If you wonder how the lethal “group think” on Iraq took shape in 2002, you might want to study what’s happening today with Ukraine. A misguided consensus has grabbed hold of Official Washington and has pulled in everyone who “matters” and tossed out almost anyone who disagrees.
Part of the problem, in both cases, has been that neocon propagandists understand that in the modern American media the personal is the political, that is, you don’t deal with the larger context of a dispute, you make it about some easily demonized figure. So, instead of understanding the complexities of Iraq, you focus on the unsavory Saddam Hussein.
This approach has been part of the neocon playbook at least since the 1980s when many of today’s leading neocons – such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan – were entering government and cut their teeth as propagandists for the Reagan administration. Back then, the game was to put, say, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega into the demon suit, with accusations about him wearing “designer glasses.” Later, it was Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and then, of course, Saddam Hussein.
Instead of Americans coming to grips with the painful history of Central America, where the U.S. government has caused much of the violence and dysfunction, or in Iraq, where Western nations don’t have clean hands either, the story was made personal – about the demonized leader – and anyone who provided a fuller context was denounced as an “Ortega apologist” or a “Noriega apologist” or a “Saddam apologist.”
So, American skeptics were silenced and the U.S. government got to do what it wanted without serious debate. In Iraq, for instance, the American people would have benefited from a thorough airing of the complexities of Iraqi society – such as the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shiite – and the potential risks of invading under the dubious rationale of WMD.
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