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Lee Siegel
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Ten Years in Iraq

NEW JERSEY - America is in the throes of commemorating the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, in the form of reflections, ponderings, regrets and subtle self-justifications. People who banged the drums of war now wring their hands over all the slaughtered and the maimed, people who warned from the beginning that invading Iraq would be catastrophic take a modest bow, people who were for the war now lament their ardor but proceed to argue that America must not shy away from getting involved overseas when there is a moral obligation to do so.

Lee Siegel,

24 de março de 2013 | 02h00

Some of the these people are dignified and honest, some quite the opposite, the majority somewhere in between. But the true causes of the war are rarely discussed.

One was, quite simply, the vulnerable state of the media on the eve of the invasion. Before there was the hallucination of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, there was the internet. The advent of the web struck terror into the hearts of even the most well-intentioned editors and producers. As ugly as it may sound to say so, the war-on a conscious or an unconscious level-came to them as a salvation.

The blogosphere could not compete with the resources of major news organizations who had the ability to send reporters to the Middle East. Thus the invasion of Iraq was something only the embattled mainstream media could cover. "Confirmation bias" is the robotic name neuro-scientists give to the phenomenon of finding proof for a thesis you already believe to be true. Even those media people who knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction in the political context could not resist suspecting he had them when it came to their endangered professional context. The Iraq War took the lives of thousands of American soldiers and nearly one million Iraqis, and maimed hundreds of thousands more Americans and Iraqis. But it saved the American media.

It is hard to write about the war in Iraq without a disgusted cynicism because through almost ten years of carnage, if you lived in a large American city, you had no sense that we were fighting a war at all. Throughout rural and small-town America, just about everyone had a loved one fighting the war, or knew someone who did. That meant that there were mounting numbers of shattered or grieving people in all these places, too. But in all that time, I never met a single person in my circles in New York or LA who had a personal connection to the war.

That's not to say that the war didn't affect the great metropolitan centers. Sure it did. I knew people who went over to Iraq for ten minutes and came back with big, fat book contracts. Or they got some magazine to pay them a small fortune as they sought glory and fame safely behind the lines. One fellow of my acquaintance had been a movie critic at a daily newspaper and convinced his editors to make him a war correspondent in Iraq. Another, a distant-not distant enough-cousin, who had studied business at Harvard, hankered to go to Iraq because he felt there were "opportunities" to be had. His mother, I believe, convinced him that war meant not only economic opportunity-it does indeed-but also bombs and bullets and he indefinitely postponed his adventure.

There really is only one thing to say about the Iraq War and a handful of people have bravely and beautifully said it. It was an absolute, unmitigated, inexcusable, unforgivable disaster. It was pursued by Bush because he had been emasculated by his father, and because he was probably still an alcoholic at the time; pursued by Cheney, who manipulated Bush in order to consolidate his own power; enabled by the media to save their own skins; and cheered on by pundits and intellectuals who indulged in a wild fantasy of aggression and redress because they suffer from the vertiginous gap between their powerful minds and the actual powerlessness they experienced in the world.

The most eloquent and searing commentary on the anniversary of the war came in an open letter to Bush and Cheney from an Iraq army veteran named Tomas Young, who is dying in a hospice from wounds received in that conflict. In his letter, published all over the internet, he says that he is writing on behalf of all those, Americans and Iraqis, who died or were injured in the war. He tells Bush and Cheney: "You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder…" "I hope," he says, "you will be put on trial."

Bush and Cheney will never face a trial, but there is nothing to add to Young's haunting, unforgettable cry from his heart. The architects of the war claimed that they felt a thirst for justice on behalf of all the Iraqis they were going to "liberate" and "democratize." What a bitter irony it is that Young, and all the human beings shattered by the war, are the ones now crying for justice with all the passion and moral rightness the instigators of the war in Iraq claimed to feel but never did.

Hermann Goering, who would have appreciated Cheney's amorality and his wily power-grabs, was said to have declared, "When I hear the word "culture", I reach for my revolver." After the Iraq slaughterhouse, when I hear the word "war," or the word "democratization,' or even the words "humanitarian intervention," I am going to reach for my family's passports.

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