Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Cheney’s Torture and Lies

22.3.10

Anti-war protest in Washington D.C., March 20, 2010Friday marked the seventh anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, but by now, it seems, the American people have become used to living in a state of perpetual war, even though that war was based on torture and lies. Protestors rallied across the country on Saturday, but the anti-war impetus of the Bush years has not been regained, as I discovered to my sorrow during a brief US tour in November, when I showed the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself) in New York, Washington D.C., and the Bay Area.

Some activists were still burnt out from campaigning for Barack Obama, others thought the new President had waved a magic wand and miraculously cured all America’s ills, while others, to the right of common sense and decency, were beginning to mobilize in opposition to a President who, to be frank, should have been more of a disappointment to those who thought that “hope” and “change” might mean something than to those who supported the Bush administration’s view of the world. Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, endorsed indefinite detention without charge or trial for prisoners at Guantánamo, and shielded Bush administration officials and lawyers from calls for their prosecution for turning America into a nation with secret prisons, an extraordinary rendition program, and a detention policy for terror suspects based on the use of torture.

Nevertheless, the Republicans’ assault on decency, common sense and the law, in relation to terrorism, escalated in the wake of the failed Christmas Day plane bombing, with a high-level revolt against trying those accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal courts, and a renewed onslaught on President Obama’s already tattered plans to close Guantánamo. On the anniversary of the war, headlines were dominated not by anti-war protests, but by the disgusting behavior of the Tea Party activists, whose bitter, negative campaigning against Obama, which has always demonstrated a thinly-veiled racism, plumbed new depths when protestors hurled racist and homophobic abuse at members of Congress.

African-American Congressman Emanaul Cleaver (D-MO) was spat on by a Tea Party protester, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was called a “nigger,” and gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a “faggot.” Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), who helped lead sit-ins in South Carolina in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, told NBC News:

It was absolutely shocking to me. Last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Pomford University, where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins. Quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven’t heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.

It is enough of a sign of madness that the Tea Party brigade, who oppose healthcare reform, have been sold a lie by the very corporations who mercilessly exploit them, essentially by stirring up fears of “communism” and “socialism” that Europeans and sensible Americans find bewildering and illogical, but it is no less dispiriting that their pointless hatred overshadowed countrywide calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan may originally have had some sort of acceptable rationale, but it was a lost cause almost as soon as it began, when America failed to win the crucial struggle for hearts and minds, killing thousands of Afghan civilians in bombing raids, imprisoning others in vile conditions in prisons at Kandahar and Bagram (where some died), and sending others to Guantánamo.

Another major reason for the failure in Afghanistan was the administration’s intention — instigated as early as November 2001 — to move on to Iraq, and while the Chilcot Inquiry in Britain revisited the roots of the Iraq war in recent months, demonstrating, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was an illegal war decided as early as April 2002, when Prime Minister Tony Blair committed the UK to full participation, an often overlooked side-effect of this decision involved, in the most cynical manner, the exploitation of prisoners seized in the “War on Terror” to provide cover for the planned invasion.

As I explained in an article last April, entitled, “Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low”:

In case anyone has forgotten, when Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the head of the Khaldan military training camp in Afghanistan, was captured at the end of 2001 and sent to Egypt to be tortured, he made a false confession that Saddam Hussein had offered to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted his confession, but not until Secretary of State Colin Powell — to his eternal shame — had used the story in February 2003 in an attempt to persuade the UN to support the invasion of Iraq.

That attempt, of course, was successful, but it is no less shocking now than it was then that those who manipulated Powell — Vice President Dick Cheney and his close circle of advisors — used the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program not to protect American from terrorists, but to launch an illegal war. As I also explained last April, with reference to an interview conducted by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker with Dan Coleman of the FBI, an old-school interrogator opposed to the use of torture, who was pulled off al-Libi’s case when senior officials decided to send him to Egypt:

As Mayer explained, Coleman was “disgusted” when he heard about the false confession, telling her, “It was ridiculous for interrogators to think Libi would have known anything about Iraq. I could have told them that. He ran a training camp. He wouldn’t have had anything to do with Iraq. Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren’t any. The reason they got bad information is that they beat it out of him. You never get good information from someone that way.”

As I also explained:

This, I believe, provides an absolutely critical explanation of why the Bush administration’s torture regime was not only morally repugnant, but also counter-productive, and it’s particularly worth noting Coleman’s comment that “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren’t any.” However, I realize that the failure of torture to produce genuine evidence — as opposed to intelligence that, though false, was at least “actionable” — was exactly what was required by those, like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, “Scooter” Libby and other Iraq obsessives, who wished to betray America doubly, firstly by endorsing the use of torture in defiance of almost universal disapproval from government agencies and military lawyers, and secondly by using it not to prevent terrorist attacks, but to justify an illegal war.

