Ten years ago tomorrow was the start of the Invasion of Iraq. To my shame (not chagrin, not embarrassment. Shame.) I was an early supporter of the war.
I had long believed that war never be taken on as an adventure overseas, but I let myself be turned by the propaganda leading up to the attack. Did I believe the evidence supporting the presence of WMDs? No, actually, but I thought Hussein needed to allow inspections to continue. Did I believe Iraqi oil reserves were part of the reason we went to war? Yes, of course I did, but I thought there was good to be done anyway.
Which is completely ridiculous. Of course it is. How often are the tools of empire and destruction put of a positive use?
What’s more, I was a grown man who knew better. So what happened? I let myself get caught up in all the talk of chemical weapons used against Iraqi citizens and “rape rooms.” I let myself be convinced that the Iraqi people would be grateful.
At the time, there were anti-war marches in the streets. I remember looking out my window at them as they passed the office building where I worked: they were the usual far left hippie types with their giant puppets, long hair, and birkenstocks. They agreed with me that the war was about oil (a stance that was sneered at in the media at the time) but they were sure it was a huge mistake.
Of course they were right. Of course they were. At the time I thought their protests were ridiculous and self-marginalizing. They seemed more interested in confirming their cultural cred as outsiders than in winning people to their side. The civil rights marchers in the sixties wore coats and ties; these people were in tie dye and sandals that showed their dirty feet. These people don’t represent me.
And that’s utterly ridiculous. They weren’t trying to represent me. They were warning us that the nation was about to make a huge mistake, and they were 100% correct.
Shortly before the invasion, when talk of war was ever-present, I remember Hans Blix coming to the media to say that Hussein had knuckled under and agreed to allow inspections again. I spent half a day foolishly thinking that the invasion planning had done it’s job… until Bush administration officials declared that it was too little too late and the invasion was going to happen anyway. That’s when I realized what an immature asshole I’d been, although I still held out thin hope things would turn out all right.
What I realize now is that I should have been out in the streets with those protesters. I should have held on to my beliefs and my mistrust and marched against the war. It’s not the responsibility of political protesters to make themselves palatable to me; it’s my job to recognize right from wrong and speak out about it.