Death Toll from George Bush Jr: Revelation 13:1

| US Army soldiers occupying Iraq in 2007 | MR OnlineU.S. Army soldiers occupying Iraq in 2007

U.S. post-9/11 wars caused 4.5 million deaths, displaced 38-60 million people, study shows

By Ben Norton (Posted May 22, 2023)

Originally published: Geopolitical Economy Report  on May 18, 2023 (more by Geopolitical Economy Report | 

The wars the United States waged and fueled in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan following September 11, 2001 caused at least 4.5 million deaths, according to a report by Brown University.

Nearly a million of the people who lost their lives died in fighting, whereas some 3.6 to 3.7 million were indirect deaths, due to health and economic problems caused by the wars, such as diseases, malnutrition, and destruction of infrastructure.

These were the conclusions of a study conducted by the Cost of Wars project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

The report also analyzed the effects of wars in Libya and Somalia, which were sponsored by Washington.

The scholars estimated that, in the countries studied, there are still today 7.6 million children under age 5 who are suffering from acute malnutrition, meaning they are “not getting enough food, literally wasting to skin and bones, putting these children at greater risk of death”.

In Afghanistan and Yemen, this includes nearly 50% of children; and, in Somalia, close to 60%.

| Figure 2 Child Malnutrition by War Zone Country Data from 2020 2023 | MR Online

In a separate study in 2021, Brown University’s Cost of Wars project found that the United States’ post-9/11 wars displaced at least 38 million people—more than any conflict since 1900, excluding World War II.

This 2021 report noted that “38 million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11 wars could be closer to 49—60 million, which would rival World War II displacement”.

| Millions displaced by US post 911 wars | MR Online

The May 2023 study, which estimated that U.S. post-9/11 wars killed 4.5 to 4.6 million people, emphasized that large numbers of civilians are still perishing today, due of the lasting consequences of these violent conflicts.

Although the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, “today Afghans are suffering and dying from war-related causes at higher rates than ever”, the report noted.

In addition to the staggering death tolls, millions more civilians were wounded and suffered other incredible hardships due to these wars.

“For instance, for every person who dies of a waterborne disease because war destroyed their access to safe drinking water and waste treatment facilities, there are many more who sicken”, the study highlighted.

The 2023 report “highlights many longterm and underacknowledged consequences of war for human health, emphasizing that some groups, particularly women and children, suffer the brunt of these ongoing impacts”.

People living in poverty and those from marginalized groups had higher rates of death and lower life expectancies.

The document stressed how the “post-9/11 wars have caused widespread economic hardship for people in the war zones, and how poverty, in turn, has been accompanied by food insecurity and malnutrition, which have led to diseases and death, particularly amongst children under age five”.

| Figure 3 Causal Pathways Towards Indirect Deaths in the Post 911 Wars | MR Online

In virtually all wars, indirect deaths represent the majority of the lives lost. The Brown University researchers pointed out, for example,

In conflict areas, children are 20 times more likely to die of diarrheal disease than from the conflict itself.

Damage to infrastructure that happens during wars is likewise very deadly. “Hospitals, clinics, and medical supplies, water and sanitation systems, electricity, roads and traffic signals, infrastructure for farming and shipping goods, and much more are destroyed, damaged and disrupted, with lasting consequences for human health”, the report noted.

Economic problems caused by these post-9/11 wars have been devastating.

Two decades of U.S.-NATO military occupation of Afghanistan left behind a borderline apocalyptic economic crisis.

More than half of Afghanistan’s population is in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 per day. A staggering 95% of Afghans do not have enough food.

In Yemen, more than 17.4 million people are food insecure, and 85,000 children under age 5 have likely died from starvation.

Even in countries where large numbers of U.S. troops weren’t deployed on the ground, Washington’s wars have destroyed the lives of countless civilians.

U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia “significantly impact people’s livelihood sources”, killing workers, destroying farms and businesses, and bankrupting families.

“The severe impact of such economic setbacks on populations who depend on the land for their survival cannot be underestimated”, the report emphasized.

Washington’s so-called counter-terrorism laws in Somalia have also “hampered humanitarian relief efforts, intensifying the effects of famine”, the researchers noted.

Hundreds of thousands of children have died from famine in the East African nation.

The Brown University studies are part of a growing body of scholarship documenting the death tolls of post-9/11 U.S. wars.

A 2015 report by the Nobel Prize-winning group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) concluded that 13 years of Washington’s so-called “War on Terror” caused a total of 1.3 million deaths, including 1 million in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan, and 80,000 in Pakistan.

IPPNW cautioned that this 2015 figure was “only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely”.

Putin Did Not Learn From The Beast Of The Sea: Revelation 13-1

An illustration showing former US President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin on board ships trapped in quagmires, represented by bodies of dead civilians.
[Nataliia Shulga/Al Jazeera]

Ukraine war: Did Putin learn from Bush’s Iraq horrors?

From Wagner’s crimes and fake pretexts to the UN’s inaction, the Iraq invasion offered a preview of the Ukraine war. But not all is the same.

By Micah Reddy

Published On 1 May 20231 May 2023

Twenty years ago, on May 1, 2003, then-United States President George W Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a giant banner behind him triumphantly screaming, “Mission Accomplished”. Six weeks earlier, the US had invaded the Middle Eastern country illegally.

As US armour was rolling into Iraqi cities, international news networks replayed over and over again a scene from April 9 that year that in hindsight seems loaded with dramatic irony.

The toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos square — an event that turned out to be stage-managed — was meant to symbolise the liberation of Iraqis and the end of the Ba’ath Party’s 35-year-long rule in Iraq. Yet it was not the grand finale of the US invasion but rather the prelude to a long and bloody revolt and armed uprising.

The US occupation that lasted eight years created aftershocks of regional instability and left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead — so many that no one has an exact count.

Like the US-led coalition in Iraq back then, the Russian government expected its illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to end with a quick and decisive victory.

Fooled by a sense of its own invincibility, the Russian army entered Ukraine as if on parade, in long columns that became easy targets for US-made Javelin missiles. They expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv within days, but a year later, the Russians remain bogged down in a protracted and bloody war.

So did Russian President Vladimir Putin end up repeating the mistakes — and for many, the crimes — of Bush in Iraq 20 years ago? How much do these two epoch-defining invasions have in common? What are the differences?

The short answer: The parallels run deep, from the false pretexts under which they were launched and the failings of the United Nations system that the wars showed up, to the use of private military contractors. But key differences exist in the deeper motivations that triggered the wars, said military historians and analysts. And the US military proved more effective at fighting a conventional war in Iraq than Russia has in Ukraine.

US President George W Bush announces the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. A large banner behind him reads 'Mission Accomplished'.
US President George W Bush announces the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln [Larry Downing/REUTERS/FILE]

‘We create our own reality’

Both the US-led coalition in Iraq and Russia in Ukraine were led to war by unbridled hubris — that is a “key element” that these two conflicts have in common, said Ibrahim al-Marashi, professor of Iraqi history at California State University. Both belligerents assumed it would be easy to launch “decapitation” attacks and replace the governments of the countries they were invading with friendly regimes that would simply serve their interests.

“In the US case they achieved the decapitation, but they really misread the Iraqi population,” says al-Marashi. “The US thought they would be greeted as liberators overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and that didn’t happen. What did Russia think? That the Ukrainians would also welcome them as liberators for overthrowing this so-called ‘fascist regime’.”

Once senior Bush administration officials had made up their minds about invading Iraq, their single-minded determination to topple the Iraqi regime rendered them oblivious to the unintended consequences of war, said analysts.

It also blinded them to inconvenient truths — something neatly encapsulated in what a White House official reportedly told journalist Ron Suskind. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” the official said.

Creating their “own reality” meant ignoring international law and the United Nations Charter that the US and Soviet Union were original signatories to. The inability to stop the two bellicose powers from attacking sovereign states starkly exposed the weaknesses of the post-World War II international order.

Both Russia and the US went to war off the back of bogus pretexts — alternate realities they created. In the case of the US and its closest ally in the invasion of Iraq, the United Kingdom, dubious intelligence painted Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a harbourer of al-Qaeda, a hoarder of weapons of mass destruction, and an all-around international bogeyman.

Al-Marashi has firsthand experience of this. A paper he wrote was plagiarised by the UK government in a 2003 document used to make the case for invading Iraq — the so-called “dodgy dossier”. Al-Marashi said his work was used in “constructing the image of a dictator who had to be overthrown”.

Russia constructed the image of a hostile administration in Kyiv that needed to be overthrown and took that lie to its absurd outer limits, portraying Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a depraved addict presiding over a government of neo-Nazis.

“The first ‘reason’ for Putin taking Ukraine was that he was saving the Ukrainians from this drug-crazed criminal Nazi gang running the country,” says Margaret Macmillan, professor of history at the University of Oxford. “And when it turned out that a lot of Ukrainians were supporting the drug-crazed criminal gang the war was now on the Ukrainians themselves, and then there was talk of re-educating them.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a rally marking the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, outside the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a rally marking the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, outside the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Putin described the move as aimed at protecting ethnic Russians and regaining the nation’s “historic roots” [Maxim Shipenkov/AP Photo/ Pool — FILE)

Different backdrops

As a state where power is concentrated in one man, Russia’s war in Ukraine is Putin’s war — the brutal incarnation of his own imperial designs, said experts.

According to Jade McGlynn, research fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, and author of the book Russia’s War, the invasion of Ukraine “at its heart is a war over identity and conceptions of the [Russian] nation”.

Putin “conflated himself with the power structures of Russia,” said McGlynn, and “constructed a post-Soviet Russian identity that is very dependent on Ukraine and the idea of a greater Russia”.

