We will soon see the eighth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.  That anniversary should remind us that the Iraq war has claimed many lives and permanently damaged many more.   It is not clear when this war and occupation, or the war in Afghanistan, will ever end.  What is clear is that the Iraq War was built entirely on lies and that painful fact grows clearer with each passing year.  It is no longer possible for honest people to suggest that the false claims made to start this war were just a string of misunderstandings, which brings to mind an important question.

One of the two original justifications for invading Iraq was that Iraq was linked to al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11.  Vice President Dick Cheney made such claims on several occasions.  But the truth was that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11 and he was distrustful of that elusive organization.  It was later reported by the US Senate Intelligence Committee that Hussein denied all requests to provide material or operational support to al-Qaeda, and that Cheney’s claims were all false.[1]

The second of the two original justifications for war with Iraq was that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and was seeking to possess more WMDs.  These claims were driven by a faction within the Bush Administration called the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), led by Bush advisors Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.[2] This group of war promoters systematically devised and implemented propaganda plans to ensure that the fear Americans were feeling as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was leveraged to produce war in Iraq.

In July, 2002, what is called the “Downing Street memo” was written.  This memo, publicly released in 2005, documented a meeting in which the highest levels of the British government discussed American plans to falsify intelligence for the purpose of supporting the invasion of Iraq.  The exact text of the memo stated that — “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”[3]

An example of the many lies told during this effort to “fix the facts around the policy” was provided when Dick Cheney spoke at the VFW National Convention in August, 2002.  Cheney, who obtained five draft deferments during the Vietnam War and never served in the military, told these veterans that “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”

On September 8, 2002, the NY Times published a “leaked story” in careful coordination with same day TV appearances by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and members of WHIG.  This story, which was later found to be completely false, said that Iraq had worked to purchase aluminum tubes for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons.[4] The story was used by Cheney and WHIG to show that even the “liberal media” was in full agreement of the need to go to war with Iraq.

A fact repressed in our national memory is that the entire world was made aware, weeks before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, that forged documents were used by the Bush Administration to justify the invasion.  On March 7, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, told the U.N. Security Council that – “The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents . . . are in fact not authentic.”[5] The documents were so obviously fraudulent, in fact, that one western diplomat said –“There were more than 20 anomalies in the Niger documents — it is staggering any intelligence service could have believed they were genuine for a moment.“[6]

Recent admissions from the US intelligence source called “Curveball” have clarified that all the claims that critical source made, in the run-up to the Iraq War, were blatantly false.[7] Those lies were used by Secretary of State Colin Powell in an address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003.  Based on Curveball as the source, Powell told the UN about Iraq having bio-weapons labs and clandestine factories by relating — “firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails … The source was an eyewitness who supervised one of these facilities“.  Powell’s speech, with his claims made based on Curveball’s information, was enough to swing the mainstream media and opposition Democratic politicians in favor of going to war against Iraq.[8]

It didn’t stop there, however.  Ten days after the invasion started, Donald Rumsfeld was still lying about the WMDs.  He said then, in an interview with ABC, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” But as we all know, the WMDs were not in any of those places and we have seen that the Bush Administration knew that these claims were false when they made them.  Over the years more evidence that the Bush Administration lied has come to light.  This includes admissions from former CIA officers who were directly involved in the process, one of whom said that — “The fact is there was nothing there, no threat. But Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear.”[9]

When the WMDs were not found at all, the justification for continuing the occupation of Iraq changed.   From late 2003 to 2005, the Bush Administration began justifying the war based on claims that the “insurgents” were led by foreign jihadists from neighboring countries, such as Syria and Saudi Arabia.  These claims were never proven and it was generally acknowledged that the insurgency was actually led by Iraqi citizens trying to save their own country from a foreign (US) invasion.  By 2006, we began to hear claims about “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and Iranian sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq.[10] All the while the truth appeared to be that the US government would make whatever excuse was needed to continue the war in Iraq because the war was making a lot of people rich, and many of them were associated with the people who lied to make it all happen.

There is no question that the Iraq War has been a criminal, immoral and depraved endeavor.  The human cost of this war built on lies has been staggering.  Civilian deaths in Iraq are estimated to range from 100,000 to over one million.[11] Coalition soldiers who have died in the war number nearly 5,000, with the vast majority being Americans.[12] Another 33,000 to 100,000 American soldiers have been wounded based on official and unofficial estimates respectively.  Iraqis who have been wounded or otherwise had their lives permanently disrupted are too numerous to count.

An obvious question that many people ask is:  Why is this war and occupation still going on when the world knows that it was based entirely on lies?  The unspoken answer is that it is good for business.  During the Obama Administration, 211 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and Obama has no intention of stopping the war.  Obama has ramped up the war in Afghanistan and was rewarded for it with the Nobel Peace Prize.  Casualties in Afghanistan are growing, with 500 dead Americans in that war just last year.  And there are substantial business reasons for continuing the bloodshed.

The less obvious but perhaps more important question that should occur to people is:  When did the lying begin?  That is, if our political leaders were willing to tell and repeat unabashed lies despite the knowledge that those lies would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, what would they not do?  What similar lies have they told in the past to achieve their goals and would our own understanding change dramatically if we knew the truth?

[1] Adam Brookes, Iraq War Justifications Laid Bare, BBC News, September 9, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5329350.stm

[3] The Downing Street Memo, Downingstreetmemo.com, http://downingstreetmemo.com/memos.html

[4] Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller, Threats And Responses: The Iraqis; U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest For A-Bomb Parts, The New York Times, September 8,2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/08/international/middleeast/08IRAQ.html

[5] Seymour M. Hersh, “Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq’s nuclear program?”, The New Yorker, March 24, 2003.

[6] Neil Mackay, “Niger and Iraq: the war’s biggest lie?,” Glasgow Sunday Herald, available at GlobalResearch.ca, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=498

[7] Martin Chulov and Helen Pidd, Defector Admits To WMD Lies That Triggered Iraq War, The Guardian, February 15, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/15/defector-admits-wmd-lies-iraq-war?intcmp=239

[8] Charles Hanley, Powell’s Case for Iraq War Falls Apart 6 Months Later, August, 11, 2003, Associated Press, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0811-09.htm

[9] Sidney Blumenthal, Bush Knew Saddam Had No Weapons Of Mass Destruction, Salon, September 6, 2007, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/blumenthal/2007/09/06/bush_wmd/index.html

[10] Amy Zalman, Iraq War – – Bush Iraq War Justification Timeline, About.com, http://terrorism.about.com/od/wariniraq/a/IraqWaronTerror.htm

[11] The more conservative estimates include that of Iraq Body Count (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/) which puts the number of civilian deaths at about 100,000.  Others, including Just Foreign Policy (http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq), estimate the deaths from the Iraq War at over 1.4 million. Middle range estimates include that of the British medical journal The Lancet, which in 2008 put the number near 700,000.

[12] Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (iCasualties), Operation Iraqi Freedom, http://icasualties.org/