By Caitlin JOHNSTONE
In order to narrative-manage the public conversation about the Iraq War on the 20th anniversary of the invasion, those who helped unleash that horror upon our world have briefly paused their relentless torrent of “Ukraine proves the hawks were always right” takes to churn out a deluge of “Actually the Iraq War wasn’t based on lies and turned out pretty great after all” takes.
Council on Foreign Relations chief Richard Haas — who worked in the US State Department under Colin Powell when Bush launched his criminal invasion — got a piece published in Project Syndicate falsely claiming that the US government and his former boss did not lie about weapons of mass destruction, and that “governments can and do get things wrong without lying.”
Former Bush speechwriter David “Axis of Evil” Frum cooked up a lie-filled spin piece with The Atlantic claiming that “What the U.S. did in Iraq was not an act of unprovoked aggression” and suggesting that perhaps Iraqis are better off as a result of the invasion, or at least no worse off than they would otherwise have been.
Neoconservative war propagandist Eli Lake, who has been described by journalist Ken Silverstein as “an open and ardent promoter of the Iraq War and the various myths trotted out to justify it,” has an essay published in Commentary with the extraordinary claim that the war “wasn’t the disaster everyone now says it was” and that “Iraq is better off today than it was 20 years ago.”
But by far the most appalling piece of revisionist war crime apologia that’s come out during the 20th anniversary of the invasion has been an article published in National Review by the genocide walrus himself, John Bolton.
Lumping everything together as “Iraq War” critics do is a disservice to the careful analysis of what America accomplished, or didn’t. It is not one indivisible, 20-year-long block of granite that can be judged only all or nothing. In fact, the brunt of https://t.co/2lhQ3EnqWW…
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 17, 2023
Bolton sets himself apart from his fellow Iraq war architects by arguing that the actual invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein “was close to flawless,” and that the only thing the US did wrong was fail to kill more people and topple the government of Iran.
Bolton criticizes “the Bush administration’s failure to take advantage of its substantial presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek regime change in between, in Iran,” writing that “we had a clear opportunity to empower Iran’s opposition to depose the ayatollahs.”
“Unfortunately, however, as was the case after expelling Saddam from Kuwait in 1991, the United States stopped too soon,” Bolton writes.
Bolton claims that the notoriously cruel sanctions that were inflicted upon Iraq between 1991 and 2003 were too lenient, saying there should have been “crushing sanctions” that were “enforced cold-bloodedly”.
As Reason’s Eric Boehm notes in his own critique of Bolton’s essay, perhaps the most galling part is where Bolton dismisses any responsibility the US might have for the consequences and fallout from the Iraq invasion, attempting to compartmentalize the “flawless” initial invasion away from all the destabilization and human suffering which followed by saying “they did not inevitably, inexorably, deterministically, and unalterably flow from the decision to invade and overthrow.”
“Whatever Bush’s batting average in post-Saddam decisions (not perfect, but respectable, in my view), it is separable, conceptually and functionally, from the invasion decision. The subsequent history, for good or ill, cannot detract from the logic, fundamental necessity, and success of overthrowing Saddam,” Bolton writes.
This is self-evidently absurd. A Bush administration warmonger arguing that you can’t logically connect the invasion to its aftereffects is like an arsonist saying you can’t logically connect his lighting a fire in the living room to the incineration of the entire house. He’s just trying to wave off any accountability for that war and his role in it.
“One might suspect that Bolton imagines a world where actions should not have consequences because he’s been living in exactly that type of world for the past two decades,” Boehm writes. “Somehow, he’s retained his Washington status as a foreign policy expert, media commentator, and presidential advisor despite having been so horrifically wrong about Iraq.”
It takes a special kind of hubris and a serious shortage of respect for the lives of other human beings to sit here, in the year 2023, and argue that the real problem with America’s post-9/11 wars is that *they didn’t go far enough.*
My latest @Reason: https://t.co/5gd4kH83Fb
— Eric Boehm (@EricBoehm87) March 20, 2023
And that to me is what’s the most jaw-dropping about all this. Not that John Bolton still in the year 2023 thinks the invasion of Iraq was a great idea and should have gone much further, but that the kind of psychopath who would say such a thing is still a prominent news media pundit who is platformed by the most influential outlets in the world for his “expertise”.
It’s actually a completely damning indictment of all western media if you think about it, and really of our entire civilization. The fact that an actual, literal psychopath whose entire goal in life is to try to get as many people killed by violence as he possibly can at every opportunity is routinely given columns and interviews in The Washington Post, and is regularly brought on CNN as an expert analyst, proves our entire society is diseased.
To be clear, when I say that John Bolton is a psychopath, I am not using hyperbole to make a point. I am simply voicing the only logical conclusion that one can come to when reading reports about things like how he threatened the children of the OPCW chief whose successful diplomatic efforts in early 2002 were making the case for invasion hard to build, or how he spent weeks verbally abusing a terrified woman in her hotel room, pounding on her door and screaming obscenities at her.
“We Know Where Your Kids Live” John Bolton threatened head of chemical weapons commission as part of effort launch war against Iraq https://t.co/p8uluxbWGH
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 2, 2018
And that’s just Bolton’s personality. The actual policies he has worked to push through, sometimes successfully, are far more horrifying. This is the freak who has argued rabidly for the bombing of Iran, for bombing North Korea, for attacking Cuba over nonexistent WMD, for assassinating Gaddafi, and many other acts of war. Who helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, who openly admitted to participating in coups against foreign governments, and who tried to push Trump into starting a war with Iran during his terrifying stint as his National Security Advisor.
This man is a monster who belongs in a cage, but instead he’s one of the most influential voices in the most powerful country on earth. This is because we are ruled by a giant globe-spanning empire that is held together by the exact sort of murderous ideology that John Bolton promotes.
Bolton is not elevated at maximum amplification in spite of his psychopathic bloodlust, but exactly because of it. That’s the sort of civilization we live in, and that’s the sort of media environment that westerners are forming their worldviews inside of. We are ruled by murderous tyrants, and we are propagandized into accepting their murderousness by mass media which elevate bloodthirsty psychos like John Bolton as part of that propaganda.
That’s the world we live in. That’s what we’re up against here.
“The Iraq War was a national undertaking. Its broad domestic support owed in large measure to its advancement of the vital interests of state, as those were understood in relation to America’s stake in a decent and durable global order.” https://t.co/6e08quvk7L
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 18, 2023
And that’s why they’ve been working so hard to rewrite the history on Iraq. They need us to accept Iraq as either a greater good that came at a heavy price or a terrible mistake that will never be repeated, so that they can lead us into more horrific wars in the future.
We are being paced. Until now, “Iraq” has been a devastating one-word rebuttal to both the horror and failure of US interventionism. The essays these imperial spinmeisters have been churning out are the early parlay in a long-game effort to take away that word’s historical meaning and power. Don’t let them shift it even an inch.