For Al Jazeera English, I reflected on what we lost when we lost the Iraq War:
“Without evidence, confidence cannot arise,” Hans Blix declared to the United Nations in the run up to the war. He was wrong: confidence, like evidence, could be created. The warnings of Blix, Anthony Zinni, Mohamed ElBaradei, the liberal columnists called out as fifth columnists and the hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world changed nothing. When revelation hit, it was with a sense of helplessness that defined the decade to come. Confidence, like evidence, could be destroyed.
The Iraq war is notable not only for journalistic weakness, but for journalistic futility: the futility of fact itself. Fact could not match the fabrications of power. Eventually, our reality shifted to become what they conceived. “I could have set myself on fire in protest on the White House lawn and the war would have proceeded without me,” wrote Bush speechwriter David Frum.
That was the message of the Iraq war: There is no point in speaking truth to power when power is the only truth…
Ten years after the Iraq war, we continue to live in an era of hysterical panic about invented catastrophes and false reassurances about real catastrophes. We laugh bitterly at the “Mission Accomplished” sign raised nearly a decade before the war ended, but the Bush administration did accomplish something. They accomplished the mission of persuading everyday Americans that the unthinkable is normal.