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History Twist

By Benj DeMott

Yesterday’s Papers

An elderly friend of mine—a white southern liberal—once told me a tale that helped me grasp how far his kind traveled in the 60s. He came from a close-knit military family and he’s never doubted his father was one of the wisest—and bravest—of men. Yet one day, as my friend was reading a New York Times report on a firefight in Viet Nam, he was shocked to find he was siding with enemies of his country (and his daddy).

The closest I’ve come to such an experience occurred when I came on a story in a New York tabloid about 100 Iraqi pre-teens who’d been dressed as suicide bombers at Saddam’s official birthday party in 2002. That was when I realized I was leaning toward supporting an invasion of Iraq. I never felt as far from home as many dissenters did during the Viet Nam era, but my stance—and First’s openness to pro-war arguments—got under the skin of readers and contributors who hate American hegemony. Two representative figures, on this score, are the late Howard Zinn and Staughton Lynd, who both took time out to take me to task for my support of the Iraq war. Back in the day, Zinn sent a contribution to First along with a letter objecting to First’s pro-war polemics (which we published). His case hasn’t gotten any weaker: “It’s a matter of means and ends. The means of war are, with absolute certainty, horrible. The ends of war, however presented as beneficent, are always uncertain.” Zinn’s old comrade Staughton Lynd put me in the dock this spring: “[D]idn't you support the Iraq war, Ben? This might be a good moment for a mea culpa?”

I made arguments that came to look foolish after the invasion of Iraq and I’ve spelled out my errors in print. (See volume 1 of First of the Year if you need my bad.) But my Southern friend’s story—and the spectacle of those Iraqi kiddie bombers—hints there might be a path toward truth and reconciliation with certain 60s vets who protested against the Iraq war. It’s a path that takes in the distance from, say, Saigon to Fallujah.

Of course there were—and are—leftists who can’t see a difference between Viet Nam and our “entire military adventure in the Middle East…Welcome to Viet Nam-istan.”[1] They conflate Iraq’s head-choppers (and Afghanistan’s hand-choppers) with classic anti-colonialist militants. (I won’t soon forget Naomi Klein’s insane attempt to Guevaracize Islamo-fascist cleric Moqutar Sadr in the Nation. And I'm just now recalling secular academics who mooned over Falluja—“city of mosques”—as Marines were saving the place from brutes who’d set up a torture chamber on every block.)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe Lynd or Zinn ever felt in solidarity with “The Resistance” in Iraq. If they read reports on the final battle of Fallujah, I doubt they found themselves rooting against the Marines. It’s too late now for Zinn to repent in any case. But if Lynd leaned Jihadi, “this might be a good time for a mea culpa.”

“Something NEW in Arab Politics”

“So far everybody’s been wrong about something,” wrote Brit journalist David Aaronovitch soon after the fall of Baghdad. Kanan Makiya—Iraqi exile and author of Republic of Fear who made a compelling moral case for the invasion of Iraq—was no exception. But, unlike pro-war blowhards (such as Rumsfeld and Cheney), he’s admitted errors. A decade after the original Iraq war debates, his voice still cuts through muy macho Bushwa and “we-were-right” leftism.

Makiya recently wrote a Times op-ed on the 10th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad linking the removal of Saddam Hussein to “the toppling of a whole succession of Arab dictators in 2011.” He traces roots of the Arab Spring to the uprising against Saddam after the 1991 Gulf War, though “the Western and Arab armies that had come to liberate Kuwait simply stood by and watched as Shiites and Kurds who rose up were massacred.” What he won’t underscore—since he’s not one of the Rastignacs of humanitarian interventionism?—is his own foresight. Back in 2002 Makiya projected the possibility of an Arab Spring as he made Iraqi democrats’ case for overthrowing Saddam:

What the whole phenomenon of the Iraqi opposition represents—inchoate, confused, anarchic, fractured upon itself as it certainly is—what it represents is something NEW in Arab politics. We have here for the first time in modern Arab political discourse—or at least since 1967—a population that has emerged which is clear that the be-all and end-all of its political world is its own homemade dictatorship. It's not the national question, not armed struggle, not anti-imperialism, not anti-Zionism—all the usual shibboleths of Arab politics for the past 35 years. This can be encouraged. Or it can be crushed. But think about what it means if you do that. What you're killing is something that would have extraordinary transformative potential throughout the whole Middle Eastern region.

