By MARC McDONALD
The disastrous Iraq War was originally built on a colossal lie. Now, eight years after George W. Bush ordered the invasion of that country, American officials are still lying to our troops. And the Big Lie today is just as dangerous and reckless as when Bush first told it.
On July 11, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, during a visit to Baghdad, sounded very Bush-like when he connected U.S. invasion of Iraq with 9/11.
Speaking at Camp Victory, Panetta said, "The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked," Panetta told the troops. "And 3,000 Americans--3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings--got killed because of Al Qaeda. And we've been fighting as a result of that."
After eight horrific years of war in Iraq, it's clear that Panetta is still peddling the same lies Bush told in 2003.
It's clear why Panetta follows the Bush party line. After all, the truth would be too terrible. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that, all these years, they've been fighting an illegal, immoral war that had absolutely no connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that the Iraqi people want them out now. Not to mention the U.S. public. (Or, for that matter, the entire rest of the world).
No, the truth is too horrible. It'd be too depressing and demoralizing for both the troops and their families, who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
It's a Big Lie that Bush/Cheney peddled endlessly when they worked to sell their war to the American people. Recall how Bush worked tirelessly for months to try to connect Saddam to 9/11.
And (as it usually does for Republicans) the Big Lie worked. One poll, in 2006, revealed that nearly 90 percent of U.S. troops believed that the Iraq war was retaliation for Iraq's role in 9/11.
If we're going to send young people into battle, I've long believed that we at least owe them the truth. That was one thing America never offered our soldiers in Iraq.
But, as the Iraq War has shown, Bush's lies to the troops have also had dark consequences for the people of Iraq.
As author Mark Crispin Miller noted in his 2004 book, Cruel and Unusual:
"Bush sent a very different message to our troops....by harping on Iraq's alleged complicity in 9/11, and by hyping the fictitious `terrorist threat' posed by that nation. Because of such inflammatory propaganda, our troops were motivated mainly by a craving for revenge, as after the destruction of Pearl Harbor. Throughout the march to war, and through the first year of the war itself, payback was on everybody's mind. `The only thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq is payback for Sept. 11, 2001,' reported Reuters."
"That lust for righteous vengeance has helped push our troops toward barbarism---which is often frightening even to themselves."
When you have a situation in which troops are filled with anger and a desire for revenge, you increase the odds that atrocities will occur. And of course, we've seen plenty of horrific atrocities in the eight years of war in Iraq. And we'll likely continue to see atrocities on the battlefield as long as our leaders brazenly lie to our soldiers.