It has been 10 long years since "Shock and Awe" – the opening bombardment of Baghdad – lit up the skies above the Tigris. A decade later, we know far more about the case the Bush administration made to the world to justify its war of choice to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Books like Hubris by David Corn and Michael Isikoff, and British commission and US Senate reports have catalogued the extent to which intelligence was misused to mislead the public. ...
For nearly a year prior to the invasion, President Bush and his administration peppered the airwaves with serious accusations against Saddam Hussein, including claims of aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium, and of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa. The intelligence supporting the claims was either not believed or was highly disputed by the experts. But that did not stop senior government officials from repeating them incessantly; nor did it prevent the powerful neoconservative ideologues who were the war's most fervent supporters from parroting them with menacingly jingoistic passion.
Who can forget the trademark line, delivered by Condoleezza Rice:
We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
At that point, I don't think I believed much of anything coming from the Bush administration, but I still respected Colin Powell, and I believed what he said in that speech at the United Nations ten years ago. I believed, as he claimed, that they had proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
I still saw no justification for going to war, not then, at least. After all, we were already involved in one war. How many did we need to wage simultaneously? And the United Nations was still in Iraq, still looking for those WMDs. Why not let them continue to look?
After all, we still enforced a "no fly" zone above Iraq, too. Did we really have to invade the country? Right then?
But as it turned out, even Powell's speech wasn't true:
As Valerie watched the speech unfold on TV from CIA headquarters that morning, she experienced what can only be described as "cognitive dissonance". It became clear, as Powell laid out the case for war (with CIA Director George Tenet sitting conspicuously just behind the secretary's right shoulder), that his robust claims about the state of Iraqi WMD simply did not match the intelligence which she had worked on daily for months. ...
The implications suddenly become obvious: we were watching a kabuki play and the outcome was predetermined. The Bush administration was determined to go to war, however bad the intelligence, and not even Secretary of State Powell was going to stand in the way.
We swept all of this under the rug. At the urging of Republicans, and abetted by the timidity of Democrats, we swept all of the disasters of the Bush administration under the rug, from the failure to prevent 9/11 to the lies which got us to invade an innocent country to the torture of prisoners of war to the outing of Valerie Plame herself to the economic collapse we're still struggling to overcome.
And all of that makes the hypocrisy of Republicans determined to milk every bit of political advantage from Benghazi, where four Americans died (when more than four thousand died in Iraq, and almost three thousand on 9/11), so infuriating.
Make no mistake, I'm almost as angry at the Democrats, for their timidity, as I am at the Republicans, for their hypocrisy and their lies. But if we're not going to investigate this stuff, let's at least make sure we never forget it!