Last night I watched a special MSNBC presentation of “Hubris”, a discussion of the Bush Administration’s campaign to sell the Iraq War to the American people in 2002-03. While the book by the same name, written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, naturally provides significantly more detail and documentation, the TV special did a great job of outlining the essentials. The bottom line is simple. The Bush administration cherry-picked and distorted information to build a case for war. It was dishonest, deceitful and reprehensible. Worse, it cost thousands of young men and women their lives, it created tens of thousands of disabled war veterans, it cost the nation billions of dollars and it tarnished America’s position as a beacon of democracy and freedom.
Has this experience taught us a lesson? Can we trust our government to tell us the truth and behave in a manner that reflects our values and beliefs? If we check polls during the time of the Iraq War we will find that an overwhelming majority of us supported the war. We believed that Iraq was a danger to us and to Israel. This was clearly stated by every official of the Bush Administration, including the one with the most credibility, Colin Powell. In fact, it was Powell who presented the case before the UN Security Council in clear and unquestionable terms. Would our government lie to us and send young men and women to their death in a contrived war, a war that didn’t need to take place? The sad answer to that question is yes! Is that what we have learned from this experience? That our Government is not to be trusted, that our leaders lie to us and do things to fulfill their own personal needs, regardless of the cost to us.
I am a child of the 60’s and the Vietnam experience. I have seen this before. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate, was nothing but a trumped up pretense for Johnson and his generals to expand the war that cost over 55,000 American lives and destroyed countless others. Did we learn a lesson from that experience? No!
Be aware of what is going on right now. The tremendous objection to the Hagel nomination by the Republicans is all about war. The Hagel ascendancy to the Pentagon will see the official demise of the Neocons. Their dreams of an interventionist America will go up in smoke. The calls for oversight regarding our Drone policy, even by the administrations most ardent supporters, is not about Obama, it is about our next President. But let’s never forget our past. While we can trust, we must do so with our eyes wide open. To do it any other way is far too costly.