Makiya knows “few of the brave young men and women behind the Arab Spring” have been willing to publicly admit the possibility of a link between their revolutions and the end of Iraq’s Baathist dictatorship: “These activists have for the most part vigorously denied that their own demands for freedom and democracy, which were organic and homegrown, had anything to do with a war they saw as illegitimate and imperialistic.”

But elections have consequences. When Iraqis defied terror to vote in 2005 for the first time in the post-Saddam era, their courage burnished the concept of democracy in the Middle East and all over the world. Glance at Makiya’s election commentary back in that day and you’ll see he was intent on sowing seeds that would blossom in the Arab Spring:

Millions of people actually made choices, and placed claims on those who will lead them in the future. To act upon one’s own world like this, and on such a scale, is what politics in the purest sense is all about. It is why we all, once upon a time, became activists. And it is infectious. The taste of freedom is a hard memory to rub out.

Makiya stressed then there were no guarantees: “the nature of great historical turning points, and the source of wonder and beauty they bring into the world, is that we can’t predict their outcome.”

History went mad bad in Iraq with the country devolving into civil war as the Bush administration and Iraq’s governing class dithered. Yet back in 2005, a range of pundits and pop lifers recognized the Middle East might be in the midst of a slow turning. I recall how Jon Stewart nearly blew his tongue as the Cedar Revolution jumped off in Lebanon a month after Iraq’s first election, asking only half-ironically—“You mean W. was right?” (Last week I came upon more evidence of a world turned upside down in a jokey line Bruce Springsteen got off during a 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech—the Boss mocked the idea of democracy in a band but allowed it “might be a good thing in Iraq.”) Iraq’s hot second of popular sovereignty cooled as hacks and killer sectarians ruled. And history may be repeating itself now. Per Makiya: “The Arab Spring is turning into an Arab winter…Here, too, Iraq offers lessons.” Yet his long view isn’t doomy since the “Arab political psyche” has changed for good:

No Arab Spring protester, however much he or she might identify with the plight of the Palestinians or decry the cruel policies of Israeli occupation in the West Bank (as I do), would think today to attribute all the ills of Arab polities to empty abstractions like "imperialism" and “Zionism.” They understand in their bones that those phrases were tools of a language designed to prop up nasty regimes and distract people like them from the struggle for a better life.

No-one can be sure how those struggles will turn out, but Makiya’s millennial vision has proved to have traction.

Journalist George Packer is a useful weathervane on this score. Packer shaped his 2005 book about the Iraq War, The Assassins’ Gate, around set-pieces hyping his disillusionment with his “friend” Makiya whom he portrayed as being dreamy yet manipulative. Packer now says of Makiya: “I think his reputation will only grow in stature over time... In 30 years[?], Kanan Makiya will be seen as a visionary and champion of democracy.” Not that Packer has stopped selling out Makiya: “Kanan justifiably was criticized for thinking the liberalization and democratization of Iraq would come quickly and easily.” But it’s a shuck to say Makiya claimed establishing democracy in Iraq would be easy. In a now famous/notorious pre-war forum in NYC back in 2002, Makiya argued the American left was obliged to support Iraq’s democrats even if their “project” had only a 5% to 10% chance of success. His sense of dangers up ahead heightened as the war drew closer.

I’m reminded of a pre-invasion email Makiya sent from Kurdistan to “every Iraqi democrat in the world” and then published in The New Republic. He began by telling how a fellow member of the Iraqi opposition had threatened to “wipe him off the face of the earth” after fantasizing a slight. Makiya wasn’t out to make himself appear heroically embattled. He invoked the threat from this “deeply disturbed man” because it came from someone who was an ally—a person “who had suffered as much as any human being at the hands of the Baath party…at one point he weighed 30 kilos.” Makiya asked his readers to see this man feelingly—“try to imagine the worst and you will not come close to what this man has suffered in his life”—and then consider—“this is the human raw material that you want to build democracy for…”

Every day for the last five weeks, I have come across such damaged and wounded people, people who breathe nationalism, sectarianism, without knowing that they are doing so, and people who are deeply suspicious towards their fellow Iraqis. These are the facts of life for the next generation in this poor, unhappy, and ravaged land.

Makiya had developed the impression:

Some of you think you can lift your noses and ride into Iraq on American tanks, above the stink of it all, without having to wade knee-high in the shit that the Baath party has made of your country. You cannot. That is a pipe dream.

