You ever read a book and think, "I should just stop?" I felt that way with Elton's John's autobiography ME ELTON JOHN. I'm sure some will love it. It's free if you have KINDLE UNLIMITED so you won't be wasting your money -- just your time.
He rewrites history throughout. Dusty Springfield is a rewrite, for example.
He trashed her to ROLLING STONE in the RS INTERVIEW he and Bernie Taupen gave. He didn't name her but it was obviously her -- a drunk British former girl singer he was friends with. He trashed her. Now he pretends he was there for her. I guess guilt and age blur a lot?
He gets bitchy about Tina Turner with a story that makes her look like a bitch but doesn't acknowledge that the reason she was telling the band they weren't sounding right was because his band didn't sound right. They wanted to play her songs with the same ornate flourishes they played his. He's the one who said his band would play on VH1's DIVA special. He didn't show up on time. She was left to deal with the band. And everyone present saw him as the bitch, not Tina. Cher saw him as the bitch, Tina saw him as the bitch, Mary J. Blige and assorted others saw Elton as the bitch.
As would any normal observer because, by 1999, telling Tina how the music is going to go for "Proud Mary" is going to go is not going to fly. That's her hit song. She'd been singing it for three decades by that point. It didn't need trills and long vocal pauses filled with more trills and ornation. It needed to slam and it needed to move. That Tina's having to rehearse the song with a band that isn't interested in presenting the way Tina's always done it is the band's problem. And Elton had told them -- before rehearsal -- how they would play it. And his ideas were nonsense.
Tina was in the right, he was in the wrong. He whores throughout the book.
I don't like Elton John. I never did because he's a bitch.
He's not a nice person -- if you read closely you'll see that in the book -- especially the way he dismisses George Michael. And if you took photographs at any time during his reign of popularity, you grasped that. I shot one and only one session with Elton. It's also the only session I ever walked out on. He was a total bitch who couldn't stop screaming and yelling as one of his flunkies to focus on the shoot. When he finally did, he was hungry and began shoving food in his face -- getting it over his clothes. He wasn't done eating but realized he needed to change his clothes so announced he would be back. Not with me. I packed up my s**t and left.
And I knew it was going to be a problem because his reputation with other photographers was awful. No one wanted to shoot him (with a camera).
Elton makes it through the whole book without ever mentioning Carole King -- this despite his whole act was ripping off Carole but adding drag to it.
That might be good, that he didn't mention her because, in the 70s, no one was bitchier about Carole King than Elton John. No one. He ripped her apart over and over. He was snide and he was bitchy.
In this book, he keeps the bitchy on the down low. It's there if you pay attention but he's learned to deliver it as an aside instead of his usual shriek.
The book has very little to recommend it.
Disappointed and realizing I'd have to talk to Ava and C.I. about it and didn't have much to say, I quickly grabbed another book. I went with HOURLY HISTORY's WHITNEY HOUSTON: A LIFE FROM BEGINNING TO END.
It was better than Elton John's book but nearly anything would have been.
I can't recommend it. I was deeply bothered by the book because it got so much wrong. Basics.
I remember the rise of Whitney and I remember the fall.
The book doesn't. In the book everything is great -- according to the authors. Every album she did except 2002's JUST WHITNEY is a classic and wonderful and -- No.
Everything they write is wrong. Her self-titled debut was a mixed bag. The singing wasn't bad, the song choice was and it didn't work as an album you wanted to play from start to finish. Then came album number two which was sugar pop and that's when the complaints started that she wasn't a soul singer. And that's why her album sales suffer in the 90s because she was seen as product and not as art. Grunge came in and kicked her ass. Not just her, but it did kick her ass. She was too glossy, too fake, to much created drama -- and that's just at the mike. By the mid-90s when people saw her life as that way as well.
