Tag Archives: Iraq

Ten Years after the Invasion of Iraq, Recalling the Lies that Made It Possible

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, mostly civilians, and the displacement of millions.  Sectarian and ethnic tensions remain high and violence and terrorism — despite being less pervasive than a few years ago — are endemic.  The current Iraqi government is notoriously corrupt and repressive, guilty of widespread torture and extrajudicial killings of opponents.  A whole new generation of Islamist terrorists radicalized by the invasion and insurgency is now active worldwide.

Almost 4500 Americans were killed and thousands more received serious physical and emotional injuries which will plague them for the rest of their lives.  The war has cost U.S. taxpayers close to one trillion dollars, contributing greatly to the national debt, which has resulted in the sequester and other cutbacks in vital social programs, including work-study funds and other support for college students.

The Bush administration could not convince Americans to support such an illegal and unnecessary war for the sake of oil and empire.  Instead, they had to lie by falsely claiming that Iraq was a threat to the national security of the United States through its acquisition of massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, the development of a nuclear weapons program, the acquisition of long-range missiles and drone aircraft, and operational ties with Al-Qaeda.  As they were forced to admit later, absolutely none of those claims were true.

However, they were still able to recruit some prominent Democrats—such as Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein, and Harry Reid—to repeat their lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and other manufactured threats.  Some journalists, political pundits, and even academics were also convinced to tout the administration’s line.

Here at USF, just weeks before the invasion, two of my colleagues—one in the Politics Department and one in the History Department—engaged in a public debate with former Politics professor Cynthia Boaz and I. They repeated many of the administration’s lies in their desperate attempt to convince USF students that Iraq was somehow such a dire threat to our national security that it required a U.S. invasion and occupation and that it would somehow be worth all the resulting human, financial and environmental costs. They also claimed that, despite the United States being the primary supporter of the region’s worst dictatorships, the Bush administration was committed to building democracy in Iraq and that a U.S.-occupied Iraq would be a model for freedom and prosperity in the region.

Professor Boaz and I correctly observed that Iraq was not a threat, had probably rid itself of all its proscribed weapons and weapons systems, and that a U.S. invasion and occupation would be a clear violation of international law and the United Nations charter, would result in years of bloody counter-insurgency war, sectarian conflict, and a rise in Islamist extremism and sectarian conflict which would make the establishment of a stable democracy impossible.  I had done extensive empirical research on Iraq over the previous fifteen years and was quite confident in my assessment, as were most scholars familiar with the Middle East.

One of our colleagues, however, insisted that area specialists like us could not be trusted because, in his words, we tend to “go native” (as in developing too much sympathy towards the populations we study to be able to engage in objective analysis) and that President Bush actually had a better grasp of what was best for the Middle East (and presumably other regions of the world).

Particularly disturbing about these arguments was the implication that the unsubstantiated claims of the administration (led by two former oil company executives who clearly coveted Iraq’s natural resources) were somehow more reliable than empirical research by respected scholars familiar with the region.  The message, in effect, was “Trust the State.  If the leaders say we must go to war, just go along.  Don’t question what they tell you.”

The lesson to today’s students is this:  Do not to trust the government when it says we must go to war in a far off land (particularly if it has lots of oil).And don’t trust professors who tell you to ignore relevant scholarship and simply believe whatever the president says.

In 2012, Will Feinstein Answer for Iraq?

It appears U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is on her way to re-election, despite unanswered questions regarding her judgment and credibility as a result of her role ten years ago in pushing through the resolution that made possible the disastrous U.S. invasion, and subsequent war, in Iraq. The consequences of that illegal, unnecessary war remain with us to this day.

Prior to the vote, I had contacted the senator and explained how it was virtually impossible for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to have reconstituted his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Citing reports from the United Nations, reputable think tanks, recognized arms control experts, and respected peer-reviewed academic journals, I thought I had made a convincing case that Iraq was no longer a threat to the United States or its neighbors.

Other scholars and arms control specialists made similar arguments. Indeed, Scott Ritter, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, personally briefed the senator as to how Iraq had achieved qualitative disarmament and was no longer a threat.

However, Senator Feinstein still insisted that Iraq somehow remained a “consequential threat” to the national security of the United States, and insisted Iraq still possessed biological and chemical weapons. None were found.

Similarly, even though the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency had correctly noted in 1998 that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely eliminated, Feinstein also falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was still “engaged in developing nuclear weapons.” No nuclear program was found.

When asked at the time how she could make such claims despite any credible evidence, she insisted that she was somehow “privy to information that those in California are not.” However, despite repeated requests to make public what she was supposedly privy to, she has to this day refused to allow me or any other independent strategic analyst access to this supposed information.
To this day, Feinstein’s supporters insist that she didn’t lie.

They insist that her false claims about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” were just an honest mistake and the fact that Iraq happens to sit on one of the world’s largest supplies of oil is just a coincidence.

I was also among a number of scholars specializing in the Middle East who warned Senator Feinstein—correctly, as it turned out—that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely spark a disastrous armed insurgency, ethnic and religious tensions, and dramatically increased terrorism and anti-American extremism. Despite being made aware of the likely consequences, however, she insisted that the United States should invade Iraq anyway.