Makiya elaborated on his warning and as he came to the end of it he anticipated a future of disillusion.

The United States…is bound to let you down if you think you can ask her for too much. Actually, if you think about it hard enough, it is not the U.S. that is letting you down, nor is it President Bush or even his CIA and his State Department…it is you, who by coming face to face with your own illusions, will end up letting yourselves down the most, and it is you and all those Iraqis who have put their faith in you, who will end up paying the biggest price of all.

Does this sound like someone who thought “liberalization and democratization would come quickly and easily”?[2]

What counts now is not that Makiya was right on. (He wasn’t done being wrong yet.) What matters is he was thinking hard, offering Iraqis who had put their faith in him not certainties but a chance to join his search for moral precision.

Makiya’s quest put him at odds with those toeing left and right lines. Before the war Makiya commented on the "selfishness" of the debate "between those who are concerned with weapons of mass destruction on the one hand and those who are worrying about American hegemony in the world and unilateral action”: “I'm not saying those aren't two very important issues, but left out of the whole debate are the very people who have suffered the most from this regime and who, by the way, incidentally, overwhelmingly want this war.”

Makiya himself realized humane respondents might be put off by such martial talk. When he allowed on the day of Shock and Awe, “those bombs are music to my ears,” he made it clear he was speaking not as a neo-con (or neo-futurist) feverish for war but as a witness who heard U.S. thunder in this instance as the soundtrack for imminent (if not infinite) justice.

Makiya’s range of tones wasn’t mine. Partly because he was so much nearer suffering caused by Saddam but also because he could sound distant from the dailiness of life. I worried when he noted he could help the State Dept. cultivate a constitutional process in Iraq but wouldn’t have a clue about “how to pick up the trash after a big war.” What made me nervous was Makiya didn’t seem all that concerned about making sure somebody would handle Iraq’s garbage. And then there was his blind spot regarding Ahmad Chalabi. (I recall trying to reach Makiya in Iraq after American officials had arrested Chalabi whom they accused of cozying up to Iranian intelligence. I was relieved to find out Makiya had already broken with Chalabi but I also wondered to myself: “what took you so long?” Nobody should’ve needed more than a New York minute to tell that cat was a hustler.) I can’t emphasize enough, though, how Makiya sparked my own effort to imagine the real in the run-up to the invasion. I began by trying to figure out if Iraqis “want this war.” I remember reading a piece in NYRB by a journalist who came down against the invasion—along with every other author NYRB published on this subject? Yet this reporter allowed when he assembled a cross-section of Iraqis in a spot where they could be sure they were not being monitored by Saddam’s secret police, a majority favored an invasion.[3]

But I wasn’t with Makiya’s idea of a war for democracy in Iraq until it became clear this exile had heavy allies in Iraqi Kurdistan. Makiya may have willed himself into being a spokesman for “Iraqi Democrats” by way of the “Iraqi National Congress” which was clearly not an organization with a mass base. But Kurdish politicians who spoke up for democracy (and federalism!) in Iraq weren’t floaters. They were elected officials, representing a constituency on the ground in Iraq ready to fight for liberation. While Kurds were intent on securing independence, their politicians agreed to sublate their people’s urge for sovereignty. As the military campaign against Saddam unfolded, I still remember watching on CNN as Barham Salih—Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan before the invasion and a major player in every post-Saddam Iraqi government (until he took up his old post in Kurdistan again in 2009)—pressed a Peshmerga column to get out of Kirkuk. He knew if those soldiers staked an immediate claim to that city, Arab Iraqis (and Turks) would think Kurds were ruled by tribal instincts.

Salih’s actions backed up words in an address he’d given to the Socialist International before the invasion. He told those Socialists he came before them “not only as a representative of the Kurdish people in Iraq, but also as a messenger for the oppressed peoples of Iraq…of all backgrounds and religions, Shi'a Arab, Sunni Arab, Turkomen or Assyrian, Muslims, Christians or Yezidis.”[4] He defined the coming war with Saddam and Baathism as a struggle “against an aggressive, racist ideology that brought the world nothing but suffering.” (The Socialists met in Rome and Salih noted in a powerful rhetorical move “there was no better place than this city” for socialists to reflect on “the imperative of freedom and liberation from fascism and dictatorship”…[Iraqis] are rather like the Italians, the overwhelming majority of whom cared little for Fascism, but who had to wait over 20 years and for a foreign force to liberate them.”)

