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The Straight Sell Wouldn’t Have Gone Over Well

June 23rd, 2014

So, in 2003, if Bush and Cheney had approached the American people and given a truthful summing up of what they wanted to do?

“Look, folks, we know that there is no link between Iraq and the terrorists who were behind 9/11—in fact, we’re fully aware that Iraq has been hostile to them and other terrorist groups—and we’re pretty sure that Hussein is not really a threat to anybody, and might even be preferable to the alternative, holding the unstable religious and ethnic groups in check. However, we really want to invade this country because we have this vision of American dominance, spreading our moral values in the Middle East, and, let’s face it, it would be really great to control the flow of oil in the region. Not to mention the Cold War ended and we need continued justification to finance our military spending.

”For the Iraq War alone, it will cost at the very least about $16,000 per U.S. household over the next decade—we’ll be billing you in advance—and about four and a half thousand U.S. soldiers will die over the same period of time. An additional 32,000 soldiers will be wounded, many of them permanently so. That cost, by the way, is only the direct cost; there will be a lot more to pay in many other ways, and a lot more soldiers will die indirectly as a result of the war. There will be a tremendous psychological burden on countless thousands of troops, and the cost and resources needed to treat them will pile up over the decades—if we feel like seeing to those obligations, that is.

“And let’s be frank here: this is a quagmire. We will either have to stay in Iraq indefinitely, or resign ourselves to the fact that, once we leave, the country will break down into fundamentalist-led chaos which will only create more problems than we have there now.

”So, how about it, folks? Each American household pays $1600 a year for ten years, for starters. About 4500 troops will be killed, 32,000 wounded, countless more disabled or traumatized, and, well, let’s face it, our good name and influence around the world more than a little battered. In return, we’ll kill Saddam Hussein and tens of thousands of Iraqis, we’ll try but ultimately fail to spread our moral and political values, and we’ll be able to control, for as long as we stay there, the flow of oil.

“What do you say?”

It’s not really a mystery as to why they lied to get us into Iraq, when you think about it.

Remember what they were selling? They said that Hussein was a ruthless dictator, which was true enough. But then they also said that Hussein was building a nuke and had vast stores of other WMD, had ties to terrorists and would shortly be giving the nukes and other WMD to al Qaeda which would lay waste to America. (Remember Bush’s “mushroom cloud over an American city” in his State of the Union speech?) They claimed that the estimates of $50 billion in costs were probably too high, that Iraq would pay for it in oil revenues. They said the whole enterprise would be a cakewalk, lasting only a few weeks, and we would be greeted as liberators. They said that the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd factionalism would not be a problem. They said it would spread peace and Democracy throughout the region. I am not exaggerating; quotes to the exact effect are easily found on video. They then ordered tailor-made fake intel to support their claims, cherry-picked and distorted what was known, and presented it is solid fact.

The only true thing they said was that Hussein was a ruthless dictator (though they exaggerated the hell out of even that). They did not mention that a ruthless dictator was just about all that could keep the artificially-drawn country from falling apart.

And now they claim it’s all Obama’s fault that anything has gone wrong, that we should still be in Iraq. They shift blame by claiming that everyone believed that Hussein had massive stores of WMD, which was not true, and to the extent it was true, it was because they lied to everyone and made so many believe it.

What is happening now was inevitable the moment we toppled the Hussein regime. The only alternative would be paying endless billions to maintain our own ruthless dictatorship in the country with our own troops, our own blood spilled on a regular basis—something the American people would not choose to do.

Blame is easy. We want out, and we want to blame somebody. But the people who are almost wholly to blame are the same ones now granted a TV spotlight to spout their revisionism, when they should righty be in The Hague.

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  1. Troy
    June 23rd, 2014 at 13:18 | #1

    “it would be really great to control the flow of oil in the region.”

    especially since if we [i.e. “our” multinationals] don’t, France. Russia, and China’s will!


    Saddam wanted no truck with the British and US oil industry, not after what the US and UK had done to him and Iraq 1991-2001. Moving to euros was the first step in getting out of his sanctions box and making Iraq a regional power again. France was owed billions for their support during the Iran-Iraq war (wait, isn’t Iran our #1 enemy now???) — as was Russia.

    “They said that the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd factionalism would not be a problem.”

    If they even understood that there were factions.


    “They did not mention that a ruthless dictator was just about all that could keep the artificially-drawn country from falling apart.”

    Back in June 2004 (I know the date because it was when Reagan died) I made the observation to someone — my pal who also worked on the 46th floor that you know actually — that I thought ‘Saddam was more an effect than a cause’

    As for the cost of the war, this graph:


    is basically the cost of war as a percent of all wages (taking every dollar of our DOD budget over $400B/yr as a war cost).

    LBJ proposed a 10% war surtax in 1967:

    By August 1967 Johnson was growing more concerned about the state of the economy, and he renewed his request for a surcharge. Now, however, he was asking for a 10 percent levy, and he embraced the moral rhetoric of wartime self-denial to justify the proposal. “Some may hear in this message a call to sacrifice,” he declared. “In truth, it is a call to the sense of obligation felt by all Americans. The inconveniences this demand imposes are small when measured against the contribution of a Marine on patrol in a sweltering jungle, or an airman flying through perilous skies, or a soldier 10 thousand miles from home, waiting to join his outfit on the line.”


    we needed one for Bush’s wars, but they tried to pay for the wars with a massive tax cut instead.

    Idiocy. Wall-to-wall idiocy, and I suspect the US is not going to actually recover from the mistakes we made 1995-2006 when Republicans, or at least conservatism, was running things.

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