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Revisiting the Iraq Debacle

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Yesterday I wroteabout an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Time to Get Tough on Iraq” by Nussaibah Younis, which was harshly critical of the Maliki regime in Iraq.

In his op-ed, Younis criticized the Maliki regime’s cooperation with Iran, specifically permitting Iran to use Iraqi airspace to send armaments to the Assad regime in Syria, which the U.S. government is trying to oust from power. The author also focused on the corrupt, dictatorial aspects of the Maliki regime despite the fact that it has been democratically elected. Finally, the author called on the U.S. government to punish the Miliki regime until it aligned itself with American “interests” in the Middle East. The author recommended a termination of U.S. foreign aid and public humiliation as possible courses of action but, for some reason, did not mention sanctions, coups, assassination, invasions, and occupations as other alternatives.

What is the possibility that the U.S. government will make a public show of bringing the Maliki regime into line with the interests of the U.S. Empire?

In my opinion, the chance is nil. Why? Because if the government was to do that, it would be, at the same time, publicly admitting that the results of the Iraq invasion and 10-year occupation have been a disaster — a horror story.

That admission, of course, would contradict the myth that has so carefully been inculcated into the minds of millions of Americans — that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq brought a paradise of democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity to that part of the world.

How many times do we see Americans being called upon to thank the troops for their service in Iraq? We see it at sports events. We see it in church. We see it at airports. We see it at restaurants. We see it everywhere. Implicit in those expressions of thanks is that the troops did something good for America and Iraq with their invasion and occupation. They supposedly kept us safe here at home while, at the same time, supposedly bringing democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity to Iraq.

It is obviously important to the Empire to preserve those myths within the American citizenry. If Americans were to discover the truth, what then? What if Americans were to realize that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq actually have made Americans less safe and secure? What if they were to realize that the invasion and occupation actually produced horror in Iraq, consisting of perpetual violence, chaos, suicide bombing, torture, indefinite detention without trial, destitution, and dictatorship?

What then? Each time they thanked the troops for their service, what would people be thanking them for? “Thank you for making us less safe and secure”? “Thank you for bringing real horror to the people of Iraq”?

That’s what makes the Younis op-ed so remarkable, along with the fact that a major mainstream newspaper like the Times chose to publish it. The article bursts the official myths regarding Iraq. It confronts people with reality, the same reality that we libertarians have been writing about since the invasion some 10 years ago. Iraq is a horror story. And the invasion and occupation made Americans less safe because of the deep anger and rage that all the death and destruction produced (on top of the death and destruction from the brutal sanctions on Iraq, the illegal no-fly zones, and the Persian Gulf intervention, including the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment facilities). At the same time, the costs of the invasion and occupation contributed in a major way to the out-of-control federal spending and debt that now threaten the economic and financial security of the American people.

Thus, U.S. officials are in a pickle when it comes to Iraq. No doubt they agree with everything Younis says about the situation. Iraq is closely aligned with Iran. Iraq is not doing what the U.S. Empire wants it to do. The Maliki regime is a dictatorial regime, notwithstanding that fact that it was democratically elected. There are no human rights in Iraq.

But how does the U.S. government publicly say such things when they have carefully inculcated a myth within the minds of the American people that holds the opposite view. If U.S. officials say the things that Younis is saying, they simultaneously burst the myth they’ve carefully created.

Let’s not forget that democracy spreading was not the primary rationale that U.S. officials used to justify their invasion of Iraq. The primary rationale was that Saddam Hussein was supposedly about to fire WMDs at the United States. The rationale was fake and bogus from the get-go. If the United States were about to come under attack from a foreign country, would the president wasted time going to the United Nations to seek permission to counteract the attack? Of course not. Yet, that is precisely what U.S. officials did, which, in and of itself, was convincing evidence that the WMD rationale was fake and bogus.

Why did U.S. officials rely on the WMD rationale as their primary justification? Because ever since the Cuban Missile Crisis, they have known that the prospect of mushroom clouds and nuclear war have been the finest way to scare the American people into supporting whatever U.S. officials want to do. And of course, the strategy worked with respect to Iraq. Most Americans supported the invasion even though Iraq had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Their mindset was, “When it comes to WMDs and mushroom clouds, we have no choice. We have to trust our public officials. They would never lie to us about such things. They have access to information that we don’t have.”

U.S. officials figured that they would find some remainder of the WMDs that the United States and other Western countries they had delivered to Saddamin the 1980s, when the U.S. Empire was partnering with him in his war against Iran. The plan was to invade Iraq and “find” those WMDs and proclaim how U.S. officials had saved the world. But Saddam had outsmarted them. He had, in fact, destroyed all the WMDs that the United States and other Western nations had delivered to him.

That left U.S. officials shifting to their alternative rationale for invading the country — democracy spreading. The idea here was that U.S. officials so loved the Iraqi people that they invaded in order to bring them democracy. Under this rationale, U.S. officials, including the troops, were in the role of selfless people, willing to sacrifice themselves and any number of Iraqis they killed in order to bring democracy to the country. That’s what undergirds the, “Thank you for what you have done in Iraq” expressions of gratitude that are extended to the troops.

Under this alternative rationale, the situation boiled down to a cost-benefit analysis. Any number of Iraqis killed, no matter how high, was considered worth it in terms of bringing democracy to the country. The cost-benefit analysis was similar to that employed by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations when she told “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the brutal sanctions against Iraq were “worth it.”

Underlying the cost-benefit analysis, however, has always been the assumption that the sacrifice of all those Iraqis (and dead American soldiers) brought into existence a pro-U.S. paradise of freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony in Iraq.

Once that myth is burst, what do they have left? Nothing but lies, deception, death, and destruction.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.