Sixteen years ago today, the United States of America shattered a country smack-dab in the middle of the most turbulent region in the world—resulting in over a quarter of a million deaths—-destabilizing the Middle East even further, and creating repercussions that reverberate to this day. For example, ISIS began as al-Qaeda in Iraq. Our murderous folly of empire in Iraq is still shaping the world as you read this, and will likely continue to do so for the rest of millennials’ lives. The Washington Post put the grim reality of our war of choice in perspective:
We can put that into the context of the U.S. population, which was more than 10 times as large at the outset of the war.
— 2004: 4.5 out of every 10,000 Iraqis killed. Equivalent to 130,000 American deaths — the population of McKinney, Tex., in 2010.
— 2005: 6.1 out of every 10,000 Iraqis killed. Equivalent to 181,000 American deaths — like eliminating Tallahassee.
— 2006: 10.7 out of every 10,000 Iraqis. Equivalent to 318,000 American deaths — the population of St. Louis.
— 2007: 9.2 out of every 10,000 Iraqis. Equivalent to 277,000 American deaths — the population of Newark.
[Iraq Body Count’s] estimates may also be low.
This was a decision by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their close circle of advisers. The disaster they created was not a surprise, as Dick Cheney predicted in 1994:
Well, just as it’s important, I think, for a president to know when to commit U.S. forces to combat, it’s also important to know when not to commit U.S. forces to combat. I think for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire.
If you can take down the central government in Iraq, you can easily see pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have in the West. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim* — fought over for eight years.
*In 2018, the United States closed its embassy in Basra, one of the Easternmost cities in Iraq, because of threats from Iranian-backed militias.
And yet, come 2003, Dick Cheney pushed ahead with this “literal quagmire” while conveniently handing $7 billion no-bid government Iraqi oil contracts to the company where he was just CEO. The Iraqi War was one big war crime, and in a just world, its architects would be living in a small jail cell in the Hague. One of these architects, George W. Bush’s former Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, launched into an ahistorical tirade on Twitter trying to defend the indefensible the day before the 16th anniversary of the Iraq War. Here are the best tweets dunking on Fleischer’s lies—reminding us what an egregious atrocity the Iraq War really was and continues to be.
But they were drowned out by Powell’s presentation at the UN and by Dick Cheney going on Meet the Press to say those who doubt Bush’s assertions about Saddam haven’t “seen all the intelligence that we have seen.”— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) March 20, 2019
But the intelligence failure was only the first tragedy. The utter failure to plan for and resource the occupation was a catastrophe that you can't blame on the CIA. The history books have already been written. Highly recommend anything by @tomricks1— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) March 20, 2019
You're complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and no one is dumb enough to fall for this shit— Pixelated Boat: The Junior Novelization (@pixelatedboat) March 20, 2019
You're so full of shit, just like the rest of em.
Signed, an OIF vet— Dylan (@dyllyp) March 20, 2019
So was I. We all knew it was nonsense and I said it many times. Even the publicly available intel did NOT really support the WMD claims, and read carefully and critically suggested the opposite in fact.— Hussein Ibish (@Ibishblog) March 20, 2019
Prove it by submitting to the jurisdiction of the ICC.— Alex Fisch (@AlexFischCC) March 20, 2019
Everyone retweeting this should link to the National Security Archive's Iraq project, which has abundant declassified US docs to show what a lying, unrepentant cretin @AriFleischer is. The record is clear, and devastating: https://t.co/wqFSILEbGx— Brad Simpson (@bradleyrsimpson) March 20, 2019
To make matters worse, in the years since, the worst warmongers – the ones who got Iraq totally wrong – have been continually rewarded with power, influence, columns, pundit seats, government jobs. Those who got it right have been sidelined, marginalized, continually ignored./ 2— Moshik Temkin (@moshik_temkin) March 20, 2019
Given my job as a CIA analyst working on Iraq at the time, nope and I have receipts. I have an entire chapter in my book that discusses analytic frustration with misrepresenting the al Qaida-Iraq (non) connection. https://t.co/7LyYot6Ba6— Nada Bakos (@nadabakos) March 20, 2019
The standard story behind the exposure of Plame's ID is that it was (just) retaliation for Joe Wilson's NYT op-ed.