This was a point that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, confirmed to me in an interview last year. Speaking about the Bush administration’s focus on interrogating prisoners seized in the “War on Terror,” Col. Wilkerson told me:

[T]hey wanted to put together a pattern, a map, a body of evidence, if you will, from all these people, that they thought was going to tell them more and more about al-Qaeda, and increasingly more and more about the connection between al-Qaeda and Baghdad.

I even think that probably, in the summer of 2002, well before Powell gave his presentation at the UN in February 2003, their priority had shifted, as their expectation of another attack went down, and that happened, I think, rather rapidly. I’ve just stumbled on this. I thought before that it had persisted all the way through 2002, but I’m convinced now, from talking to hundreds of people, literally, that that’s not the case, that their fear of another attack subsided rather rapidly after their attention turned to Iraq, and after Tommy Franks, in late November [2001] as I recall, was directed to begin planning for Iraq and to take his focus off Afghanistan.

I commend the actions of the anti-war protestors in Washington D.C. on Saturday who, as the Associated Press explained, “stopped at the offices of military contractor Halliburton — where they tore apart an effigy of former Vice President and Halliburton Chief Executive Dick Cheney,” but as this anniversary passes and Dick Cheney remains free to continue espousing his vile, self-serving rhetoric, the sad truth is that, seven years on, Cheney’s crimes cannot be viewed in isolation, but must stand as an indictment of everyone, from the President down, via lawmakers, the media and the American people, who are prepared to accept this darkest of truths: that in 2002, the Vice President of the United States used an illegal torture program not to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks, but to launch an illegal war that, to date, has led to the loss of 4,386 American lives and the lives of at least 100,000 Iraqis, and possibly as many as a million.

(‘DiggThis’)

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published on the Huffington Post, CounterPunch and ZNet. Cross-posted on Common Dreams, The Public Record, World Can’t Wait, New Left Project, Revista Amauta, Good Pork Bad Pork and the Tehran Times.

34 Responses

  1. Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Cheney’s Torture and Lies « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 21 March, 2010 tweetmeme_url = [...]

  2. Seven Years of War in Iraq: Still Based on Bush and Cheney’s Torture, Lies | Amauta says...

    [...] by Andy Worthington [...]

  3. Traduire RSS says...

    [...] (64)  Sept années de guerre en Irak: toujours basée sur la torture de Cheney et de mensonges [...]

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    A reader named Richard Harth wrote:

    Superb and devastating piece. Thank you. I’ve followed your excellent writings and impressive dedication to the issue of torture for awhile now.

    As for the anti-war movement, I believe it has suffered a psychological blow from which it may never recover. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the world witnessed the largest protests in history as millions everywhere took to the streets. The polls showed 80-90-95% vehement opposition to even the suggestion of a war against Iraq.

    Then the bombing started.

    I feel very cynical about things. I would have to say, if the anti-war movement utterly failed, violent resistance and the use of IED’s did eventually force the US to abandon its imperial ambitions in Iraq. As for Israel-Palestine, we have to be honest. We have to tell the truth. I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t blind me to the obvious, which is that the Israelis are not capable of living in peace alongside anyone, let alone the indigenous people they are busy ethnically cleansing. The Israelis are a Nazified threat to humankind that has to be met with force. A US president unwilling to impose a naval blockade against Israel and starve them into submission is simply not serious about resolving the conflict on the basis of justice and the rule of law. My 2 cents.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    A reader called Todd RhoDess wrote:

    I appreciate your bringing attention to the Iraq again thru your piece “7 Years of War in Iraq” but I would like to point out a problematic assertion it makes.
    ————-
    Your Comment:
    “The war in Afghanistan may originally have had some sort of acceptable rationale, but it was a lost cause almost as soon as it began, when America failed to win the crucial struggle for hearts and minds, killing thousands of Afghan civilians in bombing raids, imprisoning others in vile conditions in prisons at Kandahar and Bagram (where some died), and sending others to Guantánamo.” (bold added)
    ————–
    My response:
    I’d argue the above statement gives far too much credit to war planners in Washington.
    The bombing was an unacceptable rationale and a lost cause BEFORE it was even executed (prior to “failure” and casualties).
    The fact is -the war in Afghanistan never had an “acceptable rationale” -assuming we adhere to the elementary moral truism that the same standards which apply to others ought to apply to ourselves.
    Bombing a nation that allegedly contains terror suspects is always an absurd rationale on its face, independent and prior to its consequences.

    If we accept that, at some time in the past, the bombing of Afghanistan was “acceptable” then we have to concede that it would have also been “acceptable” to bomb Washington to get at Orlando Bosch for Cuban terrorism or bomb Boston to get a supporters of IRA terrorism. That’s outlandish and never accepted now and in the past. No nation would even accept the idea of the bombing because of the forseeable consequences.

