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August 21, 2010

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I didn't click thru to the post but...
Is the McMegan block quote in English?
It reads as if it went thru the Pseudo-Psych-Random-Phrase-Scrambler, or something.

Usually she's at least coherent, if mostly wrong, in her wrongness.

@efgoldman: same reaction here.

"Wrong? Right? For the right reasons? For the wrong reasons? It's all a mixed word salad. Want some pink Himalayan salt on that?"

I guess that's what happens when you have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on your hands, a record of war criminality you supported, and the stink of failure in your nostrils.

I mentioned this over at TiO, but I do think that we make a fetishism of resisting the common wisdom and carving out a niche where we can be seen as boldly resisting the crowd, which Yglesias insightfully describes as the 'fake-dissident' pose. Unfortunately, as Vonnegut observed and as the McCurdle excerpt reveals, you are what you pretend to be, so you have to be careful about what you pretend you are.

Unfortunately, as Vonnegut observed and as the McCurdle excerpt reveals, you are what you pretend to be, so you have to be careful about what you pretend you are.

Or at least be able to keep your story straight.

Everybody wants to be Galileo; nobody wants to be the pope. Of course, if that actually worked out, there would be no such thing as Galileo.

if we ignore McArdle, will she go away ?

I generally try, but wound up reading the non-apologia linked above after the amusing/depressing gin and tacos dissection of a pre-war post of hers on Iraq, and the contrast with Yglesias' genuine self-awareness was too strong not to mention.

It is really remarkable that she has the position she does. I recognize a fellow quick-but-shallow thinker in her, and I don't begrudge someone the glibness and superficiality that I know is often there in my own thinking. I think there's a place for that in the world of commentary. But I don't have a position as an economics expert for a major national magazine and would never consider myself qualified for it. She and Goldberg are the reasons I won't consider re-upping my Atlantic subscription, even with the really excellent TNC over there.

Genuine self-awareness is perhaps more gold-star worthy when it doesn't require geologic timescales. Also, when there are actual consequences to being incredibly wrong and not realizing how little one actually knows then it seems more genuine. This is more reality TV navel gazing. Since MY has not accomplished anything in his life other than expressing his opinion, I'd certainly appreciate it if his humility were realistic. He made out of pundit teflon so we're never treated to "oh sorry guys, I was and am often a total bonehead, thanks for correcting me 100 times over in comments" instead of "does my blog have comments?"

I'm just a shmuck on the internet, but MattY tastes like watered down version of Andrew Sullivan 5th Column Brand Scotch and why do either of them get paid? Matt is McCardle with a brain but desperately needing a mirror that works in real time, a class-related empathy chip and an IMAGINATION SpongeBob intervention.

Shorter McArdle: If the DFH's are right, I want to be wrong.

Or, to slightly paraphrase the right-most member of a mixed pair I heard debating on NPR a week or so ago: "Of course *you* oppose bombing Iran: you're against all ill-considered military adventurism. But it's different for us Highly Serious People."

I subscribed to The Atlantic Monthly for almost thirty years. McArdle and Goldberg are the proximate reasons that I subscribe no longer.

Another is that Easterbrook is to science writing as Bill Kristol is to foreigh policy.

There would have been better-quality discourse about war, if the USA actually faced an opponent that could dish out comparable damage.

The military weakness of the USA's proposed enemies means that consequences of bad strategy decisions are almost entirely externalized.

Hogan, looking closer at both pope and Galileo one would not wish to be either (and Galileo was quite wrong about a lot of things). But as today the problem was less with these two but with the apparatus they were dependent on/subservient to.
---
Roland, it's common wisodm that this is deliberate (most clearly expressed in the so-called Ledeen Doctrine). Throw someone against the wall who can't effectively fight back on a regular basis, so you seem strong but do not suffer bad consequences (at least no bad consequences for those that made the decision).

I have compared and contrasted and I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. Is it that McArdle is right after all--that explanations from people who were wrong tell us more about how to avoid unnecessary wars than the possibly rosy tented memories of people who say they got it right?

Somehow I doubt it. The linked McArdle excerpt is from a 3 year old post defending a piece Slate did rounding up mea culpas from people who where wrong about Iraq. The critics of the Slate piece had said that nobody should care about why people got it wrong and instead we should focus on why some people got it right. I'm not sure I buy all the assertions McArdle makes in the post, but I do agree with her that there is value in understanding why people made the wrong call on Iraq. I would put the Yglesias mea culpa as exhibit A in support of that. If you disagree, I would like to know why and read your reasoning.

I have read this blog for years because I thought it did a good job making the case for (mostly liberal) policies. As someone with libertarian leanings, I didn't always agree on the policy but I usually found the arguments insightful. Please don't change that about this blog. There are already too many blogs aimed at people who already agree with the author and assume anyone who doesn't is an idiot or arguing in bad faith.

There are already too many blogs aimed at people who already agree with the author and assume anyone who doesn't is an idiot or arguing in bad faith.

Well, that's the fun of coming here--debating with people who are so right, all of the time, that you know from the beginning you will always be wrong.

Yglesia's lame-a** mea culpa is accepted with no thought whatsoever to its total absence of intellectual heft (I was young and wanted to be cool, so I voted for war). In Progressive-Land, 70% of the country was just stupid for believing GWB et al (conveniently forgetting all of the left of center pundits and politicians who also gladly led the charge). Anyone who fails after-the-fact to recant appropriately, i.e. by admitting that the anti-invasion argument was the sounder of the two is a bad faith idiot. Anyone who recants, appropriately, OTOH, is given absolution.

Of the many things that made the pro-invasion argument go south, two stand out (although there are many others). First, the Administration politicized the war and used it to mau-mau Democrats. The "Mission Accomplished" move was the epitome of this errant opportunism. Second, no WMD. Look for the sea change in thinking about the invasion and it's when we turned up empty-handed on WMD.

McKinney, speaking at a 30 year old (so a year or two older than Yglesia) - yeah, I wasn't pro-war then because I wanted to be cool, I was pro-war that while I came of age in the 90s it was pretty much a country that in my eyes bickered amongst itself, but didn't outright lie to the people.

Hey, I was young and stupid. I still remember racing home from work to listen to Colin Powell give his spiel before the U.N. because I wanted to believe.

And yeah, then I got older and wiser as the years went on - I saw how flimsy the proof was, I saw how much things were spun.

I woke up.

So yeah, anyone else who can't, after-the-fact say I got hoodwinked does deserve to have their opinion for whether we should go into future conflicts, with say Iran, double checked, as they still haven't learned the lesson that we're still paying for.

We so badly wanted to believe we were in the right that we were willing to go along with anything, endorse anything, to prove it to ourselves. Where could we trace the vectors of it to?

I say 20-odd years of conservatism and ideological conformity. When it was clear how badly in error we were, some people resorted to historicism and some odd sort of self-outing to rescue themselves from the bad faith the war was undertaken in. That's what I see happening here

So yeah, anyone else who can't, after-the-fact say I got hoodwinked does deserve to have their opinion for whether we should go into future conflicts, with say Iran, double checked, as they still haven't learned the lesson that we're still paying for.

Here's the problem: the "hoodwinked" part goes to WMD. Nothing else. Implicit in this is that if there had been WMD, the call to invade would have been correct.

On the Progressive left, it won't do for people to have been wrong at the top--they must be liars. Which begs the question: what purpose, venal or noble or in between, is served by lying the country into a war?

Yes, a number of statements made by Cheney were over the top. So too has this administration, and every other administration, overly hyped this or that position.

Was the Iraq invasion a mistake? Of course. But the same people who assured us that going into Iraq would be a mistake also assured us that pushing Saddam out of Kuwait would be equally horrific. No one has a spotless track record.

Had we found WMDs it would have been defensible - had we found what the Bush administration had sold us.

However, when the people who sold us the old war go "But this time it is really happening" I can't but help wondering how many times we're going to have to deal with the little boy crying "Wolf".

And I say that knowing the full tale, that in the end the wolf was real.

To tangent this out. It is entirely possible, that this time the "little boys" are write and that the wolf (iran with nukes) is out there. Hell, looking at the difference between how we treated Iraq and North Korea only demonstrates that it is in every nation states' best interest to be a nuclear power - if you have nuclear weapons, we'll parlay and negotiate, if you don't, we'll posture, make ultimatums, and possibly attack.

Therefore, I can say as a rational person, it is in Iran's best interest to get a nuclear weapon. And considering how we've totally flopped on our side of the NPT (you know, where we're supposed to say "sure you can have nuclear technology, and we'll even support that, you just can't have nukes"; the problem being making a nuclear weapon is so friggen easy once you have the nuclear technology, but we signed the friggen' treaty).

Could the folks who want us to bomb Iran be right?

Sure.

If they were, would the results be a good thing?

On one hand yes, I'm a nationalist enough to say I'd rather our enemies NOT have more weapons (while understanding they'd say the same about us, so the point is fairly moot).

On the other hand, based on the experiences of the last 9 or so years, the costs of low-level, ongoing, long-term conflict drastically outweigh the benefits.

In the early Oughts, I was young, stupid, and didn't realize that. Which is why there's a presumption of, if not bad faith, then ideological blindness to not at least address the costs and downsides of the conflict presented.

McNutmeg:

The extra, non-labor cost of the war is heavy on things like ordnance which we won't be expending once we control the country.

The mind, it reels.

I mean, at least Jonah Goldberg acknowledges his painfully obvious limitations: "I don't have the facts at hand and I really can't be bothered to look them up, hopefully one of my readers will do it for me, no big whoop either way, I've gotta run kthxbai."

But not McArdle: She knows, dammit. Even when what she knows doesn't particularly make any sense beyond "smelly hippies smell," she knows it.

On the Progressive left, it won't do for people to have been wrong at the top--they must be liars.

Yeah. It's so unfair.

Which begs the question: what purpose, venal or noble or in between, is served by lying the country into a war?

Truly, it is a puzzlement.

"Second, no WMD. Look for the sea change in thinking about the invasion and it's when we turned up empty-handed on WMD."

The WMD were never there. We knew that before we went in, the inspectors went to the places we said things were, and found nothing. And if the Bush administration did, as they kept insisting, have secret information about WMD, why didn't they share it with the inspectors? Because they knew it wasn't there.

But the lies weren't limited to WMD, there was a long and fairly successful effort to link Saddam and Al Queda, even though the two had been enemies, since Al Queda are extreme fundamentalists, and Saddam didn't give a crap about religion, just his own power. But the power of "both are scary brown bad guys" and Bush administration lies made people think they were linked.

And it was hardly only Cheney who lied about the WMD, it was every single administration official, from Bush, to Powell, to Condi Rice, to Cheney, to the press guys, all on down.