She embarrassed herself non-stop beginning with her disaster at the AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS broadcast when she tried to promote MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE. She was sweating like a crazed drug addict (which she was by that point) and her voice kept cracking and failing to reach the notes she was going for. As C.I.'s noted, Whitney is on stage hitting her chest with her fist trying to get the voice to work and it just won't. The drugs had done their damage and then some.
That's when America saw the real Whitney. The industry had already seen it. Penny Marshall had to ask Whitney in 1995 if the drugs were so much that Whitney wasn't up for THE PREACHER'S WIFE. There was real concern throughout -- before the filming started and after. Her drugs use was out of control and she was a full blown addict.
By 2010, her 2000 greatest hits album only sold 2.5 million in America. The sales have gone up since her death but that wasn't a good figure. (Before someone screams 5 million units! It's a double disc album. Bruce's first boxed set should have taught you the lesson back then -- a multi disc album gets credit for all the discs. A single disc collection that sells a million copies sold a million copies. A double disc album that's a million seller only sold 500,000 copies of the title.)
There was never a comeback for Whitney, she died without one. Her disgrace at the AMAs and on the road after, destroyed her pop audience and she never got them back. She was a horror story of drugs and it ran off her pop audience.
They didn't even include her infamous "Crack is whack" remark or that Diane Sawyer interview -- even WIKIPEDIA includes that.
There's too much fakery in both books.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we’re joined by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an award-winning Iraqi journalist and author. He was born in Baghdad in 1975 and was working as an architect when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Ghaith started his journalism career at The Guardian soon after the invasion as a translator for Guardian reporters. He has since received the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, the British Press Awards’ Foreign Reporter of the Year and the Orwell Prize. His book is just out on this 20th anniversary, A Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East’s Long War. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is joining us from Istanbul, Turkey, today.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Ghaith. This book is magnificent. It is a deep dive into understanding the effects of an invasion and occupation and, beyond that, the entire region. And we congratulate you for this work. Why don’t we start off with the book’s title, A Stranger in Your Own City? Describe Baghdad, a place you had hardly left by the time you had become an architect, and then what happened on March 20th, the bombing of your country.
GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD: Well, thank you, Amy, and thank you, Nermeen, for having me back.
It’s exactly like that. I grew up in Baghdad. I rarely left the city for 28 years. And I presume I knew the city very well. I used to walk everywhere. My school was in one part of the city. My family lived in another part. My friends are in the east and the west of the city. So I knew the geography of the city very well. It’s a flat, open city, no marcations, no boundaries within the city itself.
And then, within two years of the occupation, I was awake early in the morning in my hotel room, and I’m trying to find friends who can escort me to different parts of the city. And that’s when it hit me that I have become a stranger in my own city, because I can’t actually, literally, travel from the hotel where I was staying to where my school was or where my friends were, without having a someone to escort me, and often two people escorting me, you know, because you never know what kind of militia will be manning checkpoints on the road. And that was a direct effect of the war. I mean, my life, from an architect or a journalist, an accidental journalist, I would say, was upended by this war like so many other lives in Iraq, and in the region, of course.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ghaith, one of the things that’s very instructive and interesting in your book is the account you give of your years in Baghdad — as you said, almost 30 without barely leaving — all of the events that led up to what the society and the context was in which the U.S. invasion took place. So, if you could begin with that? You were 5 years old when the Iraq-Iran War began, and then followed swiftly by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the sanctions. If you could just walk us through that period and what Baghdad was like in those years?
GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD: I mean, of course, Iraqis, and myself included, of a certain generation, their relationship to war did not start in 2003. As you said, I was 5 when I first time witnessed the bombing of my city. It was — you know, Iraq was bombing Tehran. The Iranians were bombing Baghdad. And that eight years’ war, that although people in the cities, the major cities, were spared from, but we all lived through its dynamic, through its impact of the society, the militarization of the society — uncles, cousins, neighbors all being taken to the front. Every spring, you see the streets in Baghdad covered in this black cloth announcing the death of soldiers, conscript soldiers, at the front. So, that was part of the dynamic.
