National Commentary

The Iraq Perspective From 10 Years Ago

On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq this week, I perused my columns from the months leading up to the invasion in March 2003, all against invasion plans. I decided the best way to summarize that era would be to reprint the one that appeared as the invasion was launched.

Here’s my column from exactly 10 years ago:

“When the First Bomb Drops” (March 20, 2003)

When the first U.S. bomb falls on Iraq, the world will be changed forever.

It will mark entry into a new unprecedented era of global instability, terror and nuclear detonations, known by the architects of Bush administration policy as the New American Century. These guys have a pretty clear picture of how to step into this new era; they will have no idea where it will lead and what its eventual outcome will be.

This is a generation of American decision makers with none of the sophistication of intellect or maturity derived of arduous engagement in world affairs and first-hand appreciation of the horrors of war and the famine, pestilence and bestiality that arise in its wake. These people are arrogant, self-delusional and stupid. Compared to a fine, seasoned wine, they are gushing fresh from the hose.

The worst of the many bad elements of the impending assault is the core, deliberate intent of the policy not to save the world from Saddam Hussein, but the launching of a “new era” of American unilateralism with the British in tow. Its impact cannot be measured by how effectively, or not, the U.S. carries out military operations in Iraq, per se.

The New American Century approach, rendering the United Nations and other multilateral institutions obsolete, was cooked up in Washington, D.C. think tanks in the mid 1990s, without the benefit of exposure to or lessons from the real world.

It came from the heavily-funded systematic rise of the post-Vietnam War, post-Watergate neo-conservative movement that was too young to fully dominate the Reagan administration, too right wing for George H.W. Bush but swept into a forefront of GOP policy making through the Newt Gingrich legislative “revolution” of 1994.

Behind the scenes, powerful and well-heeled financial interests with pedigrees extending back to their pro-Nazi “America First” loyalties prior to World War II carefully funded and orchestrated the rise of this new movement. The end of the Cold War gave them their first real opportunity to assert a new “America First” doctrine, this time applied to the entire globe.

The politicization of the fundamentalist Christian movement, capitalizing in part on reaction to gains in the civil and human rights movements of the 60s, was a parallel development along with the rise of the political “neo-cons.”

Both strains stemmed from the cooptions of the anti-war and counterculture movements in the 1970s. Cookbook-created fundamentalist religious cults captured burnt-out remnants of the counter-culture, including waves of displaced Vietnam War veterans and subsequently posted them into more mainstream fundamentalist church organizations with a counterculture like zeal for politicizing and mobilizing them.

Many equally zealous political, neo-conservative, came from politically radical and formerly Democratic roots.

Now, the symbiotic orchestration of these two strands combines in a mission orientation equating American global superiority with a mindless and exclusively Christian apocalyptic vision and zeal. It’s our way or the highway in these people’s minds, both for America and for religious belief.

Religious and political unilateralism in a world of black and white, of American values vs. the Axis of Evil, the fantastic world of one-dimensional Star Wars morality, defines the inner mental map of President Bush and too many of his equally one-dimensional and obsessed advisors.

For them, lessons of experience and the art of diplomacy are not only irrelevant, they only get in the way.

But with that first bomb in Iraq, make way for the bitter pill of reality, of a world turned against a self-deluded bully, and of a bushel basket full of proverbial “unintended consequences.”

This is a sobering and sad time, a grim reminder of our desperate human shortcomings and the stuff of which the great wars of wanton destruction and self-imposed miseries that dot the landscape of our species’ recorded history are made.