By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But here’s what they did know: That while almost everyone suspected Hussein had chemical and biological weapons in his arsenal, no one thought he had nuclear weapons or the ability to produce them (“Lumping them together,” said Blix, “is like lumping together apples and pears and . . . mushrooms”); that both Bush and Tony Blair used intelligence they knew was faulty as they sold their respective countries on the war; that at no point did any credible intelligence suggest that Hussein was an immediate threat to anyone but his own people. Nearly everyone knew for certain what Bush’s war was not. But no one I heard could explain what it was.
To raise the issue of profit-based warmongering in this crowd — to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the Bush administration, a group of men and women lousy with conflicts of interest and oil-industry money, was engaged in a duplicitous grab for resources, strategic position and an illegal expansion of military power, ambitions consistent with the plan laid out in a widely circulated September 2000 manifesto by the Project for a New American Century — well, that would have sounded like a conspiracy theory. The closest anyone came was Italian journalist Frederico Rampini, who accused the U.S. government of “ripping off the American taxpayer” in its rebuilding and redevelopment efforts in Iraq. “I don’t see a U.S. media campaign on this issue,” he remarked. “Even in Italy, the champion of conflicts of interest, this would be on the front page for weeks.” Not even Rampini, however, suggested that this ripping off was on Rumsfeld’s mind on September 12, 2001, when the defense secretary advised his colleagues that there were no good targets in Afghanistan but plenty in Iraq. That would have been simplistic.
It would also have been too great a challenge to what Massing and Mark Danner, in a lunch-hour conversation with an audience of journalists, called the news media’s “master narrative” — in this case, the idea that the U.S. goes to war to liberate, not to plunder. But after all the Bush administration’s stated reasons for going to war have been dismantled and replaced with nothing but shrugs, greed is the last explanation left standing — except, of course, for the one about Hussein and 9/11. No one should be surprised when the American public, desperate for a story, patches together innuendo and insinuation and makes up its own. We weren’t going to war over nothing, were we? So Hussein must have done something against us. If he didn’t, we’re being governed by criminals. And that can’t possibly be true.
I sat through that lunch with my hand in the air most of the time, hoping to ask why no one was willing to impugn the U.S. government’s motives. But Danner called only on people he knew on a first-name basis, most of them men; war correspondents are a closed tribe, and I didn’t begrudge them their insularity. I do not pretend to know better than they do how to report on a war. But I do remember interviewing Cambodian immigrants to Minnesota in the mid-’80s and being amazed to hear that they were grateful to the United States for its generousness and blithely unaware that Nixon had needlessly overthrown their benign leader and bombed their country into dust. And I wondered whether it was significant that the people of northern Iraq had told Lindsey Hilsum of Britain’s Channel 4 News that they wanted this war after it became clear that the people planning the battle were, as Blix writes in his new book, Disarming Iraq,bent on “creating their own virtual reality.” It was not Blix’s style to condemn them, a trait that made him a great diplomat but would have rendered him ineffective as a reporter. Unfortunately, he would not have been alone.
From August 10 to 31, 2003, three teams of Stars & Stripes reporters surveyed 1,935 military personnel in Iraq, asking the question “How worthwhile do you think fighting this war was for America?”
The percentage of soldiers who indicated doubts over the justifications for the invasion: 50
Percentage who said the war was “probably worthwhile”: 19
Percentage who said the war was of “little value”: 20
Percentage who said the war was “not worthwhile at all’: 11
Percentage who said the war was “very worthwhile”: 28
Percentage of soldiers who answered that they were either “mostly unclear” or “not clear at all” about why they were in Iraq: 35
Percentage of troops who rated their unit’s morale as “very high” or “high’: 16
Percentage of troops who rated their unit’s morale as “low” or “very low”: 49
Percentage of part-time soldiers who stated that it was “unlikely” or “very unlikely” they would re-enlist when their time was up: 55
Percentage of soldiers who intend to leave the military as soon as possible: 49
Percentage of soldiers who said it was “very likely” they would remain: 18
Percentage of soldiers who ranked their living conditions as average or worse: 64
Percentage of soldiers who ranked health-care services average or worse: 63
Percentage of soldiers who assessed their personal health as “not good” or “poor” since they arrived in the Middle East: 16