Mark Danner: Fantasies, Delusions and Faulty Imaginations of Success in Iraq

Here is a short excerpt from an article by Mark Danner. It can be found in several locations on the Internet, but I will link to a copy posted by Tom Englehardt at

The machinations of the war industry have led America down a cruel and disparaging road. The war machine has decimated Iraq. Where once there was stability and civil discourse, now there is chaos and violence. Where once families felt secure in their neighborhoods and livelihoods, now thousands of Iraqis flee their homeland daily. They flee Iraq because the US occupation of Iraq has brought, instead of liberation, intolerable chaos, violence, and an environment where destitution and criminality prevail:
Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war -- how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes -- must see beyond what seems to be a simple rhetoric of self-justification and follow it where it leads: toward the War of Imagination that senior officials decided to fight in the spring and summer of 2002 and to whose image they clung long after reality had taken a sharply separate turn.
Since the first thrilling night of shock and awe, reported with breathless enthusiasm by the American television networks, the Iraq war has had at least two histories, that of the war itself and that of the American perception of it. As the months passed and the number of attacks in Iraq grew, the gap between those two histories opened wider and wider. And finally, for most Americans, the War of Imagination -- built of nationalistic excitement and ideological hubris and administration pronouncements about "spreading democracy" and "greetings with sweets and flowers," and then about "dead-enders" and "turning points," and finally about "staying the course" and refusing "to cut and run" -- began, under the pressure of nearly three thousand American dead and perhaps a hundred thousand or more dead Iraqis, to give way to grim reality.

The election of November 7, 2006, marks the moment when the War of Imagination decisively gave way to the war on the ground and when officials throughout the American government, not least the President himself, were forced to recognize and acknowledge a reality that much of the American public had discerned months or years before. The ideological canopy now has lifted. The study groups are at their work. Americans have come to know what they do not know. If confronted with that simple question the smiling President Ahmadinejad of Iran put to Mike Wallace last August -- "I ask you, sir, what is the American Army doing inside Iraq?" -- how many Americans could offer a clear and convincing answer?

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