    It is thus an error to (even for a moment) to consider Washington’s absurd rationale for bombing Afghanistan as “acceptable” at any point in time. It should have been rejected outright -by all Western journalists, scholars, think tanks etc. when it was first articulated-prior to the first bomb dropping.

    Thanks for hearing my views.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    This was my reply:

    Hi Todd,
    Thanks for the comments, and for pointing out that, in my attempt to compare and contrast the Afghan and Iraqi invasions, I ended up going too far is supporting the former! Had I not been dealing with the issues in a type of shorthand, I would have mentioned UN backing for the Afghan invasion, which gave it a veneer of acceptability, but I actually agree that it wasn’t justified anyway.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Here are a few comments from the Huffington Post:

    JacqueItch wrote:

    Our economy is dependent on continuous warfare.
    Without war, we have few viable exports. We sold a lot of our manufacturing. Our job base is not what it was even as short as 15 years ago.

    By stirring up antiAmerican sentiment in the theocratic Mideast, we are now assured sufficient enemies to last the next 50 or 60 years without even trying = continuous war is guaranteed.
    Additionally, we have succeeded in validating beyond any doubt Orwell’s principal premise———that war exists to maintain control of the citizenry.

    But what may indeed happen is the logical next step whenever capitalist economies turn sour, as they must when economic class inequity dramatically increases————- major conflict, multinational warfare. All signs are pointing toward further destabilization, and US militarism has the full endorsement of the government to do whatever is “necessary” to protect American interests.

    I think, on the Karmic cycle, they keep sending the same warmongering moronic rulers back time and again until they finally get it right. If only there were a way to strap them into theater seats and make them watch “War Games” 5, or 6 hundred times in a row …

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Kirby replied:

    How right you are! We were pulled into that mess on behalf of Wolfowitz, et al, those formidable Israeli proxy warriors who wanted to secure the realm for the now sleeping prince who petitioned Dum Dum Bush in the White House twice before 9/11 to go after Saddam Hussein, so much so that we could see the Bush/Cheney directionality quite a bit before it could come to pass. And now we are in that neo-concentric circular momentous movement toward having it out with Iran, again at Israel’s behest, so it can rest in peace for another lengthy period sitting on and enlarging itself. What Bush and Cheney did to our party – just look at it – is nothing compared to what it did to our country. It is absolutely frightening to see the derrier kissing at the AIPAC conference, and a downer to think about the long lasting effect all of this groveling to Israel is going to cost the majority of our citizenry in SO MANY WAYS more than just billions out of our pockets.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    RLee wrote:

    I’ve taken the amount of money we’ve spent just on Iraq (not Afghanistan), Bush and Cheney’s private war, and divided it by the number of Americans it is estimated are not covered by employer or government health plans. At a robust average rate of $300/mo./person, we could have supplied all of them health coverage for four years, with plenty left to cover administrative costs.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    woopecker5 wrote:

    Great article. Obama’s policies against lran and protecting Bush’s torturers and war criminals are wrong.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    FullChat wrote:

    Does anyone else find the dates when waterboarding was carried out to be more than a little suspicious?

    Waterboarding was not performed after March 2003 – KSM being waterboarded 183 times that month. Anything else happen then? Oh yeah – the war with Iraq.

    My suspicion is that waterboarding was used to get some one of high rank – like KSM – to say that there were links between Saddam and OBL to justify the war in Iraq. And after March 2003, they didn’t need anyone anymore – they had invaded!!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    And here’s a comment from Common Dreams:

    genie wrote:

    On Oct. 9, 1990 a letter was sent to me from Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s office regarding my letter opposing the Iraq war. This might have been another war that Americans thought was just, but it was not. Iraq would not have invaded Kuwait if America threatened to support Kuwait against Iraq. What Albright said was that it was a matter between Iraq and Kuwait,we would not interfere. The letter from D’Amato explained how:” America sold Saddam the chemicals that created this Frankenstein monster.” The same weapons that we trained him to use on his own people, and then used as a reason to invade Iraq. He then went on to build the Iraqi military up as this great “formidable opponent” If you were old enough to remember that first gulf war you saw the antiquated tanks, the disloyal army that surrendered immediately, and were shot down, (as the troops said), like a turkey shoot.I could not believe that the U.S. government could convince congress that Saddam was so powerful that America needed to starve the children in Iraq for about 13 years and then invade that destitute nation smothered with the corpse of Iraqi children. Saddam was terrified of America after the first gulf war. He was absolutely no threat and no more of a monster than any presidential administration that engages in undeclared wars, torture,and depleted uranium bombs, just for money.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    On The Public Record, dizzy wrote:

    The more you read the harder it is to believe these guys controlled our country. Andy, please continue to make the record.

