This week marks ten years since American forces invaded Iraq with the campaign memorably dubbed “Shock and Awe”, a pair of nouns–or were they verbs?–characteristic of Hollywood action-flick formulas. It’s still unclear whether the name was meant to intimidate Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein (who did go underground) or merely boost TV ratings, which predictably soared. But rising Nielsen scores turned out to be the only predictable aspect of the mission. Launched under the gossamer pretense that Iraq’s weapons development had advanced to the point of becoming an imminent threat to US security–a pretense proven, not quite unfortunately, erroneous–the invasion became a fraught occupation. Its name morphed into something hopeful and more vague: Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The stars of “Shock and Awe” have now mostly exited the stage: Wolfowitz, the preening Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Tommy Franks, John Yoo, Paul Bremer, even Colin Powell (he of the specious UN presentation of evidence) are out of the spotlight. Hans Blix, the circumspect UN weapons inspector, is a name never heard. Hussein and his sons are dead. But the machine runs still. John Kerry, who as a senator voted to authorize the invasion, is the new US Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton, who voted the same way. In fact even ten years on most of the senators who voted to send the soldiers in still have their leather-seated swivel chairs in Washington, helpful accoutrement for the popular post-war election cycle maneuver called “About Face.”