Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.
But many influential people — not just Mr. Bush — would prefer that we not have that discussion. There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.
Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.
The lies come from the liars like Krugman:
Excerpt from the Silberman-Robb Report:
The Commission also found no evidence of “politicization” even under the broader definition used by the CIA’s Ombudsman for Politicization, which is not limited solely to the case in which a policymaker applies overt pressure on an analyst to change an assessment. The definition adopted by the CIA is broader, and includes any “unprofessional manipulation of information and judgments” by intelligence officers to please what those officers perceive to be policymakers’ preferences (p. 188).
We conclude that good-faith efforts by intelligence consumers to understand the bases for analytic judgments, far from constituting “politicization,” are entirely legitimate. This is the case even if policymakers raise questions because they do not like the conclusions or are seeking evidence to support policy preferences. Those who must use intelligence are entitled to insist that they be fully informed as to both the evidence and the analysis (p. 189; footnote omitted).
Excerpt from the SSCI Report on Iraq Prewar Intelligence:
The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgements related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities (p. 284).
The Committee found that none of the analysts or other people interviewed by the Committee said that they were pressured to change their conclusions related to Iraq’s links to terrorism. (p. 363)
The gift of 20/20 hindsight can make liars of us all. However, the question being fielded to GOP presidential candidates is a bogus one.
Mike Morrell (previously quoted):
I think it’s a totally unfair question, right, for somebody to say knowing what we know now, would you do something. That makes no sense, right? You never know what you know how when you’re making a decision. You only know what you knew then. So I think it’s a much more reasonable question to say if you knew then what President Bush knew, what you would do, and then it gets really tough, right? Because again, it’s all about the context, Hugh, and the context was, again, 3,000 people had just been killed, the CIA telling you that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, including restarting a nuclear weapons program that he had once and had stopped, the CIA telling you that he supports Palestinian terrorist groups, and not al Qaeda, but Palestinian terrorist groups, and the President sitting there thinking you know, I can’t afford to take the risk of this guy use those weapons of mass destruction against me directly, or I can’t take the risk of him giving those weapons to a terrorist group. So when you put the context around anything, right, you look at it in a different light. So I think people have been completely unfair to Governor Bush here. The question is not given what you know now. The question really is given what you know then, that’s the question I think he thought he was answering. And given all the members of Congress at the time who voted to go to war in Iraq and given what the President thought, I think the Governor is on solid footing.
An interesting email sent to Hugh Hewitt from a radio listener:
From December of 1998 to April of 2000, I was an operator, as the job description says “Listening to routing foreign language communication” in Arabic. In this time, I heard regularly, not through hearsay or second hand, but personally, that Iraq (and Syria) were maintaining chemical weapons. I would on occasion hear that Iraq was doing rocket tests for rockets designed to carry nuclear payloads. From April of 2000 to October of 2002, I was a cryptanalyst, breaking codes in addition to listening. In this job, we heard the Iraqis regularly lock on or attempt to lock on SAMs against our planes patrolling the no fly zone. There was no doubt in our minds that Iraq still had the WMDs it had used against its own people in the 90s and against Iran in the 80s.
I have heard enough of this said publically, that I do not think it is still classified. But the fact is, even at my very very low level, we heard multiple confirmations that the chemical weapons Saddam used in the Iran-Iraq War and in the early 90s against his own Kurds still existed and were being maintained. We heard references to other WMD types (specifically Nuclear). In the year I served post 9-11, there was massive amounts of truck traffic from Iraq into Syria. All of this was known. All of this has been said elsewhere. And yet high level intel people from that era now say there were no WMDs and our intel was a mistake. These statements are what lead to the pressure for people to say “Knowing what we know now, I would not go into Iraq.” As your guest stated, that question is kind of irrelevant and unfair, but it also is incomplete. There were WMDs. They may have been old and poor quality, but they still existed and the military was still training as if to use them.
Will goes on to list several thoughtful reasons as to why executing the Clinton-era official U.S. policy of “regime change” in regards to Iraq was a mission worthy of respect. Please take the time to go read them.
He concludes with this:
My point is, Hugh, I think the rush to run from George W. Bush by Republicans is a huge mistake, and one the party has made repeatedly. In the 20s, revulsion over the horrors of WWI led to isolationism in America, led by Republicans. In the post WWII years, the Republicans split with an anti-Truman wing calling for stronger military action and another anti Truman wing of Republicans calling for Isolationism (Where the Fortress America quote came from). In the 60s, the Isolationism was a left wing fringe, and remained so through the remainder of the cold war up until about 2004. And now in the Post Iraq and Afghanistan era, Isolationism is rearing its head again on the Right, and our Presidential Candidates are mistaken if they think they can say Iraq was a mistake instead of clarifying with the more accurate statement mistakes were made in Iraq, but the idea, the reasoning for going to war, and the plan to rebuild Iraq after the war, were fundamentally sound though botched in execution, especially after 2008. Sadly, had a strong and coherent President followed Bush, Iraq could have been a success story, but too many of our people buy into Isolationism that the incoherence and ineptness of Obama, not the initial actions of Bush led to. Our candidate needs to have a clear vision of foreign policy, not vague Reaganesque statements followed by Obamaesque blaming America first or succumb to Isolationist temptation follies. While you harp on rebuilding Americas Military, an act I believe is essential to any future role we are to play in world affairs, a clearly defined foreign policy of promoting growth and stable republics must also be part of the vision. To allow this view to be dismissed as Neocon is to create the vacuum that we have seen bad actors fill time after time throughout history. We have seen the results of isolating ourselves, and it isn’t pretty. It will be less so in the Nuclear era.
