The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight

Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, joins Bill Moyers to talk about what he calls Washington’s “Deep State,” in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers.


this week on Moyers & Company longtime insider Mike Lofgren what he calls the big story of our times the deep state it is I would save the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades it’s how we had deregulation financialization of the economy The Wall Street bust the erosion of our civil liberties and perpetual war funding is provided by and gumowitz encouraging the renewal of democracy Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrating 100 years of philanthropy and committed to doing real and permanent good in the world the Ford Foundation working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide the Herb Alpert foundation supporting organizations whose mission is to promote compassion and creativity in our society the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation committed to building a more just verdant and peaceful world more information at Park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues the Kohlberg foundation barbra jean– Fleischman and by our sole corporate sponsor mutual of America designing customized individual and group retirement products that’s why we’re your retirement company welcome if you’ve read the Espionage novels of john lecarre a you know that no other writer today has so brilliantly evoked the subterranean workings of government perhaps because he himself was once a British spy liquor a has a name for that invisible labyrinth of power he calls it the deep state and now an American you’re about to meet in this broadcast has seized on that concept to describe the forces he says are controlling our government no matter the party in power but Mike Lofgren ZnO intelligence agent although he had a top-secret security clearance he’s a numbers man a congressional staff member for 28 years with the powerful House and Senate budget committees over the years as he crunched those numbers he realized they didn’t add up in said they led him to America’s own deep state where elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests Mike Lofgren was so disgusted he not only left Capitol Hill he left the Republican Party and wrote this book the party is over how Republicans went crazy Democrats became useless and the middle class got shafted now at our request and exclusively for he is written anatomy of the deep state you’ll want to read it as soon as we finish this conversation Mike Lofgren welcome good to be here again but this is a difficult subject to talk about it would be easier if it were a conspiracy you’re describing but that’s not the case is it no I’m not a conspiracy theorist of this is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night this is something that hides in plain sight it’s something we know about but we can’t connect the dots or most people don’t connect the dots it’s kind of a natural evolution when so much money and political control is at stake in the most powerful country in the world this has evolved over time and you call it the real power in the country correct it is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state everyone knows what the military-industrial complex is since Eisenhower talked about it in his farewell address we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the military-industrial complex the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist we must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes everyone knows Wall Street and its depredations everyone knows how corporate America acts they’re both about the same thing they’re both about money sucking as much money out of the country as they can and they’re about control corporate control and political control you said this in your judgment is the big story of our time it is the big story of our time it is I would say the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades it’s how we had deregulation financialization of the economy the Wall Street bust the erosion of our civil liberties and perpetual war you write that the secret and unaccountable deep state floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century well that’s just the thing the common narrative in the last five years and on a superficial level it’s right is that government is broken it’s dysfunctional its gridlocked well that’s true and that is the visible government the constitutional government we learn about in civics 101 and it is gridlocked but somehow Obama can go into Libya he can assassinate US citizens he can collect all our phone records without a by-your-leave from anyone um he can even bring down a jet carrying a president of a sovereign country without asking anyone’s permission and no one seems to connect the two the failure of our visible constitutional state and this other government that operates according to no constitutional rules or any constraint by the governed you go on to say though that it’s not just the executive branch that is the heart of this that is just one of the several constituencies that make up what you called the deep state well it’s all the national security functions of the government it’s the Pentagon its homeland security it’s the State Department it’s also Treasury because they have a kind of symbiotic relationship with Wall Street but one thing they control the flow of money absolutely and that’s why there’s such a flow not only of money but of personnel between Wall Street and the Treasury Department there’s other aspects of government there’s a portion of the judiciary a small portion of the judiciary the so called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance courts most of Congress doesn’t even know how they operate talk a little bit more about the Nexus the connection between the national security state and Wall Street because this is a theme that runs through your essay do you know that about 30 blocks north of here there is a restaurant that will sell you a truffle for ninety five thousand dollars also in new york christie’s sold at auction a painting by francis bacon for a hundred and forty two million now a parallel situation with the national security state the NSA spent 1.7 billion dollars to build a facility in Utah that will collect one yottabyte of information that’s as much information