When I say that the war in Iraq was a war on truth, I do not mean merely that it was waged on several false pretexts in rapid succession (namely: that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda, that he had weapons of mass destruction, that he posed an imminent threat to American security and to the international order, and that a transition to democracy there would be swift and painless) – though naturally all of these pretexts were invoked in the press, and all were indeed false. I also do not mean merely that the war’s democratic justification was totally manufactured in the Chomskian sense, or that its opponents (and we were many and vocal) were ridiculed, slandered, ignored or even sacked by press and pundits alike – though certainly both were also the case. I also do not mean merely that it was a continuation and extension of the belief that American military power is always, and always should be, exercised selflessly and for the good of our revolutionary principles – though that conceited and self-righteous liberal idealism was among the chief factors which drew together the war’s supporters. No, I mean that there is something much more insidious at the basis of the Iraq War, a precept that we are now seeing play out before our eyes in this election cycle. The Iraq War was a hubristic demonstration, a demonstration of the Antichrist, that the truth itself is something that must be subjected to the human will, that it is human will that shapes reality and not the other way around.
Consider this: a Methodist president thought that God had spoken to him directly, telling him to go to war in Iraq. But he rebuffed his own church’s representatives, and when his own religious community cried out against this injustice, he imprisoned his own bishop. And the war he declared destroyed one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The American military under Bush offered no protection to the Christians its actions had endangered. In fact, the neglect was so systematic that it could not be anything other than deliberate, rendering our country, supposedly under the guidance and protection of God, a ‘silent accomplice’ to ‘incipient genocide’. As Ramy Youssef, an Iraqi Christian, put it: ‘This is America’s fault. It’s the Muslims who are killing us, but this never would have happened if the West hadn’t turned our lives upside down.’ Whatever god it was which spoke to Dubya, was a god which licensed the will to act, yet never remonstrated with him about the real-life consequences of his actions, the truth of what he had done.
Consider again: among that odiously mealy-mouthed and narcissistic genre of liberal-hawkish epistolary punditry, the ‘Iraq apology’, has there been yet one of them who in any material way repented of their support – for example, by opposing the wars in Libya and Syria, both of which have now likewise turned out to be unmitigated disasters? Have they ever shown the faintest inkling of introspection, the realisation that their judgement on matters of war and peace might in fact be fallible? The answer, apparently, is no in practically all cases. Not for Anthony Blair. Not for Fred Hiatt. Not for Paul Berman. Not for Michael Tomasky, nor for Anne-Marie Slaughter nor Kenneth Pollack nor Jonathan Chait… To truth they are all still very much blind.
Among the laws that govern the world of the mind, there is one whose severe, divine justice does not admit exceptions. Every undeserved insult, every injustice strikes the perpetrator more painfully than it does the victim. The victim suffers; the perpetrator becomes corrupt. The victim can forgive and often does forgive, but the perpetrator never forgives. The crime implants in the perpetrator’s own heart a seed of hate that constantly grows until an inner renewal occurs to purify that person’s whole being.The great Russian religious philosopher Aleksey Khomyakov was completely right about this, of course, from a psychological standpoint. It is far easier for the wronged to forgive than it is for the wrongful to forgive. The neocons and the liberal interventionists could never forgive the anti-war contingent for doubting the purity of American hearts and the sanctity of our national intentions, and they could certainly never forgive the Iraqis for daring to live in a country we had ruined, and thus attest to our crimes. That is why you see such vitriol and even violence aimed nowadays at those on the left who have the effrontery to speak truthfully about Hillary’s record.
Let us be clear. This war, this awful, bitter, bloody, wretched war, this war which has shovelled thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into their graves, and which has mutilated and disfigured and displaced millions more, has never gone away. The ghosts of Iraq still haunt us, and not only in their Libyan and Syrian echoes. They hover over this election, thick as fog. We have on the one hand an unrepentant and still deadly-serious warmonger, and on the other hand a reality-television clown whose presence on the national stage can only be understood by acknowledging the sullen and slow-burning wrath so many of us feel at the total mendacity of our entire political establishment, beginning yet certainly not ending with Iraq.
But here’s the funny thing about truth. That ‘inner renewal’ Khomyakov spoke of will happen. No matter how much the powers try to keep it down, no matter how long the dusty veil might lie in place, the truth always manages to come to light in the end.