For al-Marashi, who used to teach at Ukraine’s Ivan Franko University, Russia’s war has an undeniably imperial aspect to it that can be traced back to Ukraine’s incorporation into the Russian empire and deliberate policies of “Russification”, which attempted to deny Ukrainian culture and identity in the 19th century. This “imperial mindset” has a long history to it, said al-Marashi, from Catherine the Great’s description of Ukraine as ‘New Russia’ all the way to Putin. “Those are imperial linkages that I don’t think you can deny,” he said.

The US’s imperial mindset towards countries it has invaded and occupied is also hard to ignore, said experts. But there is a key difference highlighted by the contexts that set the stage for the wars in Iraq and Ukraine.

Russia, said Macmillan, “is the last standing European empire”. But it is a crumbling empire, and the speeches and revisionist historical treatises that laid Putin’s ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine are often shot through with a sense of historical loss. Putin has lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as a “genuine tragedy” in which “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”.

His war arose out of the perceived loss of Russia’s greatness, its humiliation and betrayal at the hands of the West, and the desire to reclaim Russia’s place in the world, according to experts. “Putin was a KGB agent when he witnessed the collapse of the Soviet empire from East Germany,” said al-Marashi.

But it was very different for Bush, who “inherited the windfall” of the end of the Cold War and was “riding the emergence” of the US as the superpower in a unipolar world.

The former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, US President George W Bush, and Vice President Richard Cheney at the farewell honour ceremony at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld in 2006.
Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, US President George W Bush, and Vice President Richard Cheney (l-r) — key architects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq — at a farewell honour ceremony at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld on December 15, 2006 [AP Photo — FILE]

Unfinished business

According to al-Marashi, the 2003 invasion of Iraq came at a “unique historical moment” for the US, when its hegemony was relatively unchallenged and it “sought to reshape the world” in its image.

When Bush ran for president, he was focused on domestic affairs, not foreign intervention, al-Marashi pointed out. But that changed with the 9/11 attacks, which emboldened the administration’s hawks, who felt that the US had unfinished business in Iraq.

In much the same way, the Putin regime had unfinished business in Ukraine. Putin, said experts, felt the need for a lasting solution to the Ukraine question that had plagued Russian nationalists since the Soviet breakup in 1991. That question — namely, what to do about Ukraine drifting towards the West’s embrace — had become ever more pressing since the 2014 war in the Donbas.

Russia’s “Vietnam” — the disastrous 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, and retreat nine years later — was a cautionary tale about underestimating the resistance of an invaded people. But the memory of that war had faded, and for Russia’s foreign policy hawks, there were more encouraging historical examples closer to hand: the brutal suppression of Chechen independence, and more recent military successes in support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

For Bush Junior, returning to the Middle East was an opportunity to finish off what his father started in the First Gulf War. Key officials and ideologues of the second Bush administration had served under the elder Bush including his vice president, Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and US trade representative Robert Zoellick. They had long advocated for US military intervention abroad.

Wolfowitz, Armitage and Zoellick — three leading “neocons” — together with another key war architect, Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were signatories of a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998 calling for regime change in Iraq.

“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction,” the letter read. “In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.

“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”

 In this April 4, 2004 file photo, plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight as Iraqi demonstrators loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr attempt to advance on a facility being defended by US and Spanish soldiers in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
In this April 4, 2004 file photo, plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight against Iraqi demonstrators in the Iraqi city of Najaf. Blackwater fighters were implicated in civilian killings during the war [Gervasio Sanchez/AP Photo — FILE)

From Blackwater to Wagner

Security concerns, although they turned out to be highly exaggerated, played into the decisions of the US and Russia to embark on their illegal invasions.

Moscow has pointed to its fears of NATO expansion and the existential threat posed by a hostile Ukraine, describing its neighbour as merely a proxy for the West. It is, in Putin’s view, the latest episode in a long history of Western attempts to cripple Russia.

To some extent, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. European support for NATO is far greater than before the invasion, and Russia is more isolated, more economically vulnerable, and faced with biting sanctions.

Similarly, in the aftermath of 9/11, paranoia crept into the US establishment. The first major attack on the US mainland exposed the vulnerability of the world’s sole superpower and left the US public deeply shocked. Although Iraq had nothing to do with the attack, Americans “were prepared to believe the government if it told them Iraq was responsible,” Macmillan said.

Ultimately, both wars left the countries that started them — and the world at large — less secure than before, and as the costs and casualties began to mount, their citizens became predictably wary. The aftermath of 9/11 saw jingoism reach a fever pitch in the US but also galvanised an anti-war movement. By the end of Bush’s final term, public support for the war had plummeted.

It is much harder to gauge Russian public opinion — criticism of the war has been banned and early shows of public disapproval were ruthlessly stamped out — but the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing abroad to avoid the draft gives some indication of the public mood.

When the war in Donbas started in 2014, “there was a nationalist revival”, said McGlynn, “you saw people volunteering to go off to Donbas.

“In 2022 it was different, people were anxious”.

Yet again, Putin appears to have followed Bush’s example.

The US did not rely on conscription to fight its war in Iraq, but was nevertheless wary that a steady stream of body bags for regular troops would take a major toll on public opinion. Its widespread reliance on private military contractors in Iraq, however, helped solve that problem.

The war in Iraq presented a boon for security firms like Blackwater, whose mercenaries were implicated in civilian killings. Russia has followed suit in Ukraine, outsourcing its war to private companies like the notorious Wagner Group that has recruited widely from prison populations.

Newly recruited, poorly trained prisoners have been pressed into service with the promise of freedom, and have reportedly been used as cannon fodder in some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine. Wagner’s fighters have also been implicated in some of the worst atrocities in the ongoing war.

A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, painted by former US President George W Bush, is displayed at "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" exhibit at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas April 4, 2014.
A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, painted by former US President George W Bush,  at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas, April 4, 2014. Unlike Putin, who has an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court, Bush has never faced any serious consequences from the Iraq war [Brandon Wade/REUTERS — File]

Who won, and who lost

The US did not have a sound exit strategy in Iraq and so got trapped in a grinding conflict, said Macmillan, adding that Russia has made the same mistake.

Yet the results of the Russian and US invasions have been felt most acutely by the invaded populations — Iraqi society was “shattered” by the US’s “shock and awe” offensive, said Macmillan, while the costs of reconstruction for Ukraine will likely be higher than in Iraq.

Still, there are differences in the consequences that the US faced and that Russia will likely confront for years to come.

While the US was stuck in a quagmire of its own creation for nearly a decade, there were no significant economic hardships experienced by its population. The US economy did not suffer a war-induced shock, it faced no sanctions and diplomatic isolation, and its military was not humiliated in the way Russia’s has been.

Condemnations of US actions were ultimately inconsequential. The US was simply too secure in its role as global hegemon to be treated like a pariah state, and the prospect of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Bush or any other senior US government official, as has been issued for Putin, was inconceivable.

For Russia, it is different. Russia is not the Soviet Union — it is a rump state with a struggling economy overly dependent on hydrocarbon exports. Its military, once seen as among the world’s most sophisticated, increasingly looks like a Potemkin army when put to the test.

The consequences for the world at large may also be more severe this time.

War in Ukraine threatens to feed into global insecurity. In Iraq, apart from oil supply instability, the spillover from war was largely contained to the Middle East. Ukraine, on the other hand, is more integrated into the global economy and is a breadbasket that sustains global food markets, while sanctions on Russia have destabilised global energy supplies.

The conflict also comes at a time when the guardrails of an interconnected global order that disincentivised wars between major economies are falling apart. “Globalisation is unwinding,” said Macmillan.

Global attitudes to flashpoint issues like Taiwan are hardening, as the US and China inch towards open conflict — their strategic decisions likely informed in part by every move on the Ukraine chessboard.

The world, in short, is a more dangerous place than it was two decades ago. A major nuclear power is engaged in a war that is sucking in NATO powers. And even superpowers cannot create an alternative reality.


US invasion of Iraq – The brutal strategy that spawned the Prophecy: Revelation 13

US invasion of Iraq 20 years on: The brutal strategy that spawned total chaos in the Middle East

Opinion Piece By Christina Georgile | 27/03/2023

Washington’s decision to completely dismantle the state and military apparatus contributed decisively to the prevalence of total chaos and the disintegration of Iraq’s social fabric

The events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent American invasion (2003) and occupation of Iraq (2003-2011) were two landmark events, which made Washington the architect of regional destabilisation and insecurity in the Middle East for about a decade.

The timeline of the invasion refers to the US and British-led attack of “the willing” on March 19, 2003, in implementation of the US “New National Security Strategy,” which placed the issue of terrorism at the top of Washington’s political agenda.

At the same time, the George Bush administration claimed that the invasion had as a legitimising basis the need to enforce the resolutions of the Security Council (S.C.), according to which Iraq was called upon to comply with requests to disarm and monitor its nuclear program.

It is a fact that Decision 687 of the S.C. imposed a series of commitments on Iraq’s disarmament, including destroying any alleged weapons of mass destruction and cooperating with a UN Special Commission to inspect its nuclear program.

Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with the international community was quickly taken advantage of by the USA and Great Britain in order to request that the S.C. adopt a new decision authorising the use of force. With most UN member states opposed to violence and in favor of a peaceful resolution, the US and UK launched a unilateral invasion, which was criticised even by US officials, such as the US ambassador to Baghdad in 1990.

The unilateral military operation against Iraq was carried out in violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, which introduces a general prohibition of the use of force, and Article 51, which recognises the “natural right of individual or collective self-defense, in the case that a State is attacked”, as well as article 39 of Chapter VII, which refers to the authorisation of the Security Council.