Salih’s invocation of the anti-racist side of the struggle against Baathism wasn’t a one-off. Kurds shared Makiya’s will to break the Baathist State’s racist tie to the “Arab Nation” by establishing an Iraqi federation that would protect rights of minorities and individuals. I still grit my teeth when I recall the late Edward Said’s trashing of their universalist imperatives. Instead of acknowledging Makiya, along with his Kurdish allies, meant to end the Baath Party’s Arab supremacist legacy, Said claimed Makiya, in particular, was a self-hating loon who asserted Iraq “should be non-Arab.” Writing for an Arab audience in Al Ahram, Said spun Makiya’s anti-racist federalism into a brief for ethnic cleansing. (A photo of Said’s righteous mug hangs behind the register of my excellent neighborhood bookstore—proof bookishness may subsist with truthiness.)

Makiya's and the Kurds’ anti-racism hit me where I live since I’ve learned to see American history largely through African American lenses. But Iraqi democrats’ discourse went beyond my own bent. Makiya’s refusal to reduce governance in an Iraqi federation to majority rule helped enhance my appreciation of American Founders’ fears about tyrannies of winners. (Though Makiya was marginalized by Iraq’s political class after 2005, it’s important to note he helped write Iraq’s current Constitution, which has enabled Kurdistan to thrive.) As citizens of the world argued over the invasion of Iraq and prospects for democracy in the Middle East, I remember a kitchen debate with a wannabe Leninist Iranian-American still entranced with the revolution against the Shah. He had no sense democracy might entail preservation of individual rights and non-violent processes for resolving potentially deadly conflicts between majorities and minorities. Constitutions were just formalities to him. “Democracy” meant majority rule. Period. And though he knew he’d probably have been dead or in prison if he hadn’t emigrated to the U.S. 40 years ago, he couldn’t see why individuals (or minorities) shouldn’t be at the mercy of “masses.” As I heard him in the kitchen act out a Middle Eastern revival of Darkness at Noon, I felt like a young American finding April Morning.

While Makiya’s theories and practice made me more alive to virtues of American constitutionalism, I’ll allow my own choice to support the war strikes me now as less than patriotic. (You could say I put interests of Middle Easterners ahead of mid-Westerners.) Let’s go back to Makiya’s claim there was something “selfish” about narrowing the debate over the war to the issues of Saddam’s (non-existent) WMD or American hegemony and unilateralism. There was also something too…liberal about my willingness to let other Americans risk lives and limbs[5] to take out a dictator who was a menace to his own people but not (much of) a threat to this country.

I insert that parenthetical qualifier, not because I’m a hold-out when it comes to WMD. But back before the invasion in 2002, I picked up on Saddam’s announcement Iraq’s payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers would go up from $10,000 to $25,000. In the wake of 9/11, that provocation involved more than “usual shibboleths of Arab politics.” Saddam’s new policy—which his bag men acted on—seemed likely to stoke the vogue for suicide-bombers in the Ummah and amp up Jihadist jive about a war between Islam and the West. Rumsfeld had a point when he zeroed in on Saddam’s exceptional barbarity: “Think of it. Here is an individual who is the head of a country, Iraq, who has proudly, publicly made a decision to go out and actively promote and finance human sacrifice for families that will have their youngsters kill innocent men, women and children.” (Though Rumsfeld undercut his own moral authority but avoiding mention of America’s allies, the Saudis, who also paid off families of Palestinian suicide bombers.) I recall reading about Saddam’s bonuses almost in tandem with tabloid reports on those 100 girls dressed up as suicide bombers who marched at his 2002 birthday celebration against the Great Satan. The day after Saddam’s born day I felt pretty sure (per Thomas Paine) “the cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”

So how did we end up going it (almost) alone? Take a bow W. (though Chirac deserves a kick too). Thanks in part to Bush’s incapacity to think through—or make comprehensive arguments for—the invasion of Iraq, it turned into the antithesis of our national interest. I believe the Iraq War was a just war. But on the real (vs. ideal) side, it was also a “dumb war.”

