President Blowback: How the Invasion of Iraq Came Home

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US Army soldiers move toward their next watch location in Baqubah, Iraq, June 19, 2007. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Christopher Hubenthal / US Air Force)

If you want to know where President Donald Trump came from, if you want to trace the long winding road (or escalator) that brought him to the Oval Office, don’t look to reality TV or Twitter or even the rise of the alt-right. Look someplace far more improbable: Iraq.

Donald Trump may have been born in New York City.  He may have grown to manhood amid his hometown’s real estate wars.  He may have gone no further than Atlantic City, New Jersey, to casino-ize the world and create those magical golden letters that would become the essence of his brand.  He may have made an even more magical leap to television without leaving home, turning “You’re fired!” into a household phrase.  Still, his presidency is another matter entirely. 

Despite his denials that he was ever in favor of the 2003 invasion of that country, Donald Trump is a president made by war.  His elevation to the highest office in the land is inconceivable without that invasion, which began in glory and ended (if ended it ever did) in infamy.  He’s the president of a land remade by war in ways its people have yet to absorb.  Admittedly, he avoided war in his personal life entirely.  He was, after all, a Vietnam no-show.  And yet he’s the president that war brought home.  Think of him not as President Blowhard but as President Blowback.

“Go Massive. Sweep It All Up”

To grasp this, a little escalator ride down memory lane is necessary — all the way back to 9/11; to, that is, the grimmest day in our recent history.  There’s no other way to recall just how gloriously it all began than amid the rubble.  You could, if you wanted, choose the moment three days after the World Trade Center towers collapsed when, bullhorn in hand, President George W. Bush ascended part of that rubble pile in downtown Manhattan, put his arm around a firefighter, and shouted into a…

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