Regarding the right of self-defense the Bush and Tony Blair governments did not invoke information about an existing or imminent threat, instead they based their arguments on the fear of a future use of weapons of mass destruction by the Saddam Hussein regime.

US arrogance peaked when defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected the report of the UN inspector general for the search, inventory and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, which concluded that no evidence had emerged to support speculation about weapons of mass destruction. After all, the minister of foreign affairs Colin Powell, in his speech at the United Nations on  February 3, 2003, speculated that Iraqi weapons might be linked to terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda.

Based on the above, it is not surprising that the International Commission of Judges in Geneva concluded that the US committed a flagrant violation of the prohibition of the use of force, as its invasion of Iraq did not meet either of the two conditions under Chapter VII of the Charter Organisation of the United Nations.

However, the role of the UN was crucial in providing a legal cover for the so-called ‘multinational’ force in Iraq, and even under the guidance of the US and UK to defy the will of the duly elected Iraqi parliamentarians to attach the UN mandate to conditionalities, such as a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops or a refusal to privatise their natural resources.

But as history has taught, when a people is denied the ability to decide its own destiny through a peaceful political process, it will try to do so with guns and bombs. And here are the effects:

According to the Lancet medical review, until shortly before the emergence of ISIS in 2012, more than 1,455,590 Iraqis had lost their lives from fighting and explosions, and millions were wounded and displaced.

The ‘divide and conquer’ strategy that the American occupying power used to impose itself intensified the already existing ethnic and dogmatic passions. Washington’s decision to completely dismantle the state and military apparatus, contributed decisively to the prevalence of total chaos and the disintegration of the country’s social fabric.

The “liberation” of Iraq is captured in some of the most inhumane images, with open-air markets turning into rivers of blood and dismembered people, cities being wiped off the map, like Fallujah in 2004, prisoners being unspeakably humiliated by the ‘liberators’, as in Abu Ghraib.

In short, the invasion and occupation of the ‘prothyms’ in Iraq, includes all those ingredients that became fertilizer for ISIS propaganda and plunging the country into a vortex of chaos and blood.

According to president Barack Obama, “ISIS is the spawn of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that developed because of our invasion and is a sample of the side effects”.

Also according to Patrick Cockburn and his book “The Rise of the Islamic State”, ISIS is “the child of war” , of a supposed war on terror, as designed by Bush and Blair. Ηοwever, a war on terror would be directed against states that breed extremism like Saudi Arabia, but the two leaders chose a state whose government opposed religious fundamentalism and turned it into a magnet for hard-line jihadists in the power vacuum that followed the subversion of the legal government of the country.

And worst of all, the criminal operation of Bush and Blair brought terrorism to the safe streets of Europe, such as in Madrid, Paris, Berlin, London, Brussels and Nice.

Likewise, Islamic terrorism has spread to Africa through Al-Qaeda’s sister organisation Boko Haram and the Islamic State, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis that followed the ‘humanitarian’ war of the liberal ‘interventionists’ to overthrow the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya.

The war, which had a heavy cost for the Americans as well, with approximately 5,000 victims and an economic cost of 1.7 trillion dollars, was after Afghanistan the most overt application of the Bush doctrine of preventive strikes and was the reason for the strengthening of the American military presence in Middle East and the emergence of the dominant role of the USA in the Persian Gulf region.

The ‘achievement’ of fundamentally destabilising the entire region through its transformation into a series of “failed” states has been the hotbed for the rise of ISIS, with incalculable implications for the West.

Τhe war against Iraq, which also devastated neighboring Syria, was the main cause of the modern refugee crisis. According to UN data, in 2007 Iraqi refugees around the world were almost 4.000.000.

At the same time, however, the refugee crisis contributed to the rise of neo-nationalism and far-right movements in Europe, which there is a risk of leading to the collapse of the European Union.

20 Years After the Invasion of Iraq, the Antichrist’s Lies Still Take Lives

20 Years After the Invasion of Iraq, Bush Administration Lies Still Take Lives

MARCH 16, 2023

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Antony Blinken is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Niger, an African nation that few Americans could find on a map. The United Nations Development Program’s recent Human Development Index ranks Niger 189th out of 191 countries. Life expectancy is 60 years, and the mean education level of its 25 million citizens is just two years. Twenty years ago, Niger unwittingly played a pivotal role in what turned out to be one of the greatest U.S. foreign policy debacles of the modern era. Without Niger, the U.S. probably couldn’t have launched its illegal and disastrous war on Iraq.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union address on January 28th, 2003, referring to Niger’s mostly foreign-owned uranium mines. Bush’s notorious “Sixteen Words” were based on intelligence the CIA believed to be false. Nevertheless, it formed the core of the Bush administration’s pretext for war, that Iraq’s formerly U.S.-backed dictator Saddam Hussein was secretly amassing weapons of mass destruction – WMDs.

Months earlier, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice warned of the WMD threat, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Bush invoked the same imagery one month later, in a major address in Cincinnati, laying out the case for invading Iraq, saying, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Bush’s Secretary of State General Colin Powell sealed the deal at the United Nations on February 5th, 2003, with a presentation laced with false intelligence on Iraq’s alleged WMD program that he said included nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He would later call the speech a “blot” on his career.

The Bush administration’s lies and misrepresentations were amplified by the corporate media, most notably by The New York Times. Story after story ran above the fold on the front page by reporter Judith Miller, often co-written by Michael R. Gordon, hyping the claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to build nuclear weapons. In a 3,400-word article hyping the threat of WMDs published on September 8, 2002, Miller and Gordon cite unnamed “officials,” “American intelligence” and Bush administration “hard-liners” three dozen times, along with unnamed Iraqi defectors and dissidents.

Months after the invasion, the Times also published a piece by the late Ambassador Joe Wilson. “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” was Wilson’s first-hand account of a CIA-sponsored trip he took to Niger in February, 2002, to assess the veracity of the uranium claims being pushed by the Bush administration. Wilson reported to the CIA that he had found no evidence that Niger had sold uranium to Iraq. His Times piece was a damning indictment of the Bush administration’s manipulation of intelligence to push an illegal war.

In retaliation, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, leaked the name of Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, to select members of the press, including Judith Miller. Plame was a covert CIA agent, and when a rightwing columnist published her name, her undercover career was essentially over. Judith Miller refused to reveal her source to a grand jury investigating the leak, and was jailed for 85 days for contempt of court. She was released after agreeing to cooperate.

As these legal battles raged in Washington, DC, the real war raging in Iraq was killing tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of U.S. and coalition troops. Millions of Iraqis became refugees, later joined by Syrians as the conflagration sparked by the U.S. invasion spread.

While the true cost of the Iraq war will never be fully known, Brown University researchers put it at close to $3 trillion. They also estimate that up to 580,000 people – civilians and combatants – have been killed in Iraq and Syria since 2003. “Four times that number may have died due to indirect causes such as displacement, poor access to safe drinking water, healthcare, and preventable diseases,” their Cost of War report grimly notes.

This week, Brown University Professor Nadje Al-Ali, Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies, speaking on the Democracy Now! news hour, reflected,

“The young generation of Iraqis are trying to go beyond the impact of the invasion and occupation. There’s lots of creativity, resourcefulness and positive energy. So I have some hope. For people, especially in this country, it’s high time to really rethink US military involvement and policy more broadly, not just in Iraq but in the Middle East and the world.”

Senate Takes First Step in Repealing the Antichrist’s Authorizations: Revelation 13

Senate Takes First Step in Repealing Iraq War Authorizations

The Senate has taken a first step toward repealing two measures that give open-ended approval for military action in Iraq

By Associated Press

March 16, 2023, at 12:04 p.m.SaveCommentMore

Senate Takes First Step in Repealing Iraq War Authorizations

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., center, and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., center left, are joined by representatives of the American Legion as they speak to reporters about ending the authorization for use of military force enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 16, 2023. Senators voted 68-27 Thursday to move forward with a bill to repeal the 2002 measure that authorized the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and a 1991 measure that sanctioned the U.S.-led Gulf War to expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate took a first step Thursday toward repealing two measures that give open-ended approval for military action in Iraq, pushing to end that authority as the United States marks the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War.

Senators voted 68-27 to move forward on legislation that would repeal the 2002 measure that greenlighted that March 2003 invasion of Iraq and also a 1991 measure that sanctioned the U.S.-led Gulf War to expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. Nineteen Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the repeal.

The bipartisan effort comes as lawmakers in both parties are increasingly seeking to claw back congressional powers over U.S. military strikes and deployments, arguing that the war authorizations are no longer necessary and subject to misuse if they are left on the books. President Joe Biden has backed the push, and the White House issued a statement Thursday in support.

“Repeal of these authorizations would have no impact on current U.S. military operations and would support this administration’s commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners,” the White House said.

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., said they believe the 68 votes in support send a powerful message to Americans who believe their voice should be heard on matters of war and peace. Kaine and Young have led the push for repeal and have worked for several years on the issue.

“It is time for Congress to have its voice heard on these matters, and I believe this will establish a very important precedent moving forward,” Young said.

It’s unclear whether leaders in the Republican-controlled House will bring the bill up for a vote, even if it passes the Senate. Forty-nine House Republicans supported the legislation when then-majority Democrats held a vote two years ago, but current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has opposed it.

Senate Republicans are also split on the legislation. While the 19 GOP senators voted for it, opponents argue that the repeal could project weakness to U.S. enemies. They have pointed out that President Donald Trump’s administration cited the 2002 Iraq war resolution as part of its legal justification for a 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani.

