This statement was originally published on the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) website.
Ten years ago, the United States and Britain invaded Iraq. The history of how this invasion came about has been largely falsified by both the right-wing supporters of the invasion and the liberal commentators who opposed the war.
The core argument of the professional liberal commentators and historians is that Bush hoodwinked the country and the general public, with the help of a supplicant media, by scaring people into thinking that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the Bush administration had to invade to defend America and its people.
The fallacious handwringing liberal position was typified in the recent 10th-anniversary account of the war by Micah Sifry, published by the National Memo.
“But 10 years ago, it was not a good time to be a war skeptic in America. It rarely is. The vast majority of ‘smart’ and ‘serious’ people had convinced themselves that in the face of Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, the prudent thing to do was to go to war to remove him from power,” writes Sifry.
This is a fanciful and false account.
The “country” was not hoodwinked. There was no general feeling that the U.S. must strike first or be engulfed by Saddam Hussein’s military.
The opposite was true. The people of this country—and the world—mobilized in unprecedented numbers prior to a military conflict under the banner: “Stop the War Before it Starts.”
An unprecedented, massive anti-war movement
In the months prior to the invasion, I was the central organizer of the mass anti-war actions in Washington, D.C., that brought many hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of the capital in repeated demonstrations—on Oct. 26, 2002; Jan. 18, 2003; and March 15, 2003.
The Jan. 18, 2003, demonstration filled up a vast expanse of the Mall west of the Capitol building, which houses the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Washington Post described the Jan. 18 demonstration as the largest anti-war protest since the end of the Vietnam War.
In addition to the Washington demonstrations, there were mass anti-war protests in cities throughout the United States, on both the east and west coasts and nearly everywhere in between.
Thousands of organizations and millions of individuals were participants and organizers in this grassroots global movement.
On Feb. 15, 2003, there were coinciding demonstrations in more than 1,000 cities in almost every country—including many hundreds of cities and towns in the United States.
The rise of a global anti-war movement of such magnitude—before the actual start of military hostilities—was without precedent in human history. Mass anti-war movements and even revolutions have occurred inside one or more of the warring countries at the time of their defeat or perceived defeat, but the Iraq anti-war movement of 2002-2003 was in anticipation of a war and before the gruesome impact of the slaughter could be seen and felt.
The depth of the movement was breathtaking for the organizers and the participants. Millions went into the streets over and over and over again. They knew that they were in a race against time. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were likewise racing to go to war, not because Iraq was getting stronger or closer to having weapons of mass destruction but because this global grassroots anti-war movement had the potential to shake the political status quo to its very foundations
In February 2003, The New York Times described the global anti-war movement as the world’s “second super-power.”
Why the race toward war?
It was under these circumstances that the “mass media” went into overdrive to promote the war. Anti-war voices on television were booted off the air. The airwaves were filled up with the obviously bogus imagery that Iraq in league with unspecified “Muslim terrorists” was about to engulf the United States in a nuclear mushroom cloud. The message was that war was inevitable and that protests were futile.
Bush rushed hundreds of thousands of troops to Kuwait in a race to launch the invasion that they knew was likely to destroy the Iraqi military in a few weeks.
The Democratic Party leaders in Congress had already acquiesced to Bush and Cheney’s war demands. Even though the calls and letters to Congress against the war were running 200 to 1, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, by lopsided margins, passed resolutions on Oct. 11, 2002, authorizing Bush to use the armed forces of the United States against Iraq.
The Iraq invasion was a criminal enterprise. Millions of Iraqis died, more than five million were forced into the miserable life of refugees, thousands of U.S. troops were killed and tens of thousands of others suffered life-changing physical and mental injuries.
Today, Bush and Cheney are writing books and collecting huge speaking fees. They are shielded from prosecution by the current Democratic-led government.
The war in Iraq was not simply a “mistake” nor was it the consequence of a hoodwinked public. It was rather a symptom of the primary reality of the modern-day political system in the U.S. This system is addicted to war. It relies on organized violence, or the threat of violence, to maintain the dominant position of the United States all over the world. The U.S. has invaded or bombed one country after another since the end of the so-called Cold War. It has military bases in 130 countries and spends more on lethal violence than all other countries combined. Yes, in the United States the adult population is encouraged to vote every two or four years for one of two ruling-class parties that enforce the global projection of U.S. empire with equal vigor when they take turns at the helm. And this is labeled the exercise of “democracy” and proof that the United States is indeed the land of the free.
The invasion of Iraq succeeded in creating mass human suffering and death. What Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld failed to anticipate was that the Iraqi people, like all people everywhere, would never willingly accept life under occupation. It was the unanticipated resistance of the Iraqi people that eventually forced the withdrawal of the occupation forces nine long years later.
Brian Becker was the lead organizer of the largest anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., between Oct. 26, 2002, and the start of the Iraq invasion on March 19, 2003. The October demonstration drew 200,000 people. Less than two months later, on Jan. 18, 2003, approximately 500,000 demonstrated again in what the Washington Post called the “largest anti-war demonstration” in Washington, D.C., since the end of the Vietnam War. On Feb. 15, 2003, millions of people demonstrated in nearly 1,000 cities around the world, including several hundred cities and towns in the United States. On March 15, just four days before the start of the invasion, 100,000 demonstrated once gain in Washington, D.C.