    Much thanks and please keep it going for our children’s sake.

  14. TraVotez says...

    [...] (93)  Siete años de guerra en Irak: aún se basan en la tortura y las mentiras de Cheney [...]

  15. Militant Libertarian » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing says...

    [...] to Egypt after his capture at the end of 2001, al-Libi was tortured until he confessed that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda obtain chemical weapons, a wildly improbable scenario, [...]

  16. Torture is Immoral and Results in False Confessions « The Smoking Argus Daily | Investigating the Underbelly of Politics and Government says...

    [...] to Egypt after his capture at the end of 2001, al-Libi was tortured until he confessed that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda obtain chemical weapons, a wildly improbable scenario, [...]

  17. Crapaganda.com » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured For Nothing says...

    [...] to Egypt after his capture at the end of 2001, al-Libi was tortured until he confessed that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda obtain chemical weapons, a wildly improbable scenario, [...]

  18. FreeWestRadio.com » Blog Archive » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing says...

    [...] to Egypt after his capture at the end of 2001, al-Libi was tortured until he confessed that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda obtain chemical weapons, a wildly improbable scenario, [...]

  19. reboot the republic » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing says...

    [...] to Egypt after his capture at the end of 2001, al-Libi was tortured until he confessed that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaeda obtain chemical weapons, a wildly improbable scenario, [...]

  20. » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania : To Be or Not to Be @abdolian.com says...

    [...] soon after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he came up with the false allegation that Saddam Hussein was working on a chemical weapons program with al-Qaeda, which was used to [...]

  21. New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret C.I.A. Prisons in Poland and Romania « Little Alex in Wonderland says...

    [...] soon after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he came up with the false allegation that Saddam Hussein was working on a chemical weapons program with Al Qaeda, which was used to [...]

  22. New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania : says...

    [...] soon after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he came up with the false allegation that Saddam Hussein was working on a chemical weapons program with al-Qaeda, which was used to [...]

  23. reboot the republic » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania says...

    [...] soon after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he came up with the false allegation that Saddam Hussein was working on a chemical weapons program with al-Qaeda, which was used to [...]

  24. » Blog Archive » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania says...

    [...] soon after his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, where, under torture, he came up with the false allegation that Saddam Hussein was working on a chemical weapons program with al-Qaeda, which was used to [...]

  25. How Paul Wolfowitz Authorized Human Experimentation at Guantánamo « Dr Nasir Khan says...

    [...] false confessions about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that could be used in an attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March [...]

  26. In Upcoming Book Bush Admits to Waterboarding | Watts Cookin' says...

    [...] honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President’s many crimes – including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on “high-value detainees” seized in the [...]

  27. All Guantánamo Prisoners Were Subjected to “Pharmacological Waterboarding” by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] suicide in prison — but this was of no concern to Dick Cheney, who used his tortured lies to justify the invasion of Iraq in March [...]

  28. WikiLeaks: Numerous Reasons to Dismiss US Claims that “Ghost Prisoner” Aafia Siddiqui Was Not Held in Bagram + Bring Aafia Home « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] to discuss the use of chemical and biological weapons. That false confession was used a part of the justification for the invasion of Iraq, in March 2003, but once al-Libi was used up — after several years in other secret prisons — he [...]

  29. Revolution in Egypt – and the Hypocrisy of the US and the West « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] the border into Pakistan — al-Libi was rendered to Egypt by the CIA, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that al-Qaeda representatives had been meeting Saddam Hussein to discuss the use of chemical and [...]

  30. Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Reminds World Suleiman Personally Tortured Him « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] a “close and continuing” relationship with the CIA, would therefore be directly implicated in one of the most monstrous lies of the “War on Teror,” in which, whether by accident, or, more likely, by design, torture was [...]

  31. Hiding Horrific Tales of Torture: Why The US Government Reached A Plea Deal with Guantánamo Prisoner Noor Uthman Muhammed « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] been discussing the use of chemical and biological weapons with Saddam Hussein. This confession was used to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, even though al-Libi retracted it before Colin Powell presented it as “evidence” [...]

  32. Revolution in Libya: Protesters Face Gaddafi’s Murderous Backlash as US, UK Ooze Hypocrisy | Amauta says...

    [...] the use of chemical and biological weapons. Although al-Libi recanted his tortured lie, it was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and after al-Libi had been moved around various other secret prisons, he was [...]

  33. WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Al-Libi recanted this particular lie, but it was nevertheless used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Al-Libi was never sent to Guantánamo, although at some point, probably in 2006, the CIA sent him [...]

  34. The Hidden Horrors of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files | Amauta says...

    [...] until he falsely confessed that there were connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein (used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003), who was finally sent back to Libya to be [...]

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