The Worst Decade, Part 3: The Year 2002

The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.

– George W. Bush, 2002 State of the Union Address

That’s how it started, and they worked on us for the rest of the year. It’s amazing, in retrospect, how carefully they manipulated us.

“Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out,” said our brave leader to Condoleezza Rice in March.

Just before Memorial Day they warned us about potential terrorist scuba divers, and that the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, tall apartment buildings and subways might be targeted.

In July Richard Perle told us Iraq was a very rich country, and it could finance its own reconstruction. Bush gave General Franks $700 million for war preparations without telling Congress. And the now-famous Downing Street memo revealed that the decision to invade Iraq had already been made, and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

In August they created the White House Iraq Group. Its mission was to sell the war to the American public. Its bright lights included Karl Rove, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen J. Hadley, Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. But they waited till fall to do anything, heeding Andrew Card’s warning: “From a marketing point of view you don’t introduce new products in August.”

Then there were the aluminum tubes; Condy’s mushroom-cloud smoking guns; Judy Miller’s stories in the New York Times; the terror alerts getting redder and redder; Cheney ordering the CIA around with his deep scary voice; and Rumsfeld describing Saddam’s huge piles of destructive stuff, while at the same time telling us the war wouldn’t last any longer than five months and signing off on torture (even though we’d been torturing all year).

The Iraq Group had done its job well. In October Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the war. Only 33 senators and 133 house members were opposed.

Bush told us war was his last, not his first choice, and ended the year by saying to a reporter at a press conference:

“You said we’re headed to war in Iraq – I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you.”

How did we manage to survive that year? And, worst of all, I barely remembered all that. I think they drugged me.

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