The October 2002 votes to give President George W. Bush broad authority for the invasion — coming just a month before the midterm elections that year — became a defining moment for many members of Congress as the country debated whether a military strike was warranted. The U.S. was already at war then in Afghanistan, the country that hosted the al-Qaida plotters responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, something Iraq played no part in.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who was in the Senate at the time and voted against the resolution, said on the floor before Thursday’s vote that “I look back on it, as I’m sure others do, as one of the most important votes that I ever cast.”

“The repeal of this authorization of use the use of military force does not mean the United States has become a pacifist nation,” Durbin said. “It means that the United States is going to be a constitutional nation and the premise of our Founding Fathers will be respected.”

The Bush administration had drummed up support among members of Congress and Americans for invading Iraq by promoting false intelligence claims about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

After the initial March 2003 invasion, American ground forces quickly discovered that the allegations of nuclear or chemical weapons programs were baseless. But the U.S. overthrow of Iraq’s security forces precipitated a brutal sectarian fight and violent campaigns by Islamic extremist groups in Iraq. Car bombings, assassinations, torture and kidnapping became a part of daily life in Iraq for years.

Nearly 5,000 U.S. troops were killed in the war. Iraqi deaths are estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in the hours before the vote that he was glad that the repeal is a bipartisan effort after the Iraq conflict was the cause of “so much bitterness” in the past.

“Americans are tired of endless wars in the Middle East,” Schumer said.

The Senate will consider the legislation next week, with possible amendments from both sides.

One of the amendments that could be considered would repeal a separate authorization of military force passed immediately after the 2001 attacks. It gave Bush broad authority for the invasion of Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism but did not name one country, instead broadly approving force “against those nations, organizations, or persons” that planned or aided the attacks on the U.S.

But there is less support in the Senate and Congress overall for repealing the broader authority. Biden and some lawmakers have supported replacing or revising that authorization in the future, but “not right now,” Kaine said, as it is still used by the military.

In its statement of policy, the White House appeared to reference the 2001 authority, saying that Biden “remains committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Where is the Beast of the Sea Now? Revelation 13:1

New York, UNITED STATES:  Anti-war protestors dressed as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in prison garb march down Broadway on their way to lower Manhattan 29 April 2006 during the March for Peace, Justice and Democracy. The march was just one of the many protests all over the country calling for an end to the war in Iraq.      AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY  (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)


They’re all doing great, thanks for asking.

Jon Schwarz

March 15 2023, 2:52 p.m.

THE U.S. AND its allies invaded Iraq 20 years ago in Operation Iraqi Freedom. President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer twice accidentally referred to it as Operation Iraqi Liberation, which was definitely not its official name and would have generated an unfortunate acronym.

The men and women who launched this catastrophic, criminal war have paid no price over the past two decades. On the contrary, they’ve been showered with promotions and cash. There are two ways to look at this.

One is that their job was to make the right decisions for America (politicians) and to tell the truth (journalists). This would mean that since then, the system has malfunctioned over and over again, accidentally promoting people who are blatantly incompetent failures.

Another way to look at it is that their job was to start a war that would extend the U.S. empire and be extremely profitable for the U.S. defense establishment and oil industry, with no regard for what’s best for America or telling the truth. This would mean that they were extremely competent, and the system has not been making hundreds of terrible mistakes, but rather has done exactly the right thing by promoting them.

You can read this and then decide for yourself which perspective makes the most sense.

The following list doesn’t include anything about the Iraqis who’ve died since 2003. Partly, this is because it’s traditional for the U.S. media to pay no attention to the lives of foreigners. Partly, this is because we have no idea how many Iraqis deaths there have been. Various estimates range from 151,000 to over a million. While the U.S. ultimately spent at least $3 trillion on the war and the CIA put down $1 billion just to figure out that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, we’ve allocated exactly zero dollars to learn how many Iraqis have died thanks to us. Come on, we’re not made of money!

George W. Bush

Former president Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are the 21st century’s premier war criminals. In a better world, they’d be sharing a cell at The Hague, playing lots of pinochle and getting up to various mass murderer hijinks.

But here in this universe, Bush is gobbling down huge quantities of money on the speaking circuit, where he charges at least $100,000 for an hour of his pensées. He recently condemned “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” Then he said, “I mean, of Ukraine!” and he and his audience all chortled, because you have to admit that’s pretty funny.

His time is also devoted to painting and being buddies with the Clintons and the Obamas. In particular, he likes to sneak candy to Michelle Obama at solemn events.

“I mean, of Ukraine!” Ha ha ha ha ha, what a scamp.

Dick Cheney

Vice President Cheney told one of the most blatant lies about Iraq during the buildup to the war. In an August 2002 speech, he claimed that when Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel defected in 1995, he revealed that Iraq was trying to make nuclear weapons again. In reality, Kamel had insisted that Iraq had no unconventional weapons of any kind. This was not a big secret: Kamel said it on CNN in an interview that was available to anyone with an internet connection. America’s crack press corps ripped the lid off Cheney’s obvious deceit by completely missing it.

Since leaving office, Cheney has spent his time fishing, endorsing Donald Trump for president in 2016, and not being prosecuted for torture. Also, for a period of time, he had a kind of external mechanical heart that pushed blood through his veins continuously, meaning that he had no heartbeat yet was still alive (?).

Donald Rumsfeld

On the afternoon of 9/11, as the Pentagon was still on fire, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was eagerly asking whether the U.S. could now attack Iraq.

Rumsfeld died in 2021, but before then, he got in some quality time at his antebellum vacation home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The nickname of Rumsfeld’s estate was Mount Misery. As the New York Times reported, it had once been owned by a man named Edward Covey, who was “notorious for breaking unruly slaves for other farmers.” One subjected to this treatment was a 16-year-old Frederick Douglass, who later wrote it made him “wrecked, changed, and bewildered; goaded almost to madness.”

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You have to admit there’s a nice historical symmetry here, given Rumsfeld’s own role in tormenting other humans. You can imagine Covey’s ghost visiting Rumsfeld in the darkest night and telling him, “Hey — great job.”

Colin Powell

One neat thing about Secretary of State Powell’s 2003 presentation at the United Nations was that Powell absolutely knew he was lying. Famed Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory responded to Powell’s deluge of deception by proclaiming, “He persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince. … The cumulative effect was stunning.” McGrory apparently did not know the most basic fact about Powell, which was that he was an extremely proficient liar who’d risen to the top by lying about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and then lying about the Iran-Contra scandal.

Lie After Lie: What Colin Powell Knew About Iraq 15 Years Ago and What He Told the U.N.

Powell also died in 2021, but before that, he spent his post-political life being rich. Every now and then, people would ask him about his U.N. appearance, and he would tell them he had been horribly misled by individuals he never identified.

John Bolton

Under Secretary of State Bolton played a central role in the Bush administration’s WMD lies by pushing out José Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW. Bustani had committed a supreme crime: planning to conduct inspections to determine if Iraq had chemical weapons. Bolton’s concern was that the OPCW would discover that Iraq did not. In a particularly nice touch, Bolton threatened Bustani’s children.

Bolton was rewarded for this by being named national security adviser by Trump. He did experience some distress, however: Trump wasn’t completely sure who he was and sometimes would refer to him as “Mike Bolton.”

Anti-war protesters dressed as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in prison garb march down Broadway in New York City on April 29, 2006. 

Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright Conduct a MasterClass on the Banal Horror of U.S. Foreign Policy

National security adviser Rice explained in January 2003 why the U.S. had to invade Iraq if there was any uncertainty: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” The prestigious Hoover Institution at Stanford University later considered her career and decided this was exactly who they wanted as their director. Why? Because of “her commitment to the Institution’s core mission of safeguarding peace, prosperity, and freedom.” Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis were not available for comment on this commitment.

David Frum

Frum was a speechwriter in the Bush White House. He famously coined the phrase “axis of evil,” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, for Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address. Iraq and Iran were a peculiar axis, given that they were mortal enemies, but Frum was not hobbled by such concepts as “making sense.”

After leaving the White House, Frum co-wrote a book called “An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.” Sadly, we did not follow his advice, and evil still besets us.

In “An End to Evil,” Frum reported that “there is overwhelming evidence that Saddam had extensive chemical and biological weapons programs.” You may not be surprised to learn that this was absolutely false.

Frum was rewarded for this performance by The Atlantic with a job there as a staff writer. This week, Frum wrote a 20th anniversary piece for the magazine, which led off with the revelation that Iraq possessed “an arsenal of chemical-warfare shells and warheads.” 

You might wonder: Given that Bush and Cheney were totally vindicated by this arsenal, why did they never mention it? Are they just super-modest? This is exactly the kind of question asking that will destroy your career in the prestige media.

David Brooks

Journalist Brooks contributed an article to the Weekly Standard just after the start of the war called “The Collapse of the Dream Palaces.” You absolutely must read it; it’s one of the most bonkers things ever to appear in the English language. Its core argument is that opponents of the Iraq War had been “unable to achieve enough emotional detachment from their own political passions to see the world as it really is,” and their fantasy world was about to meet cold, hard reality. North Korean propagandists would have rejected it as too embarrassing.

The New York Times saw the quality of this work and soon afterward hired Brooks as a regular columnist.

Jeffrey Goldberg

Goldberg, then a staff writer at the New Yorker, was one of the most influential proponents of the invasion of Iraq outside of the government. His work was entered into the Congressional Record during the debate on the authorization to use military force in fall 2002. In the New Yorker, Goldberg wrote that “there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have [nuclear weapons] soon.” And of course, everyone knew it already had “stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”

In October 2002, Goldberg argued, “The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.” You may recall that October 2007 came and went without a lot of celebration of this profound morality.

Jeffrey Goldberg is now the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic.

