Cutting Through Iraq’s Fog of War in Ukraine

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Ever since the start of this monstrous, unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, I have been reflexively considering our monstrous, unprovoked attack on Iraq by George W. Bush in 2003.

I just don’t see how you can be against one of these atrocities, while being for the other.

I’m not here to pile on as things quickly escalate in Ukraine, but I am here to say we all have to start doing a helluva lot better, because right now we are as close to nuclear war as we have ever been in 60 years.

Which means, of course, we’ve learned nothing.

So let’s spend a minute or two examining Joe Biden and America’s part in that atrocity in Iraq; how it is affecting Putin’s evil calculations in Moscow right now; and why even some of our teammates in NATO have been slow to give Biden the benefit of the doubt.

Before lunging forward, let me selfishly get this out of the way: WE TOLD YOU SO. There were a bunch of us back in 2002, who damn well knew the establishment was carrying out the single most awful thing we had ever witnessed from our country in our lifetimes when we went on the warpath to Iraq.

We knew then, it would profoundly and negatively affect us now.

Following the attacks on 9/11, America was out for blood, but money and oil would do just fine as a substitute.

I was smack in the middle of my journalism career as the managing editor at Stars and Stripes in 2003, and apolitical as hell. I didn’t have much use for politicians, because time and again I saw too many of them lie to my readers to protect their self-interests (reelection).

You have to keep an eye on politicians, because above all, they are political.

At that point in my lifetime, I had probably voted for more Republicans than Democrats, but never once pulled the lever feeling really good about my choice. Also at that point in my lifetime, my readers were the troops and their families, and nobody in America would pay a higher price if we went to war than they would.

But Cheney, Bush and Powell incredibly led us into battle based on nothing but a Big Lie. Nobody can tell a lie bigger and more completely awful than the GOP. By God, we better all be able to at least agree on that one …

So where were you when we began indiscriminately obliterating human life during “Shock and Awe” — the day the “pro-life party” showed as all just how little value they put on the living …?

Putin was in Moscow, raking in millions, grinding his teeth, and taking notes as he watched the righteous nation that tore his wall down act the part of a no-good bully.

I was standing in the middle of a newsroom, watching in horror as mankind proved how terrifying it could be, and knowing we were only getting warmed up.

Young American men and women were sentenced to death on that awful, awful day. The weak, stupid president was being led around by the nose by the smart, professional evil-doers, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and their blood-thirsty pack of Neocons. These sick ghouls lusted for oil, money and power, just as Jesus Christ had taught them to.

They were right and you were wrong, and if you dared disagree with that, you were anti-American and didn’t love your country.

Don’t go telling me propaganda doesn’t work …

We know now, the whole gruesome thing turned into a festival of war crimes, cost hundreds of thousands of lives, wrecked the lives of millions of the living, and diminished the reputation of the United States around the world forever.

It’s impossible to claim the high ground and lead from the front when you are trying to do it standing in some hole you yourself dug so deep — and is in the approximate location of where we stand now, whether we want to admit it in this country or not.

Back then, Biden grudgingly supported the War in Iraq along with 76 other senators, but only after Cheney, Bush and Powell hauled out the first Big Lie of the 21st Century: Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was itching to use them.

He didn’t, of course. He was just some evil, useful asshole who the Neocons could use an excuse to keep their boy, W., in the White House for another term, so he could make ’em a bunch more money, before thoroughly wrecking our economy along with our reputation.

Useful fact: Dick Cheney, a politician, made about $100 million with Halliburton during that damn war. Millions of others lost their houses and retirement savings.

Another fact: It was right then and there, I quit even considering to vote for a Republican for the rest of my life. That party was dead to me.

In examining Biden’s actions during the run-up to the Iraq War we know he continually encouraged caution and pushed hard for a large, solid coalition of willing partners that we never got. Exactly four out of the 195 countries in the entire world ended up standing with us when we made the infamous decision to go into Iraq.

FOUR! — Australia, Denmark, Poland and the United Kingdom.

How could we have ever thought we were so fucking right, when so many knew good and goddam well we were not?!

And let’s quickly get this in the room before moving on: Donald Trump has continually said he spoke out against the War in Iraq. That, like literally everything else that oozes out of his dirty mouth, is a flat out lie.

In fact, in the months before “Shock and Awe,” when radio host Howard Stern asked if he was in favor of invading Iraq, Trump said this: “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

Classic Trump right there.

For Biden’s part, it took more than two years to acknowledge his massive miscalculation. That’s when he said, “It was a mistake.”

“It was a mistake to assume the president would use the authority we gave him properly,” he said. “We gave the president the authority to unite the world to isolate Saddam. And the fact of the matter is, we went too soon. We went without sufficient force. And we went without a plan.”

So, other than that, how did you enjoy the show, Mrs. Lincoln?

If you are looking for good news and some hope right now (you are), then consider that Biden’s miscalculations then, are what seem to be instructing him now.

He’s not about to make the same mistakes twice.

His administration has been working tirelessly assembling a robust league of nations that is standing firmly against Putin. He has continued to reaffirm our commitment to NATO, after Putin’s puppet talked loudly of abandoning it not even two years ago.

His decision to telegraph intelligence in the lead-up to this conflict was a risk, but is proving to be a stroke of genius: We’ll tell you what Putin is planning to do, because we know, and when he does it, his evil actions will only lend us the credibility we so desperately need to prosecute this war. Believe in us. We won’t let you down.

Yes, gas will be more expensive, he has acknowledged, but it doesn’t need to be. You can thank our oil companies for that. Biden has been so effective at galvanizing the world’s economy against Putin, you can’t even find a single Big Mac in Russia right now.

Biden is being candid, calm and with his actions and words proving just how damn dangerous and anti-American it was for all these Republicans to muster at the feet of Putin during Trump’s chaotic administration.

A solid majority of America is standing with our president’s actions in this war, which is no small accomplishment when you consider just how shockingly wrong we were about another conflict but 19 years ago.

You can bet Putin was counting on just the opposite.


(D. Earl Stephens is a published author and finished up a 30-year career in journalism as the Managing Editor of Stars and Stripes. You can also find his work on Substack.)

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Lived everywhere. Started in Africa, then to America, then to Europe, then ... back to America, which lately seems to pride itself in going back. Almost made it 30 years in print journalism, before it all went bad. Really? Don’t think things are bad, eh? Who’s your new president, pal? How did that happen? Because it all went bad.

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  1. Seriously, well said! And you have a perspective that very few have with your time at Stars and Stripes. I wholeheartedly agree with you that President Biden is doing a very good job in developing and leading a unified response to the war. It’s too bad the GOP (government of putin) continues with their traitorous comments and actions. I’ve been a firm believer tfg is a traitor since his meeting with putin. Keep up the good work!!

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