Welcome to rock bottom.
Taibbi: The Legacy of the Iraq War, by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)
The invasion is no longer just one of the great crimes of this or any age – it’s become a crossroads event in the history of America’s decline
Fifteen years ago this week, George W. Bush invaded Iraq. It was an awesome drama, made more thrilling by the seemingly obvious craziness of it all.
People were looking at each other out of the corners of their eyes, shrugging, and asking: Can we really do this without a reason? That was the dramatic subtext of the invasion.
In the press, no one could really make sense of the supposed justification for the invasion. That it was compelling, no one could deny. Hell, just look at the fonts. We all used the biggest ones we had! The New York Times said it all with its dramatic banner:
“BUSH ORDERS START OF WAR ON IRAQ; MISSILES APPARENTLY MISS HUSSEIN”
GOON BOMBS CITY ON HORSESHIT PRETEXT would have been more accurate, but editors were giving everyone the benefit of the doubt back then, and getting on board, for patriotic reasons. The Gray Lady, who was playing such a key role in what was going on, was certainly getting in the spirit, giving in to the adrenaline rush of Bush’s evil gambit.
It was the same with CNN’s breathless coverage of that first night, with the creepy green-hued night-cams showing explosion after monster explosion.
Shock and awe, we called it: a new plan for “achieving rapid dominance.” What a great Hollywood name, and goddamn if people didn’t sit glued to their TVs to watch its rollout, getting off like a bunch of kids blowing up frogs.
Wars are great TV. The prolonged political lead-up, the decision to kill, it’s all rich with suspense, and when wedded to the sight and the sound of the bombs, after waiting all those months for one nightfall, at the hour of crime and sex, to launch the first sorties from a secret location at sea – it all trips the senses. It’s a turn on. It makes the Super Bowl look like paint drying. The sheer drama is how they sold this thing to the public, fifteen years ago this week.
But that’s not how our rulers sold the war to themselves. They weren’t overcome with emotion, or some post-9/11 yearning for vengeance. They knew what they were doing.
The Iraq invasion, one of the great crimes of this or any age and destined to be a crossroads event in the history of America’s decline, was instead a cold, calculated, opportunistic power grab, aimed as much at future targets, and even our own population, as at the Iraqi “enemy.”
As citizens, we haven’t started to reckon with any of this. We write it off rather than deal with it. In fact, when we think of Iraq at all, we often describe the invasion as a mistake. Embarrassingly, even I did this a few weeks back, talking about how we “blundered” into Iraq.
It’s understandable. There are superficial plot elements from the Iraq narrative we lean on to soothe ourselves that the invasion was caused by an unlikely confluence of accidents and errors, not the inherent venality of our system …