Judith Miller

Miller wrote or co-wrote many of the hilariously credulous New York Times articles warning readers of the terrifying threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps the funniest piece of her oeuvre was published soon after the invasion, headlined “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, An Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.”

It wasn’t based on Miller ever talking to this scientist. However, Miller reported, “While this reporter could not interview the scientist, she was permitted to see him from a distance.” This is always how the best journalism has always been done: watching from a distance. She soon went on TV to declare this was “more than a smoking gun. What they’ve found is a silver bullet.” Whoops!

Interestingly, Miller is one of the only people on this list to ever suffer any career damage over Iraq. She resigned/was fired in 2005, but it had more to do with her entanglement in the prosecution of Scooter Libby than her cataclysmic WMD work.

Don’t feel too bad for her, however. She went on to work for Fox and is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR, you see, is devoted to helping Americans “better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States.”

Joe Biden

Biden was a Democratic senator from Delaware in the run-up to the war and chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. He ran hearings making the case for the invasion and became one of the most significant Democratic voices supporting it.

Biden remains prominent in American politics.

Plus a Cast of Thousands

This article has to stop here because otherwise it would become an unbelievably depressing 800-page book.

The reality is that most of the D.C. foreign policy blob signed up to push the Iraq War, and for the most part, they’re all still there, several big steps up the career ladder, just blobbing away. Voltaire said that humanity invented hell to dissuade people from doing wrong when they noticed there didn’t seem to be any consequences for it here on Earth. On this bleak anniversary, you can certainly understand where he was coming from.

How the Neocons Opened the Seals of Prophecy: Revelation 13

A U.S. marine standing in Saddam Hussein’s palace, Babylon, Iraq, April 2003
A U.S. marine standing in Saddam Hussein’s palace, Babylon, Iraq, April 2003Jerry Lampen / Reuters

What the Neocons Got Wrong

And How the Iraq War Taught Me About the Limits of American Power

By Max Boot

March 10, 2023

Shortly after September 11, 2001, I became known as a “neoconservative.” The term was a bit puzzling, because I wasn’t new to conservatism; I had been on the right ever since I could remember. But the “neocon” label came to be used after 9/11 to denote a particular strain of conservatism that placed human rights and democracy promotion at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. This was a very different mindset from the realpolitik approach of such Republicans as President Dwight Eisenhower, President Richard Nixon, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and it had a natural appeal to someone like me whose family had come to the United States in search of freedom. (We arrived from the Soviet Union in 1976, when I was six years old.) Having lived in a communist dictatorship, I supported the United States spreading freedom abroad. That, in turn, led me to become a strong supporter of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Traditional conservatives, such as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to teach the Taliban and Saddam Hussein a lesson and then depart each country as quickly as possible. The neoconservative position—which eventually triumphed in the George W. Bush administration—was that the United States could not simply topple the old regimes and leave chaos in their wake. The Americans had to stay and work with local allies to build democratic showcases that could inspire liberal change in the Middle East. In this way, Washington could finally lance the boil of militant Islamism, which had afflicted America ever since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.

Regime change obviously did not work out as intended. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were, in fact, fiascos that exacted a high price in both blood and treasure, for both the United States and—even more, of course—the countries it invaded. As the saying goes, when the facts change, I change my mind. Although I remain a supporter of democracy and human rights, after seeing how democracy promotion has worked out in practice, I no longer believe it belongs at the center of U.S. foreign policy. In retrospect, I was wildly overoptimistic about the prospects of exporting democracy by force, underestimating both the difficulties and the costs of such a massive undertaking. I am a neocon no more, at least as that term has been understood since 9/11.

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Today, I am much more cognizant than I once was of the limitations of American power and hence much more skeptical of calls to promote democracy in China, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, and—fill in the blank. The United States should continue to champion its ideals and call out human rights abuses, but it should do so with humility and not be ashamed to prioritize its own interests. Foreign policy cannot be solely or even mainly an altruistic exercise, and attempting to make it so is likely to backfire in ways that will hurt the very people Americans are trying to help.

Above all, the United States must be more careful about the use of military power than it was in the heady days of the “unipolar moment” following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The era of great-power competition is back with a vengeance. Although the United States remains the world’s strongest military power and has interests and responsibilities around the world, it cannot afford to squander its strength in conflicts of marginal importance.


Twenty years ago, in early 2003, Saddam was clinging to power, and the Bush administration was preparing to launch an invasion to overthrow him. I would never have supported military action had I known that he was not actually building weapons of mass destruction, but what I really wanted was to get rid of Iraq’s cruel dictator, not just his purported weapons program. One of the central arguments that I and other supporters of an invasion made was that regime change could trigger a broader democratic transformation in the Middle East. I now cringe when I read some of the articles I wrote at the time. “This could be the chance to right the scales, to establish the first Arab democracy, and to show the Arab people that America is as committed to freedom for them as we were for the people of Eastern Europe,” I wrote in The Weekly Standard—the now defunct flagship of the neoconservative movement—a month after 9/11. “To turn Iraq into a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the Middle East: Now that would be a historic war aim.”

In hindsight, that was dangerous naiveté born out of a combination of post–Cold War hubris and post-9/11 alarm. I desperately wanted to believe that spreading freedom could solve the security dilemmas confronting the United States—that by doing good in the world, it could also serve its national security interests.

It would have been nice if it had worked out that way, but it didn’t, and I should have realized at the time how far-fetched the entire mission was. Who were Americans to think that they could transform an entire region with thousands of years of its own history? I am still kicking myself for not paying greater attention to a wise op-ed I ran in 2002, when I was the op-ed editor at The Wall Street Journal. Under the headline “Don’t Attack Saddam,” the experienced foreign policy hand Brent Scowcroft accurately predicted that an invasion of Iraq would require “a large-scale, long-term military occupation” and would “swell the ranks of the terrorists.” I discounted such warnings because I was dazzled by the power of the U.S. military after its victories in the Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan—and dazzled also by the arguments of neoconservative scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami that Iraq offered fertile soil for democracy. In hindsight, I am amazed and appalled that I fell prey to these mass delusions.

Like the war in Vietnam, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq offered a potent warning about the dangers of good intentions gone awry. The 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya under the Obama administration, which I also supported, later confirmed on a smaller scale those same lessons. The United States and its allies bombed Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces, leading to his overthrow and murder, but the result was not the blooming of a Jeffersonian democracy in the desert. To this day, Libya remains trapped in a Hobbesian hell of internecine warfare and lawlessness. In all those countries, the United States was so eager to spread democracy, just as it was once eager to contain communism, that it inflicted great misery on the very people it was supposed to be helping—and then left them in the lurch.

As a result, I am hardly alone in souring on wars of regime change. I have even become skeptical of trying to foment regime change by covert action or strict sanctions—policies that many still advocate in such countries as China, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, where odious, anti-American regimes have faced large protest movements in the recent past. Covert actions seldom work. Witness the failure of U.S.-supported rebels to topple the murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the failure of U.S.-supported rebels to topple Saddam before 2003. Sanctions are often unavoidable when the United States wants to impose a cost on rogue regimes for their wrongdoing, but (with only a few exceptions, such as apartheid South Africa) they generally are not effective in bringing down autocrats.


Yet many of my erstwhile ideological allies have not reached the same conclusions about the folly of regime change. Last October, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is often described as a neoconservative think tank, released a paper calling for the “maximum support for the Iranian people.” Most of what the report recommended—such as using “cyber capabilities in support of protesters,” enabling “censorship circumvention,” expanding “human rights sanctions,” and condemning “Iran within international organizations”—was eminently sensible. Much of it, indeed, was already being implemented by the Biden administration. But FDD went too far in calling for an end to diplomatic efforts to get Iran to rejoin the nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump foolishly exited in 2018. This was one of the worst foreign policy decisions in U.S. history. Iran had been abiding by the accord, but today it is a nuclear threshold state with enough highly enriched uranium to produce at least one nuclear weapon.

The United States is running out of options to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The only obvious alternative to a diplomatic solution is a military solution. Years ago, I might have said this was a risk worth running (indeed, I basically suggested as much in 2011), but given how advanced the Iranian nuclear program has become, I no longer believe that. As I wrote in 2019, airstrikes are unlikely to destroy all of Iran’s well-protected nuclear facilities, and they could well trigger a regional conflagration. They could even backfire by convincing Iran to actually build a nuclear weapon. It would be wonderful if liberal protesters were to overthrow the regime and end its nuclear program, but most Iran experts seem to agree that there is no imminent danger of regime collapse. Indeed, protests that began in the fall have already waned. And there is no reason to think that any amount of U.S. intervention, short of outright invasion, could hasten the fall of the ayatollahs.

Opponents of diplomacy with Iran contend that the country would be strengthened by the windfall it would receive if it rejoined the nuclear deal and sanctions were lifted. In truth, the regime has no trouble funding its security forces and repressing dissent even without a nuclear deal. By one count, from mid-September 2022 to early January 2023, 516 protesters had been killed and more than 19,200 arrested. But even if it were true that a nuclear deal would strengthen the state’s capacity for internal repression, that would be a price worth paying for the United States if it actually led Iran to stop its rush to build the bomb. An Iran with nuclear weapons would threaten the United States and its allies and would likely lead some of its neighbors (such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey) to acquire nukes of their own.

The United States is running out of options to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Of course, the whole debate is academic at the moment, because the hard-liners in Tehran have shown no willingness to rejoin a deal they abhor as much as U.S. and Israeli hard-liners do. No doubt, like other dictators around the world (such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un), the mullahs have studied recent history and drawn the logical conclusions: Qaddafi and Saddam were overthrown by the United States after giving up their weapons of mass destruction programs. Hence, any dictator who wants to stay in power should develop a nuclear arsenal. This is yet another way that the U.S. zeal in spreading democracy has backfired. The error was compounded in the case of Iran by Trump’s exit from the imperfect but important nuclear deal without having a Plan B. His decision will be scrutinized for years to come as a case study of the dangers of prioritizing politics above prudence in the conduct of foreign affairs.

