In President George W. Bush’s speech preceding the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq, he told Americans that “the danger is clear,” and “the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.”
He also invoked the horrors inflicted on the Iraqi people by its government, and directly addressed the Iraqi people, pledging that he would help them.
Despite these reassuring words, the Iraq Body Count project says over 200,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, and much of the nation’s infrastructure and cultural heritage destroyed, as a direct result of the eight year-long Iraq War and occupation.
In Trump’s speech on the decision to conduct an airstrike in Syria on April 13, he similarly refers to the Syrian civilians whose lives have been devastated by the Syrian Civil War.
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air,” Trump said of the Assad regime’s usage of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.
Trump’s words about his concern for Syrian people ring false when, under his administration, a shocking number of 11 Syrian refugees have been accepted so far this year.
According to the State Department, the U.S. under the Obama Administration admitted 15,479 Syrian refugees from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016.
This administration’s policies have also been heavily toned by xenophobia and racism (See: Executive Order 13769, also known as The Muslim Ban.)
We can, and should, look to history when it comes to evaluating the actions our government takes in other countries for our supposed safety, the destruction and death it so frequently inflicts in our name, the “us against the world” narrative it perpetuates.
As citizens of this country, we are complicit in its atrocities, and when we know its actions disregard human life, we must challenge them.
We cannot plead ignorance, and we cannot pretend that everything our government does is above analysis and criticism.
As the Chilcot Report — the UK government’s 2016 report on the Iraq War — puts it, “It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.”