Growing up, my parents had a great many books from the newspaper comic Doonesbury. For those who’re unfamiliar, the comic started in 1970 following the lives of a group of college kids, mostly centered around the experiences of one Mike Doonesbury. When B.D., the jock who never removed his football helmet, volunteered to go to Vietnam, the readers went along with him, and got a darkly humorous take on that conflict. When George Bush Sr. invaded Iraq in 1990, B.D. was there, too, along with Duke, the Hunter S. Thompson parody, who went to profiteer.
I think it’s fair to say that, along with listening to NPR in the car, Doonesbury was a pretty big part of my childhood political education. During the Gulf War era, the theme of greed was woven through the comics. Mr. Butts, a mascot for the tobacco industry, was handing out free cigarettes to B.D. and his fellow soldiers. Duke ran a sleazy club, which he opened to profit off of soldiers, officers, and the various dignitaries and oilmen drawn to the war and its profits.
The second part of my political education came from my involvement in The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), which instilled in me a religious opposition to war, and was a huge part of my social life, growing up. The third part was my high school, High Mowing Waldorf School, which regularly brought in speakers on a variety of topics, including SOA Watch, and an organization called Voices in the Wilderness, which talked about sanctions.
See, the Gulf War was pretty short by modern standards. It only lasted from 1990, to 1991, though it was a brutal affair. If you ever have any questions about whether Bush Sr. was less horrible than W, look into that war, maybe starting with The Highway of Death. The war destroyed a lot of Iraq’s infrastructure, and the sanctions regime that followed made repairing it nearly impossible. I’ve mentioned before that I view sanctions as a form of siege, using modern power and politics to blockade an entire nation, rather than just a city or fortress. The sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis between 1991, and the 2003 invasion by W’s administration, and most of those “excess deaths” were children.
After being “bombed back to the stone age”, people died. A big part of that was because the war’s destruction included sewage and water systems. That meant that clean water was hard to get, and disease was everywhere, while medicine was hard to get. It’s not clear if anyone literally starved to death but there was malnutrition, which makes people more vulnerable toinfection of every kind. On top of that, the U.S. used the U.N. to block necessary supplies, like the resources to repair the infrastructure and purify water. The sanction that angered me the most, in my teens, was on new blood bags for transfusions, on the grounds that they could, in theory, be used to make chemical weapons.
This was a continuation of the gross hypocrisy that always surrounded the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein. There’s no question that the man was a horrible person, responsible for incredible amounts of death and suffering, but the U.S. does not care about that. At various points, the U.S. government actively supported those atrocities, just as it supported Saudi Arabia’s ongoing genocide in Yemen, along with countless other crimes against humanity all around the world.
So that was my background when Bush got elected, and most of the people I knew who talked about the issue, fully expected W to try to finish what his daddy started, and get Saddam Hussein. When 9/11 happened, it was immediately assumed that Bush would use it as an excuse to attack Iraq. Not long after, I started attending a weekly peace vigil in a town near where I lived, and I continued demonstrating and protesting through the propaganda campaign that led to the invasion.
I encountered people who sincerely believed that Iraq was involved with 9/11, despite all evidence to the contrary. They screamed in my face about it, in fact. They also screamed about WMDs, even though Iraq had been under inspection for years, and there was no sign that they had anything. I watched my government lie to me, as I had known they would, and I watched the justification for the war shift, and become more vague as each lie was debunked.
I saw how it didn’t matter. The protests didn’t matter, the facts didn’t matter, the opposition from allied nations didn’t matter – none of it mattered. France opposed the invasion, so we had to deal with “Freedom Fries”, and wine stores poured out their French wines. I also saw the rise of Fox News, and its unwavering commitment to making the world worse, and to lying about fucking everything, no matter how pointless.
I’m going through all of this, so that you’d have some idea of my views and memories surrounding the Iraq war and the George W Bush administration. With that as context, imagine my feelings when considering the effort by Prager “University” to rewrite that history. For those unfamiliar, PragerU is a YouTube propaganda mill helmed by an obnoxious and creepy conservative radio host named Dennis Prager. It was originally funded by fracking billionaires, and I believe it has since been bought by The Daily Wire.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that PragerU lies even more than Fox News, and you do not, for any reason, gotta hand it to Fox.
Prager’s primary project seems to be creating an alternative history where everything that ever happened in the world both supports all the opinions of U.S. Christian fascists, and in which the United States always has been, and always will be The Greatest Country In The History Of The World. You know how there’s currently a push to prevent children from learning about LGBTQIA issues, or any accurate telling of U.S. history? Prager U is what they want to have instead.
It’s not shocking that conservatives are trying to rewrite history. That’s all they’ve ever done, really, and it’s part of how they claim moral supremacy for the United States. From cherry trees to WMDs, they just make up a history they like the feel of, and attack anyone who tells the truth as un-patriotic. Fortunately, I’m no patriot, and while I don’t know much about Dan from Three Arrows, if he is a patriot, it’s not for the U.S. (how’s that for a segue?), who just put out this video picking apart Prager’s lies about Iraq and the second Bush administration:
I think it’s helpful to have a perspective from outside the U.S., but more than that, I just appreciate anyone who’s able to dig into videos like this and the people behind them, and put out a solid debunking video on the topic. Conservatives are not going to stop trying to erase and re-write history to suit their agenda, so I think it’s extremely valuable for us to have content like this to push back against their lies.
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I have long appreciated the work of Three Arrows. Thanks for the heads up.
Great informative video. Grim reality and powerful ending to it.
Staggering how quickly this American war and needless invasion seems to be being forgotten – although obviously not by its victims mainly the Iraqi people. Many thouands protested the Bush Jr invasion at the time. Wonder how many now remember?
Raging Bee says
We’re pretty good at forgetting our protracted pointless wars, especially when they don’t yield any beneficial results worth remembering. Anyone remember Nicaragua/El Salvador? They were all over our newspapers throughout the 1980s, until US-supported coalitions of right-wingers won elections in both countries…at which point both countries just plain vanished from the newspapers.
Raging Bee says
“We can forget it for you wholesale” kinda sounds like a book Philip K. Dick might have written. With the blockbuster movie version being titled “Zero Recall.”
Abe Drayton says
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Hivemind
Raging Bee says
“We Can Fuggedaboutit for You Wholesale!”
Seriously, this video is VERY timely now — the Retrumplitarians are now starting to do almost the exact same thing WRT that alleged WMD lab-leak in China. Fearmongering, wildly misstated intel and all.
Abe Drayton says
It seems like a new cold war is going to be the “engine” of capitalist growth for a while, and serve to support a new Red Scare to “fix” the growth in labor power.
20th Anniversary of the start of the American & allied coalition’s attack, invasion and occupationof Iraq today. See also :
Plus : https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/mar/17/iraqis-saddam-hussein-us-invasion-country
As well as : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/03/20/15-years-after-it-began-the-death-toll-from-the-iraq-war-is-still-murky/