McKinney: are you trying to make McArdle's "right for the wrong reasons" argument in coherent language? Because that's what it reads right. Unfortunately, it;s no less silly in regular English.

Which begs the question: what purpose, venal or noble or in between, is served by lying the country into a war?

the purpose was to get the war that most of BushCo had wanted for the better part of a decade, for various reasons.

since the public wasn't interested in a New American Century or the "Ledeen doctrine" or nation-building or the great democratic domino thing, WMD was what they used to scare the public into getting on-board.

they wanted the war. 9/11 gave them a hook. and away they went.

Which begs the question: what purpose, venal or noble or in between, is served by lying the country into a war?

Thanks for asking!

Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq. Halliburton said it wold be working with Nabors Drilling and the Iraq Drilling Company. The contract needs final approval by Iraqi authorities, Halliburton said.

Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.

Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.

Sorry, I realized that I didn't cover one of your phrases - admittedly Kvetch got some of them, but I figured since I started I should continue.

Statement 1: "[I]t won't do for people to have been wrong at the top--they must be liars."

They weren't liars because they were wrong. They were liars because they cherry-picked the information to provide a one-sided story of events, provided no possibilities that they were incorrect, and did not ever note after the fact that they were incorrect.

This demonstrates, to me, that the intent was clear - provide a clear line of "facts" that provide an image free from other factors that might take away from the narrative.

"Which begs the question: what purpose, venal or noble or in between, is served by lying the country into a war?"

Many things.

1) Bush wanted to attack Iraq - We have reports from O'Neill that Bush wanted to attack Iraq before 9/11, not just on 9/11. Thus creating a narrative that ignores inconvenient facts and strengthens shaky details assists in accomplishing the preferred goals.

2) There the possibility of greed as noted above. I don't put this as a likely conscious decision as some. I prefer not to think of the leadership as quite this venal. A welcome side benefit, sure, we like it when our friends do well, but not as a primary motivator.

3) Presidents often use foreign policy as a way to shore up support at home. People will flock to the flag - I studied this a bit as an undergrad - while local policy is frequently divisive as you have many different competing interests, foreign policy it is easier for an executive to have free rein to make his mark.

Remember, Bush was elected by the slimmest of margins, and until 9/11 he was having a poor time of it on domestic issues. Therefore, a "short victorious war" (in the words of Vyacheslav von Plehve is helpful on shoring up the domestic support. Unfortunately, they forgot Lynd's words, "The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions."

4) The Republican Party's leadership likes looking powerful and strong. One of the ways to do that is by exercising physical might. Therefore, any opportunity to take advantage and do so should be grasped because it reinforces the election narrative.

shocking as it may seem to hear that the GOP would use such matters for such venal causes, they also used the war drums to confound the Democrats in the 2002 elections.

Went out for a bike ride at the gentle insistence of my beloved wife and while out tried to think of a "lie the country into war" scenario. The only one I could come up with was this: rabid neocons led by Cheney seize upon 9-11 and hype war with Iraq, not because they actually believed or cared whether there were WMD, it was enough that there was at one time. The larger neocon picture was that we would be viewed as liberators, hailed throughout the country and would lead the Middle East to everlasting, Jeffersonian democratic peace.

Most likely, some variant of the above is already well established as one of the gazillion memes re the invasion.

The problem with this is that it took a lot of conspirators, many of whom were in a position to know better, if it was reasonable to know better: Rockefeller, Gephardt, Kerry, and many others. George "Slam Dunk" Tenant in particular. Was he part of the conspiracy or just the worst CIA Director ever?

selective presentation of intelligence by the admin +
typical Democratic cowardice +
election year pressures +
9/11 =
Dems who think the war is a good idea

McKT: Well, that's the fun of coming here--debating with people who are so right, all of the time, that you know from the beginning you will always be wrong.

I don't think that "people believe that the opinions they have are true" is a unique characteristic of this blog...

--

db, my point was that the willingness to admit that certain previously-held opinions stemmed from a jerky contrarianism is extremely rare, in a world full of jerky contrarians.

The contrast is with someone who thinks it's more important to listen to those who were wrong for the right reasons than to consider the arguments of those who were right but apparently for the wrong reasons.

When I find that I've made a mistake, and that mistake came about because I dismissed the arguments of those who argued against it, my first step should be to reconsider those arguments. A lot of people who were pro-war dismissed arguments like "It will take a long time and cost a lot of money and a very large number of people will die" in favor of juvenalia about a 6 week war in which we'd be greeted as liberators. I don't think a re-examination of the juvenilia beyond "I was a jerk" is worth much, but a willingness to consider that you were wrong to dismiss pessimistic arguments about the effects of war is worthwhile.

The problem with this is that it took a lot of conspirators, many of whom were in a position to know better, if it was reasonable to know better: Rockefeller, Gephardt, Kerry, and many others.

They didn't have to be conspirators -- just cowards.

There were also quite a few Democrats in Congress who weren't buying it. But we've already established that their views are unimportant.

Was he part of the conspiracy or just the worst CIA Director ever?

I don't see them as mutually exclusive.

In Progressive-Land, 70% of the country was just stupid for believing GWB et al ...

Whereas in Conservative-Land, Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and anybody who doubted the wisdom of Dick and Dubya was a wimp and a traitor.

Give it a rest, McKinney. Some people were right, some people were wrong, and many, many people were STUPID. In the US, not in Liberal-Land.

...(conveniently forgetting all of the left of center pundits and politicians who also gladly led the charge).

What do you mean, "forgetting"? You don't interact much with actual liberals, do you?

Anyone who fails after-the-fact to recant appropriately, i.e. by admitting that the anti-invasion argument was the sounder of the two is a bad faith idiot.

Hmmmmm. An "idiot" doesn't need "bad faith". Idiots can be stupid in complete sincerity.

Anyone who recants, appropriately, OTOH, is given absolution.

Well, that's the problem with liberals, isn't it? We're willing to forgive people who admit they were wrong. What do conservatives do?

--TP

Well, that's the fun of coming here--debating with people who are so right, all of the time, that you know from the beginning you will always be wrong.

You're WRONG! ;) The fun of coming here ought to be that you actually get a debate. Yes, some commenters are dismissive, but you get lots of debate from most. If that's not the fun of coming here, why do you do it?

Yglesia's lame-a** mea culpa is accepted with no thought whatsoever to its total absence of intellectual heft

I think it's accepted because it's honest, which McArdle's isn't, particularly.

I do agree with you on one particular, although I have to parse a lot: the anti-war faction (as a whole, but with exceptions) did not have very cogent arguments against. It was a big rhetorical failure, IMO, and important. But if you choose correctly for the wrong (or vague) reasons, is that not better - on balance - than the other way around?

But I'm not so sure that there was a 'sea change' in thinking when it was clear there was no WMD (when was that, officially?). It's not clear to me that there ever was anything other than a grudging, very slow-moving change in thinking among supporters of the war (maybe you are an exception). That is sort of the point of this post! What you generally get from the right is non-mea culpa mea culpas, like McArdle's. And from you, too, frankly ('All presidents have lied, bla bla bla'). If anything, it's Liberals who are too prone to self-doubt, and the Right who can never admit to having been wrong about anything, even if it's painfully obvious. Whatever was thought privately, there was virtual political unanimity from the GOP that the invasion was better than the alternative, right up to, and including, the Surge.

Never Admit. Never Explain. Never Apologize. Effective politics, perhaps, but terrible for analysis. What good is effective politics if you screw everything up once you gain power? Or worse, if you actually *believe* your own sloganeering BS?

I don't think that "people believe that the opinions they have are true" is a unique characteristic of this blog...

I agree fully. I don't have to go very far to argue with true believers on the right. Just home at night or with friends on the weekend.

typical Democratic cowardice

Again, this is a statement of belief, not objective fact. Too many Dems were in on the argument that Saddam had WMD and was a threat, if not immediate, then down the road.

But, it just won't fit the Progressive narrative to allow for the fact that people just got it wrong. As noted above, when one disagrees with the Progressive line, the default position is, all too often, idiocy or bad faith or both.

It should go without saying, this is hardly unique to Progressives. The fundie/hard core right rolls the same way.

UK, "McNutmeg". Good one. I like that.

So, war to make money for KBR? Yeah, I should have thought of that. It seems so obvious now that you point it out to me. And HCR was just to increase gov't control over our lives. And the GM bailout was just to thank the UAW for their helpful support.

It's all special interest conspiracy.

Whereas in Conservative-Land, Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and anybody who doubted the wisdom of Dick and Dubya was a wimp and a traitor.

Give it a rest, McKinney. Some people were right, some people were wrong, and many, many people were STUPID. In the US, not in Liberal-Land.

Still with the Bush/Cheney thing. It was only them, no on else. And therein lies the problem. Belief that Saddam had WMD was widespread and supported by his overt use of gas on his own people. It wasn't something made up out of thin air.

Your point about 9-11 is correct. There was and still remains a sizable segment of the population that believes this to be true.

There is another, smaller segment that believes we went to war against Iraq to improve Halliburton's balance sheet.

People believe all kinds of things. Go figure.

You're WRONG! ;) The fun of coming here ought to be that you actually get a debate. Yes, some commenters are dismissive, but you get lots of debate from most. If that's not the fun of coming here, why do you do it?

You're right, of course. ;)

Actually, you are right.

To tangent this out. It is entirely possible, that this time the "little boys" are write and that the wolf (iran with nukes) is out there. Hell, looking at the difference between how we treated Iraq and North Korea only demonstrates that it is in every nation states' best interest to be a nuclear power - if you have nuclear weapons, we'll parlay and negotiate, if you don't, we'll posture, make ultimatums, and possibly attack.

I missed this the first time through. Your thoughts on the Iran angle are pretty much the same as mine.

There is another, smaller segment that believes we went to war against Iraq to improve Halliburton's balance sheet.

McK, I was suggesting that it was one highly plausible factor among many others (see DSF above for more). I thought that much was obvious. But if you need to make me sound like a goofball conspiracy theorist in order to score a point, there's nothing I can do about it.

Still with the Bush/Cheney thing. It was only them, no on else.

I don't really give a good goddamn if Bill Clinton or Madeline Albright or anyone else drew the wrong conclusions. Bush and Cheney occupied the White House, and it was incumbent upon them, and NOBODY ELSE, to get this exactly, 100% right. Unquestionably right. Because, seven years down the road, the consequences of getting it wrong sure look pretty frakking dire, don't they?

But, see, they told us there would BE no consequences. That we'd be in and out in a jiffy, that we'd be carried down the streets on the shoulders of the liberated, that we could do it cheaply, and that within a decade (!) it would pay for itself.

