The Final Lie of the Iraq War

Ten years.

Two trillion dollars.

One hundred and ninety thousand lives.

And forty-two percent.

That’s the percentage of Americans who do not believe the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq was a mistake. Even with what we knew then, it’s hard to figure that anyone would still endorse the invasion. Given what we know now, it’s a staggering and disheartening number.

But that’s not the half of it.

A closer look at a 10th Anniversary Gallup poll shows a disturbing trend. In 2008, sixty-three percent of Americans believed the invasion was a mistake. Now, with even more perspective and more information and more carnage and a growing human rights mess in Iraq, the percentage of Americans who think the invasion was wrong has dropped to fifty-three percent.


Put bluntly, since Obama first took the White House, more Americans have decided that the war was, in fact, a good idea.

How is this possible?

Although with little sense of irony or contrition, the mainstream media now openly debates the “failures” of Iraq: intelligence failures, a failure of planning, and a failure of oversight. New reports of “waste” and “fraud” only compound this sense of an epic failure. Of course, they stop short of criminality, accountability or complicity. To err is human, after all.

Some of the Neo-Con artists behind the grand pivot from 9/11 to Iraq now wax philosophical about the shortcomings of the big bait and switch. Prime mover Paul Wolfowitz told Fareed Zakaria that, although he really wasn’t an “architect,” he and the royal “they” failed to “understand the tenacity of Saddam’s regime.”

Yup, a little “failure” squirted past Paul’s dental dam of denial, although they remain firmly entrenched in the mouths of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and the cohort of chickenhawks currently biding their time at the American Enterprise Institute.

While some Democrats talk about “failures,” none dare mention the word “lies.” Many who marched lock-step to the beat of a diffident drummer prefer to regard Iraq as a problem of misallocation. The politically-attuned song they sing is a little ditty called “The Bush Administration took its eye off the ball.” They say Team Bush should’ve kept swinging away at Afghanistan rather than taking batting practice on the beleaguered, oil and target-rich nation of Iraq.

But everyone agrees—Saddam is gone. Iraq and the world are better off. Amen.

That’s how Obama modulated his “anti-war” stance as he passed through the semi-permeable “national security” barrier between “us” and “them.” He de-emphasized the mistake and “officially ended” the US part of the war with assurances that the troops left “behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

Obama’s kinder, gentler “narrative” of what America left behind is both soothing and reassuring to a nation conditioned to conflate support of the troops with support for an unjust war.

Rest assured, America gave Iraq the gift of democracy tied with a yellow ribbon.

Be comforted, because the world and the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam.

The equation couldn’t be simpler. In some ways, the debate ended the moment Saddam’s statue came down in that famous, well-orchestrated bit of stagecraft. Years of conflation built up America’s former ally and customer into a repository of evil. He killed his own people. He tortured his own people. He thumbed his nose at the UN and international law. He invaded other countries. His name was exhaled in the same breath as Hitler’s.

The evil and tyranny of Saddam—bronzed in that statue—ended the moment it fell.

That scene evolved into a persistent orthodoxy which set the baseline for future absolution. Freedom rang. The sacrifices of the troops were justified. Democracy won.

No matter what one can say about the waste, fraud, corruption, torture, death and criminality of the war—no one can argue that Iraq and the world are not better off with one less tyrant. Right?


It turns out that the world is not better off without Saddam. The Middle East is not better off. Most tragically, neither are the majority of the Iraqi people living in the lower two-thirds of that broken, obliterated nation.

The bad things about Saddam didn’t end with the invasion. In fact, the invading army made some of those worse and brought along a host of new problems: Shock and Awe bombing, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, Abu Ghraib, armed militias, Iranian interference, Blackwater, economic privatization and tens of thousands of civilian deaths that touched almost every household.

Even now, Iraqi ex-pats note that many Iraqis miss the days of Saddam. For them, it is a simple calculation: more safety, more wealth, more roads, more water, more electricity and more education. Women in particular were better off under Saddam’s secularist regime. On the eve of the original Gulf War, Saddam’s Iraq boasted one of the Arab world’s largest, best educated middle classes. It is long gone.

And so is the original case for invading, bombing and occupying an easy target of financial opportunity.

Most of the lies were blatant. All of the connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda were obviously manufactured. The WMDs never existed.

