Given U.S. National-Security Advisor John Bolton’s war-provoking antics with Iran, I’m getting that déjà vu feeling with how President George W. Bush and his team of interventionists took the U.S. to war with Iraq.
Of course, the first question that naturally arises is: Who’s the real acting president, Donald Trump or John Bolton? The Washington Post reports that Trump is lamenting that Bolton wants to get him “into a war.” So, who’s in charge — Bolton or Trump?
The second question that arises is whether Bolton will succeed in achieving a war with Iran, either by provoking an Iranian attack on “U.S. interests” or by just concocting an attack, which would then enable him to exclaim, “We have been attacked! We are innocent! We had no idea that this was going to happen! We are peaceful regime! We are a force for good in the world! Unfortunately, we now need to carpet-bomb Iran to defend ourselves.”
After all, isn’t that what happened with Iraq, a country whose government never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people killed, tortured, maimed, or injured. Countless homes, businesses, industries, roads, and bridges bombed and destroyed. A brutal and ruthless multi-year military occupation to protect a crooked, corrupt, and tyrannical puppet regime, all billed under the false label “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” All of which gave rise to ISIS, which then became a new official enemy with which to scare the American people and embark on a new imperialist adventure. And all against a country whose government never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.
When the reports began coming out about the torture and sex abuse conducted by U.S. forces in Abu Ghraib prison, I read an account of one Iraqi man who exclaimed during his torture words to the following effect: “Sir, why are you doing this to me? Sir, please stop.”
The first thing that hit me was his use of the word “Sir” to his U.S. torturers. It was a sign of respect for U.S. officials. The second thing that hit me was the genuine sincerity in asking the question. The man really didn’t know why he was being tortured and abused. Neither he nor his government had ever attacked the United States. Why torture or abuse a person who hasn’t done anything against you? That’s why he wanted to know why U.S. officials, who he obviously respected by his use of the word “Sir,” were doing that to him.
Of course, U.S. officials still maintain, with straight faces, that the invasion was just a honest mistake. The idea is that public officials, like everyone else, make mistakes and that this was one of those instances. They say that President Bush and his minions really believed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and that that was the reason they invaded. It was just an honest mistake, they say.
But then how does that explain the brutal and ruthless multi-year occupation of the country, an occupation that continued killing, injuring, torturing, and destroying people whose government had never attacked the United States? When a mistake is made, the natural thing to do is so acknowledge the mistake and apologize for it. If Bush and his cohorts had really just made a mistake, they would have said they were sorry and immediately brought all U.S. troops home. They didn’t do that. They kept them there, knowing that there were bringing ever more death, maiming, torture, and destruction to people who had never attacked the United States–and for several years after the initial invasion!
It’s also important to place the Iraq invasion into context. Faced with the loss of the Soviet Union as an official enemy of the United States with the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, converted Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, into America’s new official enemy as part of the Persian Gulf intervention. Easily defeating Saddam’s Third World War army, Bush decided not to send U.S. forces to Baghdad in a regime-change operation, which left Saddam in power.
That enabled U.S. officials to use Saddam as their new official enemy throughout the decade of the 1990s. Saddam became a national obsession. For some 10 years, interventionists constantly lamented that Bush Sr. had not gone all the way and removed Saddam from power. That’s what the brutal sanctions on Iraq were all about, which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children. Their purpose was to squeeze the Iraqi people to death in the hopes of regime-changing Iraq.
By the time the 9/11 attacks came in retaliation for what the U.S. government was doing in Iraq and the Middle East, it was clear that the deadly sanctions were not going to succeed in achieving regime change. But what the attacks did accomplish was to instill deep fear in the American people that Bush Jr. and his regime-change cohorts knew they could use to their advantage. They knew that Americans would automatically, without any questions, believe and trust whatever Bush and his cohorts said once they conjured up an image of “mushroom clouds” over U.S. cities.
That’s when Bush and his fellow interventionists decided to abandon sanctions as a way to oust Saddam and instead use the more direct route of a regime-change invasion. Since Saddam refused to provide them with an attack on “U.S. interests” in the Middle East, they simply concocted the WMD scare to justify their invasion of Iraq. Countless Americans supported the invasion based on the notion that Bush must have had access to information that he was not permitted to share with the American people.
Through it all, Bush also claimed that his invasion was also simply designed to enforce UN resolutions against Saddam’s supposed possession of WMDs. Never mind that only the UN can enforce UN resolutions and that the UN opposed Bush’s invasion. And never mind that reliance on that alternative rationale for invading obviously weakens the “Saddam is about to attack us” rationale for invading.
Why were Bush and his people so convinced they would “find” WMDs? Because they had the receipts for them! It was the U.S. and other Western allies of Saddam who had furnished him with the WMDs in the first place, to enable him to use them to kill Iranians in his war of aggression against Iran in the 1990s.
Which brings us full circle back to Iran, where John Bolton is pulling another Iraq with his war-provoking antics against Iran. If he is successful, the same massive death and suffering that the U.S. government unleashed on the Iraqi people will be unleashed on the Iranian people. Did I mention that Bolton served in both the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations? Déjà vu indeed.