In his New York Times column today (2/24/10), Tom Friedman presents a bizarre view of the Iraq War. Attempting to answer the question of whether Iraq is dysfunctional because of its culture (the “conservative” argument)or because of its politics (the “liberal” argument), he writes:
Ironically, though, it was the neo-conservative Bush team that argued that culture didn’t matter in Iraq, and that the prospect of democracy and self-rule would automatically bring Iraqis together to bury the past. While many liberals and realists contended that Iraq was an irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest and we should not be sticking our hand in there; it was place where the past would always bury the future.
But stick we did, and in so doing we gave Iraqis a chance to do something no other Arab people have ever had a chance to do: freely write their own social contract on how they would like to rule themselves and live together.
Of course, most readers might recall that there was another rationale for invading Iraq–the imminent threat posed by their stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Those did not exist. Many war opponents–presumably some “liberals and realists” among them–opposed the invasion because they thought this threat was exaggerated. Others believed, just as importantly, that it was illegal to attack a country that was not about to launch an imminent attack of its own, regardless of how you feel about that country’s leader. The (somewhat racist) notion that war critics saw Iraq as “an irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest” is mostly a distraction.
As for Friedman’s idea about what the war intended to accomplish: Was it really to allow Iraqis to “freely write their own social contract on how they would like to rule themselves and live together”?As Anthony Shadid recalled in the New York Times on Sunday, Order No. 1 from Paul Bremer after the invasion banned members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The effect of that order lingers to this day, as political candidates continue to be banned from participating in Iraqi politics because of their Baathist connections. Seth Ackerman wrote in Extra! (5-6/05) about the Bush administration’s efforts to make the Iraqi elections as undemocratic as possible.
Erasing the inconvenient history of the Iraq War removes the essential lies that were told in order to sell the war.