The art of forgetting Iraq

Something to look forward to in the New Year of 2018 is the fifteenth anniversary of the "Coalition of the Willing: invasion of Iraq. If you're thinking "fifteen years? Gosh. The Iraq war seems like...quite some time ago", that's okay. No one else thinks about it much either.

It's scary the extent to which people have forgotten about, don't speak of or think about Iraq. It was such an appalling crime and now look George W Bush paints cute dogs and is BFFs with Michelle Obama and isn't it all fucking wonderful and why aren't you in jail.

Yeah, you. Not just you obviously, but it's a good start.

I was angry and scared and helpless feeling then. And exhausted and scared in a whole different way now.

Incidentally, when Bush made his "Saddam Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq" speech we were watching on TV in the conference room at work. Everyone turned to me, the 23 year old office foreign affairs expert, for analysis. Will they leave do you think? I said no, we're going to invade.

(I wasn't much of an expert of course; I recognise now, as I couldn't then, that the "deal" was a furphy)

Bush has moved on from painting pets, though. He's has released “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors", a book of portraits he has painted of wounded veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. That takes some hubris.

There's wars we've forgotten, and wars going on right now we're not paying attention to (when was the last time you heard anything about Yemen?).

Also forgotten, overlooked even at the time, was why we really invaded Iraq. From Vox:

The US primarily invaded Iraq not because of lies or because of bad intelligence, though both featured. In fact, it invaded because of an ideology.

A movement of high-minded ideologues had, throughout the 1990s, become obsessed with deposing Saddam Hussein. When they assumed positions of power under Bush in 2001, they did not seek to trick America into that war, but rather tricked themselves. In 9/11, and in fragments of intelligence that more objective minds would have rejected, they could see only validation for their abstract and untested theories about the world — theories whose inevitable and obvious conclusion was an American invasion of Iraq.

An ideology. Thousands of Coalition troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died so George W Bush could avenge his father's humiliation; so America could regain the Winning Feeling it lost in 1991. And whether the chaos the invasion caused in Iraq from 2003 created the conditions that led to ISIL...well.

No one will ever be called to account for Iraq or how we got there. Neither Bush, Blair, Howard or anyone else will ever face war crimes charges in the Hague. We've forgotten all about that now.

Lies could happen again. God knows faulty ideology could happen again. And the forgetting happens, so much. We've forgotten Iraq. The largest mass shooting in modern American history happened in Las Vegas and everyone forgot about it in two weeks.

As I write this, yesterday North Korea tested a nuclear warhead capable of potentially reaching the U.S. East Coast, and today in his TV show the President's biggest booster, Sean Hannity, was all about sexual harassment - which is of course incredibly important, but Hannity's only cynically using the subject to smear liberals. What should or shouldn't happen in North Korea, not spoken of so much.

The Iraq war ended officially in 2011. U.S. troops were withdrawn not so much in victory, more as a sort of giving up. Likewise I don't have any snappy thoughts to leave you with, but just a sad and tired giving up. At least there won't be chaos and ruin left behind, in this case.


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