At this point, there are few good options left with Iran. U.S. or Israeli covert action—assassinating weapons scientists or spreading computer viruses—will only slightly delay a program that can soon produce a nuclear weapon. Washington should keep trying to reach a diplomatic breakthrough, but assuming that fails, it will need to rely on deterrence and containment, as it did during the Cold War. That means resisting the spread of Iranian power by working through regional allies such as Israel and the Gulf states and making clear to Iran that any use of nuclear weapons would lead to its own destruction.

No matter how abhorrent the Iranian regime is, the United States should, if possible, return an ambassador to Tehran to open lines of communication. Likewise, Washington needs to maintain close contact with Beijing to avoid a nuclear confrontation, even as it condemns the regime’s egregious human rights abuses, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. So, too, does the United States need to talk to Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, even as it condemns the murder of The Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi and the imprisonment of dissidents. The United States cannot simply cut off a country that is a key ally against Iran and the world’s top oil exporter.


Dealing with repressive regimes is unsavory and unpopular—for good reason—but in most cases, the United States doesn’t have the luxury of simply cutting them off and slapping them with sanctions. Such policies may be morally satisfying, but they are not particularly effective. As I suggested in November, to the outrage of the right, the United States might be able to do more for the people of Cuba and Venezuela by easing sanctions in return for human rights improvements rather than demanding regime change. Likewise, it should not be afraid to offer North Korea an easing of sanctions in exchange for a freeze or rollback of its nuclear program, even if that results in more money for the country’s Stalinist regime. (Of course, Pyongyang has shown no interest in such a deal.)

Washington should still call out human rights abuses. It should still champion liberal dissidents, such as the Russian political prisoners Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Ilya Yashin and the brave Iranian demonstrators risking arrest and execution. It should send military aid to embattled democracies, from Ukraine to Taiwan. Even though I am no longer as idealistic as I once was, I have not become the kind of self-styled realist who blames the United States for Russian aggression or thinks that it should sacrifice Ukraine as the price of peace. Nor do I approve of a president kowtowing to dictators (as Trump did). The United States remains the world’s most powerful liberal democracy, and it has a moral obligation to at least speak up for its principles.

But there is a crucial difference—one I did not sufficiently appreciate in the past—between defending democracy and exporting democracy. The United States has a better track record of the former (think Western Europe during the Cold War) than the latter (think Afghanistan and Iraq). Twenty years ago, many advocates of regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, myself included, were misled by the U.S. success in transforming Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II. What we failed to grasp was that these countries benefited from unique historical circumstances—including high levels of economic development, widespread social trust, strong states, and a blank slate created by defeat in a total war—that, it turns out, are nearly impossible to replicate. It was and is foolish to try.

Outsiders can barely understand local societies, much less manipulate them successfully.

Even when it comes to defending democracy, Washington must sometimes make difficult decisions based on a realistic assessment of local conditions far removed from the airy abstractions favored in U.S. political debates. Both South Korea and South Vietnam were worth defending from communist aggression, but the Koreans showed greater skill and willingness to fight for their own freedom than the South Vietnamese did. The United States needs to be hardheaded in its assessment of where it has local partners that can be successful and where it doesn’t.

Ukraine easily meets the test, because its government enjoys the enthusiastic support of its people, and its military has shown itself to be skilled and motivated. By contrast, the regime that the United States and its allies created in Kabul after the overthrow of the Taliban never had sufficient popular legitimacy. As a result, the Afghan military had insufficient motivation to fight on its own. I still opposed the pullout negotiated by Trump and executed by President Joe Biden because I thought it was possible to keep the Taliban out of power at relatively low cost, and I feared the dangerous signal that a U.S. exit would send to other aggressors. Today, I favor maintaining U.S. military advisers in Iraq as a hedge against the power of Iran and the resurgence of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). But those are much more modest objectives than the ones I envisioned 20 years ago. The time I spent with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two decades gave me a greater appreciation for the importance of local dynamics. No matter how powerful or well intentioned, outsiders can barely understand local societies, much less manipulate them successfully.

At one time, for example, I believed that Ashraf Ghani would be an ideal president for Afghanistan because he was a Western-educated technocrat who wasn’t corrupt. When he came to power in 2014, I wrote, “If anyone is qualified to tackle Afghanistan’s problems, he is.” But he turned out to be a terrible wartime leader who did not rally his people and fled before the Taliban even entered Kabul. I didn’t expect much, by contrast, from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former television comedian. But he has turned out to be a Churchillian figure worthy of the United States’ unstinting support. In truth, even if Ukraine weren’t a liberal democracy, it would still make sense for Washington to back it in order to uphold the principle that international borders cannot be changed by force. (That was why Washington was right to defend Kuwait in the Gulf War and South Korea in the Korean War.) But that Ukraine is a liberal democracy makes it easier to rally to its side.


There is, of course, an age-old debate in U.S. foreign policy over the role of values versus interests. In the 1820s, when the Greeks were fighting a war of independence, many American philhellenes wanted to aid their struggle against the cruelty of the Ottoman Empire. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams resisted those entreaties, famously proclaiming that America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” In the past, I have bridled at Adams’s words, which have often been cited by isolationists. But I now have a greater appreciation for his conservative wisdom. As it happened, the Greek rebels won their war of independence with support from France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. But far from ushering in a new Periclean age, they created a barely functional monarchy overseen by foreign kings and punctuated by military coups.

I still favor U.S. international leadership and support of allies, including a strong U.S. military presence in the three centers of global power—Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia—where their deployment is essential to maintain order and deter aggression. But I would no longer make democracy promotion the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy, because I don’t have much confidence that the United States knows how to do it successfully and because other priorities (such as economic security and national security) have to be considered, too.

Biden discovered the difficulty of orienting U.S. foreign policy around support for democracies when he held a Summit for Democracy in December 2021. Some of the countries invited to the virtual meeting, such as India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, are hardly paragons of liberal democracy. Not invited were some especially autocratic governments, such as Singapore, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam, even though the United States has many shared interests with them. Predictably, the summit achieved little, because a mere commitment to democracy is hardly enough to mobilize joint action among 110 countries from all corners of the globe. Besides their democratic political systems, after all, what do Zambia and Uruguay really have in common?

Indeed, the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not break down neatly along democratic-authoritarian lines, with many democracies in the global South—such as Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa—refusing to sanction Russia. Unlike the broader group of the world’s democracies, NATO has staunchly supported Ukraine because most of its members—with the partial exceptions of increasingly autocratic Hungary and Turkey—are united by both values and interests. The U.S. alliances with Australia, Japan, and South Korea are success stories for the same reason, although it is worth remembering that the United States fought for South Korea long before it was a democracy.

Hope is not the basis for a sound foreign policy.

The world is an ugly place, and U.S. officials must deal with it as it is, without imagining that they have more power to transform it than they really do. In the real world, the United States often has to work with regimes it abhors, whether China or Saudi Arabia. Only in the movies and the fantasies of progressive activists is the CIA powerful enough to overthrow any leader on the planet. Its actual record of covert action is far less impressive, and on those few occasions when it helped pull off successful coups, the results have usually backfired. The Iranian mullahs still teach their people about American perfidy by citing the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953.

In the modern world, dictators have proved distressingly talented at using high-tech surveillance tools to suppress popular uprisings. Over the past 20 years, according to the scholar Erica Chenoweth, the success rate of mass protests has declined substantially. It was not terribly surprising, therefore, that China was able to put an end to protests against Xi Jinping’s “zero COVID” policy through a combination of repression and conciliation.

Anyone expecting that a people power revolution will usher in a liberal, pro-Western government any time soon in Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran if only the United States provides more support to protesters, is engaged in wishful thinking. Such hopes may come true, but hope is not the basis for a sound foreign policy. Washington should support liberal protesters with words of encouragement, communications technologies, and other nonmilitary assistance, but it should not count on their success, and it should keep in mind that when a dictatorship falls, the alternative is not always preferable. Remember that Ayatollah Khomeini followed the shah of Iran and that anarchy followed Qaddafi. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal who should be on trial in The Hague, but if he does lose power, his successor may not be a liberal figure like Navalny. It could be an even more reckless, ultranationalist hard-liner who might actually use Russia’s nuclear arsenal in Ukraine rather than merely threatening to do so. Even in Iran, today’s theocracy might be replaced not by a liberal democracy but by a junta of hard-line generals that would be more secular but no less dangerous. There is, alas, little reason other than wishful thinking to expect that other nations will evolve along Whiggish lines into model Western-style democracies.

Dictatorships are, in fact, proving more resilient than many democracies. Even in the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies, freedom has been under siege in recent years. Elsewhere, in countries including Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russia, and Tunisia, democracy briefly took hold and then has been lost to cunning strongmen. Even in eastern Europe, where the spread of freedom in the 1990s inspired me and so many others across the world, democracy in Hungary and Poland has regressed. I have long ago been cured of the democratic triumphalism born of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, I am much more acutely conscious of the difficulties of creating liberal democracies that last.


After two decades of bitter experience, I am trying harder than I did in my callow youth to reconcile the aspirations of idealism with the restraints of realism. I still believe the United States should continue to promote human rights and defend democracy, but I have sadly concluded that U.S. foreign policy should not fixate on exporting democracy. That may make me an ex-neocon—a neocon mugged by reality—if “neocon” is taken to mean “a fervent promoter of exporting democracy.” But in some ways, I am harking back to the vision of the original neocons, who were united in their opposition to Soviet designs but hardly advocated a crusade for freedom abroad.

