a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Thoughts on "Bush’s War"; on the road

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 26th, 2008

I haven’t meant to keep quiet here quite this much since last Thursday — but now the pause may get extended through the weekend. We’re on the road to Connecticut to see an old friend, so new posts may not be possible and won’t be a priority.


I watched part 2 of Frontline’s “Bush’s War” documentary last night. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it; with a good Internet connection, you can watch it online.

One might quibble with the title; it wasn’t just Bush’s war: it was Rummy’s, Cheney’s, Condi’s, Powell’s, Tenet’s, Bremer’s, Franks’s, Casey’s, and Sanchez’s war as well — and ours too, at least for those of us (like me) who let ourselves be swayed into ever supporting it. I feel like I’ve said my mea culpas — and probably ought to extend them sometime. But so what, it’s still “mea culpa” and that doesn’t undo anything.

As far as the documentary itself: there’s a real value to retrospectives like this even if you think you follow the news closely. For me, having Condoleezza Rice’s role laid out as it was last night was revelatory. She obviously is the “last man standing”, so to speak, among the original Iraq war cabinet — and the “surge” is laid at her doorstep and that of Philip Zelikow, of 9/11 Commission fame.* They both failed to see that local “clear, hold, build” occupation successes — such as they were — in places like Tal Afar couldn’t be replicated across all of Iraq, even with a few thousand more U.S. troops. Rumsfeld was actually an opponent of a “clear, hold, build” strategy executed by U.S. troops, arguing that was the job of (nonexistent) Iraqi military units.

But at least one thing I don’t buy in the documentary is the implication that higher level administration officials — Cheney, Tenet — really, truly expected WMD to be found; they knew they’d been twisting arms or had their arms twisted to turn up what little fool’s gold they’d come up with.

* And, apparently unbeknownst to that commission, an author of the 2002 NSS (National Security Strategy) advocating preemptive and preventive defense.

4 Responses to “Thoughts on "Bush’s War"; on the road”

  1. Nell Says:

    It’s a helpful chronology, but I had so many complaints…
    They couldn’t bring themselves to say what U.S. troops did in April 2004 in Fallujah — whole lot of passive voice and “the appearance of civilian casualties”.
    The exclusive focus on Abu Ghraib as the locus of U.S. torture, and solely as the result of the desperation to get ‘intelligence’ — when there was torture and deaths of Iraqis in custody at all the major bases from the summer of 2003 onward. No mention of Camp NAMA, either.
    The whole thing is completely U.S.-focused, of course, and it is what it is. But it was still startling to have Ibrahim al-Jafaari erased from history. And no analysis whatsoever of Shia factions.
    A pretty non-political friend who came over this afternoon to mix soil for a garden club workshop had seen it, and her response cheered me up: “It sure makes clear that Donald Rumsfeld ought to be tried for war crimes.”

  2. eRobin Says:

    We had a Marine who fought in Fallujah show up at our weekly peace vigil this morning. He’s going back to be with his fellow Marines. He said that they’re helping Iraqis but that if he weren’t a Marine, he’d be out there with us b/c the whole thing was built on lies. He is so conflicted – very sad.
    Good for you, Thomas, for watching that show. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Partly for the reasons Nell mentions and also because I can’t stand to see those people in any context other than on trial for crimes against humanity.

  3. Nell Says:

    That’s heart-rending about the Marine, eR.
    Though I have to pass on a word of caution from my inner paranoid, stuck-in-the-sixties self: be welcoming but as uninformative as is possible within the bounds of courtesy with such a new companion. Check him out.

  4. eRobin Says:

    I hear you, Nell. Good advice.

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