But Saddam is gone. And the whole world is better off. Amen.

The orthodoxy not only holds fast on this 10th Anniversary, it is gaining ground.

Therein is the final lie that masquerades as absolution for this young century’s greatest crime.

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'The Final Lie of the Iraq War' have 14 comments

  1. March 19, 2013 @ 10:06 am snorre

    once again, you’ve spelled out the truth of a complex matter in ways ALL of mainstream media refuses to tackle comprehensively.

  2. March 19, 2013 @ 10:13 am Iraq War's Final Lie - LA Progressive

    […] JP Sotille NewsVandal […]

  3. March 19, 2013 @ 11:08 am Dr doug rokke

    the human costs include over 1 million us military casualties and millions of iraqi casualties and a devastated and environmentally trashed iraq etc. all for nothing!

  4. March 19, 2013 @ 11:09 am Dr Doug Rokke

    God’s dream of PEACE ON EARTH has been shattered by the United States’ military operations in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen, and the Balkans. This dream will fade even more with the probable invasions of Iran, Nigeria, and North Korea and intervention in Syria and Mali. Although our leaders tell us these countries pose a threat to our nation and a threat to our ability to sustain our precious freedoms; in reality they never have, do not now, and never will pose any actual threat to us. These nations have never attacked us except after we invaded their nations and even then the attacks on our troops and mercenaries occur within the occupied nations. Although the foundation for our nation’s military operations continues to be that our purpose and actions adhere to the “just war” rationale and that we are acting with God’s blessing, we must ask ourselves if in reality if this is national delusion. Our combat operations using radioactive “DU” munitions, chemical and biological weapons, thermobaric explosives, microwaves, torture, and conventional explosives thus destroying each nation’s infrastructure have resulted in environmental and food contamination affecting millions of God’s children. U.S. casualties for OIF-OEF-ODS include at least 47,000 wounded in action, 6000 killed in action, and over 1,000,000 who are ill due to toxic exposures, diseases, or injuries from accidents. Over 200,000 U.S. military veterans have died, with more dying each day, from disease and injuries after returning home. Suicides are skyrocketing. Families are in turmoil with abuse rampant. These casualties are due to our nation’s actions or failure to act. The casualties are “our” sons and daughters – who we all know and love and who we must care for. But there are millions of ignored and unknown casualties that include the citizens of the nations we have attacked and who we classify as less than human to allow us to justify dismissing their suffering. While we ignore these casualties the simple fact that our military uses our courts to claim and acquire immunity for extensive environmental contamination and extensive adverse health effects on Vieques, Puerto Rico; Hawaii; Indiana; Nevada; New York; Florida, Illinois; Massachusetts; Tennessee; etc. resulting from DOD preparations for our attacks on other nations is a crime against God and humanity.
    Those of us who are “combat” casualties must fight for earned prompt and optimal medical care because it is deliberately denied, delayed, rationed, or ineffective. Too many of us have been required to pay for our own medical care for combat injuries because the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders have refused to help us even while these same VA leaders have been given over $24 million in bonuses and spent over $400,000 to sponsor a race car. Sadly, neither Department of Defense nor Veterans Affairs officials will acknowledge the number of casualties and causes of so much unwarranted suffering. President Obama said on August 4, 2009 that it would take years to fix the VA. While the VA does provide some good care, problems continue to escalate. Each day reveals more serious problems within the VA and DOD that are simply ignored to avoid resolution. While both the VA and DOD deny any correlation between burn pit exposures and consequent adverse health effects an internal Army memo dated April 15, 2011 confirms the health problems and directs all personnel to seek VA medical care. BUT THAT CARE IS DENIED, DELAYED, AND INEFFECTIVE! During a US House of Representatives Veterans Affairs committee meeting on March 13, 2013 “ Dr. Steven Coughlin, an epidemiologist formerly with the VA’s Office of Public Health, told the House Veterans Oversight Committee that when results of research he conducted didn’t gel with unwritten department policies on the health consequences of oil-well fires, burn pits, pesticides, nerve agents and other pollutants, the information disappeared.” (VA doctor: Health data suppressed, manipulated; Patricia Kime – Army Times, Staff writer; Mar 13, 2013; The delayed and denied medical care is resulting in deaths and ineffective medical care as confirmed during congressional hearings on March 14, 2013. “Internal Veterans Affairs Department documents show that at least two veterans died last year waiting to see a doctor while others couldn’t get primary care appointments for up to eight months, members of a House oversight and investigations panel said Thursday”. The VA also is cancelling appointments and consultations because of inadequate staffing. “Evidence shows that many VA facilities, when faced with a backlog of thousands of outstanding or unresolved consultations, decided to administratively close out these requests. Some reasons given included that the request was years old, too much time had elapsed, or the veteran had died,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans Oversight and Investigations panel.” ” (VA wait times mean some die before getting care; Patricia Kime;; Mar 15, 2013 ). While VA VBA also has a claims backlog approaching one million caused by toxic exposures not battlefield wounds- injuries that they seem unable and unwilling to resolve. AFTER THE JUNE 2012 VA RESEARCH ADVISOR COMMITTEE MEETNG THE COMMITTEE ISSSUED A REPORT CONDEMING THE VA IN THAT THE VA HAD FAILED IT’S MISSION SPECIFICALLY (report Please also read Anthony Hardie’s article on this issue at ):
    1. VA Misdirected Gulf War Illness Research, focusing on efforts against Gulf War veterans rather than working to improve our health;
    2. VA Misrepresented Scientific Conclusions About GWI and the effort being made to address it, including whitewashing GWI out of a major, groundbreaking, consensus-developed strategic plan that had previously been aimed squarely at GWI treatments
    3. VA Ignored Public Panels (such as the RAC), including in a major national study that ignored GWI and instead focused largely on long discredited “stress” and psychological issues
    4. VA Slashed GWI Research Budget by two-thirds, from $15 million per year to less than $5 million per year
    5. VA Failed to Follow Law (1), by not contracting with the IOM to research multiple sclerosis among Gulf War veterans, as mandated by Congress.
    6. VA Failed to Follow Law (2), by not researching treatments for physical ailments as mandated by Congress, instead focusing on scientifically discredited “stress” and psychiatric theories, in a new IOM “treatment” panel created this year.