I now occupy a chair at the Council on Foreign Relations named in honor of Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, a former Democrat who was one of the most important neocon intellectuals in the 1970s and 1980s, when I was growing up. She first came to fame by writing a 1979 Commentary article called “Dictatorships and Double Standards” that argued for making common cause with “moderate autocrats friendly to American interests” despite their human rights violations. That led directly to her appointment as U.S. ambassador to the UN under President Ronald Reagan. As a member of Reagan’s cabinet, she did not want to support the United Kingdom during the 1982 Falklands War because she viewed the Argentine military junta as a bulwark against the expansion of communism in Latin America. Later, long after leaving office, she came to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq, arguing that “Iraq lacked practically all the requirements for a democratic government.” Kirkpatrick’s worldview should make clear that democracy promotion was hardly integral to neoconservatism as originally conceived.

So what was neoconservatism about? In the very first issue of the neoconservative publication The Public Interest, in 1965, its founders—Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol—expressed suspicion of all attempts to oversimplify complicated public policy issues by falling back on “ideology, whether it be liberal, conservative or radical.” That magazine would become a forum for dense, closely argued essays on vexing social science problems, not for sweeping ideological manifestos. In explaining the name of their magazine, Bell and Kristol cited the columnist Walter Lippmann’s definition of the “public interest”: “The public interest may be presumed to be what men would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, acted disinterestedly and benevolently.” Sexist language aside, that remains a good guide to public policy, whether at home or abroad—and it is one that I regret to say I sometimes disregarded in my zeal to spread freedom.

Lippmann, it should be noted, was originally a liberal internationalist whose views were not all that different from those of the modern neocons. He began his long and influential journalistic career as a liberal idealist who helped draft President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points to “make the world safe for democracy” and ended it as a liberal realist who opposed U.S. intervention in Vietnam. That’s a trajectory I can understand.

Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000: Matthew 24

Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000; baby girl rescued alive after 150 hours, Turkish health minister says – as it happened

10.44 ESTPhil Irving is one of 77 search and rescue specialists from 14 fire and rescue services across the UK providing life-saving support in Turkey following the earthquake. Photograph: FCDO/PA

A British firefighter, who helped in pulling a police officer and a woman from the rubble of a building in Turkey five days after the country was devastated by an earthquake, has spoken of the rescue operation.Phil Irving, 46, from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, was part of the team who took part in the painstaking extraction, which ended on Saturday with the pair being brought out alive after being trapped for 120 hours under under a collapsed multi-storey building in Hatay, southern Turkey.The father-of-two told the PA News Agency the battle to save them and their determination to stay alive “will stay with me”.“These people were entombed in rubble and debris and we had to work around the clock to bring them out alive,” he said.“It was Friday afternoon when we first discovered signs of life. We knew 100 per cent that they were alive.“We were hearing them tapping and shouting so we knew we were close to them but reaching them was a major challenge.“It was a catastrophic collapse and access was difficult.“They were trapped in there for over five days and it will stay with me their incredible capacity to keep going, hope and believe.”Screengrab from video dated 11/02/23 of UK International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR) who pulled a police officer and a woman from the rubble of a building in Hatay, Turkey, five days after the country was devastated by an earthquake. Photograph: FCDO/PA

He added that a successful rescue provokes “mixed” emotions, adding:If you rescue one person and they are reunited with a relative, generally speaking that person has left a loved one in the building, who has not been so lucky. It is generally a bitter-sweet moment.Of course, when we are successful in getting someone out it gives the team a boost, but I don’t think you ever have a rescue that is not moderately tarnished with the bigger reality that the survivor will have to deal with grief for the people that didn’t make it.”The watch manager at Haverfordwest station has been a firefighter for almost 24 years and a volunteer with UK International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR) for 17 years, and was part of the 2009 Indonesia and 2010 Haiti earthquake responses.He said it “hurts my heart to see the devastation” caused to families and their homes.“I stand back and I look at the people who have lost their homes and their families and my heart bleeds for them.”

Turkish authorities have issued more than 100 arrest warrants over collapsed buildings, amid warnings that the death toll from the earthquake that struck parts of Turkey and Syria could double from the current tally of 28,000.

State media reported that at least 12 people were in custody, including contractors, architects and engineers connected to some of the tens of thousands of buildings destroyed or seriously damaged in Monday’s 7.8- and 7.6-magnitude quakes.

The situation in stricken north-west Syria, already ravaged by more than a decade of civil war and where international aid has been slow to arrive, is becoming increasingly desperate, the United Nations has said.

As public anger continued to mount in Turkey at the scale of the destruction and the pace of the rescue efforts, the arrests are likely to be seen as an attempt by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who faces tough elections in May, to deflect blame.Collapsed buildings in Antakya, Turkey. Photograph: Hassan Ayadi/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey’s vice-president, Fuat Oktay, said early on Sunday that authorities had so far identified 131 people suspected of being responsible for the collapse of some of the thousands of buildings flattened, and that detention orders had been issued for 113 of them.

“We will follow this up meticulously until the necessary judicial process is concluded, especially for buildings that suffered heavy damage and caused deaths and injuries,” Oktay said. Special investigation units have been set up in the 10 provinces affected.

The environment minister, Murat Kurum, said that based on an initial assessment of more than 170,000 buildings, 24,921 across the region had collapsed or were heavily damaged by the quake.

Opposition leaders have long accused Erdoğan’s government of not enforcing building regulations and of failing to account for the proceeds of special levy imposed after the 1999 İzmit earthquake to ensure apartment blocks and offices were more quake-resistant.

The president has accused his critics of lying and in remarks so far has seemed to blame fate for the disaster, saying such catastrophes “have always happened” and are “destiny’s plan”. He has pledged to start rebuilding within weeks.

Colin Powell and the lie that opened the Prophecy: Revelation 13

Colin Powell holding a model vial of anthrax while giving his lying speech to the United Nations Security Council to justify the invasion of Iraq. [Photo: Public Domain]

February 5, 2003: Colin Powell and the lie that sanctioned the invasion of Iraq

David North@davidnorthwsws6 February 2023

This article was originally posted as a thread on Twitter.

February 5, 2023, marks the 20th anniversary of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech at the Security Council of the United Nations. In front of a worldwide audience, Powell told lies to justify the Bush administration’s criminal decision to invade Iraq.

Among the lying statements made by Powell were:

  1. “We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.”
  2. “Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agents.”
  3. “He [Saddam Hussein] remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons. … He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries.”
  4. “What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network … Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible.”

Powell’s lies, which had been scripted by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other political criminals, cleared the path for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It began with the “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Baghdad, which destroyed much of the city.

The war resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the destruction of what had been a highly developed country. The CIA and military conducted a brutal campaign of torture and murder. None of the officials responsible for the crimes were ever punished.

This grim anniversary is not being observed by the US media, which prefers not to recall the crimes of the not-too-distant past as it concocts the lies that are needed to promote the escalating war against Russia.

The Iraq War Was Foreseeable Prophecy: Revelation 13:1

Was the Iraq War a Foreseeable Blunder?

By Gabriel SchoenfeldTuesday, January 10, 2023, 8:16 AM

President George W. Bush. (Official U.S. Government photo by Eric Draper/The U.S. National Archives)

A review of Melvyn P. Leffler, “Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq” (Oxford University Press, 2023)

Why did the United States commit the enormous blunder of invading Iraq in 2003? The costs of the war are staggering. Nearly 5,000 American soldiers killed, many thousands more wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and maimed, $2 trillion expended, the empowerment of fundamentalist Iran, intense polarization and the destruction of trust in government at home, and reputational damage across the globe. In view of the catastrophe, prominent Americans who supported the second Gulf War have made a volte face. The historian Max Boot, once a leading advocate of the war, now calls it “all a big mistake.” The commentator Andrew Sullivan, another fervent war hawk, has expressed profuse regrets for being wrong. And then there are the many politicians, like Hillary Clinton, who have apologized for their vote to authorize the employment of American military force. 

With hindsight, all is clear: The ending is known. But every historical event must be looked at from two directions. The key question for understanding is always how events appeared at the time to decision-makers struggling with uncertainty. Was there justification for what they did? Or was it obvious, even at the time, that they were on a profoundly mistaken course? There is also a counterfactual imponderable that must be weighed: What kind of ending, including disaster, might have unfolded had they embarked on an alternative path?

In seeking to answer such questions about America’s second Iraq war, we are now blessed with a historical reconstruction of the George W. Bush administration’s choices by the historian Melvyn Leffler. The story he tells in “Confronting Saddam Hussein”—based on extensive documentary research, interviews with everyone who was anyone in the decision-making tree, and years of thinking about the subject—is as complex as it is gripping.

Nothing about the decision to go to war in Iraq can be understood without gauging the impact on the Bush administration of the disaster of Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax attack that began shortly thereafter. The former, it became quickly apparent, was the work of al-Qaeda. The latter, the employment of a weapon of mass destruction, was a terrifying mystery, with Iraq’s brutal dictator Saddam Hussein a possible culprit. But whoever was behind the attacks, action to avert a follow-on attack was an urgent necessity. “Everyday since [9/11] has been September 12” is how Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, described the atmosphere in the White House. “We all had the overwhelming sense that we were still one step behind the terrorists and in danger of another successful attack.” 

