On the tenth anniversary of the start of the disasterous Iraq War of 2003, it is more useful than ever to read or re-read Col. Patrick Lang's monumental account of the blunder into war, "Drinking the Kool Aid." The importance of this work was puncuated this week, when President Obama commemorated the anniversary of the Iraq war by making his first presidential visit to Isreal, where he effectively gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an American green light to take whatever actions he felt are necessary to defend Israeli interests against the threat coming from Iran. Behind the scenes, Obama actually extracted a promise from Netanyahu to hold off from unilateral action so that the United States could decide the proper time for military action against Iran.
When I received the report of what had actually been discussed between Obama and Netanyahu, my thoughts immediately returned to "Drinking the Kool Aid." Now, as then, a U.S. Administration embarked on a path that will almost certainly lead to war in the Persian Gulf, a war that will likely have even more devastating consequences than the disasterous action of March 2003. Now, as then, the greatest skepticism about the need for war came from senior military officials, people with the greatest appreciation for the folly of war as the first option, rather than the last. Now, as then, the usual rightwing Zionist and neoconservative propaganda apparatus is churning out disinformation to hype the conflict. Except for the map coordinates, very little has changed. The threat of imminent "nuclear mushroom clouds," the prospect of weapons of mass destruction being used against Israel by an Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi "rogue regime" driven by irrationalist motives--the buzz words and frightening images remain the same.
This is precisely the message of "Drinking the Kool Aid." Unless there is a genuine recognition of the folly and consequences of the Iraq fiasco, it will be repeated over again and again--with the same disasterous outcome. It makes no difference what party is in power at the White House or on Capitol Hill. President Obama was swept into office in 2008 on the mandate to end the war party rule of the Bush-Cheney era. Once in office, President Obama found that the unitary executive powers were too awesome to repudiate. He has continued on the path set for him by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, who once told General Wesley Clark that the United States had one or two decades to overthrow the governments of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya. Sudan and Somalia--before an emerging rival power like China challenged the American global military hegemony.
Col. Lang's treatis on the road to folly in Iraq has withstood the test of time. Like a Shakespearian tragedy, it offers a prophetic warning and opportunity to change paths before the die is cast. The image of "drinking the Kool Aid" must be used as a powerful tool to alert, shame, embolden enough of our political, military and intelligence leaders so that another string of needless wars can be averted. I am sure this was Col. Lang's intention in writing his landmark account of the slide into Iraq war.