    PTSD and suicides are ravaging our veterans, active duty personnel and their families while an effective response seems elusive as confirmed recently by the National Academy of Sciences. Recent VA reports indicate that one veteran is committing suicide every 65 minutes. THAT IS A TRAVESTY!

    According to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner the claims backlog that is approaching one million indicates despite continued congressional requests that the VBA seems to be broken (Boehner: Veterans’ claims system is broken; Lisa Cornwell – The Associated Press; Friday Feb 22, 2013). It is painfully obvious to those us left in limbo that VA officials do not want to admit the extent and causes of over one million casualities resulting from complex toxic exposures and consequently provide veterans prompt and optimal medical care. I must ask how many times must congress direct and veterans ask VA leaders to solve the lingering problems before decisive corrective action is taken?

    Finally the Institute of Medicine released their report the Gulf War and Health, Volume 9: Treatment for Chronic Multisymptom Illness on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, IOM website that confirms what many of us have said for years that over 1 million Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans have similar medical problems requiring specialized and coordinated medical care as a result of the complex toxic battlefield exposures we all incurred. Now the VA and DoD must assume responsibility and take care of us without anymore delay. However all we hear is excuse upon excuse instead of action.

    This is all nonsense! President Obama simply orders General Shinseki to fix the problems or hires someone who will. But the fix will require a significant philosophical change that requires all VA employees to become advocates for injured, ill, and wounded veterans. As an Army WMD, counter-terrorism, and environmental expert I was ordered to ensure that all civilian and military casualties receive medical care and that environmental contamination is cleaned up. Therefore, I authored the adopted but ignored Department of Defense regulations and procedures to optimize environmental remediation to minimize health threats of depleted uranium weapons and thus reduce medical care requirements. After these requirements were ignored I chose to speak up publically to educate the citizens of our nation and citizens of all affected nations and thus ensure compliance with medical care and environmental remediation requirements. In order to sustain the use of uranium weapons, our own toxic radioactive dirty bombs, during current and planned military operations Canada released a report on Feb. 6, 2013 “Depleted Uranium and Canadian Veterans: A Review of Potential Exposure and Health Effects” that once more denies any correlation between depleted uranium contamination exposures and averse health and environmental effects while ignoring verified medical problems and environmental clean up requirements. ( ). We can never justify contaminating air, water, soil, and food with radioactive weapons but our military leaders have decided to do so ( ) .
    Consequently, my colleagues and I have been subjected to overt retaliation in an effort to silence us to prevent veterans and families from learning about: (1) DOD and VA reports confirming adverse health and environmental effects; and (2) ignored directives, orders, and regulations mandating medical care and environmental remediation. Despite our continuous efforts to help all of God’s children and protect his creations mandatory medical care and environmental remediation are still being denied, delayed, rationed, or ineffective while unjustified and preemptive war designed to control terrain, resources, and people continues. We can no longer treat the earth and God’s children with such contempt and claim the divine right to intervene in so many nations with God’s blessing. While we wait impatiently for divine intervention, we must ensure that these injustices are stopped with medical and environmental consequences alleviated but above all we must remember that if there is to be peace on earth it must begin with each of us and thus we cannot just ignore our responsibilities as peace makers.