as has ever been written in the history of the world it costs four hundred dollars by the time the Pentagon finishes paying contractors to haul one gallon of gasoline into Afghanistan that’s a real extravagant amount of money in both cases of the national security state and the corporate state they are sucking money out of the economy as our infrastructure collapses we have a tinkertoy power grid that goes out every time there’s inclement weather tens of millions of people are on food stamps we incarcerate more people than China an authoritarian state with four times our popular elation does anyone see the disparity between this extravagance for the deep state and the penury that is being forced on the rest of the country that isn’t a natural evolution something made it happen we’re having a situation where the deep state is essentially out of control it’s unconstrained since 9/11 we have built the equivalent of three Pentagon’s around the DC metropolitan area holding defense contractors intelligence contractors and government civilians involved in the military-industrial complex there are over 400,000 contractors private citizens who have top-secret security clearances and they are heart and soul of the of the deep state as you describe it absolutely it being privatized which means the power shifts from accountable officials to unaccountable in contractors about 70% of the intelligence budget goes to contracts how new is this I mean back in 2010 the Washington Post published a stunning investigation of what the editors called top secret America I mean we have known about this have we not yes we know about this but the intelligence functions of the government are too important to outsource in the manner we have it’s something where absolute discretion is needed and absolute trust that they are not violating civil liberties and to put this kind of a burden if you will on private contract employees is I think become a great disservice you say that that you came to question this it took you a while it was a gradual enlightenment that took place you were dealing with big numbers and particular details in the budgets that all of these agencies were sending to you when you on Capitol Hill right you were seeing the number solution you what works what was happening to the numbers at the end of 2001 is we appropriated a lot of money and it didn’t seem to be going to Afghanistan the proximate source of the 911 attacks it seemed to be going to the Persian Gulf region and I said what’s going on here Saddam Hussein didn’t bring down the Twin Towers so the little light went on and I began to sort of disenchant myself from the normal group think that tends to take over in any organization group think at some point in your essay you talk about how group think drives the deep state it absolutely does just as it tends to drive any bureaucratic organization what do you mean by groupthink well the psychologist Irving Janis called it groupthink it’s a kind of assimilation of the views of your superiors and your peers it’s becoming a yes-man and in many respects it’s an unconscious thing I remember what Upton Sinclair once said it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when this salary depends on him not understanding it that is certainly a part of it you described Washington as clearly and obviously the headquarters of a deep state but talk about some of some of the others who are in the game Wall Street is perhaps the ultimate backstop to the whole operation because they generates so much money that they can provide second careers for a lot of the government operatives they’re going to make more money than they ever dreamed they would on Wall Street and I think a good example of that is the most celebrated soldier of the last decade David Petraeus what did he do when he retired he went to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts a Wall Street buyout firm with 90 billion in assets under management you described him as a kind of avatar of the deep state he is in a way because he now represents both ends of it we see now our present-day Cincinnatus did not pick up the plow when he lay down the sword Cincinnatus was the roman who left his farm to become a general in the war when the war was over he went back to be a farmer that doesn’t happen today no it doesn’t the vast majority of generals seem to end up on the boards of defense contractors talk a little bit about what you call this strange relationship between Silicon Valley and the government and how it fits into the deep state well the National Security Agency could not do what it does the CIA could not do what it does without Silicon Valley now Silicon Valley unlike the defense contractors mostly sells to private individuals and to companies it’s not a big government vendor however its services are necessary and de facto they have become a part of the NSA’s operations I’m sure the CEOs of some of these companies try to obscure the fact that this has mostly been voluntary for many years Ameena surveillance the surveillance the gathering of information about unknowing citizens absolute or commercial purposes though precisely they’ve done it themselves and they’ve assisted the NSA through a FISA Court order for an intelligence or an Intelligence Surveillance Act so this has been going on for quite a while yet now like inspector Reno they are shocked shocked to find out but I think their main shock is that they’re now starting to lose market share in foreign countries these these moguls as you call them pass themselves off as libertarians who they make a big pretence about being libertarians and believing in the rugged individualism and so forth but they’ve been every bit as intrusive as the NSA has been in terms of collecting your data for commercial purposes rather than so-called national security purposes but they’re in it just as heavily as the NSA is and they somehow managed to get the intellectual property laws rigged so that you are theoretically subject to a fine up to five hundred thousand dollars for jailbreaking your phone to me which means if you don’t like the carrier on your phone that the manufacturer dictates you shall have and you change it without authorization you don’t have the right to something you bought could this symbiotic and actual relationship between Silicon Valley and the government reflecting the deep state explain the indulgence Washington has shown Silicon Valley Oh matters