On October 10, 2002 I was driving the family during a short vacation at Yosemite National Park. Indifferent to the family's holiday disposition, I scanned the radio for the best AM reception in the middle of the sparsely populated California valley trying to follow the US House of Representatives' debate on authorizing force against Iraq.
I listened to House members pontificating on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the US. Speaker after speaker presaged the spread of democracy throughout the "new" Middle East. They promised that unlike Afghanistan, this war would be "self-financed".
Baghdad fell on April 9, less than three weeks after the start of war. Buoyant by the bogus victory, a CNN and USA Today Gallup poll in May 2003 found that 79 per cent of Americans thought the Iraq war was justified, "with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons".
On May 1, President George W Bush gave a premature "mission accomplished" speech onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. At about the same time, I participated in an antiwar teach-in panel at the University of California, in San Diego. Unlike the president, I argued the war was actually just starting – not ending – and I used the analogy of the 1982 Israeli occupation of Beirut.
After Israel's "victory" and the departure of Palestine Liberation Organization forces, new more hardened fighters started to emerge from the ruins of destroyed buildings.
The American public went through a tough orientation course to become familiar with the names of new rebel groups at the cost of 200 US soldiers, hostage crises and the Iran contra affair – events attributed directly to Israel's war. The Zionist conservatives' flawed regime change philosophy failed in 1982 when Israel forced the election of a right wing militia leader in Beirut. President-elect Bachir Jumayyil was assassinated less than a month later. Israel was forced to abandon Lebanon, leaving behind a more determined resistance than the one it came to crush in 1982.
Likewise, I predicted that conquering Baghdad and the demise of Saddam Hussein would give birth to anarchy and new resilient fighters united against foreign occupation.
The US left Iraq broken into three bona fide sub-states, 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, 4,500 young Americans lost their lives and 32,000 army personnel were wounded.
In financial terms, Harvard University published a study last month estimating the ultimate cost of Bush's wars at $4 to $6 trillion.
The authors concluded that "the most significant challenges to future US national security policy" were simply "coping with the legacy" of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In an ABC poll last month, only 19pc of the American public believed the Iraqi expedition to be worth the cost.
Among those still supporting the invasion are the same pundits who promoted the war for years. In 1998, long before 9/11, Zionist conservatives Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams and John Bolton wrote a letter to then president Bill Clinton urging him to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.
The same four became high level officials in the Bush administration and formed a cabal to turn their 1998 project into reality.
Perle, the godfather of Zionist conservatives, was asked recently if the Iraq war was worth it.
He responded that it "was necessary to protect this nation", although "this nation" he referred to may well be Israel – since Zionist conservatives in US administrations seek to exploit America's might to destroy Israel's supposed enemies.
Their "democracy" has left Iraq with an Israeli style, ethnocentric, elected dictatorship.
WMDs were simply a mirage and their "self-financed" war has mortgaged the wealth of future American generations.
* Mr Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of "Children of Catastrophe," Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.