Our appetites find us
Release us and bind us
Deep in the night
While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars
They'd like to slam free choice behind us
I saw a little lawyer on the tube
He said "It's so easy now anyone can sue"
"Let me show you how your petty aggravations can profit you!"
Call for the three great stimulants
Of the exhausted ones
Artifice brutality and innocence
Artifice and innocence
Oh and deep in the night
Appetites find us
Release us and blind us
Deep in the night
While madmen sit up building bombs
And making laws and bars
They're gonna slam free choice behind us
Petraeus reportedly began an affair with Paula Broadwell, principal author of his biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, after Petraeus left his ISAF command on July 18, 2011, to become CIA director. Petraeus reportedly ended the affair in the summer of 2012, around the time that he learned that Broadwell had been sending harassing emails to a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses, Jill Kelley.
Kelley, a Florida socialite who frequently entertained senior military personnel at her and her husband's Tampa mansion, had approached an acquaintance who worked for the FBI Tampa Field Office in the late spring with regard to anonymous emails she considered threatening. The Bureau traced the emails to Broadwell, and noted that Broadwell appeared to be exchanging intimate messages with an email account belonging to Petraeus, which instigated an investigation into whether that account had been hacked into or was someone posing as Petraeus. According to an Associated Press report, rather than transmit emails to each other's inbox, which would have left a more obvious email trail, Petraeus and Broadwell left messages in a draft folder and the draft messages were then read by the other person when they logged into the same account.
Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was aware that the FBI had discovered the affair, it was not until November 6, 2012, that Petraeus's nominal superior, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, was advised. That same evening Clapper called Petraeus and urged him to resign. Clapper notified the White House the next day, November 7. After being briefed on November 8, President Obama summoned Petraeus to the White House where Petraeus offered his resignation. Obama accepted his resignation on November 9, and Petraeus cited his affair when announcing that same day that he would resign as CIA Director. Eventually, Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling the classified information that he provided to his mistress and biographer.
Criticism after 2012 scandal
Petraeus had a strategy to influence military conditions by using press relations, both in theater of war and in Washington, according to critics of his military career. On November 13, 2012, Reagan administration Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, CIA analyst and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity co-founder Ray McGovern, and investigative journalist Gareth Porter appeared on Al Jazeera English. Together they assessed the general's extensive military-media strategy, linking his writings on counterguerrilla operations and subsequent military media efforts to his downfall with his female biographer. Critics said that the Petraeus media strategy would prove damaging for American policy in the future because of omissions and distorted interpretations that Washington policymakers, other experts, and the American public accepted from Petraeus's media contacts.
Military historians have noted the absence of field records for the Iraq and Afghanistan military campaigns, but have not been personally critical of the commanders in theater. One additional aspect of Petraeus's career that has come under increased scrutiny since his affair came to light has been his lack of a direct combat record in relation to the many awards he received. In particular, his Bronze Star Medal with Valor device has been mentioned in several media reports and questioned by several former Army officers. The citation for Petraeus's Bronze Star with "V" device also notes his "leadership under fire," as does award of the Combat Action Badge, but neither provides a detailed account of his actions.
Criminal charges and probation
In January 2015, The New York Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department had recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus for providing classified information to Broadwell. Petraeus denied the allegations and was reported to have had no interest in a plea deal. However, on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Petraeus agreed to plead guilty in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.
In the 15-page statement of facts filed by the government along with the plea agreement, the government stated that Petraeus had provided Broadwell access to documents containing Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, had later moved those documents to his personal residence and stored them in an unsecured drawer, and had deliberately and intentionally lied to Federal investigators about both providing Broadwell access to the documents and their improper storage. These facts were acknowledged to be true by Petraeus as part of his plea agreement.
On April 23, 2015, a federal judge sentenced Petraeus to two years' probation plus a fine of $100,000. The fine was more than double the amount the Justice Department had requested.
