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US politicians cannot conceal the fact they supported a policy based on lies. (Photo: AFP)

Lies, Damned Lies and the Invasion of Iraq

Said Arikat

For almost two weeks, the political buzz in the US has focused on those who have already declared their candidacy for the 2016 presidential run, Republicans and Democrats, and their reaction to "knowing what we now, would you still support the Iraq invasion?"

Of course there is nothing new in this question, and candidates have come to expect it. It was incessantly asked by journalists of Democratic party contenders seeking their party's nomination during the 2004, 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

In fact it was the question in 2004 that launched the senate campaign of one Barack Obama. He clearly and vocally opposed the war.

Jeb Bush, the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination (despite not officially declaring his bid), stumbled badly when he asked the question by Fox News. He first stated he would do what his brother, the former president George W Bush, did (invade Iraq). Then he equivocated, and fluctuated between "yes I would have", and then that his brother was mislead by bad intelligence, and consequently he would not have invaded.

Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, who voted for the war, tried to distance herself in the 2008 presidential nomination contest, but faced an authentic Iraq war opponent Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, May 19 she said plainly and clearly that she was wrong to vote for the war that for all intents and purposes thrust the Middle East into the chaotic mayhem in which it is now immersed.

Clinton, the unstoppable candidate steamrolling across the US political landscape said, "I made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple. And I have written about it in my book, I have talked about it in the past," Clinton said, adding that "what we now see is a very different and very dangerous situation."

All this at a time when the Islamic State group seems to be expanding it's control over an area larger in size than any Arab country in Asia other than Saudi Arabia.

Of course, there is something cynical and dismissive of the "other" in the tone, tenor and context of this question. The millions of Arab lives lost, and the destruction wrought, are not addressed by the questions nor the answers.

One of the biggest lies of all times is the premise of "knowing what we know" or blame it all on "faulty intelligence" when in fact not one person has been held accountable for the war crimes committed based on lies about WMDs, terrorism camps and the doctrine of "pre-emptive war".

The truth is many in the US leadership did know then what they know now: Bush, his vice-president Dick Cheney, his secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, his secretary of state Colin Powell, his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice - all deliberately told everyone that the world should act lest the proverbial smoking gun turn into a mushroom cloud. They knew all the accusations were false.

The neocons, the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, and his underlings Doug Feith, Richard Perle crafted Bush's every stance on the war with their "Clean-break" document, conceiving of the invasion and terming it constructive destruction.

The neocons went into Iraq with every intention of deconstructing the state, 80 years in the making, including the army and other security forces, the government - except for the ministry of oil - and the intent to break up the country.

So this latest lie about the Iraq war, that the truth about Iraq was not known before invasion, is just that - the latest lie. The sad part was that not only were Bush /Cheney / neocons false-claims intentionally propagated, but that the US mainstream media, which had claimed the mantle of credibility for more than a century, willingly went along, all the while knowing that the evidence was flimsy at best.

In his book, The Way of the World, published in 2008, Ron Suskind alleges that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a handwritten letter from the head of Iraq's intelligence service to Saddam Hussein which linked the Iraqi dictator to the ringleader of the September 11 attacks.

Suskind says: "The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001.

"It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq - thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the vice-president's office had been pressing the CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link."

Suskind says that such an operation is illegal White House use of the CIA to influence a domestic audience. That is arguably an impeachable offence.

This lie is not in the past, it is a living lie. That false narrative lives on and is important to know because many of the same people are continuing to favour military action against Iran, as they died before with Syria.

Republican candidates are also stumbling over the question of whether they would have invaded Iraq because it undermines their present, ongoing promotion of an interventionist foreign policy.

Today, when all the Republican candidates are being pressed by right-wing media and neocon money men like Israel's lobby Sheldon Adelson (and the Zionist Christian lobby) to sound hawkish, Americans should recall how the US establishment has consistently lied to promote its wars.

Wars mean billions of dollars for key congressional districts' arms producers, millions of viewers for 24-7 cable news, lots of television time for think-tank hawks, new jobs for "contractors," more growth for the "surveillance state".

Americans should continue to question the illegality of the US on war on Iraq, and perhaps one day hold accountable those responsible for their crimes.


Said Arikat

Said Arikat is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper al-Quds.

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