Former President George W. Bush and former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton, following a meeting with senior military leaders. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Marion Doss / Flickr)
I've been writing about the war in Iraq for going on ten years now. My first words on the subject were published eight months before the invasion was undertaken, and the war has been a grim drumbeat in my work ever since. I've been thinking a lot lately about those writers who were tasked to cover the war in Vietnam. After ten years chronicling the same grim topic, did they wish for a day when they could write about something else, finally? I know I do. Iraq has been like a tumor in my mind, always there, always growing, and by all appearances totally inoperable and incurable.
My job over this last decade was to hammer home the fact that the rhetorical preamble to the invasion, the invasion itself, and the occupation were and remain bullshit of the purest ray serene. George W. Bush and his pack of thugs used September 11 against the American people to frighten them into supporting an unnecessary, costly and ultimately criminal war. They lied about weapons of mass destruction, they lied about al Qaeda working with Iraq, they lied about virtually every aspect of the conflict, and they got what they wanted: a big, fat payday and an excuse to bulldoze our constitutional rights.
I knew all this was true, down to the detail, and over time that truth became self-evident to a majority of Americans. The perpetrators of this massive criminal enterprise stuck to their stories all the way down the line, and ultimately paid for it in 2006 and 2008, but the echo of their efforts resonates to this very day.
I knew the truth, but always lacked the smoking-gun proof that could lay it all bare. There were pieces here and there - the "Downing Street Memo" document revelation showing Bush and Blair's decision, made the April before the invasion, to use false WMD "evidence" to gin up support for an attack being the most prominent - but a full-scale snapshot of the entire deception always remained just out of reach.
The release by Wikileaks of some 400,000 pages of official Iraq war documents has ripped the lid finally and forever off what must surely become known as one of the largest lawless actions by a presidential administration in all of American history. The documents prove, beyond all doubt, that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice and the rest of them deliberately led this nation down a nearly-unprecedented path of infamy. The only comparable criminal act was the grindhouse of Vietnam, which spanned five presidencies, left millions dead and enshrined the so-called "defense" industry as the biggest money players in the American political game. What was done in and to Iraq has not yet risen to the level of what happened in Southeast Asia, but it is right up there, and the Wikileaks documents hammer this fact home with no remorse and no room left for doubt.
They knew the WMD threat was false. They knew that al Qaeda was nowhere in Iraq until more than a year after the invasion had taken place, and that it was the invasion which gave al Qaeda the opportunity to kill Americans without having to board an airplane. They knew that torture and murder were widespread and unpunished. They knew civilians were being butchered wholesale. They knew the "independent contractor" mercenaries were completely out of control. They knew that Iran became the principal beneficiary of our "war for freedom." Hell, Rumsfeld's best chum, Ahmed Chalabi, became a paid player for Iran years ago, even as the Bush administration allowed him to burrow into the Iraqi government.
They knew this and more, and beyond all doubt, now we know, too.
It is not fashionable within the circle of Washington "elites," both in the media and in government, to take part in anything that resembles "looking backward" or "re-litigating the past," or whatever euphemism currently passes for seeking accountability. There was plenty of evidence before Wikileaks came along to undertake a comprehensive prosecution of any and all who were involved in the murderous fraud that was and is the war in Iraq, but it was never done. With the arrival of these 400,000 new pages, however, a new urgency must be injected into the argument.
They knew, and now we have the proof. They lied, they stole, they murdered by the tens and tens of thousands, and if there is no accountability for crimes of such scope and breadth, then ours is a doomed and eternally discredited nation. Mr. Obama's Department of Justice has officially run out of excuses for not pursuing criminal action against the previous administration and all the players involved. The criminal acts were documented, in meticulous detail, and those facts are now in the public eye for all to see.
They can't deny it anymore. They can't hide behind ramped-up rhetoric or media malingering. They knew, and now we know, and if prosecutions are not undertaken, then justice has no meaning, and Mr. Obama's administration has no honor.