As time goes on and new information makes its way to the public, it is clear that the 2003 invasion of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most effective misinformation campaigns ever perpetrated on such a mass scale; for using blatant lies and fear-mongering to convince the public that the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein represented a clear and present danger to the American people.
Instead, we now know that the entire pretext for the war was fabricated; that the war was in fact a grand conspiracy orchestrated by President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney to provoke a for-profit conflict, reaping billions for defense contractors and the fossil fuel industry while forcing the American people to shoulder the obscene cost of $1.7 trillion dollars and 4,500 American lives.
A newly declassified report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff only confirms our worst fears. The September 9th, 2002 document, originating from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, details what the Bush Administration knew about the Hussein regime’s attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Which turned out to be almost nothing, as POLITICO reports:
“We’ve struggled to estimate the unknowns. … We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program. Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.” And while the report said intelligence officials “assess Iraq is making significant progress in WMD programs,” it conceded that “large parts” of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs were concealed. As a result, “Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”
However, this important document was somehow failed to be delivered to important members of the Bush Administration, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, or other top officials at the Central Intelligence Agency. It also goes to show just how the Bush Administration approached the issue – not as an actual investigation but an effort to justify their predetermined conclusion, like this sentence shows:
“We believe Iraq has 7 mobile [biological warfare] agent production plants but cannot locate them. Our knowledge of what biological weapons the Iraqis are able to produce is nearly complete our knowledge of how and where they are produced is nearly 90% incomplete. “We do not know if all the processes required to produce a weapon are in place,” the report says, adding that the Iraqis “lack the precursors for sustained nerve agent production” and “we cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi sites that produce final chemical agent.”
The war-plotters buried it, recognizing the damage this information would do to their campaign to terrorize the American people into supporting the war, and kept on with their premeditated conspiracy. “Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon!” warned Cheney. “We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas!” Condoleeza Rice similarly did not restrain herself when making outrageous statements like “the first sign of a ‘smoking gun’ … may be a mushroom cloud!” When they put it like that, what else were we to believe?
Of course, once the invasion actually happened, no new WMD program was found. We found remnants of the weapons that we sold them to use against the Iranians (who we were also selling weapons to) during the brutal Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. But no nuclear program was found; no new chemical or biological weapons program – and the Bush Administration knew that it didn’t exist.
How different would history have played out if this report was circulated among other officials? If the American people knew that all we had on the Iraqis were “assumptions and judgement” as opposed to hard evidence? If the members of Congress were actually presented with the evidence we had, and not the evidence that Bush and Cheney wanted us to see? How many lives would have been saved?
We were lied to. And for what?
For 4,425 American deaths and another 32,000 wounded or maimed servicemen? For 165,000 dead Iraqi civilians? For a “free” Iraqi government insistent on playing the reverse of the ethnoreligious politics that Saddam did while abandoning a third of their territory and all the equipment we gave them to a ragtag group of extremists at the first sign of trouble? For $40 billion in profits for Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and another $138 billion for the military contractors that took over the running the war from the US military? For triggering an arms race between US client states and their Shiite rivals? For giving those same states free rein to crack down on any internal opposition and entrench their authoritarian ways even deeper, even though we’ve known all along that Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading exporter of terrorist philosophy?
This newest piece of evidence makes it absolutely clear that the Bush Administration conspired to lie to the American people and embark on a war for profit under a false pretext that made the world a more dangerous place. There may be no punishment severe enough to atone for the damage they have done to our nation.
But it’s never too late to find out.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.