|Reese Erlich, prominent author and international journalist, discusses why he believes the United States lost the war in Iraq during a presentation at Black Hills State University last night.
While many U.S. politicians and military officials believe the country secured a victory in Iraq, international journalist and best-selling author Reese Erlich laid out a different story.
Around 70 Black Hills State University students, staff, faculty and community members attended Erlich’s talk last night. BHSU was a stop on Erlich’s national speaking tour looking at his perspective of the war in Iraq.
“In light of events in Iraq, there is a new narrative emerging out of Washington,” Erlich said. The consensus between high level Democrats and Republicans and the military elite is that although no weapons of mass destruction were found, the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein out of power and the victory achieved in Iraq, he said.
“But there is only one small problem; none of it is true,” Erlich said. “It’s just bizarre how history can be rewritten.”
The United States entered into a war built on a lie, he said. Ten years ago, when stories of suitcase bombs and terrorists and Saddam Hussein importing yellowcake uranium were emerging in the news, the government knew it wasn’t true, Erlich said noting that a memo from the head of British Intelligence confirmed it.
In the memo to then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the intelligence agent said the United States had decided to go to war with Iraq and were just looking for the right reason, Erlich said.
“We were looking for the most convincing argument to not only scare the bejesus out of the American people but win over our allies in Europe,” he said.
Weapons of mass destruction became that reason.
When deciding who won war in Iraq, Erlich said one needs to look at goals the United States hoped to achieve when invading Iraq a decade ago. Erlich described three clear goals: getting rid of Saddam Hussein and installing a pro-U.S. government; securing oil production, to pay for the war, and denying it to any country who opposed war including China, Russia and France; and long-term civility which meant a continued and expanded presence of U.S. military.
“There is a government in power that the U.S. helped install but it is friendlier to Iran than to the U.S.,” Erlich said. “At least three of the four major Shiite parties are closely aligned with Iran … By no stretch of the imagination can we say there is a pro-U.S. government in power.”
As far as oil, the Iraqis have pursued a wise policy, Erlich said. The United States has pipelines and oil fields developed by oil companies. However, Iraqis also have oil fields with Chinese, Russian and French companies as well.
“They are diversified in companies because they don’t want to be held to any one country in their relations,” Erlich said. “That is unacceptable to the U.S.”
There are currently about 300 U.S. troops in Iraq; however, there are no permanent military bases.
“On all counts of what the U.S. wanted to do and what actually happened was a defeat,” Erlich said. “Iranians have more influence without having fired a shot.”
Erlich also spent time discussing Arab Spring and how the U.S. believes the democratic uprisings throughout the Arab world are the direct result of the invasion of Iraq and the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein. Erlich, who has spent much time in the Middle East, said no one there believes Arab Spring was the result of U.S. actions.
“If anything they are highly critical of the hypocrisy of U.S. policy on Arab Spring,” he said.
Erlich also answered questions from the audience about U.S. relations with Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan and offered opinions on the growing use of drones and other military interference.
Erlich's history in journalism goes back 45 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutsche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the Global Post and Christian Science Monitor. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.
Erlich’s book, “The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis” was published in 2007. “Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba” was published in 2009. “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire” was published in 2010. He has received numerous awards, including a shared Peabody Award in 2006 as a segment producer for “Crossing East,” a radio documentary on the history of Asians in the U.S. In 2004 Erlich’s radio special “Children of War: Fighting, Dying, Surviving” won a Clarion Award.