I remember Colin Powell’s presentation very vividly. I guess the memory is typical for what has been labelled a flash bulb memory. I remember his face on my old TV, while I stood in the middle of my small room. I remember that hearing and seeing him talk, taking in what he said, I felt unwell. I couldn’t believe that Powell was doing Bush’s dirty work, selling a clearly untrue story to the world. Later, I was amazed that in the media, other important people said that Powell’s presentation should be taken seriously. Should be taken as an honest attempt to convey truth.
My own immediate association was, because of the context of the UN, with the Mukden incident, which had a great public aftermath before the League of Nations. (The League of Nations was of course the forerunner of the UN, and as an international institution, as powerless to oppose powerful nations as the UN is today). The Mukden incident was the pretext for Japan to invade and occupy northeastern China in 1931. The Mukden incident was a staged terrorist attack on a railway, staged by members of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was exposed pretty quickly, and in March 1933 Japan withdrew from the League of Nations, simply ignoring the international community.
After having seen Powell, I was so amazed that in the media there seemed to be nobody who was allowed to explain how Powell’s presentation probably was little more than propaganda. There seemed to be nobody to point out that all through history powerful nations used pretexts to do what they wanted all along. That this looked exactly like yet another instance. Instead, my own government decided even to offer military support, exposing the degree to which my country was pawn of the US. I felt so ashamed about that.
At the time I already knew that Fukuyama had been wrong. History didn’t end. Liberal democracies didn’t win. I also knew that liberal democracies themselves weren’t perfect. However, after Powell’s presentation, I started to wonder whether liberal democracies weren’t simply imperfect, but perhaps really substantially corrupt. It all seemed like power play by the powerful, just as had always had been the case throughout history. History seemed to repeat itself in the most crude way possible. The story lines seemed to come from comic books. I remembered similar schemes from having read Tin Tin as a child. I lost hope that I could trust that my own government, let alone the United States.
1. I don’t remember exactly what kind of information I already had available at the time. For example, I remember being very disappointed that the US didn’t care if the investigators of the UN were able to finish their job, but I don’t remember if that was before or after the presentation at the UN. No matter how much information I had available, I could have been wrong. I’m inclined to think that I was able to see through the deceptions even though I had little to go on. That perhaps the deceptions were so obvious that I did’t even need
more information. But I can’t be certain of that of course. Relevant for my personal development was that very soon all my suspicions turned out to be correct. If I had been wrong, my trust in the system could have been restored. Actually the opposite has happened, and is still happening. The more documents become available, the more the Iraq war turns out to be a war that those that are in control of the US government simply wanted, at any price.