So, yeah, it was Bush/Cheney. If you want to give yourself cover for having gotten it wrong by sputtering, "B-b-b-b-but Bill Clinton!" then mazel tov.


And therein lies the problem. Belief that Saddam had WMD was widespread and supported by his overt use of gas on his own people.

Gas is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT a Weapon of Mass Desctruction. It's not. It simply is not.

No matter who used it on whom, it's not. Aum Shinrikyo released gas on multiple underground rail lines and only managed to kill 13 people.

Repeatedly bringing up "Saddam gassed his own people blaaaaaaaaargh!!!!11!" is NOT an argument in support of WMD.

It's not.

Nobody -- NOBODY -- who was in a position to know and understand truly believed that Saddam Hussein possessed REAL weapons of mass destruction: i.e., nuclear weapons.

I think the overriding reason GWB wanted war with Iraq was that he wanted to be a 'War President'. He is said to have said as much, and I find it quite credible. There were other reasons, as there always are. But I think you have to understand Bush and Rove together (rather than always Bush/Cheney), and always think in terms of domestic politics. To borrow a phrase, they were focused like a laser beam on domestic politics, always. The Iraq war was an essential part of the plan for their Permanent GOP Majority. Back to McKinley! Hoopla!

All presidents factor domestic politics into policy decisions, obviously. The difference with GWB was that it tended to be the *policy decisions* which were factored into the politics, rather than the other way around. The Bush administration had the brio and momentum of insurgents, because that's what they saw themselves as being - and is, mostly, what they were.

How did we get on this topic again?

McKinneyTexas: Still with the Bush/Cheney thing. It was only them, no on else. And therein lies the problem. Belief that Saddam had WMD was widespread and supported by his overt use of gas on his own people. It wasn't something made up out of thin air.

Let us not forget that WMD was just, in the words of Paul Wolfowitz, "the one issue that everyone could agree on..."

To my mind the almost-valid justification was the brutal, tyrannical nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. This almost convinced me. As I have written before, I came down against the war because I didn't trust the Bush administration to handle the aftermath. So, based on results my analysis was right. But what good is that? Nobody cares what I think.

Our society's problem is that we have an industry (advertizing) devoted to convincing people of things, and the highly-developed technology for this has been applied to politics. We don't have an "informed populace." This is a big danger in a world where nuclear weapons and terrorists both exist.

Repeatedly bringing up "Saddam gassed his own people blaaaaaaaaargh!!!!11!" is NOT an argument in support of WMD.

It's not.

I never lose a debate when I am sole arbiter of its terms.

You are correct, he didn't have nukes and many who supported the invasion knew this. That doesn't mean I and many others are required to accept your definition of WMD.

Further, no president should ever have to get matters 100% right. That's an insurmountable bar. Maybe a point scorer in high school debate, but not a serious policy making criteria.

UK, that was your friend McNutmeg gigging you.

JB, what you say makes sense to me up to a point. I think GWB was particularly disposed to whacking Saddam. Was it because it would give him big mojo and let there be a century of repub ascendancy or did he just not really like the SOB? I suspect more the latter than the former. For others, however, I can see them using the war bandwagon as domestic leverage, particularly after Bush I pulled off the Kuwait thing so well.

I think the overriding reason GWB wanted war with Iraq was that he wanted to be a 'War President'.

I have an acquaintance who is a staunch Republican, has worked for Republican office-holders for ages, blah blah. Not long after "we" went into Afghanistan, I had a picnic at my house for a bunch of neighbors. This woman came. She had recently been part of the planning for a visit by GWB to our fair state, and she had of course been one of the lucky ones who got to attend the event.

I can't tell you how many times, in telling people at the picnic about the event and the planning for it, she used the phrase "sitting war president." This happened because he was a "sitting war president." That had to be done a certain way because he was a "sitting war president." The other thing evolved the way it did because he was a "sitting war president." All said in a certain reverential tone that implied that he was incredibly special and important because he was a "sitting war president," and she was incredibly special and important because she in her own small way had been able to be of assistance to him.

It made me sick to my stomach at the time and it makes me sick to my stomach to remember it today.

The extra twist being that even at the time, my intense disgust and despair was because I felt that we were in that war for no better reason than so that GWB would be able to say he was a "sitting war president."

I may, however, have my time frames mixed up, it may have been not long after we went into Iraq. At the age of 60, I find the past telescoping and expanding in weird ways....

"The problem with this is that it took a lot of conspirators, many of whom were in a position to know better, if it was reasonable to know better: Rockefeller, Gephardt, Kerry, and many others. George "Slam Dunk" Tenant in particular. Was he part of the conspiracy or just the worst CIA Director ever?"

Uncle Kvetch already answered this, but I can't wrap my head around the notion that we're supposed to take politicians' good faith seriously. I'm more surprised--much more surprised--by politicians who risk their political careers doing the right thing than I am by politicians who go along with the crowd to save their careers.

I despise Clinton (both of them), Kerry and the rest, but understand why they'd go along with the "Saddam poses an imminent danger and we have to invade" meme. Nobody knew for sure that Saddam didn't have at least some poison gas shells or biological weapons stored somewhere. The Bush Administration greatly exaggerated what evidence they had (that's where the lying comes in), but there was a possibility that somewhere there might really be a building with God knows what stored inside.

So you're a prominent Democrat, the country is still in its self-righteous post 9/11 hysteria (still seems to be with this mosque thing) and there's an endless stream of stories from the "liberal" press supporting the idea that Saddam has WMD's and poses a terrible danger (even though Colin Powell said he was contained several months before 9/11). And you oppose the war, the war goes ahead, and somebody does find a building with WMD's stored inside. Your career is finished--you were Neville Chamberlain. Obviously that danger, no matter how remote, is far more serious than anything that might happen to millions of Iraqis killed wounded or displace or tens of thousands of American troops killed or wounded. Whereas if you go along with the crowd and you turn out to be wrong, you're wrong with all the right people, as opposed to right with all the wrong people. And outside the left fringe, that's what matters. Going along with the vast majority is almost never the wrong thing for a politician to do, from the careerist pov.

Still with the Bush/Cheney thing. It was only them, no on else. And therein lies the problem. Belief that Saddam had WMD was widespread and supported by his overt use of gas on his own people. It wasn't something made up out of thin air.

McTx, you give yourself away with the Saddam-gassed-his-own-people bit. You know, and you know that I know, that Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds WHEN RONALD REAGAN WAS PRESIDENT. Which is to say, BEFORE Poppy Bush kicked his ass out of Kuwait -- but not out of Baghdad. Which is to say before the sanctions and the inspections and the no-fly zones. Saddam was an evil bastard with chemical weapons when the sainted Reagan sent a smiling Don Rumsfeld to shake hands with him. Saddam Hussein was still an evil bastard in 2003, but whether he still had even chemical weapons in 2003 was a different question altogether.

And you and I both know (though maybe only one of us will admit it) that "WMD" was a meaningless brand name, like "Exxon" or "Altria". Dick and Dubya did not invent the term, to be sure. But they fully exploited the conflation of poison gas with nucular bombs in the public mind.

You scoff at the notion that they did it for the sake of Halliburton's bottom line, and I agree: it was nothing so specific as that. They had much bigger domestic fish to fry, and they counted on a quick victory in a splendid little war to earn them the "political capital" to do it.

--TP

But, it just won't fit the Progressive narrative to allow for the fact that people just got it wrong.

what did anybody know except what came from the administration or from reporters ? who had their own set of facts ?

if the source of all non-public information is wrong, everyone who believes that source is going to be wrong too.

the difference between hoodwinked and "got it wrong" then, is: did the source of the information know know the info was bogus or not.

i say they knew.

I think GWB was particularly disposed to whacking Saddam. Was it because it would give him big mojo and let there be a century of repub ascendancy or did he just not really like the SOB? I suspect more the latter than the former. For others, however, I can see them using the war bandwagon as domestic leverage, particularly after Bush I pulled off the Kuwait thing so well.

But domestic-politics-wise (which I contend is the number one Bush II concern), Bush I *didn't* pull off the Kuwait thing well. He lost his reelection, and he lost it because his war *ended*, and he was judged the way most presidents are, on the economy, etc. 'War Presidents' usually win reelection.

I think you're right that there was something personal between Saddam and W, but I think the chance to be a (political) success where his father had failed was the stronger motivation. I think Bush II and Rove had, to put it crudely, giant chips on their shoulders, and were going to 'show everybody'. Hence the grandiosity of the 'permanent majority', the 'we make our own reality' attitude, the amorality and lack of ideological coherence, etc.

"what did anybody know except what came from the administration or from reporters ? who had their own set of facts ?"

Every member, including the Democrats, of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Then some amount for everyone in Congress and a ton of people who were career intelligence people.

Everyone who voted for sanctions at the UN, everyone who voted for more inspections in the UN (for about ten years).

You really don't think Bush and Cheney were that good, that they just fooled everyone in the world? Really?

I never lose a debate when I am sole arbiter of its terms.

You are correct, he didn't have nukes and many who supported the invasion knew this. That doesn't mean I and many others are required to accept your definition of WMD.

The Bush Administration never, in the runup to war, implied or said that we in the United States were in danger of being gassed. For the simple and obvious reason that one would have to be beyond stupid to believe that such a thing was possible.

They did, however, imply that we were in danger of being nuked. Or at least in danger of being in danger of being nuked. Or something with nukes, anyway. Gas weapons don't leave mushroom clouds, you know.

Further, no president should ever have to get matters 100% right.

They should when we're about to launch a full-scale military invasion of a sovereign country. That's not that kind of thing for which you get a mulligan, or for which "Whoops! My bad!" will suffice.

I mean, the Cheney Doctrine says that even if there's a 1% chance of danger, we MUST invade. Are OK with that 1% threshold? If not, then what? 2%? 10%? 50%?

It's just funny how aggressive you get every time this topic comes up. You're one of the ones who got it wrong. You don't get to be aggressive about this topic. Instead of attacking everyone who got it right, maybe you should instead think about, in the future, just how big a sh*t sandwich you're willing to eat before you start complaining about the taste.

Dick and Dubya did not "fool everyone in the world", Marty. The world's a big place. America is a big place. The Village, well, THAT'S a small place.

--TP

And thinking about it, the administration certainly didn't seem to believe that 100% certainty was an "insurmountable bar" -- because that's how the sold it to the American public and the world.

They didn't go to the UN and say, "Eh, maybe, we're not quite sure, but this intel looks pretty suggestive."

They claimed to have ironclad evidence of a weapons program of such magnitude as to endanger the safety of the United States.

So even if they knew that what they were selling was bullsh*t, they knew that the American public expected 100% certainty. So don't give me this "insurmountable bar" nonsense.