Douglas Feith had believed that the case against Saddam was strong even in absence of an active WMD program. Peter Baker wrote in the NYTimes on the intriguing question: Would Bush have invaded if he knew the intell was flawed in the way that it was?
While Mr. Bush’s office declined to comment on Thursday, this is a question that for years has intrigued former members of Mr. Bush’s own team. Top aides like Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer and Richard L. Armitage have suggested that Mr. Bush would not have ordered the invasion had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction.
“Would the Iraq war have occurred without W.M.D.?” Mr. Rove, the president’s senior adviser, wrote in his memoir, “Courage and Consequence.” “I doubt it.”
In an interview for a history of the Bush administration, Mr. Fleischer, who served as press secretary, put it more strongly. “I just don’t think he would have gone to war,” he said. “I think he would have turned up the heat on Saddam, but I don’t think he would have gone to war.”
Mr. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, said in a separate interview: “I’m convinced that President Bush would not have done it absent W.M.D.”
But some of the strongest original supporters of the war remain unmoved. The case against Mr. Hussein, they argue, was never solely about unconventional weapons. That was just one of three main elements of the indictment, the others being support of terrorism (he offered bounties to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, although allegations that he had ties to Al Qaeda were disputed by the C.I.A.) and repression of his own people (he was held responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during his long tenure).
“Did the president make the right decision? Obviously, I thought so and still do,” Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, said for the Bush administration history. “I mean, I think he was faced with a whole set of reasons which seemed to me to be persuasive then and now.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, asked in an NBC interview a few years ago, said the decision was still the right one. “Oh sure,” he said. “It was sound policy that dealt with a very serious problem and that eliminated Saddam Hussein.”
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
Some of these war supporters said the administration had made a mistake by focusing the public case too intensely on the supposed weapons and leaving the other arguments to the side, as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell did when he went before the United Nations Security Council. Mr. Powell focused on the weapons because they were the subject of past Security Council resolutions that Mr. Hussein had flouted.
Moreover, it was the possible arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that seemed to make Mr. Hussein a threat to the United States, not his human rights record. A year later, when no weapons were found, Mr. Powell told The Washington Post that the “absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus” and “changes the answer you get” about whether he would have supported going to war in the first place — comments he tried to walk back after getting in trouble with the White House.
While Mr. Bush was still in office, Republicans like Mr. Powell were wary of disavowing the invasion, preferring to suggest that the decision was justified given what was believed at the time. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the party’s eventual 2008 nominee, said the war was still the right thing to have done, and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, an opponent for the nomination, did not argue otherwise. By 2011, though, with Mr. Bush in retirement in Dallas and another presidential campaign underway, Mr. Romney said that if it had been known there were no weapons, “Why, obviously we would not have gone in.”
That is not a conclusion that Mr. Bush has embraced, although he has offered more second thoughts than his vice president has. In his memoir, “Decision Points,” Mr. Bush acknowledged two main errors regarding Iraq: the false intelligence and the failure to respond more quickly and forcefully to deteriorating security after Mr. Hussein was ousted.
“No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.” The false intelligence proved to be “a massive blow to our credibility — my credibility — that would shake the confidence of the American people,” he concluded.
As a supporter and not the decider, entertaining the bogus question, “knowing what you know now….”, would you have still supported OIF, when it occurred?
Had I known how political partisans would almost cheerlead every body count and every collateral damage, giving aid and comfort to the enemy….
Had I known that post-Awakening and Troop Surge, that in 2011 President Obama would give-up all the hard-earned gains and sacrifice of blood and treasure to keep a campaign promise over national security interests…..
Had I known that the redline drawn on Syria was just a meaningless mirage and ISIS would breed there only to come back over into an abandoned Iraq….
Would I have still supported the original invasion in 2003 to finally back up 16 + 1 UNSCRs including the original Cease Fire Agreement against Saddam’s decade of deceit and defiance?
Gee. So many cogs in the wheel. See how this works, Bush critics? To claim that Bush created ISIS– that if not for OIF there’d be no ISIS- is to ignore a metastasizing danger of Islamic radicalism (which has its roots in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah on the Shia side of militancy; and in the 1940s/50s with the father of al Qaeda theology, Sayyid Qutb, along with wahhabism, salafism, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.). Why not blame Saddam for invading Kuwait for “creating ISIS”? Since if there were no invasion of Kuwait, there would not have been a UN-led Coalition by Bush 41. See the logic “fallacy”, Bush critics?
The more immediate blame, far more directly than rests on Bush’s shoulders, can be traced to recent decision-making: Failure on SoFA renegotiations. Failure on leadership on Syrian Civil War. Failure on how to deal with the Arab Spring and in naming the enemy.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.