of intellectual property absolutely people no longer necessarily own their property that they buy if they’re buying it from Silicon Valley they simply have a kind of lease on it if as you write the ideologies of the deep state is not democrat or republican not left or right what is it it’s an ideology I just don’t think we’ve named it it’s a kind of corporatism now the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues they pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters but they hold it very deep ideology of the Washington Consensus at home which is deregulation outsourcing deindustrialization and financialization and they believe in American exceptionalism abroad which is boots on the ground everywhere it’s our right to meddle everywhere in the world and the result of that is perpetual war you see it is shadowy and more ill-defined more ill-defined than what it’s more ill-defined than simply saying Wall Street or saying the military-industrial complex or saying Silicon Valley or the corporations it’s a symbiosis of all of the above here’s your summing up quote as long as appropriations bills get passed on time promotion lists get confirmed black or secret budgets get rubber-stamped special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy as long as too many awkward questions are not asked the gears of the hybrid state will mesh noiselessly is that the ideology that is a government within a government that operates off the visible government and operates off the taxpayers but it doesn’t seem to be constrained in a constitutional sense by the government is there a solution to the way the system works in I think we’re starting to see some discord in the ideology of the factions that make up the deep state we’re seeing Silicon Valley jumps ship they are starting protests against the NSA we’re seeing the Tea Party bailing out against the deep state they may be wrong on many economic issues but I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong on this one so the public could be doing wise I think they are there’s a much more vivid debate going on in the country about surveillance ever since the revelations by Edward Snowden Mike Lofgren thank you very much for being with me thanks to the journalist Lee Fang we have another revelation into how the deep state enterprise works writing for the Republic report a nonpartisan nonprofit that investigates money in politics he takes up that controversial trade deal called the trans-pacific partnership that President Obama is trying to push through Congress with minimum debate and no amendments controversial because some of its provisions reportedly enable corporate power to trump representative government even go around domestic courts and local laws one is said to prevent governments from enacting safeguards against another bank crisis another to empower corporations to sue governments for compensation if save environmental protections or regulations on tobacco and drugs interfered with future profits because of the secrecy we don’t know everything that’s in the draft agreement senator Elizabeth Warren calls it a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on which brings us to two officials chosen by President Obama to lead those trade negotiations leafing reports that they received multi-million dollar bonuses as they left giant financial firms to join the government Bank of America gave this man Stephan Selig more than nine million dollars in bonus pay as he was nominated to become the Undersecretary of Commerce for international trade and this man Michael Froman got over four million dollars when he left Citigroup to become the current US Trade Representative now both are no doubt honorable men they are all honorable men but when push comes to shove and the financial interest of huge corporations are on the table we can only hope they will act as independent men not faithful servants of the deep state but given the secrecy we may never know according to Lee Fang many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy give executives bonuses and other incentive pay they take jobs within the government among them Goldman Sachs Morgan Stanley JP Morgan Chase the Blackstone Group Fannie Mae Northern Trust Citigroup even provides an executive contract that Awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a full-time high-level position with the US government or regulatory body I’m not making this up you get a bigger incentive if you leave Wall Street to go regulate Wall Street so it is the Fox is groomed for the chicken coop and the deep state grows coming up on Moyers & Company a powerful new book breaks the code of dog-whistle politics dog-whistle politics doesn’t come out of animus at all it doesn’t come out of some desire to hurt minorities it comes out of a desire to win votes and in that sense I want to start using the term strategic racism it’s racism as a strategy it’s cold it’s calculating it’s considered it’s the decision to achieve one’s own ends here winning votes by stirring racial animosity and and here’s a hard difficult truth most racists are good people they’re not sick they’re not ruled by anger or raw emotion or hatred they are complicated people reared in complicated societies they’re fully capable of generosity of empathy of real kindness but because of the idea systems in which they are reared they’re also capable of dehumanizing others and occasionally of brutal violence at our website remember to read the complete text of my Clough goons essay anatomy of the deep state and then tell us what you think I’ll see you don’t wait a week to get more moyers visit for exclusive blogs funding is provided by and gumowitz encouraging the renewal of democracy Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrating 100 years of philanthropy and committed to doing real and permanent good in the world the Ford Foundation working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide the Herb Alpert foundation supporting organizations whose mission is to promote compassion and creativity in our society the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation committed to building a more just verdant and peaceful world more information at Park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues the Kohlberg foundation barbra jean– Fleischman and by our sole corporate sponsor mutual of America designing customized individual and group retirement products that’s why

