My Iraq War Retrospective

I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:

Everything.

And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything.

I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.
I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD.
I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections.
I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections.
I was wrong about the containment sanctions.
I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East.
I was wrong about this making us more safe.
I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq.
I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath.
I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps.
I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East.
I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army.
I was wrong about the looting being unimportant.
I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent.
I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators.
I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protestors.
I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies.

I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. I am not sure how I snapped out of it, but I think Abu Ghraib and the negative impact of the insurgency did sober me up a bit.

War should always be an absolute last resort, not just another option. I will never make the same mistakes again.

*** Update ***

Here is someone who got it right.






295 replies
  1. 1
    Helena Montana says:

    Well, you had lots of company, John. And I just love a man that can learn from his mistakes.

  2. 2
    Morfydd says:

    Wow. John, is that you? If it helps, even as a totally knee-jerk liberal, I got these wrong too:
    I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.
    I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD.
    I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections.
    I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections.
    I was wrong about the containment sanctions.
    I was wrong about this making us more safe.

    And mostly:
    I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent.

    That’s what I get for trusting that at least Republicans would run a war well.

  3. 3
    MikeF says:

    Thank you.

  4. 4
    BH Buck says:

    John, how about Valerie Plame? Were you wrong there too?

  5. 5
    DougJ says:

    Your willingness to prove that you were wrong about everything just proves that you’re not a Serious Person.

  6. 6

    Everything.

    You’ve always been right about the valor of our men and women in uniform. That’ll do, for now. Lets just hope the next President does the right thing and brings them home.

  7. 7
    Velvet Elvis says:

    That took balls.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    Also as someone who was against the war and never really trusted Bush/Cheney, I have to say

    I was wrong not to be more against the war.
    I was wrong not to distrust Bush and Cheney even more than I did.

  9. 9
    Raenelle says:

    They don’t call it “war fever” for nothing.

  10. 10
    Soliton says:

    I’m really not sure how anyone could have listened to Bush during the Y2K campaign and come away with the idea that he had a clue..

    When I figured it out was watching a campaign event where Bush said (speaking of libruls) “They think Social Security is a federal program”.. And the crowd cheered like he had said something really intelligent..

    Bush was *always* painful to listen to, agreed, he’s gotten worse, but his speechifying was pathetically garbled at best.

    And people seriously compared him to Churchill and Lincoln among others..

  11. 11
    BH Buck says:

    DougJ, no, it simply proves the effects of the kool-aid wore off.

    Try it out yourself! Go a few hours without a sip.

  12. 12
    Mike P. says:

    Takes a big man to say all that, unequivocally. You offer no ifs ands or buts. Good on you!

  13. 13
    dillon says:

    AMEN I WISH THERE WERE MORE AMERICANS LIKE YOU

  14. 14
    Cassidy says:

    I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.

    The Bush version…surely. Pre-Emptive strikes as part of general doctrine…not so bad.

  15. 15

    That much stupid concentrated in one place could be used simply to generate inane political commentary–but unless controlled would result in a stupid bomb that would rip the fabric of the universe. Captain Kirk, call Star Fleet.

    Thanks for pointing out that smart people hate torture. Well said.

  16. 16
    AkaDad says:

    Respect

  17. 17
    Dug Jay says:

    Since you acknowledge that you were utterly wrong about virtually everything, why on earth should we believe that you all of a sudden are “right” now? I rather suspect that you still don’t know shit from Shinola.

  18. 18
    Thom says:

    At least it ain’t a monster under your bed.

    I love this post.

  19. 19
    matt says:

    I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators.

    You weren’t actually wrong about this one. It just didn’t last that long after it was clear there wasn’t a plan, looting, ect.

  20. 20
    Cassidy says:

    Takes a big man to say all that, unequivocally. You offer no ifs ands or buts. Good on you!

    Well shit, he’s been saying this stuff for a while now.

  21. 21
    demimondian says:

    Actually, Cassidy, the Doctrine of Preemptive War is pretty well debunked by Iraq. If there were any test case which would have made it look good, it was the 2003 invasion — and it didn’t.

    It showed that Howard Dean, professional DFH was right: we can sweep across the sand, driving all before us like cattle, but we can’t hope to hold the territory we capture unless there’s some deep offense committed towards us as a nation. That’s why we’re still in Afghanistan, and will be there for the foreseeable future, but why we need to be out of Iraq.

