Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Bush and Cheney's Torture, Lies

Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the illegal invasion of
Iraq, but by now, it seems, the American people have become used to
living in a state of perpetual war, even though that war was based on
torture and lies. Protestors rallied across the country on Saturday, but
the anti-war impetus of the Bush years has not been regained, as I
discovered to my sorrow during a brief US tour in November, when I showed the new
documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo" (directed
by Polly Nash and myself) in New York, Washington D.C., and the Bay
Area.

Some activists were still burnt out from campaigning for Barack
Obama, others thought the new President had waved a magic wand and
miraculously cured all America's ills, while others, to the right of
common sense and decency, were beginning to mobilize in opposition to a
President who, to be frank, should have been more of a disappointment to
those who thought that "hope" and "change" might mean something than to
those who supported the Bush administration's view of the world. Obama
escalated the war in Afghanistan, endorsed indefinite detention without charge or
trial for prisoners at Guantanamo, and shielded Bush administration officials and lawyers
from calls for their prosecution for turning America into a nation with
secret prisons, an extraordinary rendition program, and a detention
policy for terror suspects based on the use of torture.

Nevertheless, the Republicans' assault on decency, common sense and
the law, in relation to terrorism, escalated in the wake of the failed Christmas Day
plane bombing, with a high-level revolt against trying those accused of
involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal courts, and a renewed
onslaught on President Obama's already tattered plans to close
Guantanamo. On the anniversary of the war, headlines were dominated not
by anti-war protests, but by the disgusting behavior of the Tea Party
activists, whose bitter, negative campaigning against Obama, which has
always demonstrated a thinly-veiled racism, plumbed new depths when
protestors hurled racist and homophobic abuse at members of Congress.

African-American Congressman Emanaul Cleaver (D-MO) was spat on by a
Tea Party protester, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a protege of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr., was called a "nigger," and gay Congressman
Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a "faggot." Congressman James E. Clyburn
(D-SC), who helped lead sit-ins in South Carolina in the 1960s during
the civil rights movement, told NBC
News
:

It was absolutely shocking to me. Last Monday, I stayed
home to meet on the campus of Pomford University, where 50 years ago, as
of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South
Carolina, the sit-ins. Quite frankly I heard some things today that I
haven't heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I've
not heard since March 15th, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off
the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.

It is enough of a sign of madness that the Tea Party brigade, who
oppose healthcare reform, have been sold a lie by the very corporations
who mercilessly exploit them, essentially by stirring up fears of
"communism" and "socialism" that Europeans and sensible Americans find
bewildering and illogical, but it is no less dispiriting that their
pointless hatred overshadowed countrywide calls for the immediate
withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan may originally have had some sort of
acceptable rationale, but it was a lost cause almost as soon as it
began, when America failed to win the crucial struggle for hearts and
minds, killing thousands of Afghan civilians in bombing raids,
imprisoning others in vile conditions in prisons at Kandahar and Bagram
(where some died), and sending others to Guantanamo.

Another major reason for the failure in Afghanistan was the
administration's intention - instigated as early as November 2001 - to
move on to Iraq, and while the Chilcot Inquiry in Britain revisited the
roots of the Iraq war in recent months, demonstrating, without a shadow of a doubt, that it
was an illegal war decided as early as April 2002, when Prime Minister
Tony Blair committed the UK to full participation, an often overlooked
side-effect of this decision involved, in the most cynical manner, the
exploitation of prisoners seized in the "War on Terror" to provide cover
for the planned invasion.

As I explained in an article last April, entitled, "Even In Cheney's Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture
Story Is A New Low
":

In case anyone has forgotten, when Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the head of the Khaldan
military training camp in Afghanistan, was captured at the end of 2001
and sent to Egypt to be tortured, he made a false confession that Saddam
Hussein had offered to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of
chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted his confession,
but not until Secretary of State Colin Powell - to his eternal shame -
had used the story in February 2003 in an attempt to persuade the UN to
support the invasion of Iraq.

That attempt, of course, was successful, but it is no less shocking
now than it was then that those who manipulated Powell - Vice President
Dick Cheney and his close circle of advisors - used the CIA's post-9/11
torture program not to protect American from terrorists, but to launch
an illegal war. As I also explained last April, with reference to an
interview conducted by Jane Mayer of the New
Yorker
with Dan Coleman of the FBI, an old-school interrogator
opposed to the use of torture, who was pulled off al-Libi's case when
senior officials decided to send him to Egypt:

As Mayer explained, Coleman was "disgusted" when he heard
about the false confession, telling her, "It was ridiculous for
interrogators to think Libi would have known anything about Iraq. I
could have told them that. He ran a training camp. He wouldn't have had
anything to do with Iraq. Administration officials were always pushing
us to come up with links, but there weren't any. The reason they got bad
information is that they beat it out of him. You never get good
information from someone that way."

As I also explained:

This, I believe, provides an absolutely critical
explanation of why the Bush administration's torture regime was not only
morally repugnant, but also counter-productive, and it's particularly
worth noting Coleman's comment that "Administration officials were
always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren't any."
However, I realize that the failure of torture to produce genuine
evidence - as opposed to intelligence that, though false, was at least
"actionable" - was exactly what was required by those, like Dick Cheney,
Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, "Scooter" Libby and other Iraq
obsessives, who wished to betray America doubly, firstly by endorsing
the use of torture in defiance of almost universal disapproval from
government agencies and military lawyers, and secondly by using it not
to prevent terrorist attacks, but to justify an illegal war.

This was a point that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief
of Staff, confirmed to me in an interview last year. Speaking about the Bush
administration's focus on interrogating prisoners seized in the "War on
Terror," Col. Wilkerson told me:

[T]hey wanted to put together a pattern, a map, a body of
evidence, if you will, from all these people, that they thought was
going to tell them more and more about al-Qaeda, and increasingly more
and more about the connection between al-Qaeda and Baghdad.

I even think that probably, in the summer of 2002, well before Powell
gave his presentation at the UN in February 2003, their priority had
shifted, as their expectation of another attack went down, and that
happened, I think, rather rapidly. I've just stumbled on this. I thought
before that it had persisted all the way through 2002, but I'm
convinced now, from talking to hundreds of people, literally, that
that's not the case, that their fear of another attack subsided rather
rapidly after their attention turned to Iraq, and after Tommy Franks, in
late November [2001] as I recall, was directed to begin planning for
Iraq and to take his focus off Afghanistan.

I commend the actions of the anti-war protestors in Washington D.C.
on Saturday who, as the Associated
Press
explained, "stopped at the offices of military contractor
Halliburton - where they tore apart an effigy of former Vice President
and Halliburton Chief Executive Dick Cheney," but as this anniversary
passes and Dick Cheney remains free to continue espousing his vile,
self-serving rhetoric, the sad truth is that, seven years on, Cheney's
crimes cannot be viewed in isolation, but must stand as an indictment of
everyone, from the President down, via lawmakers, the media and the
American people, who are prepared to accept this darkest of truths: that
in 2002, the Vice President of the United States used an illegal
torture program not to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks,
but to launch an illegal war that, to date, has led to the loss of 4,386
American lives
and the lives of at
least 100,000 Iraqis
, and possibly as
many as a million
.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.