Feinstein acknowledged at the time of the resolution authorizing the invasion that calls and emails to her office were overwhelmingly opposed to her supporting President Bush’s war plans. Unfortunately, she decided to ignore her constituents and joined a right-wing minority of Democrats on Capitol Hill voting in favor of the resolution.

California voters must decide whether, under such circumstances, Senator Feinstein really deserves another six years in office.

Foghorn Staff Has a Final Word on Protests

Often one can see a protest or a demonstration and wonder if all that effort is worth the trouble. When the United States decided to invade Iraq in 2003,  thousands turned out in the United States (indeed, millions around the world) to protest the invasion. On February 15, 2003, 3 million of people turned out in Rome alone against the U.S.’ intentions.

The end result of some of the most vocal public expressions in history?  The invasion of Iraq went forward, as planned, and operations continued in that country for seven years.

San Francisco is no stranger to protest. On April 13th, for example, at San Francisco Sate, dozens of students occupied the administrations building at their university to protest tuition hikes and overcrowded classrooms. As it stands now, tuition will still rise, and classrooms will still be crowded as before.

So it comes as surprise to when public displays of opinion do effect change, both on campus and off. In the case of off-campus change, most notably, we have the people-initiated revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia, which sucessfully occurred without the military intervention of foreign governments and were largely peaceful.

In the case of on-campus change, we have Upward Bound, where university leadership had first decided to sever ties with the program when the contract expired in 2012. After a consistent public outcry in the form of vocal town hall meetings and two campus protests, USF has now decided to renew sponsorship for Upward Bound and allow for its limited use of university facilities.

The Foghorn is not saying that all our problems, both campus-wide and globally, have been solved through public demonstrations. For example, Libya and Syria’s demonstrations for government change were met with violent and forceful resistance from Muammar Qadaffi and Bashar al-Assad, respectively.

Back at home, when KUSF went off the air suddenly in late January, the station rallied support for its reinstatement through hosting public events (see KUSF Lives(s)) and through petitions to the FCC. However, the doors to the old radio studio and transmitter are still locked. Also, the optimistic news of the FCC initially blocking of the transfer of KUSF’s transmitter was dampened by construction permit the FCC issued on April 12 to KDFC for a new transmitter in Sausalito, implying an eventual completion of the transfer of the 90.3 signal to KDFC.

In short, the Foghorn is advocating this: advocate however you can, because it does have an impact. It is worth the trouble to protest, demonstrate,  and advocate  (in the special case of the USF community), for both our student interests and for the rights and concerns of people around the world.

Whether the fight is to keep a funded account’s budget from going under the knife year after year, or to inform the university of the troubles its new housing policy has generated for underclassmen seeking housing, or to rally against military endeavors your government does in your name, demonstration and public expression is important and necessary; The alternative; i.e., apathy, automatically makes change an impossibility.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief copy-editor: Natalie Cappetta

Opinion Editor: Vicente Patino

U.S. is Overextended in Foreign Wars

October 7, 2009, marked the eighth anniversary of the United State’s occupation of Afghanistan.  Recently, commanders came out in support of more troops in Afghanistan, and President Obama seems to be following along with little hesitation.  I see no end in sight.  I have come to the conclusion that the United States of America is no longer a constitutional republic but a warmongering empire that places itself on a podium of exceptionalism.

Now, very few in the Congress are opposed to the occupation in Afghanistan as democrats stand behind President Obama, and neoconservative republicans continue to back the ever-increasing war activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  A war that has gone on twice as long as WWII, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, killed more than 850 Americans and tens of thousands of civilians must end immediately.

I ask one simple question to the military and political leaders that continue to back the occupation and ask for more troops: What are we doing?  Their rhetoric continues to encourage and endorse the need for more killing and bombing.

Our country must cease its role as a global police force because it draws away massive amounts of money that could ultimately be used to cure our domestic problems.  We must always remember the ethic of reciprocity: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

When the United States bombs a building and kills families, we create terrorists that now want revenge.  For this reason, the U.S. Military’s presence has become an endless money-sucking occupation.

Afghanistan is an important issue, however, we must look at the entire U.S. foreign policy.  In March 2009, the Department of Defense reported the United States military currently has personnel in 150 countries.  This number is extraordinary given the fact there are only 194 countries.  Right now, we have 380,011 troops stationed on 761 foreign bases with 54,043 troops in Germany and 34,544 in Japan.  Did World War II not end sixty-four years ago?  I would appreciate an explanation for this but of course the two major parties would never address this issue.

In 2000, George Bush campaigned with a humble foreign policy, yet he somehow brought us into two occupations.   Barack Obama, who ran as the peace president in 2008, is not only continuing the war in Afghanistan but has also become heavily involved in Pakistan.  On top of this, the possibility of war with Iran is becoming more realistic everyday.

It will be interesting to see what actually happens in regards to the United States and its foreign commitments.  As one who is personally angered over the two parties’ destruction of our country’s principles, I hope I am not alone.  Roughly eight years into the Vietnam War on April 21, 1971, 500,000 anti-war protesters marched in Washington D.C. and few months later, the Camden 28, including a Jesuit priest, broke into draft offices and burned thousands of documents.  Although the Vietnam War is different from our current engagements, thousands have died, thousands more will die, yet I see little protestation.

I know many are adamantly opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, if nothing is done but a useless vote once every four years, I fear the United States will continue on its imperial rampage, ultimately leading to imminent failure.