Press accounts in January 2016 indicated that Department of Defense staff were reviewing Department of Justice documents from the Petraeus prosecution and considering whether to recommend to the Secretary of Defense that Petraeus be demoted on the Army's retired list. Laws and regulations indicate that members of the military are retired at the last rank in which they are deemed to have served successfully; Petraeus's admission of an extramarital affair and guilty plea with regard to removing and retaining classified information while serving in the grade of general could be grounds for reduction in rank to lieutenant general. The matter was reviewed by then-Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh before he left office in October 2015; he recommended no further action. On January 29, press accounts indicated that Stephen C. Hedger, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, had written to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. In his letter, Hedger informed the committee that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had concurred with the Army's recommendation, and would not impose any further punishment on Petraeus.
The Independent reported last week on claims by a former prisoner of the prison camp, Mansoor Adayfi, that Mr DeSantis observed his brutal force-feeding by guards during a hunger strike in 2006 – a practice the United Nations characterised as torture.
Mr DeSantis was stationed on the base between March 2006 and January 2007, according to his military records, and part of his role involved hearing complaints and concerns from prisoners over their conditions.
“I was a junior officer. I didn’t have authority to authorise anything,” Mr DeSantis told Piers Morgan, in an interview to be broadcast on Thursday.
“There may have been a commander that would have done feeding if someone was going to die, but that was not something that I would have even had authority to do.”
The Florida governor’s response did not address the central allegation from the detainee that he witnessed the force-feeding. Investigations by The Independent, The Washington Post and other outlets did not report that Mr DeSantis authorised the force-feeding – rather, that he observed and was aware of the practice.
U.S. Military Document Says Force-Feeding Violates Medical Ethics and International Law
U.S. Navy Should Drop Charges Against Nurse who Refused to Force-Feed Guantánamo Detainees
For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today that a newly public U.S. military document acknowledging that force-feeding violates medical ethics shows the unlawfulness of hunger strike practices at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. PHR called on the U.S. government to end all policies requiring clinicians to violate professional ethics and to immediately drop charges against the Navy nurse who refused to force-feed detainees.
“This document exposes the flawed medical and legal reasoning at the heart of Guantánamo’s force-feeding policy,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “Forcing treatment on mentally competent persons constitutes ill-treatment and possibly torture and is contrary to professional ethics. There is no evidence for the government’s claim that it is diagnosing or treating suicide or self-harm. Yet the command structure orders doctors and nurses to carry out force-feeding anyway, and attempts to justify the practice on the basis of medical necessity. The Navy nurse who stood up against this contradictory and harmful policy should not be discharged.”
PHR rejects the U.S. government’s claim that hunger strikes are a form of suicide or self-harm and that force-feeding is an appropriate therapeutic response. PHR said that this is a mischaracterization, as the hunger strikes at Guantánamo are protests of last resort against indefinite detention and ill-treatment. PHR stated that the government’s policy is inherently contradictory, in that it attempts to justify intervention ostensibly to prevent suicide or self-harm, yet fails to establish a medical foundation for intervention, such as diagnosing and treating self-harm behaviors and investigating other potential causes of weight loss.
Last year, a Navy nurse was transferred out of Guantánamo after refusing to participate in force-feeding. The nurse, who has been charged with misconduct, still awaits a decision on whether he could be discharged after 18 years of service. The American Nurses Association, the International Council of Nurses, and the World Medical Association (WMA) have publicly asserted the nurse’s professional obligation to pursue ethical practice and urged the DOD and the Navy to drop disciplinary proceedings against him.
The internal analysis by a United States Southern Command attorney, which ultimately determines that force-feeding is permitted under U.S. federal law, appears to be the military’s first documented recognition that force-feeding is contrary to professional ethics and international law. The analysis was issued on June 21, 2013 – just two months after the American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (pdf), stating that “the forced feeding of detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” The AMA endorses (pdf) the WMA Declarations of Tokyo and Malta, which recognize force-feeding as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.
