Former Bush Administration Insider Reflects on the Failure of the Iraq War

By Naman Habtom-Desta, Truthout, Published August 4, 2019 ,.Share

This is not a short piece, but the similarities of behind-the-scenes manipulation of facts, complete ineptitude and publicized rationale, by U.S. administration war-mongers of the then-Iraqi war and today’s dealings with Iran are downright scary. ~ Don Chapin

“There was a long history of the CIA’s incompetence in trying to get rid of Saddam Hussein,” says retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.
Looking back at the march to war in Iraq, Colonel Wilkerson, who served as the chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002-2005, continues to be unwavering in his criticism of the actors involved. Sixteen years after the invasion, the institutional problems that metastasized then not only predated the George W. Bush administration but continue to plague ongoing U.S. foreign policy, whether it is on the intelligence front, corrosive corporate influence or simply catastrophic decision-making.

Whether discussing the wars in the Balkans, the bombing of the Sudanese al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory or the sustained air campaign against Iraq in the 1990s, Wilkerson says, “The biggest commonality is … the influence of the military-industrial-congressional complex: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, [Northrop] Grumman, Boeing and others, plus the members of Congress who are lobbied by them.”

That is to say, the post-Cold War landscape and the U.S.’s approach to it was one guided primarily, if not exclusively, by the military-industrial complex and its congressional partners. This was largely aided and abetted by the relative lack of experience that describes all U.S. presidents since 1993. This inexperience was coupled with a growing desire by arms-procurement companies to export to previously inaccessible markets, such as Poland and the former Soviet Union.

“But much of that was due to Bill Clinton’s ineptitude as a commander in chief. His policy was dictated more or less by the people who supported him: big money plutocrats who supported him and wanted him to sell arms all across the region,” Wilkerson says. In the decades since, not much has changed, as Donald Trump is similarly beholden to special interests.

While the likelihood for war in Iraq increased significantly following 9/11, the pretext for invasion, arguably making it inevitable, was found as early as the Persian Gulf War. Atrocity stories, including fabricated ones such as the claim that Iraqi soldiers were throwing children out of incubators, were being promoted by Kuwaiti-hired public relations firms with ties to U.S. neoconservatives, which created the irreversible demonization of Hussein.
John Nixon, the first man to interrogate Hussein following his capture, noted that the fallen Iraqi leader had hopes for a possible rekindling of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation due to a shared animosity toward Sunni fundamentalism, but these hopes were quickly dashed following a decade of sustained vilification.

Wilkerson was acutely aware of this and even recalled how Powell, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told then-National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft as well as President George H.W. Bush during the Gulf War that they “need[ed] to stop this rhetoric! Saddam Hussein is not Hitler…. Hitler had a hundred divisions on their way to Stalingrad and back; there is no way that Saddam is Hitler and you are going to regret this if you characterize him as such.”

The demonization of the Iraqi leader, intended to rally support around the upcoming U.S. military campaign, was effective in its aims but had long-lasting consequences. Though, while Bush did refrain from doing so later, it was arguably too late since “the cat was out of the bag, and we had branded him thusly.”

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