Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Barack Obama delivers a speech Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels. (Reuters)

Obama Suddenly Defends U.S. Invasion of Iraq—Mainstream Media Shrug

Greg Mitchell

 by The Nation

President Barack Obama, In a speech in Brussels on Wednesday after Russia (and many Europeans) pointed out our loss of moral authority because of our war in iraq in hitting Putin on Crimea, defended our 2003 invasion.  This was deeply disheartening--and hypocritical, since he largely owes his election in 2008 to being able to brag (vs. Hillary Clinton and John McCain) that, unlike them, he opposed the war in 2003.  

Yet media outlets such as The New York Times barely mentioned his Iraq statement--which included several key distortions--in passing.  (Another typical example at the Los Angeles Times.) Others in the mainstream, such as at the MSNBC site, offered more space--but merely relayed Obama's quotes with no fact-checking or commentary.  Critics on the left were not so kind.

And people wonder why I am among the few to return to the media failures on Iraq every year at this time (see my recent pieces here at The Nation).

Obama's tortured reasoning and twisting of (or making up) facts yesterday were reviewed in a good accounting by Huff Post's Ryan Grim here and critics on the Left here and here. Grim:

Obama struggled, however, in his attempt to defend the legality of the invasion. The war was unsanctioned by the United Nations, and many experts assert it violated any standard reading of international law. But, argued Obama, at least the U.S. tried to make it legal. "America sought to work within the international system," Obama said, referencing an attempt to gain U.N. approval for the invasion -- an effort that later proved to be founded on flawed, misleading and cherry-picked intelligence. The man who delivered the presentation to the U.N., then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, has repeatedly called it a "blot" on his record.

Obama, in his speech, noted his own opposition to the war, but went on to defend its mission.

"We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain," Obama argued. In fact, the U.S. forced Iraq to privatize its oil industry, which had previously been under the control of the state, and further required that it accept foreign ownership of the industry. The effort to transfer the resources to the control of multinational, largely U.S.-based oil companies has been hampered in part by the decade of violence unleashed by the invasion.

In a New York Times op-ed  this week, our recent  ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, wrote, “As ambassador, I found it difficult to defend our commitment to sovereignty and international law when asked by Russians, ‘What about Iraq?’ ”  Apparently Obama felt the need to respond, even if with untruths.

From the Common Dreams article linked above:

Ross Caputi and Matt Howard, members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke with Common Dreams by phone and said that President Obama's argument was both weak factually and morally. As it happens, both IVAW members were together in Washington, DC on Wednesday, organizing an evening event focused on the devastating impacts of the Iraq War—both for veterans like themselves and the Iraqi civilian population—when they heard news about what the president had said.

"What President Obama said is false," said Caputi. "The U.S. did not attempt to work within the international system. We acted unilaterally, without the approval of the UN Security Council."

"We went from one lie, which was weapons of mass destruction, to another lie which was liberation and freedom," said Howard. Citing the devastation cited by Iraqi civil society allies, especially women in the country, he continued, "This idea that Iraq is somehow better off or that the U.S. waged a so-called 'Good War' is ridiculous."


© 2017 The Nation

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

ACLU Demands 'Truly Systemic Overhaul' of US Civilian Harm Policies

"While a serious Defense Department focus on civilian harm is long overdue and welcome, it's unclear that this directive will be enough," says director of the legal group's National Security Project.

Jessica Corbett ·


'This Is Not Over': Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Youth Climate Case

"With the state continuing to undermine their health, safety, and futures," said the plaintiffs' lead counsel, "we will evaluate our next steps and will continue to fight for climate justice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Analysis Finds 'Staggering' Rise in Voter Suppression After GOP Restrictions in Georgia

"This is why we are fighting this new law in court," said one voting rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Mail-In Voting Law

The ruling was stayed pending an appeal to the state's Supreme Court and as one voting advocate put it: "The fight's not over yet, folks."

Julia Conley ·


Big Win for Open Internet as Court Upholds California Net Neutrality Law

One legal advocate called the Ninth Circuit's opinion "a great decision and a major victory for internet users in California and nationwide."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo