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Perilous path of Iraq & ruin

A teacher friend of mine has a useful exercise at the beginning of each year. 

She asks all the students to recount their first political memory. 

The exercise is less for them than for her. 

Because each year comes a terrific reminder of how fast time flies and how memories get forgotten.

One example is that there are perfectly sentient, walking, talking Americans who have absolutely no memory of 9/11

They have little appreciation of the feeling in this country after that day, and less understanding of why America acted as it did in the aftermath. 

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War some of this will be raked over again. 

I wish we could get it into some clearer perspective.

Remains of World Trade Center after planes hit North and South tower
Many young Americans did not live through 9/11 or have any personal memories of the day.
AFP via Getty Images

In hindsight, it all seems so obvious. Iraq, like Afghanistan, proved to be a quagmire. 

Saddam Hussein turned out to have no Weapons of Mass Destruction, despite the intelligence estimates of the US, UK, Germany and many other countries which said he did. 

As a result many people now say that we got caught in two sets of quicksand and got out with nothing to show for it.

Era of mass panic

Yet at the time — as many readers will recall — none of this seemed clear. 

Not only had we lost 3,000 Americans, the World Trade Center, a portion of the Pentagon and more, but other things unnerved us. 

There was the Washington sniper. 

There were the anthrax scares. 

At one moment after 9/11 it looked like the whole top tier of the US government had been exposed to a biological weapons attack. 

Saddam Hussein´s regime was one of the only regimes on earth which had shown the willingness to use chemical weapons — not least against its own people.

U.S. soldiers
US soldiers patrolling west of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Twenty years ago nobody knew where the next attack might come from, or if there would be one. 

Now everyone can sit back free in the knowledge that no such attack happened again. 

Certainly not on the scale of 9/11. 

But we didn´t know that back then, and the lack of further attacks was not inevitable. 

They needed to be prevented. 

As a result America in those days seemed to me like a great giant woken from its slumber, intent on finding anyone who had even the most distant connection to the horrors of that day.

Because of the way in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were prosecuted we can all now plot our own excuses through the mess. 

But the results are still being felt. 

Obviously in Iraq and Afghanistan

But also here at home.

The failure of the Iraq intervention put the public and a generation of new policy makers off the idea of foreign interventions. 

One of the reasons John McCain was on the back foot in 2008 was not just because he was a foreign policy person at a time of financial crisis, but because he was a foreign policy person at all. 

Home destroyed in Ukraine
A villager passes by debris of houses ruined in Russia’s night rocket attack.

Talk of taking on Iran next was not a popular position in 2008 with Iraq in pieces.

By the time that the Syrian civil war broke out there was even less desire for American forces to intervene. 

By the time of the Ukraine war there was political unanimity in supporting Ukraine but zero public or political interest in getting militarily involved.

In fact, some of those most gung-ho about Iraq are now among the people most opposed to any American military interventions abroad. 

And to a great extent, it is the American right that has done this switcheroo.

Twenty years ago it was the American left who dominated the anti-war movement. 

One of the questions they endlessly asked was who America thought it was to go around the world spreading its values. 

Didn´t they know how corrupt and awful America was?

Today this is an argument heard more commonly on the American right. 

Statue of Saddam Hussein
Cpl. Edward Chin of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment, covers the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag.

It is American right-wingers who are saying in Congress and elsewhere that America is so rancidly corrupt at the institutional and societal level that we can do no good in the world.

It isn´t the only switch around. 

Consider the way in which the intelligence agencies are now perceived. 

Twenty years ago it was the domestic left who spat out the names of the CIA, FBI and NSA. 

Today – largely because of the behavior of these agencies in Iraq, but also later in the Trump years – it is conservatives who show the most open contempt for the intelligence community. 

Just a decade ago it was the left that extolled the virtues of leakers or “whistleblowers” like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. 

Today their most prominent supporters are on the American right. 

Twenty years ago the American left who made jibes at America´s military leadership. 

A US Marine is carried on stretcher to a waiting ambulance, this Marine sustanined life threatening Injuries during an Iraqi attack.
Many people who supported the Iraq invasion are now against American military intervention abroad.
MICHAEL MACOR/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Today the jibes come from the anti-woke right.

To an extent that we probably haven´t yet realized, Iraq upended not just politics in Iraq but politics in America. 

It spread doubt and distrust about our institutions, our competency and our virtues as a nation.

Some rethinking was needed. 

Twenty years on there were many lessons to take from Iraq. 

But American retreat from the world should not be one of them.

How Fauci killed trusting science

Talking of loss of faith in institutions, has anyone suffered a sharper fall-off than the idea of “scientific consensus”? 

Three years ago most of us listened dutifully as Anthony Fauci and others told us about a new respiratory disease. 

I doubt we would listen today.

In large part that is thanks to Fauci himself. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci accused Dr. Robert Redfield of lying in front of Congress when he alleged that he was “sidelined” by him from internal debates about the origins of COVID-19.

Just this week former CDC chief Dr. Robert Redfield said in testimony that he told Fauci in early 2020 that Covid was likely the result of a lab leak. 

Fauci promptly froze Redfield out. 

What´s more, Redfield says that Fauci funded the experiments that causes Covid and then knowingly pushed a false claim of scientific consensus.

These are incredibly serious accusations, and Fauci better have some explanation for them. 

As it is I suspect he will continue to stonewall. 

Just one reason why we could have an outbreak of Ebola in America tomorrow and Fauci wouldn´t be able to stop one in ten Americans from going about our daily lives.

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