From those years, there are regrets and mea culpas, but the lessons of Iraq are fading even as President Obama in Israel is mending fences over a continuing nuclear threat of Iran.
In 2000, a disputed election ended with seating the most radical government the US has ever had. After half a century of fear about Communist subversion, a small group of faceless ideologues came silently to power and brought us chaos.
Instead of spreading propaganda and fomenting unrest, they had met in paneled rooms, issued position papers no one read and, with the accidental help of a few dozen terrorists, took us into a pointless war to prove their twisted thesis, subverted our traditional liberties and created a crisis that any rational politician could have foreseen.
Their blueprint was a tract, issued just before Bush’s election, that looked like thousands of previous boring think-tank bloviations. Titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources,” it advocated aggressive military action by the world’s only surviving superpower to shape the political universe.
“The Project for the New American Century” was no ordinary think tank. Its leading members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby.
In charge of finding a Bush running mate, Cheney selected himself and, for the new government, Libby as his Chief of Staff, Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense with Wolfowitz and others of his ilk as deputies.
Even so and with a puppet President to manipulate, they could not have put theory into practice. In their manifesto, they had acknowledged that their “policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today.”
But 9/11 changed everything. The bluster could be transformed from words into action with Iraq as the laboratory, and in a climate of national trauma, sold to the American people as a “new product,” to the use the language of Bush’s Chief of Staff Andy Card.
On October 11, 2002 the Senate passed “H.J.Res. 114: A joint resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq” by a vote of 77 to 23.
What few knew then was that the Bush White House thought it had the right to go to war without consulting Congress and the measure was a pale version of what they really wanted.
Alberto Gonzales was the President’s counsel then and, according to then Sen. Chuck Hagel, wrote a memo saying, “You have all the powers you need.” Hagel asked the White House why the President would consider going to war “without Congress being with him.” As a result, “a few of us--Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I--were invited to discussions with the White House...
“Finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region...Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted.”
Hagel, Biden and Lugar “had to rewrite it...stripped the language the White House had set up and put our language in it.” That was what Congress approved and authorized a decade of the worst war in American history that began five months later.
“The Iraq war was unnecessary, costly and damaging on every level,” says today’s Times editorial. “It was based on faulty intelligence manipulated for ideological reasons. The terrible human and economic costs over the past 10 years show why that must never happen again.”
It should not, but in today’s ideological divide, can anyone guarantee that it won’t?