomber bounties enraged the entire middle east when Israel hit back. Saddam was using this to his advantage to galvanize support from other Arab nations to sympathize with him. Let’s remember that Saddam broke from OPEC in 2000 and started selling what little oil he was allowed to sell under sanctions, in Euros.
This was unprecedented and as the Euro rose against the dollar 20% in the next two years, other OPEC exporters were eyeing his shrewd move with envy. It was not a threat to us yet as he was constrained by oil for food. Along with his allies in Paris and Moscow, Saddam was planning to use oil as a weapon against the US. Indeed, sanctions were about to be relaxed, and there were contracts in place for Lukoil and TotalFinaElf to go into Iraq with their combined resources and flood the world petroleum markets with oil from Iraq- along with Iran and Venezuela- priced in Euros, ending the Petrodollar system in place since 1973.
The effects would be devastating to the US economy, as well as to Persian Gulf security as the Saudis are heavily dollar vested and would soon see the Royal Family overthrown. The US would have been as good as shut out of access to oil from the 5 main Persian Gulf exporters, Saddam would have all the necessary funds to rebuild his military, and there would be no way to stop him- remember again all the means to contain him of the previous 10 years were ending.
In essence Bush invaded Iraq because Iraq had no WMD. Yet the threat was not a lie, as the CIA reported Saddam had disarmed but planned to restart his programs when sanctions relaxed- with clandestine dual use programs.
Curious that no strong critic of the war can ever go back to a certain date and offer a deviating path they would have taken. It’s all “it was a mistake!”. Okay what would you have done? Everything was coming to a head. I don’t think anyone could offer a scenario that doesn’t involve Saddam seeking to avenge his honor by hurting us, and resuming his desires for regional conquest.
There were just too many good reasons to remove the guy, and nothing suggested he had changed.

As for Vietnam I’m torn between the reality it was a part of the cold war that we did win but wondering what kind of nightmare it must have been for our soldiers to be there in an unwinnable war we were in for all the wrong reasons. I cannot see how anyone in there right mind could have supported being there after 1968, and I do have great respect for all the activists like Frank who we’d surely have been there longer without their efforts. I’ve done a lot of research into events like My Lai, trying to understand how those things could happen.

We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. In that respect yeah sure it was a mistake.

There is a narrative by a writer who covered William Calley during his trial who explained how these men could have snapped and he put it well. Jingoist American expectations that were impossible.

However I do take issue with this concept of trying to convince people , years later, that they should change their opinion about either war, and now decide it was a mistake. The relevant facts didn’t change and life doesn’t give us do overs. Iraq was sold as preventative, is a childhood polio shot ever “a mistake”? So we destroy a country and go in afterwards and say “gee what a mess this destroyed country is now, they weren’t a threat”. But what about an Iraq in 2006 where we left the region in 2003, Saddam, emboldened because Bush backed down, had his coffers filled with oil money, no sanctions, his biggest military suppliers paying him for the oil they pumped out in Migs and Mirages?
So you can go to 7/11 the day after your lotto ticket doesn’t hit and ask for your dollar back but I think it’s more realistic to accept things the way they happened and move on. Beating ourselves up over it isn’t productive.


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