The First Iraq War Was Also Sold to the Public Based on a Pack of Lies

Polls suggest that Americans tend to differentiate between our “good war” in Iraq — “Operation Desert Storm,” launched by George HW Bush in 1990 — and the “mistake” his son made in 2003.

Across the ideological spectrum, there’s broad agreement that the first Gulf War was “worth fighting.” The opposite is true of the 2003 invasion, and a big reason for those divergent views was captured in a 2013 CNN poll that found that “a majority of Americans (54%) say that prior to the start of the war the administration of George W. Bush deliberately misled the U.S. public about whether Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction.”

But as the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to urge the US to once again commit troops to Iraq, it’s important to recall that the first Gulf War was sold to the public on a pack of lies that were just as egregious as those told by the second Bush administration 12 years later.

The Lie of an Expansionist Iraq

Most countries condemned Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But the truth — that it was the culmination of a series of tangled economic and historical conflicts between two Arab oil states — wasn’t likely to sell the US public on the idea of sending our troops halfway around the world to do something about it.

So we were given a variation of the “domino theory.” Saddam Hussein, we were told, had designs on the entire Middle East. If he wasn’t halted in Kuwait, his troops would just keep going into other countries.

As Scott Peterson reported for The Christian Science Monitor in 2002, a key part of the first Bush administration’s case “was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia. Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid-September [of 1990]  that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.”

A quarter of a million troops with heavy armor amassed on the Saudi border certainly seemed like a clear sign of hostile intent. In announcing that he had deployed troops to the Gulf in August 1990, George HW Bush said, “I took this action to assist the Saudi Arabian Government in the defense of its homeland.” He asked the American people for their “support in a decision I’ve made to stand up for what’s right and condemn what’s wrong, all in the cause of peace.”

But one reporter — Jean Heller of the St. Petersburg Times — wasn’t satisfied taking the administration’s claims at face value. She obtained two commercial satellite images of the area taken at the exact same time that American intelligence supposedly had found Saddam’s huge and menacing army and found nothing there but empty desert.

She contacted the office of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney “for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis offering to hold the story if proven wrong.” But “the official response” was: “Trust us.”

Heller later told the Monitor’s Scott Peterson that the Iraqi buildup on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia “was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn’t exist.”

Dead Babies, Courtesy of a New York PR Firm

Military occupations are always brutal, and Iraq’s six-month occupation of Kuwait was no exception. But because Americans didn’t have an abundance of affection for Kuwait, a case had to be built that the Iraqi army was guilty of nothing less than Nazi-level atrocities.

That’s where a hearing held by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990 played a major role in making the case for war.

