Flashback: my first Miami Herald column in April 2003 — in opposition to the Iraq war


My first column for the Miami Herald (then as a guest columnist) was published on April 3, 2003. The subject: the invasion of Iraq. I was working at an NBC affiliate at the time, and needless to say, my boss on the web desk was not amused, particularly since the paper inadvertently included my job title (web news editor) and the station website in my byline.

At the time I wrote the column, almost the entire media consensus, and I mean nationally, not just in the local news world, was strongly supportive of the idea of invading Iraq. And the Bush administration had done a thorough job of fusing Iraq and 9/11 in the public’s mind. The vast majority of Americans favored the war (A March 2003 Gallup poll (we’ll just assume they were more reliable back then) found that 72 percent of Americans supported the invasion, and George W. Bush enjoyed a 71 percent approval rating.) I was not one of them. That’s not a brag, but I have to say that never supporting the idea of invading Iraq is one of the things I’m most proud of. This despite my strong love and respect for the military. A clip from the column, which can no longer be found on the Herald server but was republished by CommonDreams.org, is below. Full column after the jump.

I am about the same age as Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, who is at the upper end of the age range of Americans fighting in Iraq. Johnson was taken prisoner by Iraqis when she and her convoy took a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad.

I don’t pretend to speak for everybody my age but do know that most of us are ambivalent about this war. Even the hard-core Republicans I know are more fiercely supportive of President Bush than they are coherent or persuasive in explaining why our soldiers and Marines have been sent to fight and die thousands of miles away.

Weapons of mass destruction? Haven’t seen ‘em. To stop Iraq from getting nukes? Two words: forged documents. Two more: North Korea. Preventing another Sept. 11? Go after Osama bin Laden. Avenging the Kurds? 20 years too late. Liberating the Iraqi people? They are not cooperating. Enforcing U.N. resolutions? Give me a break.

Many of us are still shaken from Sept. 11, but there is no proof that Saddam Hussein was involved in it. Despite Bush’s mantra — ”Saddam is an evil man who gassed his own people and who must be disarmed for the sake of peace” — many of us don’t think that it’s worth the lives of our soldiers to topple the Iraqi dictator.

Americans like me respect the military, because unlike those who advocated this war, we tend to know people who joined up — public-school kids who did ROTC in high school and who enlisted for good jobs, pay for college or to get some direction and discipline in life. Conquering the world was definitely not a reason. Even the most anti-war people see our military as dedicated professionals who aren’t at all culpable for the political policies that they are duty-bound to implement.

So what’s the disconnect?

  • Maybe it’s the creepy, neoconservative crowd whose decade-long determination to go to war makes the whole exercise look suspect.
  • Maybe it’s time to bring back the draft. Unless we all have a friend or family member in the Gulf, Americans have surprisingly little at stake in this war. For many young people, it’s just another TV reality show — great graphics, banging soundtrack and ”embedded” reporters becoming the next superstars. But this reality show is full of real tragedy, real dying and real suffering, on both sides. The question is: Without the prospect of being whisked off to the front lines, how deeply will the generation that grew up on Mortal Kombat feel it?
  • Maybe it’s the fact that while a war with potentially dire consequences for the world is raging in Iraq, the United States isn’t on much of a war footing. We’re told to go about our business. We don’t even sweat the orange alerts anymore; they’ve become background noise.

When we get tired of watching the MOABs lighting up Baghdad, we can watch undeployed soldier Scott Grayson belt one out for a chance to get signed by Simon Cowell (the bad Brit to Tony Blair’s good, dutiful one). For all its great coverage at the beginning of the war, MTV hasn’t pre-empted The Real World, and BET is still booty-shaking and bling-blinging for all but 30 minutes a day.

There are no calls for sacrifice, no war bonds or rations (in fact, if we make enough dough, we’re even getting a tax cut) and no exhortations from our leaders to get involved. The people most inclined to get involved — on the anti-war side — are being told to quiet down. Meanwhile, the two major parties are busy dolling out the post-Hussein spoils to their corporate friends — and Specialist Johnson and other young soldiers are still waiting to be rescued.

America is about to produce a whole new generation of grizzled war veterans in their 20s and 30s. This Greatest Generation might turn into the Most Cynical Generation as well.