And you oppose the war, the war goes ahead, and somebody does find a building with WMD's stored inside. Your career is finished--you were Neville Chamberlain.

If this is the underlying basis for Dem cowardice, I agree. For many, it was less principle than career protection.

It's just funny how aggressive you get every time this topic comes up. You're one of the ones who got it wrong. You don't get to be aggressive about this topic. Instead of attacking everyone who got it right, maybe you should instead think about, in the future, just how big a sh*t sandwich you're willing to eat before you start complaining about the taste.

Phil, with respect, on a 1-10 scale for aggression, you push a 10 pretty much anytime I comment (which, FWIW, is not a complaint on my part). My point is not that the invasion was a good idea. In hindsight it was not. My point is that many of us who supported the invasion took counsel from a lot of people across the political spectrum, there was copious corroborating evidence that Saddam posed a risk to others besides his own people. The good faith consensus favored Saddam having biological and chemical WMD and having the intent and goal of acquiring nukes. His track record on aggression was not good. Taking him off the board seemed the sound move. The fallout was unforeseen by most. For my insignificant part, I doubted Iraq would become a liberal democracy and nation building has never been my preference. I would have put a time limit on sticking around--also probably a really bad idea in hindsight.

I question the received wisdom on the progressive left that we were tricked into the war and that only fools and SOB's bought into the program. I won't stop doing so.

As noted above, if WMD had been found, the take on the war would be different today.

Yes, they did claim to have ironclad evidence--a stupid claim to make unless you believe it to be true. Which supports my point--they may have been wrong, but they were wrong based on evidence which reasonably supported their belief. Did they hype it? Sure. But it wasn't a war started by people who knew the basic premise was a fabrication.

I mean, the Cheney Doctrine says that even if there's a 1% chance of danger, we MUST invade. Are OK with that 1% threshold? If not, then what? 2%? 10%? 50%?

I am pretty sure the 1% thing did not pertain to the invasion, but rather to justify torture. I am also fairly sure someone else came up with the idea, but it would surprise me if Cheney signed on and adopted it.

And, no, I am not ok with it. But just to turn the tables on you, it was not a 100% certainty when Yamamoto sailed for Pearl Harbor that he intended a surprise attack. By your logic, we would have had to wait at least until the planes were launched to fight back. Lives can be lost by hesitation as well as by haste.

Bush I *didn't* pull off the Kuwait thing well. He lost his reelection, and he lost it because his war *ended*, and he was judged the way most presidents are, on the economy, etc.

Bush did an excellent job on the Kuwait intervention. He lost for a lot of reasons.

'War Presidents' usually win reelection.

Or, as in the case of LBJ, they don't run because they don't expect to win.

GW2 lost popularity not so much because of the lack of WMDs, but because the occupation turned into such a shambles. Vietnam has not left our collective memory, and a war where American soldiers have to fight a hostile sea of insurgents with no help except token forces from some of the allies and an ineffectual and unpopular puppet government isn't hard to recognize.

Anticipating this situation was my main reason for opposing the war, though I admit my main fear was a three-cornered civil war among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. I didn't predict the spectacular failure of the Bush administration to plan for any of it, or Rumsfeld's colossal obliviousness as things fell apart.

GW2 lost popularity not so much because of the lack of WMDs, but because the occupation turned into such a shambles.

Agree on the shambles thing. The American public is very forgiving of its leadership in a war situation. But for the WMD debacle, I think a majority would have hung on for many years because 'that's the price of war.'

I shared your concerns about an American-installed gov't and a three way war. For me, the overarching issue was Saddam putting WMD on the shelf, dying and leaving it all to his psychopathic sons.

McKinney: "The fallout was unforeseen by most." Seriously? No one could have predicted that invading a country riven by ethnic and religious strife that had been kept in check for 20+ years by a brutal dictator we supported could create a civil war and chaos? Seriously?

"Which supports my point--they may have been wrong, but they were wrong based on evidence which reasonably supported their belief. Did they hype it? Sure. But it wasn't a war started by people who knew the basic premise was a fabrication."

You realize you're pretty much offering a much more generous assessment of the people who led the country into an unnecessary, costly, and hugely wasteful war than you are of the people who were right in the first place by opposing said unnecessary, costly, and hugely wasteful war, right?

"My point is that many of us who supported the invasion took counsel from a lot of people across the political spectrum, there was copious corroborating evidence that Saddam posed a risk to others besides his own people. The good faith consensus favored Saddam having biological and chemical WMD and having the intent and goal of acquiring nukes."

Just because a bunch of other elites were cowardly, deceived, or more interested in starting a war than if the justifications offered for it were true doesn't indemnify people for believing them, nor does it excuse the liars who started it.

Also, the question wasn't did Saddam have the "intent and goal of acquiring nukes", but did he have any ABILITY to do that, unless we invaded? The answer to that, again, was known before the war started, and was "NO". Also, your "good faith consensus" ignores the actual work by the inspectors on the ground, who found some expired mustard gas, and a few missiles with ranges 50 miles longer than permitted. Which was all destroyed before the invasion, BTW.

"I am not ok with it. But just to turn the tables on you, it was not a 100% certainty when Yamamoto sailed for Pearl Harbor that he intended a surprise attack. By your logic, we would have had to wait at least until the planes were launched to fight back. Lives can be lost by hesitation as well as by haste."

Wait, what? What does that have to do with anything? Also, it's a bad example, unless you're trying to justify "pre-emptive war", because yes, had Yamamato's fleet been sighted, we wouldn't have fought back until we were sure they were attacking. I have no idea what this was supposed to prove.

Plenty of public information before the war showed that the "WMD" (nuclear) talk was complete BS, and that the war would be a lot more costly and messy than the Bush administration was selling it as. And the Bush administration knew it, just as Scott Ritter, or Valerie Plame, for two.

And hell, even the most DFH anti-war argument (that the war would kill lots of people and be harder than the Bushies said, and was completely unjust and unnecessary) turned out to be pretty much completely true. And even if it hadn't, the fact that wars are ALWAYS messier, longer, and kill many many more people than the people selling the war claim is a pretty good starting point when trying to decide if you really want to support a war.

The fallout was unforeseen by most.

The word "most" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. The fallout was predicted with uncanny accuracy by a lot of people, but because they were unequivocally opposing the invasion they were dismissed out of hand as "unserious people." If you want me to go cite-searching, I gladly will.

The good faith consensus favored Saddam having biological and chemical WMD and having the intent and goal of acquiring nukes. His track record on aggression was not good. Taking him off the board seemed the sound move.

His track record on aggression, near as I can tell, and confining the discussion to aggression directed at parties outside of Iraq, consisted entirely of:

1. The Iran-Iraq War, in which we backed Saddam over the Iranians, providing him with intel, money and equipment, and
2. The invasion of Kuwait and launching SCUD missiles at Israel.

If you have other examples to which you're referring, I'm all ears, but I don't think there's a serious case to be made here for a lengthy "record on aggression."

This sounds to me a lot like the attempts to paint Ahmadinejad as Hitler II, even though Iran has never invaded anyone.

Also, as noted abpve "intent and goal" does not equal "capability." Just like all the war opponents said before the war. And they were right.

Yes, they did claim to have ironclad evidence--a stupid claim to make unless you believe it to be true.

Or unless you believe you can control the narrative to the extent that nobody is able to question you without looking like a DFH.

Which supports my point--they may have been wrong, but they were wrong based on evidence which reasonably supported their belief.

Do you really, honestly believe that that nonsense that Colin Powell showed to the UN was material that they truly believed supported their case? I don't think even Colin Powell believes that.

Bush did an excellent job on the Kuwait intervention. He lost for a lot of reasons.

I'm not criticizing GHW Bush, McK. He's not my favorite, but next to his son he looks like Lincoln and Solomon rolled up into one. I'm saying that from his son's perspective, he didn't do a good job: he left Saddam in power, and - more importantly - ended the war soon enough that he wasn't a 'war president' by the time the election came around. And that's why he indeed did lose for other reasons. I'm sure young George noticed that his father's approval ratings went from about 90% during the war, to less than half of that by the time of the election (approx. numbers).

in the case of LBJ, they don't run because they don't expect to win.

LBJ is why I said '*most* war presidents win reelection'. I can't think of another. Maybe there is one, but I can't think of it.

The brilliance of the Bush/Cheney/Rove marketing machine was using idiots like Judith Miller and Michael Gordon at the NYT to plant their 'senior Administration official' BS, which they would then point to and say "See, even the NYT is reporting such and such".

That, and spreading the BS among many different outlets, creating a self-referencing feedback loop so they could claim "everybody believed such and such" blah blah blah.

Oh, plus knowing not "roll out a new product in August".

Truly remarkable propaganda.

A list of people who are were in a position to know and didn't buy the BS: Anthony Zinni, Hans Blix, Bob Graham, Ray McGovern, Paul Pillar, Karen Kwiatkowski, Larry Johnson, Tyler Drumheller, Scott Ritter, Wesley Clark, Carl Levin, Mohammed El Baredei. Among many others.

So no, *everybody* didn't believe $hit.

It is a war crime to invade another country and overthrow its government.

That is the beginning and end of it as far as I'm concerned, although I argued some of the other points here at the time because it was apparent that the criminality of the invasion was irrelevant to a lot of people - I'm not sure that was even a good idea, being rather like arguing about whether the risk of getting caught or the cost of the gas in the getaway car weigh against committing an armed robbery.

Not only was it a war crime, but since the US is the guarantor of the independence of dozens of other states under various more-or-less formal alliances and agreements, the US is also the country with the most to lose from undermining that law. If the US winds up in a major war in the next century it is likely that we will be able to trace its origins directly to the decision to invade Iraq.

(Susan of Texas has a less sympathetic take on the Yglesias piece that is worth reading, especially if you think I'm too soft on him.)

"Second, no WMD. Look for the sea change in thinking about the invasion and it's when we turned up empty-handed on WMD."

Has Bill O'Reilly ever apologized for supporting the Iraq war? He said he would, if WMD were not found.

SOME on the right are still making pitiful excuses about the lack of WMD. It's delusional, but I guess some people have very fragile egos.

I'm not criticizing GHW Bush, McK. He's not my favorite, but next to his son he looks like Lincoln and Solomon rolled up into one.

Word.

The really scary part? Compare the son to Sarah Palin.

I'm wondering if anybody saw Greg Mortenson on Face the Nation. Haven't been able to find any discussions about that.

SOME on the right are still making pitiful excuses about the lack of WMD. It's delusional, but I guess some people have very fragile egos.

It is truly weird -- God knows they have no shortage of other options.

We've seen the (verbatim) Cheney response to the absence of WMDs: "So?"

