Why did we invade Iraq?

The question continues to baffle me after all these years. (It seems that conventional wisdom is settling on “access to oil,” but we have this brilliant new technology that gives us access to as much oil as we need — it’s called “money.”) David Graeber’s recent piece in The Baffler provided me with fresh insight:

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future.

In particular, the overriding concern is to make sure that no protest movement can possibly appear to succeed — and preferably, it wouldn’t even begin. He uses the example of the Iraq War:

the war planners made an almost obsessive effort to ensure the wars [in Afghanistan and Iraq] were effectively protest-proof. Propaganda was incessant, the media was brought on board, experts provided exact calculations on body bag counts (how many U.S. casualties it would take to stir mass opposition), and the rules of engagement were carefully written to keep the count below that.

The problem was that since those rules of engagement ensured that thousands of women, children, and old people would end up “collateral damage” in order to minimize deaths and injuries to U.S. soldiers, this meant that in Iraq and Afghanistan, intense hatred for the occupying forces would pretty much guarantee that the United States couldn’t obtain its military objectives. And remarkably, the war planners seemed to be aware of this. It didn’t matter. They considered it far more important to prevent effective opposition at home than to actually win the war.

This leads me to an inexorable conclusion. The true answer as to why we invaded Iraq is, “Because you can go fuck yourself.” It sounds like I’m kidding, but I’m really, really not.

7 thoughts on “Why did we invade Iraq?

  1. His piece “On the Phenomenology of Giant Puppets” is interested on this score too, detailing the cops’ obsessive devoting to squirreling out puppet-making equipment at mass protests precisely because the system cannot abide even a token gesture towards an alternative way of thinking.

  2. Though I wonder if maybe the role played by the conscious machinations of an inexplicably evil cabal maniacally bent on suppressing the creative imaginations and puppetry of the masses isn’t being over-stressed slightly in this kind of analysis.

  3. Although I think “go fuck yourself” is in there, I also think, not necessarliy in this order that:

    1) Bush wanted to. This may be the same thing as “Go fuck yourself.”
    2) Oil was a factor; it *is* available for money, but for less money perhaps if Saddam is no longer in power.
    3) Neo-cons wanted to move more troops into the region.
    4) Cheney wanted to line Haliburton’s, Blackwater’s, and other private interests’ pockets with taxpayer dollars.
    5) Everyone wanted to keep the GWOT going, which allows for more #4 (not only abroad, but at home; see: body scanners, full).

  4. Military funding is by far the easiest to secure. It is also the easiest to distribute without oversight to huge corporations. That’s all you need to know about the incentive to fight wars.

  5. it’s not “access to oil”, it’s “control over oil” (don’t forget, too, that Hussein was switching away from petrodollars) – but yes, with a healthy dollop of “go fuck yourself”

  6. It’s the same thing that Iraq had in common with Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. They didn’t want to play ball with our businesses completely on our terms. The invasion of Iraq was opportunistic, made possible by 911 hysteria and the first gulf war.

  7. In what way are they inexplicably evil? They’re a group of people who benefit enormously from the existing system who want to convince those who don’t benefit from it that it’s the only possible system. That’s hard to explain?

    For what it’s worth, I think that most of the explanations offered here are factors. But when I say that “getting over the Vietnam syndrome” – as the neocons put it – and convincing the US public it was once again okay to have a prolonged land war involving hundreds of thousands of troops – was a major factor, I’m not speculating, let alone engaging in paranoid conspiracy theory. Just read what those guys said in their own books and essays. They were pretty up front about it.

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