PHR said that Guantánamo’s force-feeding policy has required clinicians like the Navy nurse to carry out duties prohibited by medical ethics, or risk losing their careers if they refuse.
“Force-feeding requires doctors and nurses to inflict physical and mental pain without any medical justification and violate the most basic professional duty to ‘do no harm,’” Iacopino said. “Current federal policy requires doctors and nurses who serve their country to violate their professional codes and potentially jeopardize their licenses. The government must stop using health professionals as an instrument of punitive and harmful military policies.”
PHR said that force-feeding violates the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment and constitutes medical negligence, and calls on the U.S. government to:
- Immediately end the practice of force-feeding detainees on hunger strike and institute policies and procedures consistent with the WMA’s Declarations of Tokyo and Malta on hunger strikers;
- Ensure that no health professionals are compelled to participate in force-feeding, and that those who refuse do not face disciplinary or retaliatory actions for complying with their professional obligations; and
- Commit to full transparency around hunger strikes at Guantánamo and medical management policies and protocols, including the release of the force-feeding tapes of former detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.
The debate about the Iraq war’s 20th anniversary can be essentially reduced to three questions.
Were Iraq, and the other endless wars, worth it? Definitely not. After 20 years, Afghanistan is again ruled by the Taliban, Iraq is a dysfunctional democracy, and terrorism was weakened but did not disappear.
Was the price paid justified? The negative answer here is even louder. Brown University’s Cost of War Project has provided staggering figures about the endless wars’ cost between 2001 and 2021. Almost one million people have died due to direct war violence; 387,000 civilians have been killed because of the fighting (300,000 in Iraq alone), and 38 million people are displaced war refugees in the region. The US government spent $8 trillion, and 7,050 of its soldiers were killed.
Has any lesson been learned from this immense tragedy? Unsurprisingly, the answer is once again negative. Twenty years later, most of the endless wars’ cheerleaders are still listened to. This ensures that the war in Ukraine will likely continue until there is a complete defeat of Russia. China seems to be their next target, with Taiwan as a casus belli.
Those who built the case for the Iraq war on fake intelligence and caused so many casualties have not served one single day in jail. Those who instead denounced the conflict’s war crimes, like Julian Assange, are in solitary confinement and risk a life sentence.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1,985,000 veterans who served in 2003 or later have a service-connected disability — or about 40 percent of the total. Applying that proportion to the 1.5 million servicemembers who served in Iraq, that would come to about 600,000 Iraq veterans with service-connected disabilities.
- The Pentagon’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports having diagnosed 468,424 cases of traumatic brain injury from 2000 to 2022, including both Iraq and Afghan vets.
- A 2015 report from the VA disclosed that 422,167 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were seen for potential or provisional PTSD at VA facilities following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan.
- A 2014 research study found that rates of PTSD were higher among studies of Iraq-deployed personnel compared with personnel deployed to Afghanistan.
- A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is “highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.”) Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.
- A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 percent of soldiers reported an injury during deployment that involved loss of consciousness or altered mental status, and 17 percent of soldiers reported other injuries. (Using that ratio would suggest that 480,000 Iraq vets were injured one way or the other.) More than 40 percent of soldiers who lost consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that as many as 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean as many as 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of health conditions contracted from serving in Iraq includes infectious diseases like leishmaniasis (also known as the “Baghdad boil”), injuries, and hazardous exposures. It warns that “combat Veterans may have been exposed to a wide variety of environmental hazards during their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. These hazardous exposures may cause long-term health problems.” The VA provides no estimates of exposure or damage, however.
- A 2009 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called “difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties” offers one indication of how the “wounded in action” category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq, more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.