We've seen the GWB response: Laugh (and the press corps laughs with you!).

We've seen the Friedman response: It was never really about WMDs; it was about making someone Suck on This.

If there are people still desperately making excuses about something that the primary architects and cheerleaders for the war have publicly dismissed as having no importance whatsoever, "delusional" is just about the nicest way of putting it.

Salon just provided this link to Matt Y in 2002 advocating the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. He adds that, sure, it'd cause a war between Israel and its neighbors, but Israel would win, so hey, no problem. The next few posts are equally fascinating in a train wrecky kind of way.

He's not the same person now, of course, and he was just some extraordinarily stupid college kid then, but it's interesting what sorts of remarks don't utterly ruin a person's reputation.

You know, I thought I remember reading Yglesias as an undergrad and that blog template does not twig with what I remember the format being. But looking thru, it seems far too complete to be a forgery. However, if we were to disqualify people based on what they said and wrote as undergraduates, I'm not sure there would be anyone left to do anything.

To use that old quote: "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder."
That esp. on the part of Rumsfeld. If the world was fair, he'd bathe in mustard (and Chain-Eye would be very slowly boiled in crude).
Even if they themselves believed 99% of their own crap (which I do not believe) it would not change anything.
Should Obama authorize (or tolerate) an Israeli attack on Iran, he'd be in the same category. Given that to my knowledge the US still supports terrorists targeting Iran, he might be already in the camp of war criminal.

It is a war crime to invade another country and overthrow its government.

So the Balkans thing was a war crime? It is a war crime to invade a country that is in the process of committing internal genocide? International law does not recognize the concept of 'justification' or 'defense of another'?

More generally, we have three groups in the US today, the "before" and the "after" and the "way after". "Before", there was a minority of opponents who asserted a broad range of objections to going to war and who, in varying degrees, forecasted a range of downstream issues if the invasion were to take place. Also, "before" there was a much larger group who had their own set of arguments. The citizens who listened to the debate had a choice, invade or not. They chose invade. The decision was not one of bad faith or idiocy among those who, like me, made their own call. We heard from the opponents and believed the better case favored invasion. My concern was the aftermath, although I lacked the depth and comprehension to have much in the way of concrete concerns as to how that might shake out.

Then, in the "after" period, as it became increasingly clear that the primary reason for invading--as it was pitched to the US public--was not going to materialize, the sense of justification for many began to unravel. That didn't mean that we should just pack up and leave--you break it, you buy it. And we broke a lot of stuff.

In the "way after", opinions fall into three general categories. This site being a good example of Category 1: a level of unshakable belief that not only was the invasion wrong (that goes without saying), but every high profile supporter was either an idiot, a coward, or a liar. The only virtuous among us were the opponents. No invasion supporter acted in good faith. Period.

Category 2 are the "unrepentant". Cheney is the leading exemplar. As was noted above, never admit fault, never admit a mistake. In the mind of Category 1, if you don't recant fully, you are in Category 2.

Category 3 are those who supported the invasion, realize now it was a mistake for all of the reasons stated above, feel that we've more than done our part, i.e. the country has more than done its part, to try to put things as right as can be put, and we feel like its time to come home.

The future effects of the invasion are unknowable, for the most part, but what we do know is that the country will be far less willing to act preemptively and far less supportive of military interventions generally. Nation building is out--this is both good and bad.

Now, just to pour a bit more gas on the fire, one of the main reasons why pre-invasion critics were discounted to the extent they were is that, for the most part, they oppose any use of military force under any circumstances (they were vigorously opposed to pushing Saddam out of Kuwait), and their reasoning almost always sounds like exigent reasoning in support of the fundamental rule of no US military action ever, period, end of sentence. IOW, the progressive element in this country lacks the credibility on defense and national security issues to be taken as seriously as they would like. Opposition to any military act is a certainty, the only difference being the rationales that will be advanced.

Anticipating one line of response: I am fully aware there is a clique that would pull the trigger on pretty much anyone at the drop of a hat. That group has a much larger following in the US than do progressives.

He was twenty-one and old enough to enlist in the army or get into officer candidate school with his degree.

He didn't, presumably because he had "other priorities", like Dick Cheney did during the Vietnam War.
This cowardice and failure to walk the walk of his supposed convictions is precisely why I don't give him an intellectual pass for being wrong on the war. I'm sick of the swells talking everybody else into a war and then not picking up a rifle and a pack when they get their war.

McKinnyTexas,

When you say "this site" is an example of your category 1, I take exception. Though I disagreed with them, I personally knew people who in good faith believed the invasion was the right idea. I feel certain hilzoy, for one, would not dismiss them as idiots, cowards or liars and nor would I.

Yes, there are those who unconditionally oppose military force. I wish we could live in a world where such action was abolished but I have to accept that we do not.

So given that military force will continue to be used, it is up to us to decide how and when it is appropriate. I hope we can agree that it should be a last resort, when other possible solutions to a conflict are exhausted. It seems to me a lot of people made that argument back in 2003. We lost the argument then.

Please excuse me for dropping this and then disappearing; I have to head off to work now.

Now, just to pour a bit more gas on the fire, one of the main reasons why pre-invasion critics were discounted to the extent they were is that, for the most part, they oppose any use of military force under any circumstances (they were vigorously opposed to pushing Saddam out of Kuwait), and their reasoning almost always sounds like exigent reasoning in support of the fundamental rule of no US military action ever, period, end of sentence.

This is simply horsesh1t. There is no monolith as you describe it here, McKinney, not even "for the most part." Besides, it's ad hominem to dismiss an argument based on who is making it without addressing the substance of the argument itself. What you're describing is likely a real viewpoint, but it sucks intellectually, as you've just demonstrated.

No invasion supporter acted in good faith. Period.

I don't know who has said this about the general public. (Even if you think they fall into the idiot camp, that's different from ascribing bad faith to them.) I don't doubt that you supported the war in good faith and I don't think you're an idiot for doing so. I just think you were wrong. Smart, honest people are wrong all the time. It's an imperfect world. But I don't see why one wouldn't have more respect for someone who can admit to being wrong than for someone who can't. Is this such a controversial viewpoint?

for the most part, they oppose any use of military force under any circumstances (they were vigorously opposed to pushing Saddam out of Kuwait)

Who are these people who opposed the "first" Gulf war, the Kosovo operation, the Afghanistan invasion, *and* the "second" Gulf war (as well as intervention in Rwanda)? How many are there? Do you think that's the entire progressive end of the spectrum?

McKinney,

You seem old enough to remember Bosnia and Kosovo ("the Balkan thing") so it's a wonder you can say with a straight face that people who oppose some particular use of American military force are just progressive pacifists whose "fundamental rule of no US military action, ever, period, end of sentence" means that they lack "credibility on defense and national security issues".

Republicans did not only oppose Clinton on Bosnia and Kosovo, but loudly denounced him. "It's HIS war," they shouted like the lousy peaceniks and long-haired hippies that they were at the time.

Maybe you doubt my recollection that conservatives denounced "Clinton's war" in terms very like the ones liberals later adopted to denounce Dick and Dubya's war. Maybe you think the burden of proof is on me to provide solid evidence for what I say.

If so, you have a curious blend of attitudes toward the burden of proof. For you seem to say that invading a foreign country is something reasonable people can support on a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. You "heard from the opponents and believed the better case favored invasion." A fine standard for civil lawsuits over money, no doubt, but ...

Anyway, I could turn around and ask you to cite evidence that everybody who opposed Dick and Dubya's Excellent Adventure had also opposed Poppy Bush's war to expel Saddam from Kuwait. I can cite at least one counterexample: myself.

Don't think I'm putting on airs. I did not oppose the invasion of Iraq as loudly and actively as I now know I should have. My position at the time was that I despise dictators and I rejoice when the US bestirs itself to kick one in the ass. But it was also my position that MY reason required no cooked intelligence to justify it; that it involved none of the OMG-we're-all-gonna-die urgency of Dick and Dubya's transparently phony claims; and most of all that it was not the popular reason.

Had the neocons tried to sell the invasion of Iraq exclusively on humanitarian grounds, it's entirely possible that I would have supported it and you would have opposed it. And, as things have turned out, that it would be I, and not you, who would nowadays be reduced to saying the equivalent of "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

--TP

the main reasons why pre-invasion critics were discounted to the extent they were is that, for the most part, they oppose any use of military force under any circumstances (they were vigorously opposed to pushing Saddam out of Kuwait)

Only barely true. In March 2003, 58% of Americans supported the Iraq war.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-03-16-poll-iraq_x.htm

In January 1991, 79% of Americans supported the Gulf war.
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/22/us/war-in-the-gulf-public-opinion-poll-finds-deep-backing-while-optimism-fades.html

If you assume (which I think is fair enough) that almost nobody supported the invasion of Iraq but opposed the Gulf War, then you have the 2003 anti-war movement split almost exactly 50-50 between supporters and opponents of the 1991 Gulf War. Each half represents 21% of the US population.

McKT: So the Balkans thing was a war crime? It is a war crime to invade a country that is in the process of committing internal genocide? International law does not recognize the concept of 'justification' or 'defense of another'?

That would require that there be justification or that the defense of another was a genuine goal and effect of the invasion. I think several hundred thousand dead Iraqis and a couple of million refugees would dispute that interpretation.

It was a war of aggression. It was not authorized by the United Nations Security Council, it was not in response to an attack on the United States or an ally, it was not done to prevent a genocide, it was not done to pre-empt an imminent attack on the US or an ally.

There can be legal and justified wars. That doesn't mean all wars presumptively are legal and justified.

I'm a "progressive pacifist", which you wield as if it were an insult. I'm not a universal pacifist, I just think, you know, war is bad, and that most of the justifications for wars have been bogus. The best way to not have a war is not to start one.

There are exceptions, but they're very rare. WWII was one. Much to the frustration of we British, the US was very restrained in the initiation of that conflict, and as a result it entered the war with a lot of moral force on its side. A defensive war against the Warsaw Pact in Europe would have been another. I'm not a disarmament nut, although I think the US spends its defense budget poorly. I favor the retention of a significant number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems by the US, for instance.

I thought the Gulf War was fairly well-justified on the grounds of preserving the peace, that it was fought in as limited and careful a way as possible, and that it was worth setting the precedent that the invasion of another country would not be tolerated. So much for that precedent now.

I'm not sure how I feel about the "Balkans thing". It was probably legal. It was probably better than what would have happened otherwise. Counterfactuals are hard. This is one reason why restraint in entering wars is wise: you don't have to justify it on the basis of counterfactuals.

I'll leave the heavy lifting to the others and just limit myself to this:

The future effects of the invasion are unknowable, for the most part, but what we do know is that the country will be far less willing to act preemptively and far less supportive of military interventions generally.

