The popular media narrative about the Iraq War holds, in its broad strokes, that the war was a near-universally popular idea at its outset even among otherwise reasonable and not ideologically pro-war people, who supported it based on what later turned out to be misinformation, from the tragic results of which everybody learned valuable lessons. It isn’t true, though the broad class of centrist media types who beat the drum for that war back in 2002 — which is to say, nearly all of them — would like you to believe it is, both to exonerate their cheerleading for that war and to prop up their flattering (and phony) self-presentation as cool, level-headed skeptics who merely pass along facts about foreign affairs and public will, rather than enthusiastically parroting lies about the former for the express purpose of shaping the latter.
Many tens of millions of Americans — as well as, it must be said, basically everyone else in the world not named Tony Blair — consistently opposed the Iraq War from the very earliest public-facing efforts at building popular support for it. Many of those same people have gone on opposing it, continuously, right up through whatever arbitrary troop drawdown or defense budget line-item passage in this past decade anybody decided to pretend marked the formal end of an ongoing conflict that will continue shedding blood long after I’m dead. Here in the United States, huge numbers of those people did so loudly, publicly, out in the streets, and in writing at those few journalism outlets that declined to participate in treating opposition to the war as synonymous with sympathy for the 9/11 terrorists. A smaller but still real number of Americans even spoke out against the war from the floor of Congress (and were tarred as unpatriotic for doing so). If this total public, vocal opposition may have topped out at some number smaller than the majority of Americans, that number is dwarfed by the number of people who knew — knew — that the war effort’s justifications (Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; Iraqi state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and/or the 9/11 plot; etc.) were lies.
That latter number includes the people offering those justifications at the time, of course. Also, and no less damningly, it includes every single person who pretended to believe those lies, or who passed them along into publication in the press without calling them what they were. The only thing that changed later on, when the lies were finally acknowledged as having been lies, is that the people who’d pretended to believe them in 2002 could now pretend to be shocked and betrayed, and to have learned a bitter but healthful skepticism from the experience.
Do you feel like you’re going fucking crazy? Like everybody knows exactly what is happening right now but everybody is finding reasons to pretend it’s something else?
Which, all in all, makes it pretty fucking incredible to see, in 2020, none other than former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and senior advisor Karl Rove, two of the most brazenly dishonest and thoroughly discredited mouthpieces for that disastrous war effort, appearing on TV news to offer authoritative analysis and justification for the country’s latest doomed and ruinous misadventure in slaughtering people in the Middle East — in this case, the assassination of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general Qasem Soleimani, reportedly carried out last week via an unmanned drone airstrike against his convoy of vehicles outside Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. To see performatively evenhanded NPR turn for sober expert commentary to the executive of a company that sells hardware to the military. To hear the addled, flamboyantly dishonest president and his hilariously discredited goons justify their act of aggression by hinting vaguely about having thwarted plans to kill Americans, and to see the New York Times pass these claims along with only the mildest of challenges. To see a discredited Iraq War cheerleader granted space in Friday morning’s Times to predict, yet again, that yet another act of American imperial violence in the Middle East will yield no adverse consequences. To hear establishment Democratic leaders, including some of those vying for the party’s presidential nomination, once more raising toothless procedural qualms about whose signatures must be sought before the United States may project its mechanized death-dealing might 6,000 miles across the surface of the Earth to single out and kill whichever faraway people it deems unworthy of life, while simultaneously signalling broad agreement with both the broader concept and the specific choice of target. To read that thousands of American troops will be deployed to the region, but to be told by the same class of Knowers as before that this is at most a limited and well-defined engagement and not the red dawn of yet another hopeless, endless, pointless mass bloodletting.
Ari Fleischer: "I think it is entirely possible that this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani" pic.twitter.com/UfcTOkvqAw— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) January 3, 2020
Do you feel like you’re going fucking crazy? Like everybody knows exactly what is happening right now but everybody is finding reasons to pretend it’s something else? Like it suddenly seems alarmingly necessary to point out that wars are bad and that it’s bad to start wars if you have the option of not starting wars? This is what it was like in 2002! For that matter, I have hazy little-kid memories of it being not all that different from this in 1990! Only it’s worse this time, because this time it has already happened, and already happened again, and I already know how it goes, and so do the people making it happen all over again but bigger and somehow more catastrophically than before.
Fox News has landed an Iraq expert for the coming war. Google "Judith Miller" and "weapons of mass destruction." I can't believe she's being disinterred for this. pic.twitter.com/MNoRSkFi98— Peter Dykstra (@pdykstra) January 6, 2020
One of the signal fears of our time is that, with the rise of the internet and the impossibility of ever truly deleting anything from it, humans have now created a reality in which a person can never escape the permanent shadow of their own worst mistakes; that you are never more than a moderately thorough Google name search away from being ruined by the stupidest, most ignorant and attention-seeking take you fired onto MySpace as a pimply 16-year-old whole decades ago. Yet here is an entire class of people — hell, not even just a class! In many cases it’s a very specific group of individuals! — whose complete failure, as leaders, as strategists, as analysts, as reporters, as prognosticators, already and in full view of the whole human race killed millions of people, destroyed a society, and fucked up an entire region of the globe… running it back! In much the same positions of authority and prominence as before. The warmongers are never ruined by their mistakes; that’s a consequence they’ll go on assigning to the whole rest of the world, until there’s no world left to bear it.