Full column also reprinted here.

And here is a piece I wrote at NBC 6 about the families of some troops deployed in Iraq.

This entry was posted in Foreign policy, Iraq, U.S. History, U.S. Military and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Flashback: my first Miami Herald column in April 2003 — in opposition to the Iraq war

  1. Good.

    Now about this proxy war in Syria?

  2. Pingback: Flashback: my first Miami Herald column in April 2003 — in opposition to the Iraq war : Yahabari.com

  3. majii says:

    Good, because I thought I was one of the few who bought none of Bush Co.’s bull.

  4. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However
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  6. Kevin says:

    The Iraq War was a misguided and mismanaged war, but to say it was the result of a neo-conservative conspiracy requires proof, not just speculation. In reply to the original author:

    Weapons of Mass Destruction? No one saw them, most notably during the UN inspections in the lead up to the war. Their absence at the time was indicative of a lack of cooperation from Saddam’s regime and did nothing to verify Saddam’s compliance with numerous UN resolutions or to disprove the intelligence assessment that most countries had at the time. To imply that the US administration fabricated intelligence assessments of Saddam’s weapons programs is to indict not only the rest of the world community that had similar intelligence but also the US Congress which authorized the war.

    North Korea? Definitely a threat, but not one we can deal with so long as China maintains its relationship. Also, oddly enough, not nearly as volatile as Saddam was in his heyday so long as China holds it accountable.

    Going after Bin Laden? Certainly Afghanistan deserved more focus than Iraq did at the time, and the untimely invasion of Iraq, destroyed what little chance we had, if we truly ever had one, of establishing a democratic foot print in that country. Two things are left unmentioned by the author here:
    1) Bin Laden was not the emperor of Al Qaeda or any of its affiliates. After we finally cut off the metaphoric head of our greatest adversary back in 2011, what really changed for the US and its fight against terrorism? The answer is nothing. Al Qaeda may have lost ground in Afghanistan but has more than compensated for those losses in other areas (Syria, North Africa, Yemen, Philippines). Killing Bin Laden has not made our fight in Afghanistan any easier.
    2) Iraq, among others in the Middle East, was run by a volatile and violent dictator. It was definitely a stretch to link Saddam to Al Qaeda, but it wasn’t a stretch to define him as a threat to world stability in light of what he had done in the decades leading up to his overthrow (hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia and Kurds and Iranians killed by his actions). The Bush administration’s portrayal of Saddam as a threat to US homeland security deserves to be questioned, but to suggest Saddam was not a major threat to regional security in the Middle East is to rewrite history.

    Avenging the Kurds? Certainly it was late. But I don’t remember anyone proposing the invasion in order to seek revenge. Rather the intent was to stabilize a violent region. Saddam’s extermination campaigns against the Kurds was only one of several atrocities that he committed. And people nowadays tend to forget that Saddam killed far more people than have so far perished in the sectarian strife that followed the US invasion. That statistic doesn’t justify the US invasion, but it does put current stability of Iraq, or lack thereof, into a more historical context.

    Liberating the Iraqi people? We were originally welcomed as liberators, but the Sunni-Shia strife quickly ignited into essentially a civil war. Should we have accounted for that issue in the planning and deliberations over the war? Yes. The Bush administration and the military showed a marked lack of preparation for a post-Saddam Iraq. But people should remember that we were welcomed as liberators…it wasn’t widespread US atrocities or indiscriminate bombing campaigns that sparked the insurgency…it was Shia clerics and Sunni tribal elders and an opportunistic Al Qaeda operatives that ignited the flames.

    Enforcing UN Resolutions? No one deserves a break on that one. I can credit the author for making her case against Iraq well before many others adopted similar attitudes, but I don’t see her point here. UN resolutions regarding Iraq’s weapons had been enacted and violated in the decade leading up to the US Invasion. It was those violations that made international military action not only a possibility but a potential requirement if Saddam failed to verify his compliance. Bush certainly rushed the country to war in Iraq, but the US and the rest of the world was negligent in holding Iraq accountable for its weapons violations in the years leading up to that point.

    It’s far too easy to make this into a black and white issue…there are far more shades of grey than most are willing to acknowledge.

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