Published: March 17, 2021

In the last few days, the approach of the big storm elicited lots of references to that massive snowfall eighteen years ago. But I have waited in vain, wondering if anyone would mention the historical event that took place thousands of miles away, as the snow fell here in 2003.

Maybe, in hundreds of homes along the Front Range, people have been saying to each other, “Remember back in 2003, we would shovel for a while, and then we’d go inside to check the news?”

Well, maybe not.

Probably anyone reading or listening to me now is wondering, “What on earth is she talking about?”

We’re about to get to that.

On March 17, 2003, an enormous snowstorm started and continued for several days. My husband Jeff Limerick and I were in his hometown, Sacramento, California, visiting his family and friends. We were hearing news of a major storm hitting Colorado, and we wondered whether our flight home would be canceled.  Our plane turned out to be one of the last to land at DIA, and a very resourceful and determined airport shuttle driver explored back routes to Boulder, since the Turnpike was shut down, with cars stuck and stalled everywhere.

So we got home, and we started shoveling snow that was remarkably dense and heavy, which continued falling through March 19.

On March 19, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq.

As an American historian, I could not see the future, but I knew enough about the past to worry about the long-range outcome of the invasion.

Living under the rule of Saddam Hussein was unmistakably a calamity for millions. But when American leaders said that the Iraqi people would welcome the Americans as “liberators,” I could only think, “I wouldn’t bet on that.”

On March 19, 2003, when I got tired of shoveling snow, I would go back to listening to the reports on the invasion, delivered by “embedded” journalists on National Public Radio.

And I would get more and more worried as I listened to the nation’s leaders make statements of confidence and optimism that seemed to me, doubtful and naïve.

And I would then return to shoveling.

As I wrote these words this last weekend, the air was so filled with falling snow that visibility in my neighborhood was very limited.

When I thought about the consequences of American interventions in the Middle East, visibility seemed even more limited than I had found it to be back in 2003.

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