Gwynne Dyer: Another Bush damaged by Iraq

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      He just misheard the question. A basically friendly interviewer on Fox News asked Jeb Bush, now seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorised the invasion (of Iraq)?” And he replied: “I would have.” When the storm of protest, even from Republicans, swept over him, he explained that he thought the interviewer had said: “Knowing what we knew then.”

      An easy mistake to make. “Know now” sounds an awful lot like “knew then”. Besides, Jeb Bush is on record as claiming that he is Hispanic (on a 2009 voter-registration application), so the poor man was struggling with his second language. If only she had asked the question in Spanish, he would have understood it perfectly.

      Enough. When you listen to the entire interview, it’s clear that Bush didn’t want to say a flat “No” to her question, because that would be a condemnation of his brother’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. But as soon as he could, he switched to talking about the “intelligence failures” that misled his brother into invading the wrong country. Anybody can make a mistake. So nobody’s to blame.

      Hillary Clinton, currently the favourite for the Democratic presidential nomination, uses exactly the same defence. In fact, every American politician who voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq at the time claims that the problem was faulty intelligence, and maybe some of them outside of the White House genuinely were misled.

      But the intelligence wasn’t “faulty”; it was cooked to order. There was no plausible intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, so the U.S. intelligence services were told to “find” some. There were no Islamist terrorists in Iraq either: Saddam Hussein hunted down and killed anybody suspected of being an Islamist activist, because the Islamists wanted to kill him.

      The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency tried very hard to create a link between Al Qaeda, the organisation responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and Iraq. The only thing they came up with, however, was a rumour that a little-known Islamist from Jordan called Abu Musab al Zarqawi who knew Osama bin Laden had been in Baghdad receiving treatment for wounds received in Afghanistan in May-November 2002. (He was actually in Iran at that time.)

      If you were on the White House staff in early 2003, you had to know that the “intelligence” you were using to justify the invasion of Iraq was false, because you were one of the people demanding that the spooks manufacture “evidence” for it. The decision itself had been taken even before Bush’s election in 2000 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001, for reasons that had nothing to do with terrorism.

      The incoming Bush administration was full of people called “neo-conservatives”. They believed that the Clinton administration had failed to exploit the sole superpower status that the United States inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to put the world to rights.

      What was needed, therefore, was a display of U.S. power that would make all the “bad guys” behave. So invade somewhere and take the local bad guy down. Iraq was the obvious choice, because it was very weak after a decade of arms embargo, and Saddam Hussein was a very bad guy.

      We don’t yet know just how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was, because the damage is still accumulating. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the man who now rules “Islamic State”, the terrorist-ruled new country that occupies the easten half of Syria and the western third of Iraq, started fighting Americans as part of the Iraqi resistance in 2003.

      By 2006 at the latest, he had joined the group then called Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was largely made up of jihadis from other Arab countries who had flocked to Iraq to fight the infidel invaders. And the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq was none other than Abu Musab al Zarqawi—who parlayed the reputation as a major jihadi leader that the U.S. intelligence services gave him into a real leadership position in the resistance.

      Through the years that followed, that organisation gained experience in guerilla war and terrorism, and through several changes of name and leadership (Zarqawi was killed in 2006) it ultimately morphed into Islamic State. Baghdadi was with it all the way, and now styles himself “Caliph Ibrahim”, demanding the loyalty and obedience of all Muslims everywhere.

      So we owe a lot to the “neo-cons” in George Bush’s administration who pushed for the invasion of Iraq: people like Dick Cheney (vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), and Paul Wolfowitz (undersecretary of defense). They just used the 9/11 attacks as a vehicle for their pre-existing Iraq invasion plans.

      It was Wolfowitz, above all, who worked tirelessly to link Iraq to terrorism. And guess who is the most prominent name on Jeb Bush’s current team of foreign policy advisers (apart from George W. Bush himself). Why, it’s the very same Paul Wolfowitz. The problem with Jeb Bush is not the foolish answers he gives. It’s the company he keeps.




      May 14, 2015 at 2:56pm

      Gwynne wrote a nice indictment of the 2003 Iraq war conspiracy. He neglected to add a nice twist to the story which was the US did not invade Iraq until the UN nuclear inspectors assured them they could not find any WMD so it then became safe to invade. Sadam tried to bluff them by behaving like he had something to hide just to discourage the US from invading. So what's the moral of the story? If you don't want to be invaded by the US you had better have or pretend to have nuclear weapons. Although this won't work anymore because the the US now uses 4th generation warfare [sanctions,proxies,NGO's etc] to destroy it's enemies.

      As for who will be the US "president" it doesn't matter, they are just a public face and a compliant servant of the moneyed interests [power elites] that own and run the place; the policies are predictably the same from president to president because the powers they are beholden to remain the same. Pluralism and competing interests or elites are just a democratic myth ; the power elites are strongly interlinked and conspire to run the nation and indeed the world by consensus and give the president his policies. The president's advisers [or congressional lobbyists] are just the middle men between the real power and the "public servants".

      I Chandler

      May 14, 2015 at 8:42pm

      DYER: "the intelligence wasn’t “faulty”; it was cooked. There was no plausible intelligence that Iraq had WMDs, so the U.S. intelligence services were told to “find” some. "

      This conspiracy will cognitive disonance in some. It sounds like something from Seymour Hersh - like his UnZero Dark Thirty killing of Bin Laden story:
      There were a few Katharine Gun's who spoke the truth to power:

      DYER: "What was needed, was a display of U.S. power that would make the “bad guys” behave"

      These are more than just displays of U.S. power. Four star General Wesley Clark described how they wanted to take out seven countries in five years - They're just a little behind schedule: "Iraq,Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran."

