On February 18, the documentary Hubris: Selling the Iraq War was aired on NBC News. It offered a number of new insights about how President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, the CAI, and others in Washington scammed the American public into supporting an unjust war that cost over $3 trillion dollars and that lead to the deaths of 4486 American soldiers and 32,226 others who came home with devastating injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSDs), from which many of them are still suffering. While most New Mexicans went along for that ruse that was justified largely on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction that he could share with terrorists, many there had reasons to feel even more upset, mournful, and – well – disenchanted with leadership in Washington. Why? There are two reasons.
First of all, New Mexico has for many years had a very heavy military presence. Currently, 172,085 veterans live in the state, nearly a third of whom (48,836) fought in Gulf War Era conflicts, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation New Dawn. According to the Veterans Administration, over one trillion dollars was spent last year to help New Mexican wounded warriors and other vets with such expenses as medical care and housing. The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services has been very active in providing assistance to all veterans of the Gulf Era Conflicts, such as property tax relief, state income tax relief, and scholarships. 78 New Mexicans have paid the ultimate price while defending our country in the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than one million American veterans are Hispanic, and nearly 50,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. 25,000 served in the Persian Gulf War. In addition, nearly 10,000 Mexican Americans fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War, and nearly a half million Hispanics served in the armed forces during World War II, according to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Charles Abell.
Currently there are four military bases in the state, including Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, Cannon AFB near Clovis, and White Sands Army Missile Range in southern New Mexico, which is the largest military base in the country.
The second reason for the heightened interest by New Mexicans in how we went to war in Iraq is the belief held by many of the state’s residents that that war led directly to our involvement in the Afghanistan War as well as the spread of militant Al-Qaida-type activities in Africa and the rest of the Middle East. All of those have sped up the development of drone technology, which is centered in this state. Holloman AFB is the U.S. Air Force’s primary training center for drone operators. “Pilots spend their days in trailers near a runway from which their planes take off without them. Inside each trailer, a pilot flies his plane from a padded chair, using a joystick and throttle, as his partner, the ‘sensor operator,’ focuses on the grainy images moving across a video screen, directing missiles to their targets with a laser,” according to a New Your Times article, The Drone Zone.
Another article graphically describes the psychological misery often inflicted on many of the drone navigators. Said one Holloman trainer, “There was good reason for killing the people that I did, and I go through it in my head over and over and over. But you never forget about it. It never just fades away, I don’t think — not for me…“You see them wake up in the morning, do their work, go to sleep at night.” Another trainer said, “They [the drone pilots] watch this guy do bad things and then his regular old life things. At some point, some of the stuff might remind you of stuff you did yourself. You might gain a level of familiarity that makes it a little difficult to pull the trigger.”
As one person recently reminded his readers in his op-ed piece Drone Attacks Aren’t Who We Are in the Albuquerque Journal that it’s OK for drones to kill even Americans, including at least one deceased New Mexican, Anwar al-Awlaki, the Muslim cleric who planned and incited terrorist attacks in the United States. To quote the writer, “No one weeps for this man. Yet it is possible to be glad the planet is rid of him and yet, deeply concerned about the means used to achieve that goal.”
All Americans should watch the documentary to learn that every single reason used to sell the U.S. on war with Iraq was built on lies --- from Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaeda, to his alleged mobile chemical labs, to his alleged nuke program, to those aluminum tubes said to have been for use in uranium enrichment, to the yellowcake he was said to have been trying to obtain from Niger.
To view a special tribute by the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services to these fallen heroes, click here. If we do not understand what happened, then we are doomed to repeat it. That means more dead US soldiers, more grieving mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands. More filled graves in Santa Fe’s military cemetery, the final resting place of nearly 40,000 veterans of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam, and the Gulf wars.
Hubris: Selling the Iraq War re-airs on MSNBC on Friday, March 15. Watch parts of it here.