When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf quickly became known as “Baghdad Bob” by declaring on Iraqi television that Saddam Hussein’s military brigades were successfully turning back the invading forces. During the same time the U.S. was handily dominating Iraq militarily, Bob told Iraqis, “We slaughtered them and will continue to slaughter them.” Bob claimed that U.S. soldiers were committing suicide by the hundreds and that American troops were “going to surrender or be burned in their tanks. They will surrender. It is they who will surrender.”
It’s hard to imagine someone making more erroneous statements — that is unless you listen to Lindsey Graham.
WTMA’s Richard Todd recently asked Sen. Graham this: “4,427 American soldiers dead, over 34,000 wounded in Iraq, was it worth it?” Without hesitation, the senator replied, “Absolutely. Saddam Hussein is in the grave. A young democracy is emerging between Syria and Iran. The reason I went there … is to change the world for the better, and Saddam Hussein was a threat.”
Appearing three days later on Meet the Press, host David Gregory played a video clip of reporter Richard Engel claiming on NBC’s Today that the Iraq War was unnecessary, Saddam was not a threat, and it was a huge distraction. Shaking his head determinedly, Graham accused Engel of “completely rewriting history” and defended the war along the same lines he did before. Gregory pointed out that our current “defense secretary, who’s a Republican says, ‘Iraq will always be clouded by how it began,” adding that “three-quarters of the American people think it was not worth the cost.” Graham replied, “History will judge us, not by what we did wrong at the beginning, but what we got right at the end.”
And may history judge Graham by his uncanny ability to obfuscate fact with his own personal fiction. There are many different opinions on the Iraq War, but Graham’s inability to even consider something virtually the entire world now sees as obvious — that every reason given for going to war turned out to be wrong — says far more about the senator than the subject at hand. With Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) saying, “It was a mistake to go in now,” and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif) claiming that “everyone would agree that Iraq was a mistake,” it becomes obvious that Graham’s absolutist defense of the Iraq War is more ideological than logical. In this respect, Graham is no different from Baghdad Bob, who also created his own war narrative. As a propagandist, Bob’s job was to sell the Iraqi public a myth that would better serve the ruling regime — the humorous part is the extent to which he was willing to continue with the charade.
Graham’s myth-making is not as humorous. The actions of a nation with the power and military capability of the United States should be weighed and measured rationally, and such calculations require decision makers to acknowledge past mistakes in order to avoid them in the future. Few Americans want another Vietnam, and knowing what we know now, few should want another Iraq. Saving face for the sake of national honor is perhaps understandable to a degree, but the complete dismissal of the colossal mistakes made by our government — and then redefining them as triumphs — nearly ensures that those mistakes will be repeated.
This is exactly what Graham seems to want, or as he told Todd: “I’m glad we invaded the country. I hope we keep troops there after 2011. I hope we don’t withdraw troops next summer in Afghanistan … If we have to use military force against Iran … I want to do it … And at the end of the day we’re at war with a vicious enemy, and if they go to Yemen or Somalia, we ought to follow them throughout the globe and follow them to the gates of hell.”
Graham’s case for perpetual war is the same neoconservative vision espoused by the Bush administration when it made its pitch for invading Iraq. By dutifully subscribing to this narrow vision, the senator continues to be blind to other opinions regarding the conflict and future conflicts. This is not merely the politicking of a statesman assessing a sticky situation and moving forward as Graham pretends, but a let’s-police-the-world ideologue who propagandizes accordingly, creating his own facts as needed.
All propagandists do this, or as Baghdad Bob told the BBC in 2003, his information came from “authentic sources, many authentic sources.” On Iraq, our intelligence sources turned out to be about as authentic as Bob’s, and Lindsey Graham’s refusal to consider this makes him no less delusional than the Iraqi propagandist — and far more dangerous.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.