  5. March 19, 2013 @ 5:22 pm Doug Bennett

    Excellent article. Only one criticism: the lies in and about Iraq will not end. To maintain the puppet regimes in both Iraq and Afghanistan, America will be required to rationalize repression and reprisal attacks on freedom fighters in those lands. When absolutely necessary to maintain control of resources we will send in the troops, drones or that ever-ready pin-point accurate ‘smart” bomb in defense of freedom AGAIN.

  6. March 19, 2013 @ 6:53 pm Non Commercial

    Your point about Obama’s “kinder, gentler narrative” underscores once again his tremendous utility to the corporate oligarchy. Progressives who fell for the “lesser evil” argument last November (and many times before) failed to understand that a Democrat can actually be more dangerous to the public welfare. While a more obviously polarizing figure like G.W. Bush will at least arouse some opposition from our flaccid polity, the ostensibly reasonable Obama literally gets away with murder. This is the kind of cover that our patented brand of predatory capitalism craves, and Obama’s sordid apostasy has delivered handsomely.

    On the question of polling, I would like to know how many Americans believe the United States owes the people of Iraq an apology (and decades of restitution). I’d wager the figure would be in the single digits.

  7. March 19, 2013 @ 7:06 pm admin

    Trenchant point that cuts to the quick. Thanks. For more, I suggest everyone visit the The Daily Kumquat.

  8. March 19, 2013 @ 8:04 pm leslie griffith

    May God Forgive Us. We know what we do.

  9. March 19, 2013 @ 10:18 pm Leaving South Africa For Now, Forget A Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Iraq War Invasion Anniversary, More

    […] •JP Sottile: Support for the Iraq War is actually growing over time. How is this possible? The Final Lie of the Iraq War – […]

  10. March 23, 2013 @ 11:39 pm Leslie r Murphy

    As a 32 year survivor of a persistent recurrent soft tissue sattcoma caused by my exposure to carcinogens trichloroethane and trichloroethylene and working outside in a bomb dump in Thailand where defoliants were used I wrote a bitter little homily on the V A ” deny deny until they die! Forlorn forgotten and unpaid!! Perhaps someone should seek a court ordered injunction against the military preventing the eistment of any new military members until they figure how to take care of their legal commitments to those of us they have poisoned!!

  11. March 25, 2013 @ 10:26 am Joe Niederberger

    Nothing says “America 2013” for me quite like Newsweek’s summarizing the last 10 years of lies and murder by musing over a contemporary work of fiction called “Zero Dark Thirty”.

  12. August 10, 2013 @ 12:47 pm Tex Mackenzie

    There was a joke I heard sometime in the late 60’s early 70’s….
    Q. What’s the difference between Republicans & Democrats.
    A. Body counts are higher under Democrats.

    That’s the utility of an Obama.

  13. May 23, 2015 @ 10:17 am The Neo-Con Travel Agency Is Open For Business | PoliticsandFleas

    […] don’t worry if the last trip to Iraq wasn’t all caviar wishes and champagne dreams—unless, of course, you held stock in Halliburton, or had a piece of the $138 billion private […]

  14. September 6, 2015 @ 4:42 pm The Neo-Con Travel Agency Is Open for Business | David Stockman's Contra Corner

    […] don’t worry if the last trip to Iraq wasn’t all caviar wishes and champagne dreams– unless, of course, you held stock in Halliburton, or had a piece of the $138 billion private […]

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