Skip to comments."We Were Lied To"
Posted on 06/03/2008 12:16:27 AM PDT by B-Chan
"We Were Lied To". This meme, which has been the mantra among supposed political "progressives" for years now, was reignited over the weekend with the publication of a memoir by former Bush press secretary Scott McLellan claiming that President Bush and his cronies wove a spell of lies to get a war in Iraq underway. This is the narrative that Americans tell themselves to prove that, if it weren't for bad leaders, we would be a morally upright nation.
I don't think so. And, remember, I write the following as a registered Democrat (and an Obama voter in my primary state). Warning: many readers are not going to like this.
The chanters of this mantra seem to forget what the 9/11/01 attack on US targets represented: a grievous act which in any other moment of history and any other place on earth would have been construed as an act of war. Roughly three thousand people were killed, many choosing to jump out the windows of skyscrapers to avoid roasting to death.
Setting aside the crank theories (which I've always regarded as utter paranoid nonsense) that the attacks were somehow orchestrated by the US government itself, it became clear quickly that the nineteen airplane hijackers were Arab nationals, mostly from Saudi Arabia. It also became clear that their acts were not directly sponsored by any legitimate Arab government, but rather by a trans-national Islamic extremist network. So the question for the US, after the morning of 9/11/01, was: what to do about this act?
Well, the first response, weeks later, was a US attack on the supposed headquarters of the the trans-national Islamic extremist network (which came to be known as al Qaeda, "The base") in Afghanistan. The rather robust campaign necessitated the occupation of this threadbare nation, but it failed to accomplish its chief aim, which was to capture the charismatic leader and financial sponsor of the 9/11 attack, the Saudi Arabian rogue millionaire fanatic Osama bin Laden. It did accomplish its other chief aim: to evict the extremist Taliban government from control of the capital, Kabul.
What happened after that is what has provoked the now-familiar mantra: it became evident that evicting the Taliban and occupying Afghanistan was not enough. It was not a sufficient response to the grievous injury of 9/11. Why? The Afghans were not Arabs.
From a strategic point-of-view, 9/11 required a severe punitive response against the people responsible (casualties were higher than the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941). That meant against an Arab people. Since the act was not perpetrated by any Arab nation per se, this left the US is a quandary. And of course, it begs the question: why was such a response even required?
Because 9/11 was the most recent of a spate of attacks, occurring over a period of years, by the same group of people, and the one to most severely damage important targets within sovereign US territory itself. It is important to emphasize the significance of this. The other acts in the series included the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 which killed six people and injured over a thousand. The next was the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which killed nineteen Americans. This was followed in 1998 by the simultaneous bombing of two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 223 people (mostly African employees) and injured over 4000 others. The next, in October, 2000, was the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, which killed seventeen American sailors. The US response to all these acts was little more than hand-wringing which, in retrospect, was thought to have emboldened the further and far more traumatic injury of 9/11.
Now, it might be argued that even if 9/11 was an act of war by any normal definition, it was an act of what is called these days "Fourth Generation War," the new decentralized warfare carried on by small units symptomatic of the breakdown of nation-states and enabled by high tech weaponry in which a very few individuals can create tremendous carnage. For good or for ill, the US military still operates on the basis of the previous generation of warfare, involving large massed units on land, sea, and air. Our response was geared to that manner of warfare.
And the response was determined to be a grievous strike against an Arab nation. Why? To demonstrate that acts of any generation-type warfare against sovereign US territory perpetrated by Arab people would be answered by the type of warfare still practiced by the US. So the next question was: which Arab Nation?
The answer was Iraq, for a number of strategic reasons. Iraq had the largest untapped oil reserves outside Saudi Arabia and it would benefit the oil-guzzling US to have something to say about its disposition. Iran was geographically positioned between two of the most troublesome nations in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia and a US military presence between them would influence their behavior. Iraq was ethnically Arab. Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, had a long record of mischief-making in that unstable region and it was believed that getting rid of him would be beneficial (hindsight, at that point, was not yet operational).
I believe that the decision to punish an Arab nation for 9/11 was probably made very soon after the event. Whether Iraq specifically had anything to do with 9/11 was not part of the equation. It didn't matter one way or the other anymore than it would have mattered if the 9/11 hijackers had decided to strike the Empire State Building and the US Capitol instead of the WTC and the Pentagon. And arguments made on the basis of Iraq's involvement or non-involvement are therefore specious. As a strategic matter, it was necessary to make the "statement" that attacks on US territory would provoke a response that Islamic extremists could not fail to understand -- something along the lines of "an eye for an eye...." In short, we set out to kick the ass of an Arab nation. Iraq was by far the best candidate.
