Ten Years Later And I Get To Say “I Told You So”

Ken AshfordBush & Co., History, Iraq, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Ten years ago today, President Skippy McNumbskull announced that we were going to war with Iraq.

They said Iraq had WMDs.

I said the administration had no evidence of WMDs in Iraq.  I said the UN inspectors who were, you know, there, hadn't found any evidence of WMDs, or even the precursors necessary to create WMDs.

They said we would be greeted in Iraq as liberators.  I said that removal of Saddam would simply unleash ethnic strife in the country, causing a civil war between the competing Shiite and Sunni and Kurds.

They said the war would pay for itself.  I said it would cost us dearly.  To date, that conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. service members and contractors and more than  130,000 Iraqi citizens, and is projected to cost the U.S. Treasury more than two trillion dollars.  And that's only the tragedies that can be quantified.

I (among many others) was right; they were wrong.

I'm not psychic, and I have no skills or experience in political science or Middle Eastern studies.  Why was I right?

The Iraq War was the first historical example of what would dominate the right wing for the next decade (including today): epistemic closure.  That's where you believe in something so much that your belief becomes the evidence, the facts, the truth.  I was right because I could see the evidence.  I could read about the ethnic strife.  I could read the UN inspectors reports saying "No WMD".  None of this seemed to matter to the Bush Administration (who flat out lied), or the cowed media cheerleaders.  (CNN would like you to think they were duped by the Bush administration — uh, no.  You were lazy, CNN).

The Iraq War was a failure.  We managed to kill Saddam Hussein at a cost too high.  We diverted attention and resources from the war in Afghanistan, and allowed bin Laden to slip away and keep an actual threat — al Qaeda — alive for decades to come.  We left the region in ruins.  And it sent the national debt skyhigh — so skyhigh that now we have to cut important programs and the social safety net here.  

Well played, Skippy.  But I told you so.

For a full timeline of the mess-ups, see Think Progress here.

RELATED: The New Republic's John Judis writes about what it was like to oppose the Iraq War back then.  Interesting part:

There were, of course, people who opposed invading Iraq—Illinois State Senator Barack Obama among them—but within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded foes. When The New Republic’s editor-in-chief and editor proclaimed the need for a “muscular” foreign policy, I was usually the only vocal dissenter, and the only people who agreed with me were the women on staff: Michelle Cottle, Laura Obolensky and Sarah Wildman. Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting)—were beating the drums for war. Except for Jessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington’s thinktank honchos were also lined up behind the war.

In December of 2002, I was invited by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to a ritzy conference at an ocean front resort in Key West. The subject was to be Political Islam, and many of the best-known political journalists from Washington and New York were there. The conversation invariably got around to Iraq, and I found myself one of the few attendees who outright opposed an invasion. Two of the speakers at the event—Christopher Hitchens, who was then writing for Slate, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who was then writing for The New Yorker—generously offered to school me on the errors of my way.

I found fellow dissenters to the war in two curious places: the CIA and the military intelligentsia. That fall, I got an invitation to participate in a seminar at the Central Intelligence Agency on what the world would be like in fifteen or twenty years. I went out of curiosity—I don’t like this kind of speculation—but as it turned out, much of the discussion was about the pending invasion of Iraq. Except for me and the chairman, who was a thinktank person, the participants were professors of international relations. And almost all of them were opposed to invading Iraq.