It scarcely feels like a decade since we invaded Iraq. Well, to me, sitting here in the middle of North America, it doesn't. I imagine it feels like more than 10 years to the people we invaded.
Among the articles I've read the past week or so, John Judis' post at New Republic stands out. He was one of the few insider journalists who opposed the war at the time; his recollection explains what it cost him:
I opposed the war, and didn’t listen to those who claimed to have “inside information” probably because I had come of age politically during the Vietnam War and had learned then not to trust government justifications for war. I had backed the first Bush administration’s Gulf War, but precisely because of its limited aims. Ditto the Clinton administration intervention in Kosovo. George W. Bush’s aims in Iraq were similar to American aims in South Vietnam. During those months leading up to the war, I kept having déjà vu experiences, which failed to interest my colleagues. Still, I wavered after Colin Powell’s thoroughly deceptive speech at the United Nations in February 2003, where he unveiled what he claimed was evidence of Iraqi nuclear preparations. I had to have an old friend from the anti-war days remind me again of the arguments against an invasion.
My own experience after Powell’s speech bears out the tremendous power that an administration, bent on deception, can have over public opinion, especially when it comes to foreign policy. And when the dissenters in the CIA, military, and State Department are silenced, the public—not to mention, journalists—has little recourse in deciding whether to support what the administration wants to do. Those months before the Iraq war testify to the importance of letting the public have full access to information before making decisions about war and peace. And that lesson should be heeded before we rush into still another war in the Middle East.
I wish I'd been blogging back then, because I would like a record of my own contemporary opposition to the war. At the time, I was working on a project in Richmond, Virginia, with some good ol' boys who really didn't like even the limited things I had to say about it. At least I didn't have to defend myself against the entire Washington press corps.
Ten years on,
is our politicians learning have we learned anything? For our sake—and Iran's—I truly hope so.