Fifteen years ago today, at approximately 10:15 PM ET, President George W. Bush announced the start of military action in the massive crime known as Operation Iraqi Freedom in a five-minute address to the nation.
The war would outlast Bush’s presidency, before finally (officially, anyway) ending in December 2011, close to nine years after it began. The website Iraq Body Count has been tracking deaths since almost the very beginning; to date, they estimate that between 180,807 and 202,757 civillians have died due to violence in Iraq; a study by health experts, in 2013, said that there had been about half a million “avoidable deaths” in Iraq since the start of the war. The invasion and the half-assed reconstruction effort that followed ultimately led to chaos not just in Iraq but throughout much of the Middle East, and directly led to the rise of ISIS.
We have, evidently, consigned this episode to oblivion. Officials who were complicit in the war effort are both re-entering government — the ones that left in the first place, that is — and occupying posts as respected members of the Resistance. Last year, the New York Times — which did more than its fair share of water-carrying for the Bush administration — published an op-ed by Erik Prince, whose company massacred Iraqi civilians, giving him the space to lay out a glorified marketing pitch to have him run the war effort in Afghanistan, another war, one which would soon be graduating from high school if it were a person and which shows no signs of slowing down.
It’s not just the Bipartisan War Caucus or the Times op-ed page, however. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, it seems that many Americans — even Bush’s former political enemies — have erased the bloody toll of our little jaunt into Iraq from our collective memory. A poll released Monday by Pew found that 43 percent of Americans believe military action was the right way to go in Iraq, which is up from 2014, when 38 percent thought it was the right decision.
We can’t forget. Bush and those in his administration who pushed for and sold the war in Iraq on complete lies are nothing less than war criminals, ones who will sadly never face the punishment they deserve: a cell at the Hague. The cost of letting the awful narrative go unchallenged that Bush was a nice guy who simply came under the influence of more nefarious figures in his administration, that the war was simply an honest mistake which complicit decision-makers can atone for, and/or that those who were complicit are patriots or traitors depending on their take of the current president, will be America repeating the errors of March 19, 2003, and every horrible thing that came after.