Those who do not remember the past . . .

The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice. – Mark Twain



Who writes the history books now, and what do they have to say about the Iraq war? This was the question in my mind after reading an unusually fine editorial from Scripps Howard News Service. Have journalism and academia now settled on an objective view of that financial debacle? How is it being taught in the schools? Here are the worthy opening paragraphs that grabbed my attention:

The Iraq war was going to pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenues, according to senior Bush administration officials in the run-up to the U.S. invasion. When it became clear that was unlikely, the Bush administration, instead of raising taxes, as we had done in every previous war, cut them instead.
The upshot is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost U.S. taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, both in immediate costs like replacing equipment and rebuilding stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, and long-term legacy costs like caring for wounded and disabled veterans.

That’s heady stuff and it’s the truth. I do wish though that the word “trillion” would be banished. That is nowhere as meaningful as saying “four thousand billions of dollars” or even “four million times a million dollars”, both of which are equivalent. But I digress. The editorial sources a Harvard professor and researcher.

I researched the question further and was pleased to come upon a fine SALON article  on the same subject by yet another professor who also happens to be the father of a high school student and who was able to research several history texts now in use. He covers the matter much better than I could summarize it. This is analysis, not a partisan paper. I think even cynical old Mark Twain would be impressed, and I’m both heartened and frustrated by how history education is faring.  Will today’s children really absorb the lessons that are now all too clear?   Will the same mistakes be repeated?  (Shock and awe have a different meaning a decade later.)  What say you, dear reader?

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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6 Responses to Those who do not remember the past . . .

  1. Jeff says:

    Interesting article. It looks like the economic damage we did to Iraq by pushing economic policies that don’t work is completely missing from today’s textbooks, so I think it goes a bit far to say this is a treatment that the left would be happy with (although I guess he could have not mentioned them).

    I am not too hopeful, as I have recently discovered that the Mankiw textbook being used at some major 4 year colleges is just half a step up from Henry Hazlitt.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      But it’s not missing from the history books, Jeff, it’s there. The problem is whether it’s being taught and absorbed. Please read the links – you won’t be sorry. I promise.


  2. PiedType says:

    I couldn’t begin to judge the objectivity of any assessment of the Iraq war because I’m still so incensed over just about everything W. did. Will the same mistakes be repeated? Probably. Maybe not soon, but someday somebody will forget to remember …


  3. jwhester says:

    The current US Debt is $16 trillion. According to your post, those wars are responsible for more than a quarter of that debt. Yet the same people who were wrong about how to pay for that war are still out there trying to sell America on the idea that they are the best stewards of reducing the US Debt. It is a testimony to the power of salesmanship that the American people remain “sold” on an idea so far removed from historical fact.


  4. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    Let’s try to stick to the question, the history of our invasion of Iraq. We KNOW one thing for sure, that Iraq had NO WMDs when we invaded in 2003. I am assuming of course that we looked for them all over the place and found none at all. So that rational for invading Iraq was dead wrong for sure. I am also now being “told” by some, that at least the chem and bioloical ones are in Syiria!

    As to how much did that invasion and subsequent 10 year “war” cost us? I have no idea and don’t even know how to begin adding it all up. Care to guess how much WWII cost us??? I bet we can’t answer that one either in any exacting manner. If we buy a new tank today because we lost one in Iraq is that a “cost of war”, or…….? When we tally the cost of WWII today, I bet we don’t count the ramp up in defense equipment in post war America as part of that cost.

    But even the financial cost of any war is not the point for history. It is the ultimate geopolitical result of such a war, the manner in which any war affects the balance of power in the world or regions of the world that really matter. To me the jury of history is still out on that matter and no final and conclusive answers are yet KNOWN today in terms of the Iraq “War” or whatever one calls it. I personally still like the term WAR but…….? Congress sure did not declare it as such so how can it be a legal war, I wonder? Maybe it was an “eager monarch” that did it to us? See my blog on that point. Wonder if we are hanging around in Afghanistan today because of another “eager monarch” as well??? We have some “agreement” with the Afghanistan government related to post war in Afghanistan. Has the Senate ratified that agreement or did it try to ratify the one when we left Iraq? The answer to both is NO the Senate has not ratified squat in either case but you can bet your bippy each one requires American money for a long time in the future and maybe a life or two as well.

    Part of the problem is we are too close to the issue to view it with complete objectivity, Iraq I mean. See Pied above who is honest in saying he can’t do it, because……. I believe that applies to any “historian” right now, to write the history of a devisive war. If such a historian exists today, well he would have to be from……., but sure not the good ole USA.

    One final point, a straw man maybe. If Iran goes nuclear, do you think we might overfly Iraq airspace to do something about it in the next few years? Wonder if the Iraq war might affect that rather important defense planning effort, today?



  5. I do wish though that the word “trillion” would be banished. That is nowhere as meaningful as saying “four thousand billions of dollars” or even “four million times a million dollars”, both of which are equivalent.

    I like this. We still can’t imagine the reality of it, but maybe these words would remind us of that.


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