As a history major, I have often wondered how the history books will tell the story of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and the lies that held the two together. While flipping through my U.S. history book this week, I got a glimpse of just that. Immediately to the right of an article called “The Terrorist Attack on America,” I saw a full-page color photo of American troops tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein. The caption next to the photo reads, “U.S. troops move into the center of Baghdad. A statue of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein is seen in the background. The statue was later toppled by troops and dragged through the streets by the Iraqi citizenry.”
When I finished reading this caption, I was perplexed. “The Terrorist Attack on America” occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 (duh). America didn’t send troops to Iraq until 2003. The book, although republished in 2006, only discussed events through 2002. So why on earth would a history textbook (written by History Ph.D.s) allow this photo to be placed next to an article about Sept. 11? The book doesn’t even mention the Iraq war.
We have known since Oct. 2003 that there was no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Studying this book today, it is easy to point out this obvious flaw with the chapter’s design. But what would a historian of the future consulting this book think? Would he assume Saddam Hussein was responsible for ordering the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11? It’s impossible to answer any of these questions just from looking at the book. But, the fact is that this photo is found on a page in a history book next to an unrelated article, with no explanation for the reader. Whether it was intentionally or ignorantly placed there is debatable, but it stands out as a staunch reminder of the misinformation campaign spearheaded by the Bush Administration and its allies in the media in the months leading up to the war in Iraq.
In Oct. 2004, 52 percent of Americans believed Iraq was either directly involved in the Sept. 11 attacks or substantially supported Al Qaeda. Even though Congress’s own Sept. 11 commission reported that there was “no compelling case” for a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, as of March 2006, that number only fell to 49 percent.
How are we still misinformed and why? Why were conservatives and liberals alike ready to dismiss Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” as propaganda, but still trust the Bush administration after its hypothesis connecting Iraq to Al Qaeda proved to be based, at best, on weak evidence ? It’s sad that this particular history book – which should be a source of clarity – is perpetuating the confusion surrounding our recent history in the Middle East.
But even if we can’t agree on the causes of the Iraq War, the effects are indisputable. Since the start of the war in March 2003, America has spent and approved to spend $435 billion of taxpayers’ money. It has lost 2,452 troops, more than half of whom were younger than 25 years old, and 18,088 have been wounded. The number of daily insurgent attacks has risen from 14 in Feb. 2004 to 75 in May 2006. The United States has not trained a single Iraqi troop to fight without significant American support. Two-thirds of Iraqis feel less secure because of the American occupation. Seventy-one percent rarely have clean drinking water. The average home in Baghdad has only four hours of electricity per day, which is less than 25 percent of the pre-invasion level.
While the nation appears to be slowly waking up – Bush’s approval rating now hovers around 30 percent – we still have not seen the full consequences of this administration’s mismanagement of the nation. Let’s hope future history books will get it right.
Davidson is the current Editor in Chief. He can be reached at email@example.com.