The authorizations to use military force from 2001 and the one for Iraq from 2003 are still on the books. Obama or another president or Congress could send drones or troops into Iraq. The Iraq AUMF is broader than the Afghanistan one. Bush and Obama have used it to justify worldwide war on people they label terrorists who do not have any plausible connection to September 11th, and to wiretap the rest of us.
We also lost in Iraq all credibility as supporters of the rule of law. Those who had seen immunity effectively given to the killers of Haditha knew what to expect when the Afghan government demanded an open trial in Afghanistan for the killer of Kandahar.
We lost all sense of gratitude and requirement of protection for whistleblowers, as Obama has expanded on Bush's approach of treating them as traitors.
We lost the good will of much of the world. We became hated, loathed, despised, and detested. Some of those in power in the United States recovered a reluctance to launch huge wars and lose lots of U.S. military lives. But they found an alternative in bombs and drones. And if relatively few drone pilots lose their minds or kill themselves, that doesn't mean there won't be blowback or that there is not a direct cost to our culture in becoming an empire that uses robots to kill.
The damage to U.S. veterans, their families, and those around them will go on for decades. The brain damage, PTSD, and suicide epidemics just begin to tell the story of human and financial cost. The divorce, child neglect, and child abuse will be very long lasting, not to mention the desire of many of those children to please their parents by going to war themselves.
Unbeknownst to the U.S. media of course the bulk of the cost of a war is born by the nation where the war is fought. On the question of what has been done to Iraq I recommend Michael Otterman's book "Erasing Iraq: The Human Costs of Carnage."
Last year we watched the people of Egypt overthrow a U.S.-backed dictator in three weeks at a cost of 300 deaths. They only overthrew that one individual, not the corrupt military government. They have a long ways to go. But compare Iraq. Over 20 years the United States has replaced a dictator with a corrupt military government at a cost of millions of lives, trillions of dollars spent, trillions of dollars in infrastructure destroyed, a regional refugee crisis, ethnic and religious strife, segregated towns and neighborhoods, empowered religious fanatics. We've set back women's rights horribly, effectively eliminated gay and lesbian rights, nearly killed off some minority groups, decimated the nation's cultural heritage, and created a generation of people without the experience of peace, without education, without proper nutrition, without tolerance, without proper healthcare, without a functioning government, and without affection for or even indifference to the United States. What a bargain. Surely nonviolence could never have done so much. Or as Obama put it, when accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, just after rejecting the model of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
In place of reason, the war on Iraq gave us this, as recounted by U.S. soldier Ethan McCord: "We had a pretty gung-ho commander, who decided that because we were getting hit by IEDs a lot, there would be a new battalion SOP [standard operating procedure]. He goes, 'If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherf*cker on the street.'"
Another way to kill "every motherf*cker on the street" is to destroy water supplies, sewage plants, hospitals, and bridges. This we have done most extensively in 1991 and 2003. On the first occasion, a U.S. Air force planning officer justified these criminal acts as no worse and having no other purpose than economic sanctions: "People say, 'You didn't recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage.' Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions -- help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions."
Sanctions on Iran are for the same purpose. Either they will provoke Iran, just as they did Japan so many years ago. Or they will create a logic that explains war on the grounds that the sanctions haven't succeeded in overthrowing a sovereign government that we haven't overthrown since 1953.
The Madeleine Albrights of the world who thought that killing a half-million Iraqi children was a price worth paying for some strategic purpose need to be asked now, now that the strategic purpose has presumably been achieved or been abandoned, why in the hell are we not making reparations to the Iraqi people?
We haven't built them a nation. We haven't built anyone a nation, unless you count Germany and Japan which we first burned to the ground and have since never left. Supposedly we built a nation in Grenada and another, over a mere 23 years in Panama, although I'm not convinced that both wouldn't have been better off left alone. Nobody claims we built a nation in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, or Iraq. Well, maybe some do, but they don't live there. Half the world's refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq. Possibly half the world's torture victims are from Afghanistan and Iraq. We owe reparations.
Instead, with the crime ending in Iraq, its architects are on book tours instead of on trial, and their successor in the White House has embraced the lies, the lie that invading Iraq was about so-called weapons of mass destruction, and the lie that escalating the war on Iraq helped to win it. These lies are carried over as lessons for Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is critical that we continue to counter them. U.S. polling on belief that the Iraq War was based on lies paralleled and led polling on opposition to that war. But memories are short. We have a great deal to be gained from continually reminding our country of the lies.
George Galloway, the great former British Member of Parliament recently wrote, "I told Tony Blair -- outside the men's lavatory in the library corridor of the House of Commons, to be precise -- that the fall of Baghdad would be not the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. And that the Iraqis would fight them, with their teeth if necessary, until they had driven them from their land. I told Blair that there was no al-Qaida in Iraq, but that if he and Bush were to invade there would be thousands of them. But two things, as George Bush would put it, I 'mis-underestimated'. First, that when the tower of lies on which the case for the Iraq war had been constructed was exposed, the credibility of the political systems of the two main liars would collapse under the weight. And second, that the example of the Iraqi resistance would trigger seismic changes in the Arabian landscape from Marrakesh to Bahrain. Almost nobody in Britain or America any longer believes a word their politicians say. This profound change is not wholly the result of the Iraq war, but it moved into top gear following the war and the militarised mendacity that paved the way to it. In America this malaise has fuelled both the Tea Party phenomenon and the Occupy movement alike, even if the word Iraq seldom crosses their lips. And from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf the plates are moving still."
Yes, but here in the Land of Free people have a tendency to believe their government lies about everything except war. That it lies about war too we need constantly to remind each other. In that spirit, I have drafted what I take to be the top 10 lying scheming reasons to treat Iran as we treated Iraq:
1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.