I see absolutely no basis for this statement whatsoever.

Any administration that really set its sights on, say, bombing Iran with the ultimate goal of "regime change" would find it a cakewalk. Pump up the perception of an "imminent threat" (Ahmedinejad can't be contained by rational means -- he's crazy! and he's got nukes!), claim that Iraq only went to sh*t because of Bush's dishonesty incompetence (the grownups are back in charge), and promise that there won't be any nation-building this time (we learned our lesson on that one, trust us).

The usual suspects will eat it up with a spoon and ask for second helpings. And only patchouli-scented pacifists will be unserious enough to spoil the fun.

IOW, the progressive element in this country lacks the credibility on defense and national security issues to be taken as seriously as they would like.

While the neocons who sold us the disastrous war in Iraq and are now trying to sell another one in Iran are still treated as Very Serious People. Do you see that there's a problem there?

I see absolutely no basis for this statement whatsoever.

And even if it were true, does it justify anything? Should I go out and do something really stupid, even if there's already good reason to think it's really stupid, just so I can prove it's really stupid and be less likely to do it again?

Well, gotta go. It's time to dodge cars on the freeway.

McTex,

Out of curiosity, are you suggesting that we would have invaded Iraq had Gore been president because...ultimately, a minority group of Dems ended up voting for the war that Bush and Cheney were pushing for (or, really, the authorization to use force - a bill crafted to make any vote in opposition look worse "he/she wouldn't even vote to give the president authorization if the UN process failed, etc").

It seems like you're going out of your way to cast the war as a bi-partisan initiative, when in reality, it was supported by a few Dems actively (Lieberman), and a lot more tacitly (out of political concerns) - but in either case, most Dems in the House voted against it, right?

The only one I could come up with was this: rabid neocons led by Cheney seize upon 9-11 and hype war with Iraq, not because they actually believed or cared whether there were WMD, it was enough that there was at one time. The larger neocon picture was that we would be viewed as liberators, hailed throughout the country and would lead the Middle East to everlasting, Jeffersonian democratic peace.

This is strange to me. You act as if there is not an actual, documented record of neocons and other officials clamoring for war with Iraq in the 1990s. And those clamoring for war were not citing WMD or ties to al-Qaeda as the rationale.

Don't trust me. Trust them! Read PNAC's own literature! Take them at their word. That's not conspiracy mongering, that's just reading comprehension.

Incidentally, I don't think Jeffersonian peace was the desired endgame so much as US hegemony, and a weakening of Israeli adversaries.

Regardless: WMD was not a casus belli for two reasons.

1. No intel agencies thought he had nukes (though the Bush administration lied about this repeatedly, ginning up fear), and chem and bio weapons are not really a threat (especially the ones he was supposed to have) outside of the battlefield (hint: don't invade Iraq and Saddam can't use them on you!).

2. Saddam and al-Qaeda were enemies, not friends, so even if he had WMD that could somehow be used in a terrorist attack in a more lethal fashion than conventional explosives, he wasn't going to give them away to anyone. Let alone a group that wants him dead!

But, again, the Bush admin lied about al-Qaeda links. Like they lied about nukes (not WMD in the broad sense, but nukes). Repeatedly. Publicly. To get the war they wanted.

"Who are these people who opposed the "first" Gulf war, the Kosovo operation, the Afghanistan invasion, *and* the "second" Gulf war (as well as intervention in Rwanda)? How many are there?"

Well to complicate things there are prominent Democrats like Biden who opposed the first Gulf War and supported the second. Which is about as deeply a strange position as I can think of on recent wars that the US was involved in.

Eric touches on one issue that for me exemplifies the dishonesty in the selling of the war: the conflation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons into "WMD".

Chemical weapons are simply not in the same class as nuclear weapons and probably never will be. In theory a biological weapon might someday be developed that would have impact similar to a nuclear weapon but as far as we know no such thing exists today.

Meanwhile, right now today, we are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, the smallest of which can, if detonated in a densely populated area, kill tens of thousands of people instantly.

It was the "mushroom cloud" threat that was used to sell the war. This was fundamentally dishonest.

[P.S., McKinneyTexas, I apologize for misspelling your handle above.]

I'm not sure how I feel about the "Balkans thing". It was probably legal. It was probably better than what would have happened otherwise.

I'm certainly not under the impression that it was legal, but I haven't done any extensive reading on the topic though. To my knowledge, even fullblown genocide doesn't translate into a right to use force absent a Security Council authorization.

Which is also one of the reasons why I personally don't put that much weight on the criminality argument.
I can also imagine an alternative scenario, in which the Security Council does indeed follow up on the resolution 1441 with another authorizing force. However, while this might have given the invasion more legitimacy, I have a hard time seeing how it could have increased the chances of stabilizing Iraq in the aftermath and resulting in significantly less deaths, absent a proper postwar-planning. Also, lying to justify wars isn't exactly cool either (and it's certainly problematic even when done for "humanitarian wars" as well)

Which is about as deeply a strange position as I can think of on recent wars that the US was involved in.

I wonder if there's some political equivalent of Rule 34: for any bizarre combination of political opinions you can think of, someone has held both of them at more or less the same time.

"However, if we were to disqualify people based on what they said and wrote as undergraduates, I'm not sure there would be anyone left to do anything."

That's fair (and I said something similar myself), except that I suspect if he'd taken equally extreme opinions on the other side he would have found his career path a little bit bumpier. Andrew Sullivan also benefited from this phenomenon. It's never that bad to be monstrously stupidly wrong with the majority. Also, LJ, I got the link from Salon, so if it is a forgery the Salon people owe Matt Y a gigantic apology.

On the self-righteousness issue that McK raised, actually, like TonyP I wasn't sufficiently vehement in my antiwar feelings. It was clear that the prowar side was lying about the evidence on WMD's (which is not to say that it was clear Saddam had nothing), but Saddam was an awful ruler and I couldn't rule out the possibility that the invasion plus aftermath would be less terrible for Iraqis than continuing to live under Saddam plus sanctions. That our invasion would turn Iraq into a playground for death squads and that we resorted to torture was no surprise*, but I wasn't certain this would happen. The strong possibility of it happening should have been enough to make me oppose the war more strongly than I did.

*The surprising thing about the torture scandal is that it became mainstream. I would have predicted that information on that subject would have been relegated to the ghetto of Amnesty International reports and stories in "The Progressive". But our self-forgiveness with no accountability pushed forward by Obama as America moving on--that's not surprising at all. Now let's go prosecute some whistleblowers.

The point about not being able to obtain a Security Council authorization to use force is that it's an example of the (makeshift) system of international law actually working. I agree that even if one could have been obtained the war wouldn't have been any better of an idea, but one was not obtained anyway.

Analogously if you can persuade a jury that you shot someone in self-defense you may be able to get off a murder charge, even if the reality was something different. If you can't, it was illegal. That system doesn't always work but it's better than nothing.

"Now, just to pour a bit more gas on the fire, one of the main reasons why pre-invasion critics were discounted to the extent they were is that, for the most part, they oppose any use of military force under any circumstances (they were vigorously opposed to pushing Saddam out of Kuwait), and their reasoning almost always sounds like exigent reasoning in support of the fundamental rule of no US military action ever, period, end of sentence. IOW, the progressive element in this country lacks the credibility on defense and national security issues to be taken as seriously as they would like. Opposition to any military act is a certainty, the only difference being the rationales that will be advanced.

Okay, y'know, let's take this at face value, and ignore the media manipulation, lies of the Bush administration, and many many many failures of the media to do their frickin job.

So. Freaking. What? This is just punching the Dirty F@#!ing Hippies for the sin of being DFHs. It's the "right for the wrong reasons" claptrap again, like "prematurely anti-fascist".

Wars will ALWAYS be more expensive, longer, deadlier, and more destructive than the people selling them claim. ALWAYS. Even if the death and destruction is limited to civilians on the side being invaded.

If you start or support a war, you need to go into it knowing full well that a great many people will die, many of them innocent civilians.

Which doesn't mean a war isn't the lesser of the evils, like in the case of genocide, or a REAL existential threat, or something like Gulf War I, which was (at least mostly) defensive, and our help was requested.

Given that, is a "fundamental rule of no US military action ever, period, end of sentence." really THAT ridiculous? How about "no US military invasions of countries that haven't actually attacked us or our allies"? Or how about a fundamental guideline of "No US military action ever, unless we are defending ourselves, allies, or innocents, or there is an actual credible threat?" I'm sure any of those are enough to mark me as a crazy non-serious person, but y'know, I don't think that's a problem with me, I think that's a problem with our country. If "serious" is "we ought to take a little country and fling it against the wall every so often, just to show we can", then so much the worse for "seriousness", not for me.

If you wanted to check out information on The Treaty of Westphalia you would find a sample of peacemaking between real belligerents that works.
Since that isn't what is being looked for, desperate 'justification' for 'premptive warfare' is being sought.
That means since no 'war ' is conveniently handy...you start one.
And I was bounced on comments. We'll see how this flies
http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2010/08/23-aug-typepad-moderation.html

Nate @ 1:49 -- yes. Thanks for saying it so well.

Well to complicate things there are prominent Democrats like Biden who opposed the first Gulf War and supported the second. Which is about as deeply a strange position as I can think of on recent wars that the US was involved in.

How quickly our rightwing bretheren forget April Glaspie and Hill&Knowlton's Nayirah.

This is my longest comment ever and has not been heavily proofed.

When you say "this site" is an example of your category 1, I take exception. Though I disagreed with them, I personally knew people who in good faith believed the invasion was the right idea. I feel certain hilzoy, for one, would not dismiss them as idiots, cowards or liars and nor would I.

Ral, I was and continue to speak generally. A lot of folks do nuance here, the thing is, you see it much more when debating with someone like me. Few here take others on the left to task for, example, painting conservatives or Republicans with a broad brush. Folks here do get touchy, occasionally, when I broad brush progressives. Goes with the territory.

This is simply horsesh1t. There is no monolith as you describe it here, McKinney, not even "for the most part." Besides, it's ad hominem to dismiss an argument based on who is making it without addressing the substance of the argument itself. What you're describing is likely a real viewpoint, but it sucks intellectually, as you've just demonstrated.

HSH, how many times have you and many others here written about ‘neocons this . . .’ and ‘conservatives that . . .’. You and many others here make the identity of the party with whom you disagree part of your argument. I see nothing wrong with that. It isn’t ad hominem to say, e.g., “neocons are prone to pre-emption, they are trigger happy, compared to everyone else, and most of their arguments are in aid of their end game”. If it is, the ad hominem guilt is widespread and I am a leading offender. As for the underlying statement (in flip shorthand), “lefties are hyper prone to oppose military action in general, their arguments against a specific military action are informed largely by that view” is hardly news nor should it be offensive. My point simply is that—take me and tax increases—people who like or dislike something strongly tend to consistently argue for or against their preferences. In the run up to the invasion, most of the opponents had histories of opposing US military action--that was their starting point. Their arguments were discounted by others because of the opponents’ known bias.

