Nation’s “Paper of Record” Acknowledges the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Unleashed a Sectarian Bloodbath

fallujah_war-rubble-350It’s always intriguing when the Newspaper of Record, even tacitly and buried inside an article, acknowledges that a U.S. policy it once trumpeted as vital to the nation’s security turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.

In a front-page, above-the-fold piece that features Michael Gordon as one of its co-authors – the same Michael Gordon who co-authored with Judith Miller the infamous September 2002 New York Times article that became a clarion call for the invasion of Iraq — we find a subtle admission that the sectarian violence now engulfing the Middle East is, in part, the result of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

Five paragraphs in we learn:

“The drumbeat of violence in recent weeks threatens to bring back the worst of the Iraqi civil war that the United States touched off with an invasion and then spent billions of dollars and thousands of soldiers’ lives to overcome.” [Italics added]

This confession is remarkable because it appears that the Establishment press has become comfortable with blandly conceding that the Iraq war was not only a spectacular waste of lives and money, but also, an epic failure even on the neo-cons’ own “strategic” terms.

Remember when Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush and the rest lied about Americans being “greeted as liberators” in Iraq? And when they lied about the Iraqi government’s stash of weapons of mass destruction? And when they lied about how the U.S.-allied Sunni Arab states – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan – “privately” urged the Bush Administration to invade Iraq while publicly opposing it?

Cut to twelve years later. Now we’re being told in passing, as if it were “old news” that “everyone knows,” that the policy that the corporate media, including the Times, so successfully rammed down the public’s throat in 2002 and 2003 ended up unleashing a wider sectarian conflagration.

The thrust of the article recognizes that Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran (now in a de facto alliance with the Shia government in Baghdad) are vying for power and engaged in an intractable religious war.

Even while recognizing that the United States tipped the balance of power in Iraq in favor of the Shia majority and thereby pushed the country’s power structure closer to Iran, the authors also imply that the problems arose from a “vacuum” that emerged after the American troop withdrawal of 2011. Subtext: Maybe a re-invasion of Iraq will be necessary to stop the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Al Qaeda). Already the U.S. is rushing Hellfire missiles and other weapons to Iraq.

While much of the article gives the impression that somehow a “vacuum” in power developed in Iraq after the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, if one reads between the lines it’s clear that this sorry state of affairs in the Middle East is the catastrophic outcome of a neo-con foreign policy that at the time the Times embraced in its reporting tone and editorial content.

There wasn’t a power “vacuum” in Iraq until the United States created one. The Shia majority long ago filled that hole. Desperate to hang on to power and equally desperate to find allies the beleaguered government of President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki naturally gravitated toward Iran. Where else could it turn?

We still have a hangover from that wretched period when the neo-cons and their fellow travelers in the corporate media were thumping like a drum people’s post-9-11 fears and baser instincts. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were part of an orchestrated effort that ended up creating the specter of an intolerant people ready to neglect their own Constitutional rights; eager to sacrifice their basic freedom for “security.”

Even so, the Times article is as if a mainstream press outlet finally acknowledged the fabric of government lies that surrounded the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964 that was the pretext for the Vietnam War. So I guess the Times writing that the U.S. invasion “touched off” the ongoing sectarian bloodbath that has engulfed the region, on a certain level, might be a hopeful sign. (Fifty years later, we’re still awaiting a retraction of the Gulf of Tonkin reporting.)

A Vote for These Democrats Is a Vote for War

Amazingly, even with a “liberal” Democratic administration possibly on the verge of a diplomatic breakthrough with the Iranian government on its uranium enrichment program, a set of determined hawks in the president’s own party are gunning to torpedo the delicate negotiations that their former colleague, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to hammer out.

For the first time in 30 years the Americans and the Iranians appear to be making progress toward not only a settlement of the nuclear issue but perhaps a rapprochement that will benefit both nations (and the region) immensely.

I guess these wise Senators haven’t figured out yet that in the battle against Al Qaeda’s influence in Iraq, the United States and Iran are on the same side.

A gaggle of Democratic Senators cannot contain their warmongering instincts when it comes to Iran and have arrogantly ignored the Obama administration’s warnings against sabotaging the negotiations. For political reasons they’re intent on passing wholly unnecessary, even destructive, new economic sanctions on Iran.

And for what?

To show their benefactors and constituents that they prefer a military “solution” to the Iranian nuclear issue ?

joseph palermoThe Obama Administration’s failed attempt last August to garner public support for cruise missile strikes against Syria, along with the Democratic Senators who are determined to undermine any negotiated settlement with Iran on its nuclear program, show that the neo-cons, despite widespread acknowledgement of their past failures, still cast a long shadow over U.S. Middle East policy.

Joseph Palermo
Joseph A Palermo Political Commentary

Published by the LA Progressive on January 6, 2014
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About Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo is Professor of History, California State University, Sacramento. Professor Palermo's most recent book is The Eighties (Pearson 2012). He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Columbia, 2001); and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism (Pearson, 2008). Before earning a Master's degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master's degree in History from San Jose State University. His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 (Scholarly Resources Press, 2003); and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon (CQ Press, 2004).