Tom Engelhardt marks the 15th anniversary of the start of a war that seems more disastrous with each passing year:
In an act of pure wizardry, bin Laden drew out of Bush, Cheney, and company their deepest geopolitical fantasies about the ability of [the United States] … to dominate any situation on Earth. The early months of 2003, when they were preparing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, may have been their ultimate hubristic moment, in which imagining anything other than success of a historic sort, not just in that country but far beyond it, was inconceivable.
I read the above to my friend Swamp Rabbit and told him I’d felt at that time that something really bad might happen, something even bigger than 9/11 and another ground war. Everybody and their mother was flying the flag and pinning yellow ribbons on phone poles and calling Muslims rag heads. French fries were renamed “freedom fries” by a Congressional jackass who was mad because France wanted no part in America’s war plans.
Saddam and bin Laden weren’t in cahoots, far from it, but many people were too worked up to see they were being lied to by Bush and Cheney and others who stood to make big money when the bombs started falling. A huge number of Americans approved of the war in Iraq. Then they disapproved. Then they sort of shut up and went back to their video games and reality TV shows.
But fear and loathing of dark-skinned foreigners lingered, along with contempt for politicians of both parties who’d supported the war. As historian Andrew Bacevich recently noted, contempt was strongest in those communities that had been most affected by the war.
But the contempt didn’t coalesce, didn’t really have a face, until real estate hustler and reality TV star Donald Trump decided to run for president. Millions of voters spited the establishment and themselves by electing a bloated bigot with a bizarre comb-over who would seek to ban Muslims, build a border wall and “make America great again.”
Swamp Rabbit told me I should chill. “Trump ain’t nothing but a clown. You make him sound like an antichrist.”
“John Lyden is an antichrist,” I said. “Trump is an anti-human. He uses fear and hate to grab power. A classic dictator type. The more he gets, the more he wants.”
Swamp Rabbit was annoyed. “Ain’t no call for that kind of talk. I can’t picture Trump becoming dictator. It can’t happen here.”
“Two years ago, you couldn’t picture him becoming president,” I said. “How’d that work out for you?”