But I don't see why one wouldn't have more respect for someone who can admit to being wrong than for someone who can't. Is this such a controversial viewpoint?

Generally, no, but it depends on how it’s done. I think Yglesias’ mea culpa is lame as hell. I think he gets more credit in liberal quarters because he is now pretty much on the right team and he’s done the pro forma apology. I personally regret the hell out of Iraq and I have to remind my hawk friends (that would be about 80% of our immediate social circle) that Obama is much more of a badass in Afghanistan than Bush ever was and that if we “lose” in Afghanistan, it’s not O’s fault, it’s B’s. Of course, since no one can define victory in Afghanistan, I doubt we can define defeat either. So, I have a lot of regrets and a lot to make up for. I made a s**tload of bad calls throughout the 2000’s.

Who are these people who opposed the "first" Gulf war, the Kosovo operation, the Afghanistan invasion, *and* the "second" Gulf war (as well as intervention in Rwanda)?

Ten Dem senators voted to oust Saddam. The House was even more lopsided as I recall. Kosovo was done without any input from either House or Senate. It was largely favored by Dems and opposed by Repubs. Dems supported the Iraq invasion more than the Kuwait thing, but still no majority. Farther left, there was very little support for either Kuwait or Iraq. Kosovo is hard to get a handle on because there was never a vote, never a debate. It was Clinton acting unilaterally. FWIW, I opposed Kosovo as a likely quagmire. I was wrong.

Republicans did not only oppose Clinton on Bosnia and Kosovo, but loudly denounced him. "It's HIS war," they shouted like the lousy peaceniks and long-haired hippies that they were at the time.

This is exactly right. I also recall, however, that McCain, to his great credit IMO, when interviewed after our forces were committed, said in effect, “we can sort out the wisdom of this later. Right now our president has committed our troops and we should support him.” I thought McCain was awful as a candidate, but I was impressed with what he said back then and it changed my outlook from “anti” to “ok, we’re in it, let’s do it right and get out”.

Had the neocons tried to sell the invasion of Iraq exclusively on humanitarian grounds, it's entirely possible that I would have supported it and you would have opposed it.

This is a particularly squishy ‘what if?’. I’d like to think I am a humanitarian. At my age, if going to war is what it takes to accomplish that purpose, I am salving my conscience with younger peoples’ blood along with the inevitable bystander mayhem that war inflicts. The humanitarian calculus for military intervention is way out of whack at the moment.

If you assume (which I think is fair enough) that almost nobody supported the invasion of Iraq but opposed the Gulf War, then you have the 2003 anti-war movement split almost exactly 50-50 between supporters and opponents of the 1991 Gulf War. Each half represents 21% of the US population.

Depends on the poll and the timing as to popular support, but that is not my point. My comments above were focused on invasion opponents whose views were part of the national debate.

I'm a "progressive pacifist", which you wield as if it were an insult. I'm not a universal pacifist, I just think, you know, war is bad, and that most of the justifications for wars have been bogus. The best way to not have a war is not to start one.

JD—I think true pacifism is rife with its own moral baggage, e.g. refusing to kill in defense of the defenseless implies a moral compass with bearings that don’t exist on mine. But, you’re no pacifist. You’re a very decent human being, as are most progressives, who are mortified at the prospect of war. I think the mortification clouds the judgment sometimes, particularly when it comes to defense spending (as opposed to deployment or intervention). The examples you cite of justifiable general war are pretty mainstream.

Any administration that really set its sights on, say, bombing Iran with the ultimate goal of "regime change" would find it a cakewalk. Pump up the perception of an "imminent threat" (Ahmedinejad can't be contained by rational means -- he's crazy! and he's got nukes!), claim that Iraq only went to sh*t because of Bush's dishonesty incompetence (the grownups are back in charge), and promise that there won't be any nation-building this time (we learned our lesson on that one, trust us).

UK—I don’t think so, but it’s likely this is a point that can be debated but never proved. You’ll be shocked to learn that a pretty high percentage of the people I interact with are doctrinaire conservatives. Yes, pretty amazing but there you have it. I’d say I’ve taken the pulse of 30-40 comfortable-to-well off folks. They are tired of war, tired of spending money on war and tired of spending money generally. I see an isolationist trend on the right. And a lot of people who are sick of gov’t across the board.

While the neocons who sold us the disastrous war in Iraq and are now trying to sell another one in Iran are still treated as Very Serious People. Do you see that there's a problem there?

Yes, I do. For example, from a purely theoretical and utilitarian point of view, declaring some kind of Pax Americana back in the early 2000 time frame and enforcing it on regimes like N Korea and Iran, could be discussed socially over martinis as a kind of a thought exercise. Reality is much different, however. For example, what most people don’t understand is that any “surgical” strike on N Korea would produce hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Seoul within 48 hours just from the massed artillery N Korea has trained on Seoul. Iran is different in kind but not in outcome. What few Americans understand is that other countries produce patriots just as we do. Attack another country and you’ll piss people off. Sometimes, that’s the price that has to be paid. But bombing Iran out of the blue will get us blow back for decades. Not a conventional war, but asymmetrical warfare forever. So, yes, I view the neocon influence as a real problem. I am a Bush I guy. For a lot of reasons.

are you suggesting that we would have invaded Iraq had Gore been president because...ultimately, a minority group of Dems ended up voting for the war that Bush and Cheney were pushing for . . .

No, not at all.

It seems like you're going out of your way to cast the war as a bi-partisan initiative, when in reality, it was supported by a few Dems actively (Lieberman), and a lot more tacitly (out of political concerns) - but in either case, most Dems in the House voted against it, right?

There were many on the traditional, non-progressive left who supported the invasion. The farther left on the spectrum, the less support you found. My point is that Rockefeller et al argued the same facts for invasion as Cheney did. George Tenant told GWB that WMD were a ‘slam dunk’. But my main point is that we were not ‘lied into this war’, we got into it because a lot of people, post 9-11, erred on the side what was then ‘caution’, i.e. assuming the worst and dealing with it.

Really, that is the point of what I’ve been trying to say from the beginning. We weren’t all liars, idiots, cowards or what have you. Saddam was a scary guy and people were frightened. There was a s**tpile of confusion about who was responsible for 9-11, some (Cheney) exploited that (unbelievable, a politician exploiting the fears and ignorance of people for political or policy advantage). There was also ample evidence, or so it appeared, that Saddam had WMD. But for a widespread consensus on WMD and his past use of it, it is unlikely the invasion would have gone forward.

chem and bio weapons are not really a threat

Good luck selling this one, say back in early 2002. This is exactly the kind of statement that is calculated to lose an argument to the public at large. You might say they are less of a threat or a relatively limited threat, but try telling a mother that a gas attack on her kid’s school isn’t a threat and everything past that sentence is white noise. Better yet, don’t go there. Both chem and bio weapons are portable. Dismiss them as a threat and lose your audience. And, because an adversary has a limited generation of bio or chem. Weapons today doesn’t mean he/she won’t improve on that generation in years to come. In fact, the opposite is more likely.

Saddam and al-Qaeda were enemies, not friends, so even if he had WMD that could somehow be used in a terrorist attack in a more lethal fashion than conventional explosives, he wasn't going to give them away to anyone.

Saddam was not immortal. His likely successor was one of his two psychopathic sons. He didn’t need to be in bed with Bin Laden to give something nasty to another party. And, as we know, alliances shift, see e.g. WWII and Cold War.

Chemical weapons are simply not in the same class as nuclear weapons and probably never will be. In theory a biological weapon might someday be developed that would have impact similar to a nuclear weapon but as far as we know no such thing exists today.

It is and was of no consolation whatsoever that a chem weapon only kills in the 100’s or low 1,000’s. Hyping the threat of nukes was part of the run up, but it is over-emphasized in hindsight to support the narrative. I never thought much of the nuke threat. I thought a lot about a dozen or so time-on-target gas releases at indoor football games. Or major airport terminals. Or subways. Disruptive as hell and within reach of pretty much any second world industrial base.

P.S., McKinneyTexas, I apologize for misspelling your handle above.

No problemo.

On the self-righteousness issue that McK raised, actually, like TonyP I wasn't sufficiently vehement in my antiwar feelings.

Exactly. Saddam was such a s**t that is was hard to get really worked up over whacking him—kind of like McVeigh getting the needle for death penalty opponents—even if, on balance, you’d have let things play out without invading. Sometimes it’s hard to argue for a really, really rotten specimen of humanity.

So. Freaking. What? This is just punching the Dirty F@#!ing Hippies for the sin of being DFHs. It's the "right for the wrong reasons" claptrap again, like "prematurely anti-fascist".

Maybe I answered this above and maybe I didn’t. No, it’s simply the point that the argument was predictable, expected and presumed to be biased in favor of not invading.

Given that, is a "fundamental rule of no US military action ever, period, end of sentence." really THAT ridiculous? How about "no US military invasions of countries that haven't actually attacked us or our allies"? Or how about a fundamental guideline of "No US military action ever, unless we are defending ourselves, allies, or innocents, or there is an actual credible threat?"

There is a lot here that merits its own thread, Nate. I think there are two things that we need a national dialogue on: what is the threshold for committing US troops to future combat operations and what force levels do we maintain to (a) carry out those missions and (b) credibly deter potential adversaries. And I don’t think you are non-serious at all.

Okay, starting this off on a classy note: So, I have a lot of regrets and a lot to make up for. I made a s**tload of bad calls throughout the 2000’s.

Admitting you made a mistake is a very hard thing to do. I, myself, screwed up a bunch too, in the 2000s, starting with voting for Nader (though Virginia, where I lived then, was never in play), the simplistic reduction of "Neither party is really GOOD" to "there's no real differences between the parties was one (of many) things that helped lead to W. Bush, and the complete trainwreck that the first decade of the twenty-first century became.)

Really, that is the point of what I’ve been trying to say from the beginning. We weren’t all liars, idiots, cowards or what have you. Saddam was a scary guy and people were frightened. There was a s**tpile of confusion about who was responsible for 9-11, some (Cheney) exploited that (unbelievable, a politician exploiting the fears and ignorance of people for political or policy advantage). There was also ample evidence, or so it appeared, that Saddam had WMD. But for a widespread consensus on WMD and his past use of it, it is unlikely the invasion would have gone forward.