Not true. The effort started weeks before that, in response to a Walter Pincus story relying on CIA sources who knew there'd be no WMD.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) March 20, 2019
For all the shitty things Trump has done, he has not (yet) started a war of choice that destabilized the most volatile region on earth and killed hundreds of thousands.
Ari Fleischer helped to do that.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) March 20, 2019
Ari Fleischer's overriding thought about the Iraq War anniversary isn't the fallen, or their families, or the wounded (both physical and mental), or Iraqis.
It is about how he can excuse himself for his role in lying us into the war.
Disgusting. https://t.co/IDpcAHn18Z— VoteVets (@votevets) March 20, 2019
"President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials…made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001… Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements."https://t.co/IieZeRnooohttps://t.co/plPDzSm5KO— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) March 20, 2019
it's gross that these people are still in the public square trying to beg off one of the most pernicious and disastrous policy failures of the last 20 years as a good-faith whoopsie— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) March 20, 2019
Aside from the fact that this is self-serving nonsense, it's an incredible feat of depravity to look back at sixteen years of carnage and failure in Iraq and decide THIS is the part you want reconsidered https://t.co/3nUEfQsSNd— Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) March 20, 2019
Some revision history or amnesia going on here. Ask us reporters on the ground in #Iraq witnessing the invasion, the occupation, the lack of policy, clueless, the fiasco & yes the LIES. And the consequence of those lies. #IraqWarhttps://t.co/IDNKHHWqqV— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) March 20, 2019
Trump absolutely sucks ass, and the collection of multiply infected clowns and grifters and horny golf creatures he's surrounded himself with are all disgraceful. But man they've got miles to go before they catch the more outwardly respectable Bush people. https://t.co/pW0tImMIDd— David Roth (@david_j_roth) March 20, 2019
Canada, which had access to Five Eyes intelligence, concluded "that there was no convincing evidence that Iraq had an active WMD program." https://t.co/SWFX3zQlFthttps://t.co/zqho1trTMJ— Bill Robinson (@NewmanRobinson) March 20, 2019
2005 was "after the war" to this kak-stained limpet clutching the dribbling orifices of the worst people and decisions and lies of the past 20 years in this country. And he just doubles down and doubles down and counts the dough. https://t.co/tBCNZGTbn8— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) March 20, 2019
beginning each morning with a smoothie, some gentle stretches, and a solemn vow to one day egg Ari Fleischer— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) March 20, 2019
if you egged Ari Fleischer his head would simply absorb it— bobo the sleuth (@woodmasterfresh) March 20, 2019
we've been in iraq for so long there are probably people on here reading ari fleischer's lies who weren't even alive when he first told them. very cool!— chair admirer (@KrangTNelson) March 20, 2019
Ugh, I wake up to Ari Fleischer sugarcoating the Iraq travesty, a war based on lies that caused untold carnage.
Let me make it simple: Yes, Trump makes any president look better, but Bush-Cheney cannot and should not be rehabilitated, no matter how much time has elapsed. https://t.co/xuVL3CjWX3— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 20, 2019
in a just and sane society Ari Fleischer and all the other Bush admin scum would have been sealed into a mineshaft years ago— Albert Burneko (@AlbertBurneko) March 20, 2019
And it was all thinly sourced, cherry picked from intel reports that were contradicted by other, better sources. Sometimes all it took was a tortured confession or a forged document from a known con man for an inflammatory claim to suddenly dominate Meet The Press.— Devin Nunes' Mullet (@Zeddary) March 20, 2019
Look at Ari Fleischer now and think about where the Trump people will be in 15 years, There is this sense they will all slink away in shame. They won't. And a lot of elites in both parties will embrace them.— Marxism is a living tradition (@DavidKaib) March 20, 2019
You may not like it but there is truly no better way to mark the 16th anniversary of the Iraq War than with Ari Fleischer lying repeatedly— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) March 20, 2019
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.