Less than two weeks after 9/11, Bush declared a global war on terror. Leffler notes that, although Afghanistan, the homebase of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, was to be the principal theater, “Iraq remained a burning problem.” No evidence emerged suggesting that Hussein was behind 9/11, but a lot of solid intelligence demonstrated that he was directly involved in sponsoring terror attacks around the Middle East and points further afield. A lot of other intelligence—which turned out to be far less than solid—demonstrated that Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was acquiring nuclear weapons as well. On top of that, Hussein was the only world leader who praised the Sept. 11 attacks. Then, three days after the first American died from anthrax, an Iraqi newspaper opined that “[t]he United States must get a taste of its own poison.” The ever-present danger, in the minds of the Bush administration, was that Hussein would provide WMD to a terrorist group. The possibility of a second and far more terrible Sept. 11 loomed large in a White House that had already failed to avert a great disaster.

But even the hawks in the Bush administration, in the fall of 2001, did not regard Iraq as an imminent threat and were not advocating for an all-out war. It is an easily exploded myth, Leffler demonstrates, that the Bush administration decided on attacking Iraq immediately after 9/11 and then lied to the public about the intelligence. It is equally a myth that the U.S. invaded Iraq as part of some neoconservative project to bring democracy to the Middle East. Instead, the Bush administration had a twin focus: to guard against another attack on the homeland and to prevent a nuclear-armed Iraq from dominating the Middle East. Toward those ends it began to pursue two approaches, both in tension with one another. The first was regime change: get rid of Hussein, perhaps by encouraging a coup or forcing him to flee. The second was disarmament: leave Hussein in place but persuade him to surrender his WMD. 

Accomplishing either of these goals would require “coercive diplomacy,” the central theme of Leffler’s book:

Bush wanted to intimidate Hussein. He wanted to use the threat of force to remove the Iraqi dictator from power. He also wanted to use the threat of force to resume inspections and gain confidence that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. He did not really know which of these two goals had priority. They were distinct, yet often conflated. He sometimes wanted Hussein’s removal in order to feel assured there was no threat of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists; at other times, he wanted to use the threat—the demand for inspections—as a ruse to justify military invasion in order to overthrow him. These conflicting, overlapping impulses coursed through Bush’s mind for the next year. He never clearly sorted them out, yet each would become more and more compelling.

As the Bush administration wrestled with how best to confront Hussein, a steady stream of alarming intelligence flowed in. In May 2002, a senior al-Qaeda planner, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, turned up in Baghdad. An intelligence report noted that, in addition to Zarqawi, “other individuals associated with al-Qaida are operating in Baghdad and are in contact with colleagues who, in turn, may be more directly involved in attack planning.” Some 200 al-Qaeda terrorists, possibly under the leadership of Zarqawi, had moved into an ungoverned region in northeastern Iraq, where they were experimenting with biological and chemical warfare. U.S. intelligence, reviewing all the evidence, issued an assessment that Iraq’s reconstituted biological weapons program posed “a credible but elusive threat.”

The pressure for military action grew. The Pentagon prepared a new Iraq war plan, which Bush approved. But as Leffler emphasizes, “war planning did not mean war”; the planning was all part of the pressure campaign. Bush continued to have reservations about going to war and continued to hope that coercive diplomacy would achieve results. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, spelled out what he called the Iraq “paradox”: namely, that “diplomacy had a chance of success only if it was combined with the clearest possible prospect that force would be used if diplomacy failed.” Leffler walks readers through the subsequent intense diplomacy, both public and in the halls of the United Nations, where Bush addressed the General Assembly, holding open the possibility that Hussein might remain in power if he acceded “immediately and unconditionally” to disclose and destroy all of his illicit weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, as we now know, Hussein did not have such weapons. But, unfortunately, neither did he come clean about his past record of cheating on their proscription, fueling suspicion about his present WMD capabilities. In Leffler’s analysis,

[Hussein] thought he could outsmart and defy the Americans. He did not think the Bush administration would use force to remove his regime. Believing that Washington had no good reason to invade Iraq—the United States, in his view, already had a position of preponderance in the region and was sure they knew he had no weapons of mass destruction—he calculated that the Americans were playing a game of bluff with him. They wanted to intimidate and force him to flee, but he was confident they would not invade and risk casualties.

Leffler takes readers through the deployment of military power designed to coerce Hussein and, if coercion failed, to destroy his regime. As late as January 2003, as the U.S. was moving forces into position around Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was still operating in support of Bush’s coercive diplomacy even as he was coming to believe that, thanks to Hussein’s recalcitrance, war was inevitable. Secretary of State Colin Powell was still searching for a diplomatic solution. But Hussein remained defiant. By March, the difficulty was that troops were already in the field. They could not sit in place for months as summer approached and the heat imposed impossible hardship. They could not sit in place making the United States look like a paper tiger. Deployment for the sake of coercion set in motion an almost unstoppable chain of events. The result, on March 20, 2003, was war.

Without question, the Bush administration made grave mistakes both in the run-up to the war and then in its execution. The gaps in the intelligence about Iraq’s WMD are the most glaring instance. Leffler recounts the group-think that had taken hold in Washington and in every Western capital, infecting policymakers and intelligence analysts alike. Hawks and doves both “thought they knew” that Iraq had a chemical and biological warfare capability and was aspiring to build a nuclear capability as well. To be sure, some analysts were later to claim that they were bullied and told their superiors what they wanted to hear, but Leffler, after examining the charge, rejects it, writing:

It is not at all clear that policymakers were seeking incriminating evidence, nor evident that analysts felt political pressure. What preoccupied them—analysts and policymakers, alike—was knowledge that they had previously underestimated Hussein’s penchant to cheat. What they knew from their own lived experience—from recent history—was that Hussein had developed and used weapons of mass destruction. Analysts knew, [former CIA deputy director Michael] Morell explained [in an interview], “that he once had the stuff and actually used it.” They knew that he once “was very very close to getting a nuclear weapon, much closer than we thought.” They knew, said Morell—Bush knew, Cheney knew—that Iraq once “had a weapons program that we completely missed.”

With such a backdrop, no one stopped to pause and ask how firm the intelligence was that pointed to the presence of WMD. If they had paused, they would have been forced to recognize that the intelligence was extraordinarily thin, full of untested suppositions, and bolstered by a confidential source—Curveball—known to be a fraudster. To be fair, intelligence analysts were confronting a conceptual barrier that was extremely difficult to pierce. Convinced that Hussein was hiding WMD to get out from under sanctions, they lacked the imagination to conceive that he was deliberately fostering the false impression that he possessed WMD for the purpose of intimidating both Iran and his own populace. Nonetheless, responsibility for failing to pause—to scrutinize the intelligence, to consider alternative hypotheses about Hussein’s behavior—rests heavily with CIA Director George Tenet and, ultimately, with President Bush.

Perhaps even more egregious than botching the intelligence was scanting the day-after questions: Who would rule Iraq once the Iraqi tyrant was gone, and how would they rule it? William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs (and now CIA director), wrote a prescient memo entitled “Iraq: The Perfect Storm” that laid out possible scenarios of what could go wrong before, during, and after an American invasion. In Leffler’s summary (quoting from the memo),

“[I]mmediately after liberation a powerful dynamic will begin mixing U.S. military, media, new Iraqi authorities, paroxysm of revenge, recriminations and angling for power by key constituencies.” Confronted with “inchoate and escalating disorder in the provinces,” administration officials would face “an agonizing decision: step up more direct security role, or devolve power to local leaders.” This meant that “we need to think now about a very big and expensive commitment. This is a five- or ten-year job, not a fast in and out.”

But as Leffler notes, Burns’s warning was hardly a plea against action: Indeed, “it began with an acknowledgment that war and regime change—if done right—‘could be a tremendous boon to the future of the region, and to U.S. national security interests.’”

In any event, Pentagon and State Department preparation for a post-Hussein Iraq was not set up for a five- or 10- or even one-year job. Inside the bureaucracies, there was endless mastication of the key issues—should power be handed over to Iraqis? If so, which ones? How many troops should be left in place to maintain order? What should be done with the Iraqi army and the ruling Baath party?—but no resolution. Such questions were given far less attention than the mechanics of winning the opening battle. Once again, in fairness to the Bush administration, it must be noted that postwar planning was constricted due to the fear that it would convey the erroneous impression that a decision to go to war had already been made. In the end, following a lightning victory in Baghdad, the U.S. military was grossly unprepared.

Bush bears ultimate responsibility for inattention to postwar planning, but Rumsfeld set the tone. As he was later to write: “I did not think that resolving other countries’ internal political disputes, paving roads, erecting power lines, policing streets, building stock markets, and organizing democratic governmental bodies were missions for our men and women in uniform.” The immediate upshot was widespread looting and destruction, which then devolved into a civil war, with American soldiers, now occupiers, as targets. “Mission Accomplished” was the banner greeting Bush on the deck of the carrier USS Lincoln immediately after Hussein was deposed. Hardly. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Years of chaos and bloodletting commenced.

Was this perfect storm foreseeable at the outset? Opponents of the war, pointing to the results, claim vindication in spades. But as Francis Fukuyama, initially a supporter of the war before changing his mind early on, has observed, “[C]ritics who assert that they knew with certainty before the war that it would be a disaster are, for the most part, speaking with a retrospective wisdom to which they are not entitled.” Likewise, apologies for having supported the war rely largely on retrospective wisdom, undermining their worth. The decision to go to war, as demonstrated by Leffler’s exhaustively researched and exquisitely judicious account, was not an obvious blunder—though well hidden beneath the surface was dereliction of responsibility on the part of the nation’s leaders. To the decision- makers in the Bush administration, to a bipartisan majority in Congress, and to much of the public at large, going to war seemed like an eminently reasonable course of action to protect the United States from a gathering threat. It is only the blinding clarity of hindsight that leaves us unable to see that haunting reality.