I try not to call the people who supported the war liars, except the leaders who literally stood up in front of the country and the world and told us bald-faced lies. Lies they knew were lies, and lies they never seriously cared about protecting. Seriously, we're supposed to be scared of Saddam's nukes, so they...outed a CIA agent who worked on preventing nuclear proliferation, because her husband called them on some of their BS in the NY Times? They were never serious about Saddam being a threat, they exploited people's fears, and existing dislike of him to get the war they wanted.

Saddam was really not that scary, between the sanctions (despite their immense civilian toll) and the no-fly zones, and the US military in the area anyway, plus his enemies in Iran and most of the rest of the area, he didn't pose a threat. That's why whipping up the confusion and fear of "WMD" and conflating a few artillery shells with remnants of mustard gas with nukes was so important to selling the war.

Also, his past use of "WMD" was from chemical weapons we (including Dick Cheney) gave him, to use against the Iranians, in the 80s. The "evidence" presented was very very thin, but the media fell down on their jobs, and any opponents who pointed this out were dismissed as "non-serious" or DFHs, or the "reality-based community",

Maybe I answered this above and maybe I didn’t. No, it’s simply the point that the argument was predictable, expected and presumed to be biased in favor of not invading.

And yet, the people who were predictable, expected, and presumed to be biased in favor of not invading were listened to, because... why, exactly? They had published papers and plans trying to start a war with Iraq for decades. Why didn't their predictable, expected, and obvious bias count against their cheerleading for war?

I'm pushing back against this, but I'm also trying to understand, why were the people who had been calling for war with Saddam for over a decade credible despite their obvious bias, while people who opposed the war were marginalized by their bias against war? Again, leaving aside the media manipulation, lies, and complete general failure by the media to even bother to do the slightest of reporting or call the Bush administration on transparent BS.

Exactly. Saddam was such a s**t that is was hard to get really worked up over whacking him—kind of like McVeigh getting the needle for death penalty opponents—even if, on balance, you’d have let things play out without invading. Sometimes it’s hard to argue for a really, really rotten specimen of humanity.

The war killed hundreds of thousands of more people than just Saddam. Even in the "best case" scenario of "flowers and welcomed as liberators", tens of thousands would have died, and the "best case" scenario that was used to sell the was was as much transparent BS as the "WMD" threat.

War always kills many many more people than its targets.

There is a lot here that merits its own thread, Nate. I think there are two things that we need a national dialogue on... And I don’t think you are non-serious at all.

Well, I'm glad you think so, and I don't think you're non-serious, or a liar, or a fool. But the test will be the next time someone comes banging the drum for war, will millions of people marching against the war be taken seriously, or dismissed with pictures of giant puppets and hippie stereotypes, while the Very Serious People in Suits who were just as wrong last time sit in their air conditioned studios and say other people need to go die?

I'm not betting on the former. Being wrong, even at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives has almost never cost a pundit or a politician an election.

Sometimes it’s hard to argue for a really, really rotten specimen of humanity.

Then it's a good thing virtually no one was "arguing for" him, even among the many people opposed to the war. If someone said we should invade and occupy North Korea and Burma tomorrow and you said that would be foolhardy and would probably make an already terrible humanitarian situation even worse, would you be you "arguing for" Kim Jong-Il and the Burmese junta?

I'm fairly sure you didn't intend it as a cheap shot, but the whole "antiwar = pro-Saddam" thing really sticks in my craw. It was BS then and it's BS now.

I don't think you're a liar, an idiot, or a coward, McKinney, but I do think you got rolled. And I think maybe you approached the entire topic with a set of assumptions and predispositions that made it easier for you to get rolled.

Anyone interested in a trip down memory lane on this topic can check out Hilzoy's September 2006 post on the topic of Iraq, 9/11, and GOP politics in an election year. I went back to find it because I was looking for a book excerpt I posted in comments:

Here is a different assessment of this assertion from Berkowitz and Goodman. Lest any partisan hackles be raised, please note that the policy they criticize here is Clinton's covert attempts to stir up a Kurdish rebellion in 1996.

Moreover, if the covert operation had succeeded, its net result would have been a weak Iraq. Most experts agree that Iran, not Iraq, is the most significant potential threat in the region. One reason the objectives of Desert Storm were limited to liberating Kuwait was that U.S. leaders believed we needed a viable Iraq to counterbalance Iran. If we turned Sadam into the "Mayor of Baghdad," we would have created a power vacuum in the region. Dealing with Iran would have been more difficult than ever.

How weak might have Iraq become following a successful covert operation to destabilize Sadam's hold on power? Recall Afghanistan, where the CIA supported the mujahideen for almost a decade. Witness the moonscape that currently passes for Kabul, and you will see that even "successful" covert actions of this magnitude are impossible to plan with precision, and often end as horrible, bloody affairs. (141)

[Berkowitz, Bruce D. and Allan E. Goodman Best Truth: Intelligence in the Information Age. Yale UP (2000)]

Lots of serious people saw serious reasons why we should not invade or destabilize Iraq even before Bush II and 9/11 -- note the 2000 publication date.

i am crushed at the moment and unalbe to reply coherently. Hogan, i am looking at you. YOu too, HSH.

Just a random thought (heh, maybe it'll fit in here somewheres), but, fercrissakes, do you really have to have lived through Nixon and Vietnam to understand how f--ked up Republican thinking is about everygoddamthing? Meaning that you actually thought you had to give Bush/Cheney the benefit of the doubt?

Are you out of your f--king mind? Goddamn, where's Hunter Thompson when you need him?

McKT: But, you’re no pacifist. You’re a very decent human being, as are most progressives, who are mortified at the prospect of war... The examples you cite of justifiable general war are pretty mainstream.

No, I'm a pacifist. Perhaps I'm not what you think of as a pacifist, but your opinion is not dispositive.

Pacifism covers a range of beliefs, from absolute opposition to all violent resistance, to strong opposition to war whenever any possible alternative exists, which is where I put myself.

It's not surprising that the views on various wars that I gave are mainstream views. Pacifism, at least in a mild form, is a mainstream view. The majority of Americans are Christians and Christianity is a pacifist religion at heart, and particularly so in the strains that were common in early America. It's not for nothing that we say "Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men" at Christmas.

I'm not a Christian, but "turn the other cheek" always made a lot of sense to me. At least a couple of times around.

I've come to believe that nuclear arsenals (and NATO) have prevented a general war from breaking out in the last 65 years. That's changed my opinion on nukes, but it hasn't changed my opinion on peace.

i am crushed at the moment and unalbe to reply coherently. Hogan, i am looking at you. YOu too, HSH.

I hope by "crushed" you meant drunk, rather than despondent or dejected. If so, I hope it was a happy drunkeness, and that this morning you are not at the mercy of a hangover.

that this morning you are not at the mercy of a hangover.

I had one of my better Monday's yesterday. I brought the universe back into balance by mistaking hair spray for deodorant this morning.

I hope by "crushed" you meant drunk, rather than despondent or dejected.

Or possibly "slammed," as in overwhelmed by paid work. In any case, the line is open whenever you're ready.

In any case, the line is open whenever you're ready.

Hogan: I know HSH is in Philly. I'm going to try to fix a trip to NJ to see my son before too long with the intent of getting together with HSH. Where are you? I've got a bunch of travel coming up in the next couple of months and was hoping to run into some ObiWingers. Current destinations (subject to change) are: Yakima WA, New Orleans, Okla. City, Chicago and Tampa. I'm in Dallas and New Orleans a fair amount these days.

Good luck selling this one, say back in early 2002.

No doubt people were afraid. And fear leads to irrational actions. Which is why we need leaders to tamp down the fear, and not hype it for ulterior motives - like an invasion of Iraq that Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Armitage, Khalilzad, Feith and other influential members of the Bush team had wanted since 1990.

This is exactly the kind of statement that is calculated to lose an argument to the public at large.

And yet it is true. But you are right. Ironically, when I point out that many Dems went along with the war parade because they had the losing argument, you seem to reject that. And then you point out that the Dems had the losing argument!

You might say they are less of a threat or a relatively limited threat, but try telling a mother that a gas attack on her kid’s school isn’t a threat and everything past that sentence is white noise. Better yet, don’t go there.

The point is, they are no more deadly than conventional explosives in almost all settings - but especially in the context of what Saddam supposedly had.

Both chem and bio weapons are portable.

Not what Saddam supposedly had. It takes an enormous amount of highly advanced technology to weaponize chem and bio weapons into a form that is portable. And even if you do, they are usually LESS lethal than conventional explosives.

Take the sarin gas attack in the Japanese subway. Had they used a half dozen hand grenades instead, or TNT, there would have been a bigger body count.

Dismiss them as a threat and lose your audience.

See above.

And, because an adversary has a limited generation of bio or chem. Weapons today doesn’t mean he/she won’t improve on that generation in years to come. In fact, the opposite is more likely.

I'm not sure the opposite is more likely, but regardless: you don't go to war today because someone has a limited supply of outdated chem and bio weapons that are less deadly than conventional weapons in any setting other than the battlefield.

Saddam was not immortal. His likely successor was one of his two psychopathic sons.

So, had does this justify an invasion in 2003?

He didn’t need to be in bed with Bin Laden to give something nasty to another party. And, as we know, alliances shift, see e.g. WWII and Cold War.

Again, how does this justify an invasion? Saddam might someday give something he doesn't actually have yet to some as yet unidentified nasty party - even though he has never done that before. Ever.

It is and was of no consolation whatsoever that a chem weapon only kills in the 100’s or low 1,000’s.

No, you miss the point. The point is that what Saddam allegedly had was no more lethal than conventional explosives in any setting outside of a battlefield.

Hyping the threat of nukes was part of the run up, but it is over-emphasized in hindsight to support the narrative.

No, this is sanitization in hindsight. The "mushroom cloud" was repeated numerous times by Bush, Rice and others. This was their go-to phrase. Also, the infamous yellowcake uranium that they felt so important as to burn a CIA covert op over. And the infamous aluminum tubes that were, by all available intel, not suitable for a nuke program, while Rice claimed the exact opposite "only really suitable for a nuke program."

I never thought much of the nuke threat.

Then you are the exception, not the rule.

I thought a lot about a dozen or so time-on-target gas releases at indoor football games. Or major airport terminals. Or subways. Disruptive as hell and within reach of pretty much any second world industrial base.

This is more action movie tech than real life chem-bio weapons systems. This was not a real threat, even if pointing it out was a losing argument that would lose the audience.

I know HSH is in Philly.

I'm in NJ, just outside of Philly. Hogan is in Philly proper, I think. If not, very close on the PA side. Either way, we both know our way to the Standard Tap (and likely a bunch of other mutual spots). Let's do it.

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Whatnot


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