- Hearing loss is common among service-members. A 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs research paper found that one third of soldiers who had recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq were referred to audiologists for hearing evaluations due to exposure to acute acoustic blasts, and 72 percent of them were identified as having hearing loss. Richard Salvi, head of the University of Buffalo’s Center for Hearing and Deafness determined in 2011 that “as many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus” because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand.
- A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans’ lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later.
- The Costs of War project at Brown University estimates that future medical and disability costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will total between $2.2 trillion and $2.5 trillion.
[Retired Marine Corporal Michael] Elliot and [Retired Marine Corporal Josh] Hisle both said they had trouble adjusting to civilian life after they were honorably discharged and left the Marines feeling remorse for some of the actions and directives they were given in Iraq.
"Every mission, everything we did, kicking doors and disrupting people's lives, bagging people's heads, bagging the dude's head and dragging him out of the house, while his kids are standing there screaming, for what? What are we doing?" Hisle said.
Hisle said he feels that America didn't learn anything from the war because civilians' lives weren't affected.
Elliot said he felt heartbroken because the post-military life for newer veterans is getting more difficult and nothing is being done to help.
While they were diagnosed with PTSD and sought help, they said the road to recovery was challenging in ways they couldn’t have predicted.
"Everything I did in combat is not going to work in civilian life. Now I have to re-learn again. And how do I take care of myself? I'm going to drink, I'm going to numb myself. I'm going to drink until I pass out," Elliot said.
After the war, at least three Fox 2/5 Marines died by suicide, and one of them is in prison for murder after allegedly suffering from PTSD.
The U.S. rush to war against Iraq 20 years ago marked the worst strategic decision of any U.S. president in history, and the worst intelligence scandal as well. But the New York Times and the Washington Post would have you believe that the lack of “planning and staffing” was central to our failure. Neither newspaper mentioned the long series of intelligence lies and distortions that marked the run-up to the war nor did they refer to the obvious war crimes that were committed with the support of the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Max Fisher’s essay in the Times on March 19 was particularly obtuse because it dwelt on the inability to determine U.S. motivation. Fisher quoted Richard Haass, a senior official at the Department of State at the time of the invasion, who currently heads the Council on Foreign Relations, concluding inscrutably that the decision to go to war “was not made. A decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.”
But we know exactly who made the decision to go to war, and we certainly know when and why that decision was made. The decision itself had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or with the bogus claim that Saddam was somehow involved in the tragedy. The decision was about regime change. CIA prepared a spurious intelligence estimate in October 2022, which served as the basis for the spurious speech that Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in February, 2003. Senior officials at the State Department tried to keep Powell from bivouacking at the CIA where the speech was drafted and pushed by senior Agency officials led by deputy director John McLaughlin.
Fisher, moreover, cites Elizabeth Saunders, a Georgetown University scholar, who argues that “if you want to prevent this from happening again, you need to get the diagnosis right.” Does Saunders really believe that U.S. policy makers actually learn lessons from history? Is Saunders familiar with previous U.S. wars against Mexico in the 1840s, Spain in the 1890s, and North Vietnam in the 1960s that were initiated on the basis of lies and disinformation.
Fisher concludes with the ill-advised argument from Saunders that no matter how much we know about the facts of the 2003 invasion, “some of it will remain fundamentally unknowable.” What is in fact unknowable is whether honest leadership from Secretary of State Powell, CIA director George Tenet, CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, and a CIA willing to tell truth to power could have created more opposition to the war from the Congress, the media, and the public.
In the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the paper’s bureau chief in Baghdad at the time of the invasion, argues that “Iraq is recovering” from what he gently terms U.S. “recklessness.” Chandrasekaran faults the United States for going to war without a “real plan” for the “liberation of Baghdad.” As a senior faculty member at the National War College in 2002-2003, I received classified briefings from the Pentagon that made it clear there was never a plan for the post-war or the so-called liberation because the United States goal was to remove Saddam Hussein and then leave. No senior Pentagon staffer expected U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond the four to six months needed to remove Hussein, which explains the absence of “planning and staffing.”
