Ten years ago this month, in October 2001, secret discussions were already under way in Washington about using the 9/11 terror attacks as a pivot point to launch an invasion of Iraq. In fact, U.S. officials had already begun to leak allegations that Iraq was the leading suspect in the then-recent anthrax attacks, and that Mohammad Atta, the terrorist ringleader, had met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence agents.
Today, however, that chapter of U.S. history is apparently about to come to a close. One of the prime goals of the invasion had been the permanent installation of U.S. military bases in Iraq, to serve as a military counterweight to neighboring Iran. Despite billions of dollars poured into those facilities, that is not to be. While some 40,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, agreements signed by the U.S. and Iraqi officials back in the Bush administration require that all American forces must be withdrawn by the end of the year. Efforts to renegotiate that deal have failed, and while the official line is that the talks continue, there is little reason to believe things will change.
The Iraqi people, intent on reclaiming control of their own fate, want us gone. And most Americans are quite content to let them have it, even if our departure leaves a vacuum that Iran is eager to fill.
Looking back, 4,478 U.S. service personnel lost their lives in the Iraq invasion. And despite assurances that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction and that total costs would come in below $60 billion, the price tag is now well over $1 trillion and counting. Other costs, including the impact on those service personnel who fought there, are not so easily accounted.
For some, of course, all of that is supposedly ancient history, to be forgotten and ignored. That would be a mistake. The cynical manipulation of public opinion to justify an unnecessary war, driven by fear-mongering about “mushroom clouds rising over American cities” and the like, should always be relevant to a democracy. The complicity of much of the U.S. news media in failing to challenge the official government narrative was also deeply disturbing.
In fact, only the naive would believe that the public’s current deep distrust of government and institutions has not been fed at least in part by recognition that our own leaders consciously deceived us into war. That’s a hard lesson to learn, but once learned it is even harder to forget. We’re going to paying for this, in one way or another, long after the last of our personnel have come home.
– Jay Bookman