Being Americans, however, we also decided to finesse it, to provide a theoretically ideal outcome, which in this case would be the ouster of the dictator Saddam Hussein and his replacement with a sleek democratic government for which the Iraqi masses would be eternally grateful -- thus allowing us to kick their ass and then pick them up off the ground, dust them off, give them some pocket money, and teach them the benefits of government of-by-and-for the people.
The run-up to this project involved some dissembling. It was preceded by an elaborate ceremonial dance with a UN weapons inspection team to ascertain whether Saddam Hussein possessed any weapons of mass destruction, WMDs. Their efforts were inconclusive. Remember this. It is a key point. A lot of people remember it differently. They mis-remember that the UN team reported that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs for certain. This was not the case. Among other things, the Iraqi leader had designated all kinds of installations as "presidential palaces," and placed them off-limits to inspectors. There he could easily have hidden a cache of fissionable material in a bathroom-sized space, not to mention stores of other exotic weapon-grade materials such as smallpox viruses, anthrax spores, etc. You didn't need a whole lot of storage space for these things. And the collapse a few years earlier of the Soviet Union had, it was widely suspected, loosed an orgy of kleptomania in Russia commencing a black market trade in everything from bomb-grade uranium to weapons-grade bio-organisms.
In any case, the UN search was a frustrating and basically inconclusive exercise, and the bottom line of it all was this: in order to find out if anything was there, we had to search the place ourselves, including the "off-limits" areas. So, the argument was made by the Bush administration that this would be the basis of an ultimatum to Iraq. A lot of intelligence (spywork) was gathered from many sources -- Europe, Israel, Russia -- and not all of it was verifiably truthful. Some of it, such as rumors of a transfer of yellowcake uranium ore from Africa to Iraq, proved to be erroneous, even though it was used as the basis for our ultimatum. This is the kernel of the argument that "we were lied to."
War is an inexact art. In the history of nations, lies and exaggerations are almost universally employed by heads-of-state to engage in wars even when causes are righteous. In all wars, the contestants believe that God is on their side, and that acts justifying war are justified by God. Anyway, the search for WMDs was used as the justification for America's invasion of Iraq in 2003. Another important point uniformly ignored by the "we were lied to" faction is that just because no WMDs were found, does not prove that we didn't have to look. The truth is, nobody knew for certain what was there or not there, and to this day nobody knows if anything was moved out of Iraq to some to some other nation (Syria being the usual choice) in the long interim of the UN search.
However, the true objectives of the action were still as stated above: to punish an Arab nation for 9/11, to establish a military presence between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and to "secure" a large reserve of oil (not to steal it, but to assure access to buying it). This was an extremely ambitious program in which an awful lot of things could go wrong.
And they certainly did. The Iraqis were not grateful for the American occupation. They proved uneducable in the ways of American-style democratic governance. They reverted to a persistent diet of religious-ethnic-and territorial warfare within their own artificially-drawn borders. They regarded their American teacher-protectors as detestable interlopers and blew them up whenever possible. They ran what was left of their economy into the ground, including their oil industry. The incompetence of the US military occupation, its reliance on mercenary security thugs, it's "out-sourcing" important tasks to venal corporations such as KBR, its ineptitude in carrying out the mission of restoring basic electric and water services -- all contributed to the disastrous quagmire that Iraq turned into.
But all the backward-looking crybaby complaints that "we were lied to" still does not answer the basic question: what should have been the appropriate response to the extreme injury of 9/11? A diplomatic protest? Another investigation by the UN? The surreptitious assassination of Arab troublemakers all around the world? I don't think the "we were lied to" contingent has a credible answer to this question.
There's another hugely important realm of inquiry that the "we were lied to" folks have never addressed: who lied to us about the way we live in this country? About the amount of oil we consume in the service of all our comforts and conveniences? About our extreme car dependence and what is required in our relations with the rest of the world to sustain it. All these years, Frank Rich and all his whining colleagues at the New York Times barely acknowledged the domestic fiasco of the suburban sprawl economy that placed us in such jeopardy to begin with. Even now, with the airlines disintegrating and gasoline over $4 (diesel over $5) I haven't heard any of these crybabies even raise the issue of restoring the US railroad system. How many of these crybabies live suburban lives themselves, in places like Louden County, Virginia, or Westchester, or Long Island, or the San Fernando Valley? Who lied to us about that?
