Stop Calling The Iraq War A ‘Mistake’: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readMar 18, 2023

Reading by Tim Foley:

Stop calling the Iraq War a “mistake”. When you make a mistake, you make changes to ensure that mistake is not repeated. Nobody responsible for that invasion suffered any consequences of any kind, zero policy changes were made, and the unipolarist ideology which led to it has become more entrenched than ever.

If the invasion of Iraq was a “mistake”, western government officials would be residing in prison cells at The Hague, countless pundits and journalists would now be working behind cash registers in retail shops, and US foreign policy would have undergone a massive, dramatic overhaul. Instead the exact opposite has happened — the western officials who launched the Iraq War are esteemed members of elite society, the pundits and journalists who manufactured consent for it are at the top of their field, and securing US unipolar hegemony by any means necessary is the accepted status quo norm in mainstream politics.

This is because the Iraq War was not a “mistake”. It was a cold, calculated decision which had precisely the effects it was intended to have: the advancement of western energy interests, greater geostrategic control, and the expansion of the US war machine in key geostrategic regions. Someone who makes a “mistake” doesn’t get everything they always wanted as a result and suffer zero consequences for the damage it caused. That’s what happens to someone who took a deliberate, calculated action in their own interests.

You can only pretend the Iraq War was a “mistake” if you accept the official reasons for starting it: getting those WMDs, spreading freedom and democracy to those poor Iraqis who we love, and making the Middle East a safer and more peaceful place for everyone. It’s not okay for grown adults in the year 2023 to believe those were the real intentions behind the invasion of Iraq.

If the invasion of Iraq was a mistake there would have been changes put in place to make sure nothing like it ever happens again. Those changes were never made because they thoroughly intend to do similar things in the future.

It’s not a “whataboutism” to say it’s absurd to charge Putin with war crimes without charging George W Bush, it’s a completely devastating argument against the claim being made. If the law doesn’t apply to everyone, then it’s not the law, it’s just corruption. It’s a tool of the powerful.

It’s hilarious that Putin has been hit with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court not only on the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, but also a few days after the Pentagon intervened to stop the Biden administration from helping the ICC compile evidence of Russian war crimes because it might lead to ICC prosecution of American war crimes.

One of the funniest empire narratives we’re being asked to believe today is that the US is militarily encircling its #1 rival China, on the other side of the planet, defensively.

I hear people say, “I oppose the Chinese GOVERNMENT, not the Chinese PEOPLE!”

Oh cool, so sort of like the exact same thing literally every warmongering neocon has said about literally every country they wanted to destroy since the turn of the century?

You’re not making an important or interesting distinction when you say you oppose a foreign government and not it’s people, you’re just painting the same pretty picture over the same ugly agenda as every war slut since 9/11. Shut the hell up.

China should start arming Mexican cartels so they can defend themselves against the coming US invasion. Per the US playbook Washington should have no problem with this.

I’ve seen people use Marxist-sounding rhetoric to justify NATO expansion and US proxy warfare. I’ve seen people use anti-imperialist jargon to justify encirclement of China. It’s like how people used the Bible to justify racism and other ugly things. Your beliefs don’t matter if your heart’s in the wrong place.

Reading all the right books and having all the correct concepts won’t protect you from error; only clarity of vision can keep you on the straight and narrow. And that takes hard, dedicated, rigorously honest inner work. No amount of accumulated knowledge will substitute for this.

We’ve all known people who share what we think of as noble ideological beliefs but are actually garbage human beings once you get to know them. Having the right beliefs won’t make you a better person, and it won’t protect you from applying those beliefs in a very unwholesome way.

Having all the right political opinions is no substitute for being a good human being. Ticking all the right conceptual boxes is no substitute for psychological health. Reading all the right books is no substitute for real inner work. Concepts are worthless without inner clarity. You’ve got to do the work.

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Featured image via Gerard Van der Leun (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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