Movements of Mind

That may be the only subject on which young anarchist writer Malcolm Harris agrees with Obama: “It should be a baseline for the utility of someone's thought. Did you think invading Iraq was a terrible idea? No? Shut up about everything”...“It's estimated that 36 million people protested the Iraq war around the world. If you're not one of the top 36 million thinkers globally”... “Like if you and your policy shop couldn't pull together the foresight that me and my 14 year old friends managed...”

I wasn’t Ken “cakewalk” Adelman and my “shop” was moi, but I can’t pretend Harris’s witty tweets don’t sting. What really hurts my heart is trying to imagine what I might say to an American military family who lost a son or daughter in Iraq and now doubts all rationales for the war. (Makiya allowed early on he had nothing that could ease minds of such a family.) Maybe I deserve to feel caught out—stretched on a rack between Harris’s 14 year old realists and elder idealists like Staughton Lynd.

OTOH, since I can’t honestly recant my support for overthrowing Saddam, perhaps my job is to keep stretching them…

So forget my mistakes Mr. Lynd. Given your long history of identifying with labor activists you’d be better off tracking the movement of mind of Brit union official Dave Anderson who posted this reflection at “Labor Friends of Iraq” earlier this spring:

Ten years ago, I was utterly opposed to the invasion of Iraq. At the time I was President of Unison and sat on the TUC general council, so like a lot of others in the labour movement I did my bit to lobby against Western intervention, believing that the reasons given for invasion were not justified, that the argument about WMD was not proven and that inspections should have been given a chance to work.

But in the years since I have had to face new facts having been to Iraq to see things for myself. I now see that the international community should have toppled Saddam Hussein earlier, as my Kurdish comrades have told me in clear terms. One benefit—one very close to my heart—of Saddam’s removal, was the re-emergence of a trade union movement which had been brutally suppressed by his regime…

The re-emergence of the labor movement in Iraq is not unrelated to its resurgence in Egypt. Surprise may be your best teacher, but Lynd would probably feel more comfortable getting that story from his fellow radical labor historian Jeremy Brecher who touches on the subject in his new book, Save the Humans. For now let me lean on reporting in Christian Science Monitor:

Back in 2006 a wildcat strike broke out at Mahallah, sparking copycat efforts across the country and the biggest protest movement in Egypt since the 1950s. Those strikes, and the politicized labor organizing that went with them, were a key component in setting the stage for the Egyptian revolution…

I’m not suggesting the overthrow of Saddam or Mubarak were proletarian triumphs. But radical internationalists who assume solidarity with Middle Eastern working classes means saying no to Western interventions might think twice.

Makiya is still thinking straight about what’s going on in the region. He’s called for the West to intervene in Syria and his stance there distances him from certain neo-con supporters of the Iraq war. Take Daniel Pipes who’s proposed the U.S. back Bashir Aassad to promote stasis and ensure Arabs keep killing each other.

If young men and women behind the Arab Spring are on to horrific avatars of Old America-the-hegemon like Pipes, it’s no wonder they want to keep their distance from the U.S. Though members of Egypt’s April 6th Movement aren’t purists on this front. They talk up the example of Otpor!—the non-violent Serbian civic campaign that helped overthrow Milsosevic—even though American agencies had a big role in that insurgency. I learned about the influence of Otpor! on the anti-Mubarak movement from David Graeber’s new book on Occupy Wall Street, The Democracy Project. Graeber muses on the cunning of history as he explains how April 6th Movement reps helped spark OWS when they visited New York a few weeks before his comrades took over Zuccotti Park. While Graeber is ok with the CIA via Otport! being in the back story to OWS, he won’t cop to Iraqis’ role. Stuck on the 36,000,000 who said “No to War” before the invasion of Iraq, he ain't trying to see those Iraqi voters whose purple fingers pointed toward Tahrir Square. And since Graeber and OWSers took inspiration from the Arab Spring, Iraq-the-Model’s shoes probably fit them too (and I'm not talking about the one thrown at George Bush during that press conference with Maliki). Wherever you came down on the Iraq invasion, I believe every democrat should recall al-Zaqari's threat on the eve of Iraq's first vote—"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology"—and the next “day of civic celebration.” That somewhat solemn phrase, which still hints at the felt quality of a rare moment of mass public happiness, comes from a headline on the New York Times' January 31, 2005 front page devoted to Iraq’s election. Cleaning out my desk a few weeks ago, I realized this Times front page was one of two I’d saved in the past 15 years. The other announced Obama’s election (“Racial Barrier Falls”).

