March 20, 2013

The invasion of Iraq, ten years ago today


The front page of the New York Times on March 20, 2003.

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion of Iraq and the first days of what would be called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” by the administration of George Bush.

In 2004, Melville House publishers Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians edited What We Do Now, a collection of leading progressive voices offering ideas, advice, and strategies to move forward in the wake of the re-election of George W. Bush and his disastrous policies in Iraq. What follows are some excerpts from essays in that book.


Danny Schechter
“Our Mandate: Making Media Matter”

As the bombs fell on the Mesopotamian birthplace of world culture, as another election bit the dust, we, many of us anyway, are hell shocked and worse.

Alas, the last place to find out what’s really happening is in the places that are supposed to tell us.

And even they admit it.

The Washington Post and The New York Times both apologized for their uncritical pro-war coverage. Mea Culpa. And now the network presidents join them. Said ABC’s News Chief David Westin the other day: “Simply stated, we let down the American people.”

Simply stated, never mind the Iraqi people. They have been put down in the occupation insuring their liberation. This is not simple.

Our ombudsmen now need ombudsmen.

Where did our democracy go? It became a media-ocracy when we weren’t looking, with political candidates spending most of their time raising money to buy into a media that often shut them out, as issue-oriented coverage shrunk and the news corps did Bushified their slam dunk. Why are the institutions envisioned and protected as tools for strengthening democracy undermining it?


Martha Nussbaum
“Two Pictures of International Relations”

According to the Hobbesian view… nations are like sports teams: they aim, and rightly aim, at victory and domination, often including the humiliation of the other side. And although there may be some rules limiting their conduct, they would be right to get ’round those rules whenever national security dictates that they do so…

The foreign policy of the current [Bush] administration has jolted us sharply to the Hobbesian side. Nothing is clearer than the contempt of our administration for liberl internationalism and the politics of deliberation and mutual respect. Power, security, getting them before they can get you, these are the way the big boys think. Patriotism is modeled on the mentality of a sports fan, not on the idea that each nation inhabits a world of human souls in which all nations ought to strive to preserve human rights and human dignity. So many policies express contempt for that moral vision: the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo; the insistence that anyone deemed an enemy combatant has no right to legal counsel; the doctrine of preventive war itself. Memos have now come to light that express the Hobbesian view that the President can do whatever he likes. He may even disregard the Geneva Convention and other international agreements. We signed them with our fingers crossed so to speak…

When the Hobbesian view prevails in high places, should we really be surprised when torture follows? The role of prison guard can easily be abused, in the absence of a robust culture of human rights. When our leaders hold that culture in contempt and suggest the idea of the sports fan as a superior image of hard-headed foreign policy, what should one expect loyal and patriotic soldiers to do? Abu Ghraib, albeit extreme, is no aberration. It is the logical fruit of America’s current foreign policy. By their fruits you shall know them.


Leslie Cagan
“Keep Taking it to the Streets”

My work has often been helping to put people into the streets—organizing public protests of all sizes and shapes for peace and social justice movements. Over the years people have asked, why protest, what’s the point of putting all that time and effort and resources into demonstrations when there doesn’t usually seem to be any pay off, any immediate or noticeable change created by these actions? Fair question.

I start from the believe that change—fundamental, systemic change—is secured when massive numbers of people are involved. Whatever positive contributions are made by small elites or even vanguard parties, it is the direct involvement of tremendous numbers of people in the activities of social change movements that makes the critical difference.


Medea Benjamin
“Peace in a Time of Perpetual War”

While the Bush administration rarely acknowledges the death toll among U.S. soldiers, it flatly refuses to talk about Iraqi casualties. When asked about Iraqi deaths, then U.S. Central Command chief General Tommy Franks responded tersely, “We don’t do body counts.”

The Iraqi government also suppresses casualty figures. Dr. Nagham Mohsen, an official at the Iraqi Health Ministry, was ordered in December 2003 to stop compiling data from hospital records, and journalists were prohibited from entering the morgues.

The first scientific study of the human cost of the Iraq war was done by U.S. and Iraqi researchers [in 2004], led by the School of Public Health in Baltimore. The team surveyed 1,000 households in 33 randomly chosen areas in Iraq. They found that the risk of violent death was 58 times higher in the period since the invasion, and that most of the victims were women and children. While their final horrifying calculation of over 100,000 civilian deaths made front-page news in many parts of the world, the U.S. press barely mentioned it…

George Bush took the 2004 election as a mandate to continue this illegal, immoral war in Iraq.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.