Democracy and Nation Building
What did we accomplish in Iraq besides the toppling of Saddam Hussein? Not much. America's "mission accomplished" has created an unstable, economically devastated nation that will be yet another constant source of instability for the whole Middle East. Did the $53 billion we spent on reconstruction projects or "nation building," work in Iraq? No. As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. According to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency, more than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted -- more than 10 percent of the amount the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq.
Did we sow the seeds of democracy? True, Iraq has had elections, but its lauded democracy is tenuous at best. Elections do not necessarily mean democracy. Iraq has three large ethnic groups: the Kurds in the north; the Sunnis in the middle; and the Shiites, the most populous group, in the south. Given the ethnic and religious rivalry among these three groups and the ever presence of al Qaeda, there is little evidence that an Iraq democracy would last very long without a permanent U.S. military presence. And there is no evidence that democracy has taken root throughout the Middle East.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
George W. Bush and his minions intentionally built a case for war with Iraq without regard to factual evidence. They took advantage of the public's hysteria over the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to authorize an invasion and occupation of Iraq with no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Remember Scott Ritter, a chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, who publicly argued that Iraq possessed no significant WMDs. Similarly, Hans Martin Blix, the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003, searched Iraq for WMD, ultimately finding none.
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And remember the "Plame Affair," where Valerie Plame was outed as a covert CIA operative allegedly in retribution for her husband James C. Wilson's op-ed piece in the New York Times arguing that, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush misrepresented intelligence leading up to the invasion by suggesting without evidence that the Iraqi regime sought uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons.
In 2002, 156 members of Congress -- 23 Senators and 133 Representatives -- had the courage and common sense to vote against the Bush administration's rush to an unprovoked attack and occupation of Iraq.
No WMD were ever found in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda
The Bush administration alleged that there was a secret relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Untrue. On April 29, 2007, this canard was finally laid to rest by former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet when he said on 60 Minutes, "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period."
Who can forget Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003, infamous presentation before the United Nations to "prove" the urgency to invade Iraq. Powell claimed that Iraq harbored an al Qaeda network, despite evidence to the contrary. He showed photos of an alleged poison and explosives training camp in northeast Iraq operated by al Qaeda even though this area was outside Iraqi control and even though U.S. intelligence agencies found no substantive collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Later, Powell acknowledged that much of his 2003 UN presentation was inaccurate. Hopefully Colin Powell will set the record straight in a tell-all memoir.
In 2003, a draft of a so-called eighteenth UN resolution, which would have set a deadline to Iraq to comply with previous resolutions to account for all of Iraq's chemical and biological agents, even though the UN inspection teams found no evidence of such agents. The proposed resolution was withdrawn when the U.S. realized that it would be vetoed by the Security Council. Had that occurred, it would have become more difficult for the U.S. to invade Iraq and then argue that the Security Council had authorized the an invasion.
On March 20, 2003, U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq.
On September 16, 2004 Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the invasion, said, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
The Patriot Act
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the Bush administration pushed through the restrictive Patriot Act. The Act provided sweeping power to government agencies to monitor the personal habits of not only those who had been identified as suspected terrorists, but anyone residing in the U.S. as well as U,S. citizens residing abroad.
Prior to the Patriot Act, all wiretapping of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA) required a warrant from a three judge court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Patriot Act granted the President broad powers to fight a war against terrorism. Bush used these powers to by-pass the FISA court and directed the NSA to spy directly on American citizens on American soil without a warrant. The NSA was authorized by executive order to monitor phone calls, e-mails, Internet activity, text messaging, and other communication involving any party believed by the NSA to be outside the U.S., even if the other end of the communication was within the U.S.
Torture--The Thugs Are Us
On April 16, 2009, President Obama released four top secret memos that allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture al Qaeda and other suspects held at Guanta'namo and secret detention centers round the world. Remember the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse? According to the memos, ten techniques were approved: attention grasp (grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion); walling (in which the suspect could be pushed into a wall); a facial hold; a facial slap; cramped confinement; wall standing; sleep deprivation; insects placed in a confinement box (the suspect had a fear of insects); and waterboarding. In waterboarding the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner which produces the perception of suffocation and incipient panic.
In the now-discredited August 2002 memorandum from then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez narrowly defined physical torture as requiring pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, the permanent impairment of a significant bodily function, or even death."
And we all remember former Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that: "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a euphemism for torture) sanctioned by the Bush administration are not torture and dismissed criticism as "contrived indignation and phony moralizing."
The CIA conducted renditions or extrajudicial, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, where torture was used.
Human torture is not only morally unacceptable it is also a crime. Waterboarding, for example, is explicitly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. By using torture, the U.S. became the thugs our enemies said we were.
Costs of the War
As of September 23, 2010, 4,421 Americans have been killed and another 39,902 wounded in Iraq. In addition, about 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died and another 2.76 million Iraqis are internally displaced and many thousands have sought refuge in other countries. Did these Americans and Iraqis die in vain?
Since 2001, we have spent $748.5 billion on the war. Imagine how much health care, social services, education, housing, fire and police, etc., this money could have purchased.
The fiscal year 2011 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security is $56.3 billion to give Americans the illusion of security.
I fantasize that mea culpas will be forthcoming from Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Condoleezza Rice, and Paul Wolfowitz. Clearly, a public apology is due the American people, especially the families of those servicemen and women who lost their lives in this pointless war. Will this ever happen? Unlikely. Instead, we will probably get self-serving memoirs like Tony Blair's A Journey: My Political Life, in which he praises George W. Bush as a man of "genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I have ever met." Blair leaves out of the 700-page tome any mention of the January 31, 2003, meeting he had with Bush in which Bush proposed a plan to trigger the Iraq war through outright deceit..
The Iraq war was and is a hoax. The nearly decade-long U.S. occupation of Iraq has been in vain. Our misadventure did not serve our national interest. We are nearly bankrupt and less safe as al Qaeda continues to grow and Muslims around the world have lost their trust in us. Because of Iraq, the U.S. has lost the high moral ground and our standing in the world has plummeted. Until wrongdoing is admitted, we will be unable to move forward and regain our rightful place in the world.