    That’s the difference between a massive retaliation (Afghanistan) and a preemption (Iraq).

  22. 22
    demimondian says:

    I rather suspect that you still don’t know shit from Shinola.

    Oh, I bet he knows you from Shinola.

  23. 23
    John S. says:

    Pre-Emptive strikes as part of general doctrine…not so bad.

    What does this mean, exactly? What general doctrine?

    As for myself, I can proudly say that even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 I never trusted Bush, I never once believed the rationale for war against Iraq and when I saw Powell go before the UN I thought he was full of shit.

    I just wish I was the majority.

  24. 24
    mitch says:

    DugJay, you’ve just stumbled into some sort of Möbius Strip of stupidity. Again.

    Good luck with that.

  25. 25
    Ted says:

    War should always be an absolute last resort, not just another option. I will never make the same mistakes again.

    Well, part of it is understandable. After 9/11, and Afghanistan going reasonably well at first, you had the GOP proclaiming our omnipotence, and capability to do just about anything with our military. The actual *idea* of knocking over Saddam and releasing the inner Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq was, and still is, a nice idea. It just bears no relation to reality.

    So, John, I don’t think many here will fault your intentions in what you supported. Hopefully this country will now realize that it is not omnipotent, our military can really only destroy (which is what it was designed to do, after all), and that we really needed a humbling wake-up call about these facts.

    I really hope we’re entering an era where people here realize there are only two (with a possible third) acceptable conditions for us to go to war:

    1. This country (its mainland, offland states, or territories) are under attack by a foreign aggressor.

    2. One (or more) of our allies (with whom we have mutual protection treaties actually ratified), is under attack by a foreign aggressor.

    (3. To possibly put an end to a genocide situation, where the victim population is utterly helpless, and a large group of cooperating countries will join in the effort and spread the cost, lives, and follow-up work.)

    All other reasons are neoconservative mania.

  26. 26

    […] 21, 2008 The Difference Between… Posted by John O under Political | Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Balloon Juice, fuck you! just because Ihad everything wrong!, John Cole, mea culpa, please forgive me, Slate |   …an honest conservative, and a dishonest, or at least painfully un-self aware conservative. Or fake intellectual or something. […]

  27. 27
    Cassidy says:

    Actually, Cassidy, the Doctrine of Preemptive War is pretty well debunked by Iraq. If there were any test case which would have made it look good, it was the 2003 invasion—and it didn’t.

    What does this mean, exactly? What general doctrine?

    I shall explain grasshopper.

    Demi, I disagree. The basis of modern military doctrine is grounded in multiple things, but two of the most important are overwhelming firepower and surprise. A pre-emptive strike is nothing more than “attacking at dawn” while everyone is in their sleeping bags. Essentially, maintaining a pre-emptive strike option as part of tactical doctrine only serves to enhance your warfighting capabilities.

    From the example you used, you are discounting several things, the most important being that the invasion and war in Iraq was an overwhelming success militarily. The problem began with the nation building, occupation, stupid political tricks, etc. From a tactical standpoint, the pre-emptive strike did exactly what it was designed to do.

    The second part you mention, regarding holding the territory, I do agree with, but as noted, I’m seperating the war from the occupation. There is actually a really good book, A Tale of Two Quagmires, that discusses very concisely the relationship of public opinion and ongoing military action.

  28. 28
    Greg says:

    John, you’re a credit to bloggers everywhere. Now that’s a mea culpa.

    “If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals.” Eh… probably only 5 years’ worth. There’s some hard-core idiocy going on down there.

    I was wrong not to protest Bush being innaugurated in Washington D.C. (protested him in Portland, ME–not the same.)
    I was wrong not to attend more pre-Iraq war protests (I only went to one).

  29. 29
    libarbarian says:

    Since you acknowledge that you were utterly wrong about virtually everything, why on earth should we believe that you all of a sudden are “right” now? I rather suspect that you still don’t know shit from Shinola.

    Translation: “You were an idiot when you agreed with me, so why would I now credit the opinions of a man I know to be an idiot?”

    Interesting point.

  30. 30
    Xenos says:

    While we are making confessions, it is clear that I was consistently wrong about the eight years of the Clinton presidency. I still think they were unfairly and illegaly persecuted, but their character was every bit as bad as sane Republicans said it was.

    Now we are in agreement about Obama, I really hope these streaks of bad judgment have come to an end.