A young woman who gave only her first name, Nayira, testified that she had been a volunteer at Kuwait’s al-Adan hospital, where she had seen Iraqi troops rip scores of babies out of incubators, leaving them “to die on the cold floor.” Between tears, she described the incident as “horrifying.”

Her account was a bombshell. Portions of her testimony were aired that evening on ABC’s “Nightline” and NBC’s “Nightly News.” Seven US senators cited her testimony in speeches urging Americans to support the war, and George HW Bush repeated the story on 10 separate occasions in the weeks that followed.

In 2002, Tom Regan wrote about his own family’s response to the story for The Christian Science Monitor:

I can still recall my brother Sean’s face. It was bright red. Furious. Not one given to fits of temper, Sean was in an uproar. He was a father, and he had just heard that Iraqi soldiers had taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City and left them to die. The Iraqis had shipped the incubators back to Baghdad. A pacifist by nature, my brother was not in a peaceful mood that day. “We’ve got to go and get Saddam Hussein. Now,” he said passionately.

Subsequent investigations by Amnesty Internationala division of Human Rights Watch and independent journalists would show that the story was entirely bogus — a crucial piece of war propaganda the American media swallowed hook, line and sinker. Iraqi troops had looted Kuwaiti hospitals, but the gruesome image of babies dying on the floor was a fabrication.

In 1992, John MacArthur revealed in The New York Times that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the US. Her testimony had been organized by a group called Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was a front for the Kuwaiti government.

Tom Regan reported that Citizens for a Free Kuwait hired Hill & Knowlton, a New York-based PR firm that had previously spun for the tobacco industry and a number of governments with ugly human rights records. The company was paid “$10.7 million to devise a campaign to win American support for the war.” It was a natural fit, wrote Regan. “Craig Fuller, the firm’s president and COO, had been then-President George Bush’s chief of staff when the senior Bush had served as vice president under Ronald Reagan.”

According to Robin Andersen’s A Century of Media, a Century of War, Hill & Knowlton had spent $1 million on focus groups to determine how to get the American public behind the war, and found that focusing on “atrocities” was the most effective way to rally support for rescuing Kuwait.

Arthur Rowse reported for the Columbia Journalism Review that Hill & Knowlton sent out a video news release featuring Nayirah’s gripping testimony to 700 American television stations.

As Tom Regan noted, without the atrocities, the idea of committing American blood and treasure to save Kuwait just “wasn’t an easy sell.”

Only a few weeks before the invasion, Amnesty International accused the Kuwaiti government of jailing dozens of dissidents and torturing them without trial. In an effort to spruce up the Kuwait image, the company organized Kuwait Information Day on 20 college campuses, a national day of prayer for Kuwait, distributed thousands of “Free Kuwait” bumper stickers, and other similar traditional PR ventures. But none of it was working very well. American public support remained lukewarm the first two months.

That would change as stories about Saddam’s baby-killing troops were splashed across front pages across the country.

Saddam Was Irrational

Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait was just as illegal as the US invasion that would ultimately oust him 13 years later — it was neither an act of self-defense, nor did the UN Security Council authorize it.

But it can be argued that Iraq had significantly more justification for its attack.

Kuwait had been a close ally of Iraq, and a top financier of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980, which, as The New York Times reported, occurred after “Iran’s revolutionary government tried to assassinate Iraqi officials, conducted repeated border raids and tried to topple Mr. Hussein by fomenting unrest within Iraq.”

Saddam Hussein felt that Kuwait should forgive part of his regime’s war debt because he had halted the “expansionist plans of Iranian interests” not only on behalf of his own country, but in defense of the other Gulf Arab states as well.

After an oil glut knocked out about two-thirds of the value of a barrel of crude oil between 1980 and 1986, Iraq appealed to OPEC to limit crude oil production in order to raise prices — with oil as low as $10 per barrel, the government was struggling to pay its debts. But Kuwait not only resisted those efforts — and asked OPEC to increase its quotas by 50 percent instead — for much of the 1980s it also had maintained its own production well above OPEC’s mandatory quota. According to a study by energy economist Mamdouh Salameh, “between 1985 and 1989, Iraq lost US$14 billion a year due to Kuwait’s oil price strategy,” and “Kuwait’s refusal to decrease its oil production was viewed by Iraq as an act of aggression against it.”

