Looking back at the Iraq War
Some good articles are coming out about the horrible decisions made by the Bush Administration (and Congress), while some (the Washington Post, for example) try to gloss over and whitewash their role in the run-up to war.
McClatchy has a list of canards about the Iraq War that are still believed in Washington.
The NY Times has a strong editorial taking to task the Bush Administration, particularly the architects and sellers of the Iraq War, without ever mentioning the war-booster enthusiasm of the NY Times at the time, combined with utterly credulous reporting of every incorrect or misleading statement made in support of the war. (McClatchy did much better reporting in the run-up to war.)
James Fallows reminds us of what we were told at the time. The lies are staggering.
James Fallows also has a gloomy post on why we will learn nothing from this misadventure:
Even as I’ve been ladling out the 10-years-after installments, I have very little faith or even hope that this ruinous decision will prove “instructive” in any way. Here is why:
1) Avoidance. After Pearl Harbor, after Vietnam, after World War II, after the 9/11 attacks, even after civilian disasters like the Challenger explosion or Katrina, there were official efforts, of varying seriousness and success, to find out what had gone wrong, and why, and to yield “lessons learned.”
That hasn’t happened this time, for a lot of reasons. For the Bush Administration, there was no “failure” to be examined and explained. For the Obama Administration, the point was to “look forward not back.”
People in the media and politics who were against the war know that it can grow tiresome to keep pointing that out. Example: Barack Obama would not be president today if he had not given a speech in Chicago in October 2002, saying that he (as a mere state senator) did not oppose all wars but was against a “dumb” and “rash” war in Iraq. Listen to how he talked in those days! He denounced “the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.” Because of that speech, six years later Obama could argue that his judgment had been right, and the vastly more experienced HIllary Clinton’s had been wrong, about matters of war and peace. But there’s no percentage for him in bringing that up now.
People in the media who were for the war have, with rare and admirable exceptions, avoided looking back. The Washington Post‘s editorial page was one of the most strident pro-war voices, part of a claque creating — as I recall and noted at the time — a kind of war frenzy in the capital. There is not a word about Iraq on its editorial page today (below, but check it out for yourself). Say this for Paul Wolfowitz: While he didn’t come close on this past week’s talk shows to engaging Andrew Bacevich’s challenge [which Harper's has now opened for non-subscribers], at least he recognized Iraq as a question he would have to address. George Packer was one of several influential “liberal hawks” who were making a pro-war case in the New Yorker. I view, and viewed, that era and its choices very differently from him. (For instance he now says, “Spending a lot of time in Iraq did not make you” — meaning himself — “more keenly aware of America’s larger strategic interests. It rendered you less likely to ask the essential questions about the inception of the war.”) But I am glad he addresses the issue today.
2) The ‘continuous present’ Our friend Mike Lofgren argues in the Huffington Post that all factions in politics and the media have not simply “failed” to learn. They live in a system that rewards not learning. For instance, he says: . . .