  31. 31
    John D. says:

    From the example you used, you are discounting several things, the most important being that the invasion and war in Iraq was an overwhelming success militarily. The problem began with the nation building, occupation, stupid political tricks, etc. From a tactical standpoint, the pre-emptive strike did exactly what it was designed to do.

    Are you really having issues grasping the difference between “pre-emptive war” and “pre-emptive strike”?

    (Hint: Strategy vs. tactics).

  32. 32
    demimondian says:

    Cassidy, you’re using a different definition of doctrine than I am. You won’t find a bigger fan of the notion of overwhelming force and surprise than me, and I completely agree that those worked (particularly the former, as there wasn’t too much of the latter) in Iraq.

    The Bush Doctrine, though, was that preemptive war was a valid diplomatic tool. It may be, but not for us — we need to be motivated to not only win, but hold, and the cold-hearted calculus of preemptive war — not preemptive strike — does not lead to that.

  33. 33
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Cassidy Says:

    NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.

  34. 34
    Politically Lost says:

    Just days before the invasion, I was in my garage listening to the radio and thinking that it all just didn’t make sense. That we were attacking a country that had not attacked us, that I should be headed to San Francisco to protest. But, then I hesitated. I thought that I must not know something that “they” did. Why else would we be preparing to invade? I had heard the pushback (what little there was), I knew that Ritter was a straight arrow. That there were pretty good reasons why most of Europe thought we were nuts.

    And, then I thought…I have to get behind this because we were committing our brothers and sisters to war. I must support them.

    I was wrong to question my own judgment. If one does not have faith in one’s own reasoning one loses their thoughts to the crowd. I followed the crowd, off a cliff.

  35. 35
    Perry Como says:

    The basis of modern military doctrine is grounded in multiple things, but two of the most important are overwhelming firepower and surprise. A pre-emptive strike is nothing more than “attacking at dawn” while everyone is in their sleeping bags. Essentially, maintaining a pre-emptive strike option as part of tactical doctrine only serves to enhance your warfighting capabilities.

    Er, how do you get 100,000 troops in theater to “attack at dawn?” Surely someone is going to notice that. It’s not like we weren’t building up our supply lines and such prior to invading Iraq. And it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the warmongering mother fuckers in the administration weren’t going to attack.

  36. 36
    Wilfred says:

    I was wrong about many of the same things but what hurts the most is I actually believed the cruel lie that this Administration cared about the people it was supposedly liberating. The best people, the ones that really could have made a difference, were shoved aside in favor of know-nothing, culturally clueless Republican party apparatchiks and private contractors only in it for the money. We got what we paid for.

  37. 37
    w vincentz says:

    John C,
    This dirty smelly (and older) hippy tips his John Lennon cap to you. You’ve learned and admitted. Thanks.
    Seems to me there are lots of better things to do before killing people, or asking others to be killed in doing so…like, maybe talking.
    Ironic isn’t it that after ALL wars the parties involved sit down at a table and talk?
    Much better before than after.
    Just my two pennies worth.

  38. 38

    […] John Cole does an Iraq War Retrospective By Doug See, I’d be more inclined to give past policymakers who got Iraq so wrong more of a chance if they would be as forthright as John Cole, a guy who supported the War back in the day, but apparently has a nasty habit of reconsidering his positions as facts become available. Certainly it’s not “resolute,” that most treasured of virtues, but it’s still admirable. In what way does he now believe he was wrong? I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare. I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD. I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections. I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections. I was wrong about the containment sanctions. I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East. I was wrong about this making us more safe. I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq. I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath. I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps. I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East. I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army. I was wrong about the looting being unimportant. I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent. I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators. I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protestors. I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies. […]

  39. 39
    LiberalTarian says:

    My wrong opinion before the war:

    We will not attack Iraq because we would never be that stupid. It won’t happen.

    We were that stupid. We are even more stupid, because five years later we are still there.

    That is a hard lesson to digest.

  40. 40
    tballou says:

    I believe that historical psychologists will attribute a lot of this widespread wrongness to mass hysteria prompted by 9/11.

    I was against this war from the get go, and I recall very distinctly that day my fear that this nation would adopt a military response rather than a law enforcement response (i.e., lets go bomb someone, anyone and then create 1984-world vs. lets figure out who did this and go capture or destroy them while making sure we don’t destroy ourselves in the process).

