National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The Iraq Fiasco

Once again, we see someone assailed for what they’ve said without regard for whether or not it is true. Former President Jimmy Carter, in calling Bush’s foreign policy the worst in U.S. history, was echoing the same assessment expressed many times before by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among many others in positions and with the expertise to know.

The furor, of course, was not over what Carter was, in fact, referring to, but to the notion that Carter dared speak in such terms at all.

Time and time and time again, the U.S. media chases like a mindless puppy galloping after the latest “political spin” bone thrown out of this or that window. A grievous lack of nerve prevents them from delving into unpleasant truths, unless it is about a cat and a microwave, without overwhelming pressure from about three-fourths of the U.S. population.

When is someone besides Seymour Hersh going to tell the truth about Iraq? The worst foreign policy fiasco in the history of the U.S.? That’s putting it mildly.

If the media were doing their job, even just a little bit, Bush would simply be unable to reprise the same old duffle bag of lies to new generations of fresh-faced college graduates. He’d have to shut up about his alleged motives for invading Iraq, and how bad things are in there, or else face unmitigated disgrace.

That should be the role of the media, our beloved free press, in this whole mess. We value it, we protect it in our democracy, because it is supposed to be the ruthless and sleepless watchdog of truth on behalf of the public’s right to know.

Among other things, the news industry needs to begin reporting, if belatedly, that the run up to the Iraq fiasco came long before 9/11, back a full decade earlier when mean-spirited neo-conservatives went on the air waves assailing President Bush Sr. during Desert Storm for not following the Iraqi troops all the way back to Baghdad and stringing up Saddam then.

Later in 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney called on two of his top aides, Paul Wolfowitz and “Scooter” Libby, to draw up a “Defense Guidance Plan” designed to radically alter America’s posture in the world in the post-Cold War era.

They produced a document calling for the unilateral use of American military power to “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging U.S. leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” Note that its goal was not to advance freedom, but to adopt an adversarial posture toward other advanced industrial nations, ostensibly the U.S.’s own allies.  

It called for a “new order” in which the U.S., and not the United Nations, would “establish and protect,” capitalizing on a so-called “unipolar moment” of American global dominance that could secure U.S. global dominance for decades if not centuries to come.

I first wrote about this on October 3, 2002 in a column titled, “Bush’s Cronies Crafted Iraq War Policy Prior to Election,” citing an article in the London Sunday Herald. It came two weeks after American journalist Chris Floyd spelled it out succinctly in a September 20, 2002 article entitled, “Dark Passage: PNAC’s Blueprint for Empire.”

Cheney’s unilateralist concept was incubated in various right-wing think tanks in Washington over Clinton’s years, surfacing in 1997 in the form of a new organization, the Project for a New American Century. It drew under its sway the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes and leading social conservatives like William Bennett and Gary Bauer. It issued a letter to Clinton in 1998 urging “regime change” in Iraq.

In 2000, only months before Bush Jr. was voted into power by the U.S. Supreme Court, the PNAC group produced a 90-page plan for reshaping everything about the U.S. military and foreign policy. The removal of Saddam was proposed again to secure the U.S. in the region, control energy supplies, preclude other’s influence in the area, and  signal a deliberate end to U.S. involvement in multi-lateral institutions of all kinds.

Remarkably, the report also stated it would take years to carry out its unilateralist objectives unless there was some kind of “Pearl Harbor” incident to catalyze the American people to immediate action.

The rest is, so to speak, history. The subsequent fiasco is rooted in a terrible miscalculation of the notion that, in the real world, nations and peoples simply do not cower before bullies. The fact that the PNAC clowns clearly expected them to tells you all you need to know about them.