An Anniversary Worth Remembering

Two years ago today, the U.S. military took over Baghdad, and the glorious event was celebrated by jubilant Iraqis who rushed to Firdos Square and pulled down an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein.

TV pictures of the event radiated throughout the U.S. And, for Americans, the event continues to symbolize the great liberation of the oppressed Iraqi people.

This past week I've already seen video clips of the statue event on Fox TV News and CNN Headline News. Americans won't forget this great victory.

And they know that Iraqis won't forget either. After all, Americans saw for themselves on TV the square in the center of Baghdad jammed with thousands of Iraqis watching and cheering as the statue was toppled over.

Penn & Teller Do Baghdad?

Or at least that's what they thought they saw.

Perfect framing by the operator of the video camera, combined with a misleading voice-over description of the event, made it seem that what you saw on TV was a part of an enormous throng of Iraqis, filling a city square, celebrating the end of decades of oppression that had made their lives a living Hell.

But it was all an illusion – the kind created by the best magicians.

There were three elements in the illusion:

  1. The statue was actually toppled by U.S. Marines using their own equipment – not by Iraqis. The Marines first draped an American flag over the statue's face, but then realized that this would make it too obvious that the Marines had come to occupy, not liberate, Baghdad.
  2. The square wasn't filled with thousands of Iraqis. Only a hundred or so people witnessed the event.
  3. The few people there weren't oppressed Iraqis – celebrating the event with joyous relief that their years-long oppression in Baghdad had ended. The people crowded around the statue were mostly members of the Iraqi National Congress – an organization of Iraqis who had been living outside Iraq, and had been flown into Iraq just before the event.

Fortunately, there were cameramen on the scene who weren't part of the illusion. And so photographs showing the truth surfaced shortly thereafter – mostly on the Internet, but here and there a few acknowledgments were made on TV that one more fraud had been perpetrated on the American people. This fraud was perpetrated to support the idea that all the killing was producing a happy ending – joy in Baghdad that the wonderful U.S. military had saved Iraqis from a fate worse than death.

Interlocking Illusions

The Iraqi National Congress (INC) members who crowded around the statue, giving the illusion that Baghdad residents were overjoyed, were particularly significant.

These people had been living outside Iraq, conspiring to end Hussein's reign. They claimed to have spies planted throughout Iraq and could provide valuable information to the Bush administration.

People in Washington were enchanted by the "intelligence" that the INC provided, because the INC was telling them exactly what they wanted to hear – that Hussein had WMDs and was a threat to the world. So the INC folks kept passing on secret "intelligence":

"Pssst! – our men inside Iraq have talked to the scientists who helped create nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons for Hussein!"

"Pssst! – our spies have seen mobile trailers that manufacture biological weapons!"

"Pssst! – we have first-hand, eye-witness reports of terrorist training camps around Baghdad!"

"Pssst! – Hussein has developed unmanned airplanes that can carry WMDs across the Atlantic Ocean and drop them on the East Coast of America!"

"Pssst! – our people say the Iraqis will welcome the U.S. military with open arms, throwing flowers at them when they parade through Baghdad!"

This is just what George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the other great liberators wanted to hear.

They in turn passed the information on to the United Nations and to other governments. So when it all proved to be fraudulent, U.S. officials were able to say that other countries – not just the U.S. – had also believed that Hussein had terrible weapons that threatened the world.

Yes, the whole world thought Hussein was a threat because the U.S. told the whole world he was. And the U.S. got a lot of its "intelligence" conveniently from an outfit, the INC, that was just your garden-variety, power-hungry outfit peddling fraudulent stories in order to take over Iraq.

In exchange for providing an excuse for the U.S. to invade Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi – the head of the INC – was expected to be made the President of Iraq, once the war was over, and that’s why he and his men were flown into Baghdad to take part in the statue-toppling.

Poetic Justice

Capping off a fraudulent war with a fraudulent staging of a victory celebration seems more than just appropriate.

And it seems particularly appropriate that, as the statue was pulled down, the Iraqis crowding around the Marines and getting their pictures taken were members of the Iraqi National Congress – the people whose fraudulent information had contributed so much to making that day possible.

As it turned out, Ahmed Chalabi didn't become the President of Iraq. In fact, he has become somewhat disgraced and out of favor.

But so far no one who helped make this war possible – who helped bring about an event that snuffed out the lives of tens of thousands of people – has had to pay a price for his misdeeds. So I won't be surprised if Ahmed Chalabi winds up in some important, well-paid position in the new Iraqi government.


While the TV networks remind us that today is an anniversary of sorts, we should remind ourselves that the entire war has been a fraud – from the supposed threats that George Bush kept waving in our faces – to the staging of the statue toppling – to the honoring of Jessica Lynch's "heroic deeds" and her supposed rescue – to the constant claims that the Iraqi people are free – to the celebrating of every small step as proof that killing all those people has produced something wonderful.

So, yes, we should acknowledge this anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and the fall of the statue. And we should vow to do whatever we can to make sure that Americans are never again dragged into such a fraudulent war.

April 11, 2005