Criticism of the Iraq War — Then and Now
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    • U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the press during a meeting with the Iraq Study Group in the Cabinet Room Wednesday, Dec. 6. 2006. Pictured with the President are the group's co-chairmen former Representative Lee Hamilton, left, and former Secretary of State James Baker.

The invasion of Iraq began March 19, 2003, ten years ago today. Political analysts from the leftright, and center are weighing in on the milestone  many concluding that the venture was a disaster. Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies demonstrates that the war has resulted in at least 189,000 deaths and cost more than $2 trillion. Some casualty estimates are much higher

Rory Stewart, a member of British Pariliament who became coalition Deputy Governor of two provinces in the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq in 2003 and lived in Kabul from 2006 to 2008, says: "We must expose not only the politicians but also the generals and civil servants who failed to challenge the system, emphasise the disaster, or press hard enough for withdrawal. We must recognise how easily we exaggerate our fears ('terrorism' and 'weapons of mass destruction') and how easily we hypnotise ourselves with theories ('state-building' and 'counter-insurgency'). We must acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, power, and legitimacy." 

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. In some cases, those who were initially supportive of the war have recanted [see update below]. The New York Times famously apologized for its botched coverage: "Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge." In an article yesterday, Mother Jones writer David Corn notes, "[I]n those dreadful months before the March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq, the cheerleaders for war inhabited a place of privilege within the media... There was at that time a sort of madness within the political-media world. With the nation still under the shadow of 9/11, prominent journalists had jettisoned the most crucial of traits in our profession: skepticism." 

But if the Times — and other US mainstream media — wasn't critical of the rationale for going to war in 2003, others were, even in the run-up to the conflict, and before the lies and deceptions were fully brought to public light. Many historians, veterans, diplomats, intellectuals, and military commanders were against the war either from the start or very early on — including many Nation Books authors. 

In his interview with Bill Moyers on October 18, 2002, Robert Jay Lifton, author of Superpower Syndrome, said:

[President Bush] has, in terms of his projected war on Iraq, he has started and sustained a rhetoric of what I call war fever. War fever means drum beating for war, and that creates very intense transcendent emotions, even ecstatic emotions.

In her article in the journal Logos on January 29, 2003, Irene Gendzier, co-editor of Crimes of War, said:

Iraq's domestic politics, the repressive nature of its regime, and the evidence of human rights atrocities in no way impeded Washington's [economic] relations with the regime. Nor did it prevent a delegation of U.S. Senators from visiting the Iraqi leader in 1990 with then President Bush's approval. Western military and intelligence which went to Iran, but in far more significant quantity to Iraq, did not cease with the knowledge of Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses. The change in U.S. and Western policies came only with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait…

In an interview on January 30, 2003, Gore Vidal, author of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, said:

To invent a war means that you've become a wartime president, and you can suspend much if not all of the Bill of Rights. This is a totalitarian minded government, and they were ready in no time at all after 9/11 with the USA PATRIOT Act, which does in most of the Bill of Rights. Having more or less conquered Afghanistan we want to conquer Iraq, all with incredible powers for the junta in Washington. This is dangerous for our liberties.

In a piece for the Nation on February 13, 2003, Institute Fellow Jonathan Schell, author of The Jonathan Schell Reader, said:

Tags: casualties, iraq war, mainstream media, nation books, ten years

    • Brendan O'Connor
    • Brendan O'Connor is an intern at Nation Books. He graduated from Kenyon College in May with a BA in English. Now he lives a glamorous, bohemian lifestyle in New York as a wildly successful writer of poignant yet hilarious works of varying lengths.

    • Brendan O'Connor's full bio »

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