For my money, the "we were lied to" chorus only represents the obdurately self-righteous cluelessness in every band of the American political spectrum. We lied to ourselves. We continue to lie to ourselves every day. The US public barely understands the first thing about the energy predicament we're in, and what it means for how we live in this country -- or how we get along with the rest of the world -- and the news media tragically reflects that ignorance. We fantasize about being "energy independent" and still being able to drive to the mall three times a day to eat caesar salads grown on the other side of North America. Get this: we deserve exactly what is happening to us. We might as well keep on lying to ourselves to pretend that we are not descending into a dark phase of our own history. After all, the true basis of American life these days is to feel good about yourself no matter what you do.
Food for thought.
Opinions expressed in articles linked by me on FR do not necessarily represent my own opinions.
I'm amazed that someone who could write a paragraph this perceptive could still vote for Obama, the candidate for people who don't want to think about anything other than how self-righteous voting for Obama makes them.
Maybe, by this stage of the game, most people are voting for the candidate they least dislike, rather than one they really agree with...
Wasn’t it Confucius who said that people get the government they deserve? Politicians and civil servants are drawn from the population at large, and will ultimately reflect the views, values, and beliefs of that population. It’s a frightening thought, when one pauses to reflect that William J. Clinton was elected to office not once, but twice by that very same population. In a society the pepople of which, broadly considered, are capable of such as that, any sort of nightmare is possible, and social decay and ultimate disaster become not only understandable, but rather likely.
Or in our case there just IS no candidate we agree with...
Pretty good from a liberal. As you said, food for thought. The man wants to “get it” and he almost makes it all the way, except for the Obamessiah thing.
>>We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That's not leadership. That's not going to happen.<<
I am not lying to myself about anything. Barry is truly dangerous, and the most blatant proof of that is our Democratic controlled Congress.
Was Obama ever asked this question in any debate?
We all know he "has always been against the war" but what wouldhis response have been. I do not think Obama, even with the benefit od 20/20 hindsight can provide an adequate answer.
” which Arab Nation?
The answer was Iraq, for a number of strategic reasons. Iraq had the largest untapped oil reserves outside Saudi Arabia and it would benefit the oil-guzzling US to have something to say about its disposition.”
This article made a lot of sense, sounding carefully thought out, until the tired old line about oil. It’s a disappointing reversion to the old Democrat saw, “Aw, it’s just about oil”.
Never mind that it was here in Iraq that al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the atrocities that are the subject of this article, was defeated, that a tyrant was put away and that a Democracy was created in the Middle East,
Oh, no, it has to be all about oil. Ridiculous. Myopic, too. If it had been about oil, wouldn’t our victory in Iraq have produced more plentiful oil supplies and hence lower prices?
Not to hijack the thread, but notice how drying clothes outside on a line (the solar clothesdryer) is never mentioned by the greenies; Displaying a link between feminism and the environmental movement where feminism prevails.
Oh, but multimillionaire Babs Streisand did!
"THOMAS FRIEDMAN: It's not there as all. A friend told me a friend told me a friend of his in Egypt had just called him and said the mood is that people see Saddam as a hijacker. He's like the guy who's hijacked a country. If American commandos can liberate those people being hijacked without hurting of the passenger, i.e., the Iraqi people, I think this war is not going to be wildly applauded but people will, I think, accept it. There's a little bit, I believe, of every Arab in the Middle East today, Margaret, who is rooting for George Bush to go in there and punch Saddam in the nose and remove him. Now, there is also part of every Arab that is very uncomfortable with the United States going in, stomping around their region and doing it. But there is a little bit of them that wishes he would do it to Saddam and 22 other Arab leaders at the same time. "
Even more so when you consider that the politicians and civil servants, once elected, are then able to promote and promulgate the very conditions in society that make electing people like themselves more and more likely. Its a vicious spiral heading downwards...
The fact that he IS a liberal makes this article all the more believable.
Yes, you are right, she did MENTION IT. But, now the issue of HYPOCRISY arises! Which is the worse sin, 'failing to mention it' (clotheslines) or the 'hypocrisy' of calling for the practice, but not practicing it? (see quote below, from the link)
"Its what the photos of Streisands mansion dont show no windmill-powered generators, no electric cars, no Small is Beautiful lawn ornaments, no hemp curtains in the windows of her eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, no Scaasi evening gowns hanging outside to dry on clotheslines that should be strung between her precious parasolsthat expose the truth of her eco-hypocrisy best.
A liberal with integrity. How rare.
It's erroneous because Joe Wilson couldn't find evidence of it from his hotel room in Niger?
The State Department now confirms (and knew all along) that Saddam was in fact trying to buy yellowcake.