    However, the incessant drum beat for war from Bush et al was seductive at a very primal level, and many otherwise intelligent people could not resist. The rest is history.

  41. 41
    Soliton says:

    From a tactical standpoint, the pre-emptive strike did exactly what it was designed to do.

    Yeah, it damn sure got rid of those pesky WMD’s..

    (eyeroll)

  42. 42
    Michael says:

    John, this is exactly why I find your posts so interesting. You had the courage to change your viewpoint. Few people are capable of doing that on any issue. You’ve stayed true to your intellectual foundation (small government, right to privacy, etc.) but you were able to distance yourself from the current administration that claimed to be governing based ideals similar to yours.

    I find the arc of your posts to be fascinating. I suspect you could write a great book by collecting key posts from your past and annotating them with the thoughts from today.

    I first found your site following a link to your manifesto “This is No Fun”. I still read it periodically and point it out to my friends. (post #7551. October 31, 2006 )

    Seriously, consider writing a book that is an annotated collection of your posts, in chronological order, to demonstrate the evolution of your thinking. If not a book, create it on the web site. Create a “Tour of best of John Cole” and let us navigate through the classics to witness the change that you’ve documented in your posts.

  43. 43
    MMM says:

    AMEN!

    ITMFA!

  44. 44
    myiq2xu says:

    Huh!

    It’s a good thing I’m too fuck to drunk, otherwise I would probly say some shit we would all regret.

  45. 45
    mamazboy says:

    This post by John Cole is just the best. I wish to god some of the other idiots that are clinging to this leaking life raft would have the guts to do what John has done here. Never trust someone who can’t say “I was wrong.” John has said it magnificently, and deserves all praise. Thank you.

  46. 46
    Cassidy says:

    Are you really having issues grasping the difference between “pre-emptive war” and “pre-emptive strike”?

    (Hint: Strategy vs. tactics).

    It’s easy to grasp. You’re overthinking it. A “pre-emptive war” is a fictional beast. You are either at war, or you are not. War, in and of itself is not a bad thing. Whetehr you’re fighitng over natural resources, or a plot of arable land, or hunting territory, war is what it is. And it will always exist regardless of the reasons we justify to ourselves that make it “right”. The post further up that details the “good reasons” for war, actually makes me laugh. Is there ever really a good reason for blowing the bejesus out of somebody?

    Cassidy, you’re using a different definition of doctrine than I am. You won’t find a bigger fan of the notion of overwhelming force and surprise than me, and I completely agree that those worked (particularly the former, as there wasn’t too much of the latter) in Iraq.

    The Bush Doctrine, though, was that preemptive war was a valid diplomatic tool. It may be, but not for us—we need to be motivated to not only win, but hold, and the cold-hearted calculus of preemptive war—not preemptive strike—does not lead to that.

    That’s why I said from the start that the Bush version was moronic, and I’ve said that consistently. But as I said before, the only differnece between a pre-emptive war, and a pre-emptive strike is the reasons used for justification. In the end, they are the same thing, with the same results.

    Er, how do you get 100,000 troops in theater to “attack at dawn?” Surely someone is going to notice that. It’s not like we weren’t building up our supply lines and such prior to invading Iraq. And it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the warmongering mother fuckers in the administration weren’t going to attack.

    You’d be surprised at how quickly a Division moves when told to “go”. The initial invasion wasn’t nearly that many troops either, at least those that engaged in direct combat.

  47. 47
    Rick Taylor says:

    Thank you.

    It genuinely puzzles and disturbs me that so many people who called for war haven’t changed much. It’s hard to imagine what would ever have convinced these people the war was a mistake; if a five year occupation with millions of refugees, a dysfunctional state, no wmd found, and no end in sight isn’t enough, what outcome would have? The disaster exceeded all but the most extreme predictions of those who opposed it. Meanwhile, all of the Republican candidates for president except for the libertarian maverick were running on the war being a positive or at least necessary thing. Perhaps one of the reasons the Republican party has become so out of touch is it’s insisting on maintaining it’s self image by sticking to a world view in which the invasion of Iraq was a good and necessary thing. Maintaining that degree of delusion in the face of reality can’t be healthy.

  48. 48

    Cassidy’s argument about pre-emptive war is correct. What demi is arguing against is preventative war. The difference is over whether war is imminent even if you don’t launch it right now.