There were additional disputes between the two countries centering on Kuwait’s exploitation of the Rumaila oil fields, which straddled the border between the two countries. Kuwait was accused of using a technique known as “slant-drilling” to siphon off oil from the Iraqi side.

None of this justifies Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. But a longstanding and complex dispute between two undemocratic petrostates wasn’t likely to inspire Americans to accept the loss of their sons and daughters in a distant fight.

So instead, George HW Bush told the public that Iraq’s invasion was “without provocation or warning,” and that “there is no justification whatsoever for this outrageous and brutal act of aggression.” He added: “Given the Iraqi government’s history of aggression against its own citizens as well as its neighbors, to assume Iraq will not attack again would be unwise and unrealistic.”

Ultimately, these longstanding disputes between Iraq and Kuwait got considerably less attention in the American media than did tales of Kuwaiti babies being ripped out of incubators by Saddam’s stormtroopers.

Saddam Was “Unstoppable”

A crucial diplomatic error on the part of the first Bush administration left Saddam Hussein with the impression that the US government had little interest in Iraq’s conflict with Kuwait. But that didn’t fit into the narrative that the Iraqi dictator was an irrational maniac bent on regional domination. So there was a concerted effort to deny that the US government had ever had a chance to deter his aggression through diplomatic means — and even to paint those who said otherwise as conspiracy theorists.

As John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Stephen Walt wrote in 2003, “Saddam reportedly decided on war sometime in July 1990, but before sending his army into Kuwait, he approached the United States to find out how it would react.”

In a now famous interview with the Iraqi leader, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, “[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” The U.S. State Department had earlier told Saddam that Washington had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” The United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did.

Exactly what was said during the meeting has been a source of some controversy. Accounts differ. According to a transcript released by the Iraqi government, Glaspie told Hussein, ” I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country.”

I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60’s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.

Leslie Gelb of The New York Times reported that Glaspie told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the transcript was inaccurate “and insisted she had been tough.” But that account was contradicted when diplomatic cables between Baghdad and Washington were released. As Gelb described it, “The State Department instructed Ms. Glaspie to give the Iraqis a conciliatory message punctuated with a few indirect but significant warnings,” but “Ms. Glaspie apparently omitted the warnings and simply slobbered all over Saddam in their meeting on July 25, while the Iraqi dictator threatened Kuwait anew.”

There is no dispute about one crucially important point: Saddam Hussein consulted with the US before invading, and our ambassador chose not to draw a line in the sand, or even hint that the invasion might be grounds for the US to go to war.

The most generous interpretation is that each side badly misjudged the other. Hussein ordered the attack on Kuwait confident that the US would only issue verbal condemnations. As for Glaspie, she later told The New York Times, ”Obviously, I didn’t think — and nobody else did — that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.”

Fool Me Once…

The first Gulf War was sold on a mountain of war propaganda. It took a campaign worthy of George Orwell to convince Americans that our erstwhile ally Saddam Hussein — whom the US had aided in his war with Iran as late as 1988 — had become an irrational monster by 1990.

Twelve years later, the second invasion of Iraq was premised on Hussein’s supposed cooperation with al Qaeda, vials of anthrax, Nigerian yellowcake and claims that Iraq had missiles poised to strike British territory in little as 45 minutes.

Now, eleven years later, as Bill Moyers put it last week, “the very same armchair warriors in Washington who from the safety of their Beltway bunkers called for invading Baghdad, are demanding once again that America plunge into the sectarian wars of the Middle East.” It’s vital that we keep our history in Iraq in mind, and apply some healthy skepticism to the claims they offer us this time around.

Joshua Holland was a senior digital producer for and now writes for The Nation. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @JoshuaHol.