      Clark: "Because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11,
      One of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second...He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September.... So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that...This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years..."

      DYER: "through several changes of name it ultimately morphed into ISIS."

      ISIS is soo 2014 - The Empire it rebranded it the “Conquest Army” - PR focus groups?

      Greg G.

      May 14, 2015 at 11:18pm

      I don't think who the U.S. President is is irrelevant, and in fact, I believe that dangerous trope is a corporate-creation that seeks to have the younger generation disenfranchise themselves so they don't have to work so hard to do it for them. They may all shill for Wall Street and have their foreign policy hands tied in some areas e.g. use of Security Council veto inn support of Israel at the UN, etc., but just imagine the '00s under President Al Gore for a minute or two and then tell me I'm wrong.

      Sanders/Warren '16


      May 15, 2015 at 9:54am

      Ok Greg, you know that I like to exaggerate to make my points, yes the American president is relevant inasmuch he holds the constitutional powers of the executive branch as opposed to those powers held by congress and the supreme court. I am prepared to concede that the presidents have the power, if they can find powerful constituencies, to make significant changes to policy but they have a very narrow range of options to play with visa vi the entrenched and vested interests of the unelected power players in the American Capitalist System. I have watched every President since Truman and the system has stayed consistent.
      If a president defies the established order and challenges powerful interests, he risks assassination by the deep state, as in Kennedy's case. The presidential elections are a farce a multibillion media extravaganza peddled as a democratic exercise to put in place the most ambitious unprincipled, deceitful, narcissistic megalomaniacs to keep the American capitalist system on track. I am sure Gore would have been no different than Obama. If the people wanted a real change they should have voted for Perrot, Nader or Ron Paul but only about 2% where smart enough to realize that or the rest were wise enough to spare them from certain assassination if they remained true to their principles!


      May 15, 2015 at 12:51pm

      Jeb Bush claiming he is Hispanic is akin to the Pope saying he's jewish.

      His son George ( Jorge) is half Mexican and is currently being groomed for the President's job in 8 years.


      May 15, 2015 at 1:11pm


      It is correct that US presidents tend to be fairly consistent in terms of their policies, with small (though sometimes significant) differences. I'm not exactly convinced that this means they're all in the pocket of the corporate elite, however; arguably consistency of policy is a mark of healthy democracy.

      For example, Canadian foreign policy has changed very little since the Second World War, and arguably even since 1920. There have been more changed to domestic policy in that time but the institutions we have are mostly still recognizable.

      The reason for this is that governments are big organizations that work through millions of functionaries. Most of themare not elected and who weild very little influence individually, but as a collective there is a massive amount of institutional inertia there. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either; it means that any sweeping change planned by a serious politician takes years of consideration and implimentation before it comes into effect. This gives the population plenty of time to adjust to new legal realities.

      If you look at countries where sweeping changes to policy and law happen very quickly, you find that they tend to be bad places to live. In Russia, for example, new laws are often brought into force after a single reading, leaving society as a whole struggling to catch up. Once four or five of such changes have happened, it can be incredibly difficult for anyone without a law degree to know what's legal and what isn't. To add to that, poorly or vaguely worded laws can turn domestic policy into a legal minefield.

      This is why, incidentally, we in canada should oppose bills that seem to get drafted much faster than usual, and whose stipulations are very vaguely defined. I'm looking at you, C-51.

      America is DEAD evil

      May 15, 2015 at 4:30pm

      Only 1.25 YEARS left until it's time to vote for the Electoral College! Let's spend BILLIONS on advertising! Yay! DEATH DEATH DEATH.

      Those of us who opposed the war saw so many things, which make no sense - actually happen. We knew this would not only kill many, many people, but also foment future unrest and hatred among those fragile 'states.'

      - Congress 'abdicating' Congressional Duty to declare war (investigate) by responding to Bush's request for war.
      - Eight months pass between Congress passing of the "Iraq Resolution" and the start of the war. Allowing the 'enemy' to make substantial preparations.
      - Hundreds of thousands of citizens in the streets protesting against war, and being met with media propaganda.
      - Post-invasion team gutted and replaced with CPA.
      - Ahmed Chalabi (et al).

      We KNEW what disbanding the Ba'athist structure and army would do. We set the current attrition in place on purpose.

      Saddam was evil, and who knows how out of control his regime had become as he aged, but the war killed tens/hundred thousand people and punished tens of millions of people and destroyed decades of what were already modest "heart & mind" gains. The regional powers hate the USA and WE STILL GIVE THEM MONEY AND WEAPONS!

      Truman, Kennedy, Bush - America has SQUANDERED the victory and promise of WWII. Who profits from this?

      They're gonna go to Mars, then kill us all.

      Glad we're light years from any other solar system. The cancer ends here.


      May 15, 2015 at 7:00pm



      May 18, 2015 at 10:29am

      Realistically, politicians being politicians is unavoidable. These are questions that are not relevant to their future presidency, but are relevant to getting elected. So, they answer in a way they think will get them elected. Politics is dim because the voting public, when aggregated is dim.

      We still don't really know why the US invaded Iraq . This doesn't clarify and it's not really relevant to the elections.

      What is relevant is the internal democrat-republican dynamics that this is all a part of. They will determine the election and the main frontiers for future policies. I suspect democrats will more successfully take the centre. If democrats win, the republican party will continue to develop its identity as an opposition-protest party .