A meaningful retrospective would remind the American people of the efforts of the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, as well as the director and deputy director of CIA, to create and employ a strategic disinformation campaign to convince Congress and the American people of the need for a war that ultimately took 4,600 lives of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives. Our motivation seems meaningless in that context; the campaign to manipulate American and global public opinion is dispositive and needs to be fully understood. By any standard, the Bush administration and its key officials throughout the policy and intelligence communities must be judged as reckless in the extreme.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a memory forever etched in the minds of millions of Iraqis who were living in and outside the country at the time. Years of war, followed by continued instability in the country, has cost generations time and trauma. In Ruptured Domesticity, a digital archive, Iraqi researcher Sana Murrani has collected the memories of Iraqis living inside and outside the country during the times of war.
Nearly 1.2 million Iraqis are still internally displaced due to the war, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Through the project, Murrani, who is also associate professor in Spatial Practice and Architecture at the University of Plymouth, UK, pulled on memories of geographic spaces and forced travel due to the circumstances of war, but also what Iraqis carried with them to represent their homes.
I’ve kept a collection of quotes about the Iraq war for years. Here’s a inventory of who said what and when, which provides a kind of oral history of the war (mostly) from the perpetrators’ point of view…
“An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.”
– Judith Miller, New York Times, December 20, 2001
“Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder.”
– Richard Perle, chair Pentagon Defense Policy Board, July 11, 2002
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
– Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002
“Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.”
– Sen. Joseph Lieberman, September 4, 2002
“If we wait for the danger to become clear, it could be too late.”
– Sen. Joseph Biden, September 4, 2002
“Speaking on the condition that neither he nor the country in which he was interviewed be identified, Ahmed al-Shemri, his pseudonym, said Iraq had continued developing, producing, and storing chemical agents at many mobile and fixed site throughout the country, many of them underground.
“All of Iraq is one large storage facility,” said Mr. Shemri.
– Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, New York Times, September 7, 2002
“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”
– George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
“I hereby declare before you that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.”
– Saddam Hussein in message to U.N. General Assembly, September 19, 2002
“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force– if necessary– to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
– John Kerry, October 9, 2002
“The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002
“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”
– Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002
“The CIA is investigating an informant’s accusation that Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist who worked in a smallpox lab in Moscow during Soviet times.”
– Judith Miller, New York Times, December 3, 2002
“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”
– Ari Fletcher, January 9, 2003
“His regime has large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism and possibly smallpox. And he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, January 20, 2003
“Former Iraqi scientists have provided American intelligence officials with a portrait of Saddam Hussein’s secret program to develop and conceal chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that is starkly at odds with the findings so far of the United Nations weapons inspectors.”
– Judith Miller, New York Times, January 24, 2003
“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”
– George W. Bush, January 28, 2003
“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.”
– Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
‘My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
– Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
“Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.”
– Sen. Hillary Clinton February 5, 2003
“We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”
– George Bush, February 8, 2003
“So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not.”
– Colin Powell, March 8, 2003
“I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
– Dick Cheney March 16, 2003
“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
– George Bush, March 18, 2003
“We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.”
Tony Blair, Prime Minister March 18, 2003
“The criminal little Bush has committed a crime against humanity.”
– Saddam Hussein, March 20, 2003
“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.”
– Ari Fleisher, March 21, 2003
“There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.”
– Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22, 2003
“One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.”
– Victoria Clark, Pentagon Spokeswoman, March 22, 2003
“I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.”
– Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board, March 23, 2003
“We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003
“Saddam’s removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction.”
– Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary, April 2, 2003
“Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find — and there will be plenty.”
– Robert Kagan, Neocon scholar, April 9, 2003
“I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.”
– Ari Fleischer, April 10, 2003
– Donald Rumsfeld, April 11, 2003
“We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.”
– George Bush, April 24, 2003
“There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, April 25, 2003
“Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit.”
