The war in Iraq was a crime based on fraud. It was the first bunco scheme that qualifies as an international war crime. It was an unnecessary war of aggression, sold by thieves and con-men to a too-credulous American public that had been told for the previous 30 years that all politics was a shuck, and that the very principles of self-government made you a fool and a rube. The bloody irony was that internalizing those things made us the biggest suckers of all.
few are the days that i don’t reflect upon what it was like to be in a newsroom watching the drums beating in the run-up to our invasion of iraq.
i followed foreign media and saw hans blix saying there were no weapons of mass destruction. american journalists scoffed at the foreign media. i begged for a more critical eye. i watched colin powell testify in front of the U.N. and show satellite pictures of supposed mobile weapons factories that looked like an aerial shot of a stuckeys truck stop. i refused to sign the petition to support judy miller when she was jailed for protecting her anonymous source. i didn’t gloat (much) when the source turned out to be dick cheney who played her like a fiddle. i was yelled at and intimidated and threatened everywhere for my interpretation of what was happening. i saw fear grip us and make us insane.
but i wasn’t effective. no one could have been. we were going, no matter what. and we went. and we bombed them to hell and back. and we embedded journalists, hundreds of them who wanted to be our generation’s ernie pyle (whose photo hung on the wall near my desk). i remember a thanksgiving party with a friend, he told me he was going to cover it. i asked him why? he had small children, a wife? why risk it for this? he could have assigned someone else, but he had to have it. and he never came back.
the stories we filed weren’t much, honestly. and i think even the people who went, when asked honestly, once they get over their you don’t know what it was like nobility and all that, will tell you, we didn’t tell the american people much about what they really needed to know until it was far too late. we didn’t really know ourselves.
we killed, as a nation. we bled, as a nation. we orphaned children and a created a generation of battle scarred veterans. we put the war on a credit card, and gave the borrowed money to shameless profiteers and private contractors who rebuilt what we destroyed needlessly and we stuck our future with the bill, plus interest, so we could take away their health and education to balance our budget later. we didn’t sacrifice for the common good, because there was no good here. we rationalized it to ourselves. we lied, to cover up our own shame of the lie.
i cried when my brother was deployed. i hated that he had to go in harm’s way for a lie. and i cried again when he came home in one piece, but to a life that was wrecked and an infant son who was struggling and neglected.
we declared mission accomplished, but it never seemed to end. there were no weapons, but we deposed a dictator, who we once supported, but we weren’t nation building, because our president campaigned that nation building wasn’t a good foreign policy. and the people weren’t happy with us as liberators. they wanted us out. we surged our troops and order came, because the mission was actually rounding up young iraqi men and putting them in confinement. our soldiers and sailors were policemen and prison guards. and the only stories we told were along the lines of how many people blew up in a car bomb that day. over and over again. day after day. the same story.
and few are the days that i don’t wish i didn’t have to walk miles in the woods to restore the karma, the charity i am compelled to do to pay back the balance i owe for my own small part in it. because my conscience haunts me. because it was my job. because it fed and sheltered my family. it will haunt me. forever. it was wrong. everything about it was wrong. morally, strategically, economically, everything about invading iraq was wrong. everything.
the foreign media, the ones who said there were no WMDs, also said if the US invaded Iraq, it would be the end of our economy and our role in the world. and they were right, both times.
someone asked me what i was so mad about on the anniversary of september 11. i said i missed sitting on the capitol steps and watching the sun set. i’m ashamed of what we did, how we acted. i’m ashamed to tell my children, who have lived their entire lives during this war, what we did and why we did it.
the terrorists won. my nation, the nation i loved, died in the shock and awe as we bombed iraq. it was shocking, and awful. and i will never, ever, forget what we did and who we once were… before we gave it all away.