Graeber’s new book hammers on the claim occupiers opened up “the possibility of democracy in America.” In some respects The Democracy Project reads like an answer record to Makiya’s op-ed linking Iraq’s moment of popular sovereignty to the Arab Spring, though Makiya’s projections are more profound. Graeber overplays the significance of OWS and his boy-genius anarchism seems a bit trivial compared to the sort of constitutionalism upheld by Makiya.

It’s not a shock The Democracy Project has no room for “the purple revolution.” But Graeber’s contempt for Obama’s electoral triumphs is mighty white. (Hard to see how anyone based in America could take up contemporary democratic projects in the spring of 2012 without addressing Obama’s ground games.) Kanan Makiya’s response to Obama is more nuanced, though it’s clear they’ll never agree on the Iraq war. Makiya might even allow Obama’s presence has helped his/our side Over There. When it comes to origins of the Arab Spring, Obama’s victory over McCain—a world-class, non-violent transfer of power with special import for formerly colonized peoples—belongs in any causal nexus (along with Julian Assange’s Wikileaks). While Obama hasn’t changed the calculus of power in Israel or Iran or Syria, his direct actions against dictators in Egypt and Libya have been vital. Without Obama’s push-back inside the Establishment, America would’ve stuck with Mubarak longer and stayed out of the revolt against Gaddafi.

Obama refused to roll with proponents of “stability” in these instances. Yet his foreign policy is often marked by a realism that frustrates the younger generation out to liberalize Middle Eastern politics. Jacinthe Assaad speaks for them here when she protests against the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to Morsi’s domestic outrages. Her voice confirms her generation has broken barriers of fear and/or distraction that once defined “the Arab Political psyche.” Courage is the foundational virtue of the Arab Spring. But democracy also requires a certain capacity for impersonal clarity. A knack Assaad displayed in an email to me about Obama’s Egyptian policies when she noted: “Like every other president, there is more at play in foreign policy than we might even imagine. It's not his personal opinion!” Her refusal to reduce the political to the personal is a sign of progress made by Middle Eastern polities since Iraq’s 2005 elections. Assaad and her comrades are more than brave; they are modeling democratic sagacity. Let’s hope their example speaks to American radicals who wish to pressure Obama from the left and below.

That’s where I want to be. And so I should register one final caveat about Makiya’s politics. To the degree his internationalist interventionism carries an implication neo-liberal democracy in America is all good, it’s a bad religion too. While I like to think I’ve had Makiya’s back, I’ve never kept that faith. History hasn’t ended for American democrats. We just started to dance.


1 Not that there weren't lessons to be learned from Viet Nam. Before the invasion, that Southern liberal I mentioned up top allowed there wasn't much doubt the American military would smash up Saddam's. Soldiers on the move to Baghdad weren't headed for a middle eastern Stalingrad. But my Southern friend with the military background foresaw the crisis would come when Americans wanted out of Iraq. He anticipated Petraeus's famous plaint: "How does this end?"

2 In case you’re wondering, George Packer was aware in the moment of Makiya’s nose for coming disasters. He cited Makiya’s note from Kurdistan in The Assassins’ Gate, claiming to find in it the true voice the writer he “loved”—“the fearless voice of his books”—not the compromised sound of Makiya banging drums for war. But Packer left that last passage from Makiya’s pre-war message out of his book (and diminished Makiya’s prophetic “email” by failing to note it had been published in The New Republic). The timing of Makiya’s lines on what lay ahead for his side (and himself!) didn’t fit the arc of Packer’s fabulations. I’ve brought this subject up before and I should probably let it go because nobody seems to care. Maybe that’s a sign readers alive to what happened in Iraq are more focused on deceptions that cost blood and treasure. Still, Packer is a major journalist and he shouldn’t get away with sacrificing fact to flow. I only wish Janet Malcolm had gone through his Gate.

3 The NYRB man also reported the bulk of the Iraqis didn’t trust Americans’ motives. I doubt I picked up on the dangers to democracy promotion implicit in their suspicious minds.

4 Salih didn’t mention he’d survived an assassination attempt in 2002. Five of Salih’s bodyguards were killed in that attack before three would-be assassins associated with the Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Islam were themselves killed.

5 By 2008, there were reportedly over 1600 amputees among America’s Iraq War wounded.

From June, 2013

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