So this is supposed to be a humorous website, but as we mark the one year anniversary of the official start of the Iraq war, I can't think of anything funny to say. One year ago, the Bush administration, flouting the will of the world, circumventing the United Nations, and reversing 50 years of American foreign policy, launched its illegal war of choice. One year ago, the fires of war were kindled with cherry-picked (sometimes entirely fabricated) "evidence" of weapons of mass destruction, stoked by rabid neo-conservative ideologues and fanned by a dishonest PR campaign - a dizzying spin job resembling nothing so much as a giant psychological game of three card monty - implying Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Now, one year later, those terrifying "weapons of mass destruction" have been down-graded to "weapons of mass destruction-related-activities," (or, in layman's terms, "my dog ate my homework"), our troops are greeted daily with improvised explosions instead of roses, and our credibility in the world is harder to find than Uganda's contribution to the Coalition of the Willing. A lot has happened in a year. It's a heck of an anniversary. It's a dandy, my granddad would say.
I've thought a lot about how to mark this occasion and it seems fitting, since anniversaries are represented by numbers, to start with some:
While the administration congratulates itself on the liberation, violence in Iraq continues with terrible, numbing regularity. On Thursday, a suicide car bombing near a hotel in Basra killed two men and a boy. 15 people were wounded in the blast. On Wednesday, a powerful car bomb devastated the Mount Lebanon Hotel in central Baghdad, killing 7 (although this number is still disputed) and wounding 35. In one report on the BBC, a weeping Iraqi man pled to the camera. "If this is liberation," the translator's voice deadpanned, "we don't want it."
- American casualties in Iraq: 572 (432 since May 1st - "Mission Accomplished")
- Americans wounded in Iraq: 3,254
- Coalition casualties in Iraq: 101
- Iraqi Military Casualties: 4,895 to 6,370
- Iraqi Civilian Casualties: 8,581 to 10,430
- American Troops in Iraq: 130,000*
- Current Estimated Cost of the War: $107,040,475,999**
Elsewhere in the world, high-ranking members of Pakistan's government (including Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father" of the Pakistani atomic bomb) have been implicated in a nuclear black market that sold plans and parts to Libya, Iran, and North Korea, among others. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, called the Pakistani operation a "Wal-Mart" of nuclear technology. It's also been called the most threatening activity of proliferation in history. Proliferation. Precisely what the "Bush Doctrine" hoped to prevent with its policy of unilateral, pre-emptive wars. Weapons of mass destruction, anyone?
In Madrid, the death toll from last week's horrific bombings stands at 201.
I just went online to check a fact for this piece and saw the following on Yahoo: Insurgents Kill Two Marines in Iraq. I can't keep up with the tragedies. My statistics are already outdated and I haven't even finished the first draft of this thing. But here's the point. Howard Dean was lambasted in the "liberal" media for asking this question, but how exactly - more than 3 months after capturing one smelly old man in a hole - have we made the world any safer?
But perhaps the most troubling thing about the whole situation is this administration's brazen disregard for the truth. They don't even try to hide the fact that they're lying to us. And they're not even new lies. They're the same old lies that have already been thoroughly discredited. That's how much they think of us. They can't be bothered to invent less obvious falsehoods.
Since mainstream media often doesn't seem interested in the job, let me show you how easy it is to play a little game called "Investigative Journalism," also known as "Google." In fact, you don't even need Google anymore. US Representative Henry Waxman has done all the work for you. His office has just released a document called The Iraq on the Record report, which is, to quote the report: "a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice." The report identifies 237 different misleading statements made by these five individuals in the months before the war, and immediately after its commencement. It's also a searchable database. Let the fun begin.
Here's Rumsfeld on Face the Nation last weekend:
Schieffer: "Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though...why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?"
Now, here's Rumsfeld, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 9/19/02, courtesy of Waxman's report:
Sec. Rumsfeld: "Well, you're the - you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase "immediate threat." I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's - that that's what's happened."
"No Terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq." (bold font mine)
Wow. Moveon.org scooped me on that (and God bless them for it) but it's worth revisiting here, just to remind ourselves how little regard the Secretary has for the truth. In fact, that's what I'd call a double lie. There's his original lie, that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States, coupled with his new, more baffling lie, that he never said that - that it's all "folklore."
And here's President Bush, who has also suggested that the press concocted the idea that Iraq was an imminent threat:
"On its present course, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency...it has developed weapons of mass death."
But my favorite quote on this subject is this one, from our very own Condeleezza Rice:
"The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
I'd say a nuclear bomb detonating inside the United States is a pretty goddamn immediate threat, wouldn't you, Don?
Rumsfeld, by the way, continues to insist that we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This, despite the fact that the administration's own handpicked inspector, David Kay, resigned in frustration in January, saying: "We were wrong." I guess Saddam wanted to stockpile all of those tons of botchulism and anthrax and mustard gas so that he could HIDE them in a secret place when his country was INVADED. And Cheney, only a couple months ago, was still rolling out that old whopper about a clandestine meeting between Iraqi secret agents and Mohammed Atta before September 11th.
Now, perhaps the administration is so morally bankrupt that they will say anything to promote it's imperialist, war-profiteering agenda, which would make them truley Machiavelli's progeny, or they really believe this stuff, in which case they're just deranged. As Riggs says to Murtaugh, "Either way, I'm fucked." Or, as our fearless leader told Diane Sawyer when asked about the deception in stating that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that Iraq could move to acquire them:
"So, what the difference?"
Anyway, Angola, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Micronesia, Rwanda, Slovakia, and Uzbekistan, Happy Anniversary. Thanks for being part of the best darn coalition anywhere. Don't worry about Germany or France...or Poland...or those socialist-nancy- boy-appeasers in Spain. We know who our real allies are. Palau, Macedonia, way to go. Let's all look forward to another upcoming anniversary, November of 2004, which I will celebrate by helping my fellow Americans elect a president. And this time, the guy with the most votes goes to Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Empire Backfires, Jonathan Schell, The Nation March 29, 2004
Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq
*Figures taken from www.antiwar.com/casualties on 3/19/04
**Figure taken from www.costofwar.com on 3/19/04