The MSNBC documentary Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War tells the story of how an American presidential administration expanded the power of the executive branch, and deceived America into a war.
Hubris begins by bearing a striking resemblance to the excellent 2008 PBS Frontline two part series titled Bush’s War.
Here is Part 1 of Bush’s War:
1998 letter from the neo-cons eager to invade Iraq that laid out their strategy to then President Bill Clinton,
Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.When George W. Bush became president neo-cons filled his cabinet, and almost immediately they started looking for an excuse to go war with Iraq.
We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.
The new interview footage with some of the players ten years later makes this documentary special, but this is a story that should be told more often than once every five years.
Ten years later, the nation is still dealing with the consequences of the invasion of Iraq. The recent criticisms of drone warfare often leaves out the fact that the reason why the executive branch has expanded power is because Congress failed to act as a check on George W. Bush. Republicans and Democrats, by an overwhelming margin in the Senate and House, gave George W. Bush a blank check expansion of executive powers that will forever be cashed. (One thing that partisans on both sides of aisle often forget is that once power is expanded and the precedent is set, there are no givebacks.)
After 9/11, the Bush administration governed by fear. Their fear based politics took the country into a very dark place that led to preemptive war, torture, and domestic spying on American citizens among other things. In some ways, Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War is mistitled. How the war on Iraq was sold to the country functions more as a subplot. Instead, Hubris is documentary about how the Bush administration built a web of lies that allowed them to take the nation into an war that was unrelated to 9/11.
We should never question or demean the sacrifice of the nearly 4,500 Americans who died and the 100,000+ who were wounded in Iraq, but the nation should never forget the lessons learned from how the Bush administration was able to create the disingenuous impressions required to justify the invasion of Iraq.
This documentary reminds us that Presidents Day isn’t only about celebrating great presidents. It is also a day to remember that misused presidential power does grave damage to our nation.
Watch Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War.