Tony Blair, April 28, 2003
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
– George W. Bush, May 1, 2003
“We’ll find them [WMDs]. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.”
– George Bush May 3, 2003
“I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction.”
– Colin Powell, May 4, 2003
“I never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, May 4, 2003
“I’m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein — because he had a weapons program.”
George W. Bush, May 6, 2003
“U.S. officials never expected that “we were going to open garages and find” weapons of mass destruction.”
– Condoleezza Rice, May 12, 2003
“I just don’t know whether it was all destroyed years ago — I mean, there’s no question that there were chemical weapons years ago — whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they’re still hidden.”
– Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne May 13, 2003
“Before the war, there’s no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.”
– Gen. Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps May 21, 2003
“Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we’re interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of mass destruction.”
– Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 26, 2003
“They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.”
– Donald Rumsfeld May 27, 2003
“For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”
– Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, 2003
“He (Saddam) had long established ties with al Qaeda.”
– Dick Cheney, September 14, 2003
“They confined us like sheep. They hit people. They humiliated people.”
– Saad Naif, former prisoner at Abu Ghraib, November 1, 2003
“Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force.”
– Maj. General Antonio Taguba, February 2004
“I actually did vote for the $87 billion [to fund the invasion of Iraq] — before I voted against it.”
– John Kerry, March 16, 2004
– “The vast majority of the people in Abu Ghraib had no intelligence value whatsoever.”
– Brigadier General Janet Karpinski, April 7, 2004
– “What do I tell the people of Iraq? This is wrong. This is reprehensible. But this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here. I’d say the same thing to the American people. Don’t judge your army based on the actions of a few.”
– Brigadier General Mark Kimmit, April 27, 2004
– “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things like rules and regulations, and it just wasn’t happening.”
– Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of the guards at Abu Ghraib
– It is important to recognize the differences between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. The treatment of those detained at Abu Ghraib is governed by the Geneva Conventions, which have been signed by both the U.S. and Iraq.”
– John Yoo, May 2004
“It’s the photographs that gives one the vivid impression of what took place.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, May 2004
– “American journalists and politicians made a perfect spectacle of themselves in discussing the Abu Ghraib prison controversy.”
– Tony Snow, May 2004
– “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of emotional release?”
– Rush Limbaugh, May 5, 2004
“I’m sorry, those pictures from the Abu Ghraib. At first, they, like infuriated me, I was sad. Then like, a couple days later, after they cut the guy’s head off, they didn’t seem like much. And now, I like to trade them with my friends.”
– Dennis Miller, May 2004
“This is an historic moment for Iraq, a day when Iraqis can hold their heads high because they are challenging the terrorists and starting to write their future with their own hands.”
– Iyad Allawi, Interim Prime Minister of Iraq, January 30, 2005
‘The intelligence community was absolutely uniform and uniformly wrong about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).”
– Federal Judge Laurence Silberman, co-chair Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities, March 31, 2005
‘We are losing each day on average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.’
– Iyad Allawi, March 19, 2006
“I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy.”
– George W. Bush, September 23, 2006
‘It’s my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward. Absolutely, we’re winning.”
– George W. Bush, October 25, 2006
“We’re not winning. We’re not losing.”
– George W. Bush December 20, 2006
“There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. I ask them to come back to their senses.”
–Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, August 26, 2007
“I tell folks all the time one way to train to conduct operations in Iraq is to watch the last season of the Sopranos. You get a sense of the conflict among like individuals.”
– Major-General Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. troops south of Baghdad November 16, 2007
“I get asked all the time ‘Do I feel guilty about what happened?’ the answer’s ‘No, I don’t.’ I’ve made the decision, the best decision I could make. It was important for the defense of our country, I knew going into war that somebody can get hurt that, but made whole decision so much graver. On the other hand, Laura and I have met hundreds who said ‘I would it again Mr. President.'”
– George W. Bush, 2017