  49. 49
    Cassidy says:

    Yeah, it damn sure got rid of those pesky WMD’s..

    Snark aside, if there were any actual WMD’s in Iraq, I’m confident they would have been captured. Being that it was only a lie to garner public support….

  50. 50
    Anna Granfors says:

    wow. just…wow.

    now, if you could only find a way to bottle this anti-Kool Aid and send a few million cases to the usual suspects…

  51. 51
    demimondian says:

    Yeah, it damn sure got rid of those pesky WMD’s..

    Damn straight! After the war, there was not a single undiscovered WMD anywhere in Iraqi territory.

  52. 52

    Soliton, even among journalists and politicians who always agreed that “Bush was always painful to listen to,” there was a general feeling that was was the “serious” option.

    Many people who thought the Bush administration was run by politicized, mendacious apparatchiks supported the invasion nonetheless.

  53. 53
    Robin Williams says:

    John – It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault…

    You should choose the wrench too.

  54. 54
    Tom says:

    I posted this in response to a guy over at HotAir who said the strategy of fighting al Qaeda in Iraq worked. But, it pretty much sums up my feelings on the war in general:

    I find the whole “fight them over there, instead of here” thing kind of funny.

    I just envision this scenario:

    OK, Iraqis, we have a deal for you. Since 9/11, we’re kind of walking around on egg shells over here in America. It’s scary having a bunch of nut jobs bent on causing death and destruction in your country. So, I tell you what we’re going to do. You have Saddam. You don’t like him, we don’t like him. So, we’re going to bomb the sh*t out of your country and take him out. Put one in the plus column for you. Now, since al Qaeda hates — and I mean HATES — having the West in the Middle East, they’re probably going to want to fight us over this. So after the invasion, the lowest form of scum the world has to offer is going to flock to Iraq and start blowing the country to bits, distracting them from attacking the US mainland. Put one in the plus column for us! And I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t it only take 20 some odd people to pull of the 9/11 attacks, and won’t many of the fighters be new recruits inspired by the Iraq invasion to join the ranks?”

    All true, but it’ll make us feel better. Plus “we’re fighting them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
    You’re probably also thinking it might not be all that good for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to be blown up by these guys. I understand your concern, but you’re about to be free people, and one thing free people understand is “freedom isn’t free.” Plus, you’ll come to hate these people so much, that you’ll help us run them out of the country! Isn’t that awesome?
    One last thing, we’ll probably have to be in your country for a while. We’re hoping to get insurgent attacks — what’s that? oh, yeah, i forgot to mention the insurgency. That’s Iraqis fighting the new US-backed government. Even after we push al Qaeda out of Iraq, the main cause of the violence will still exists. But, back to my point. We hope to get insurgent attacks down to about 60 a day five years into the war. Now, I know what you’re thinking “only 60 a day?” Yes, I know it’s great progress, but we have to make sure that your Sunni and Shi’ite populations settle their thousands of year old feud before we go because, heck, once we’re gone, who the hell knows what’s going to happen? So, get used to us here.

    So, what do you say, do we have a deal? Wait, don’t answer that. We’re invading no matter what you want.

  55. 55
    Cassidy says:

    After the war, there was not a single undiscovered WMD anywhere in Iraqi territory.

    Hey! There was a shell with old residue of nerve gas. That proves they were right.

  56. 56
    JL says:

    I believed Scott Ritter but NOBODY COULD FORESEE how much this President could screw up.

  57. 57

    […] Hillary should take notes. Here’s how you do a mea cupla for supporting the Iraq invation. I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  58. 58
    not lois says:

    Thank you for exposing yourself this way; I know it takes courage.

    Sadly, I was right. I had no doubt that I was right, and I did everything in my power to show others why. It wasn’t enough. As we’ve since learned, nothing would have been enough.

    To quote Dick Cheney yesterday, which represents the attitude of this entire admin for the past 8 years, re: the majority of Americans today (unfortunately, belatedly) feeling that the attack on Iraq was a mistake:

    “So?”

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  59. 59
    Pb says:

    I will never make the same mistakes again.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure you’re more than capable of making some totally different mistakes.

    Great post, too.

  60. 60
    demimondian says:

    There was a shell with old residue of nerve gas.

    Hey…wait.

    WMD means “weapon of MOUSE destruction”?

    Well that explains a lot.

  61. 61
    Ninerdave says:

    Good on you John. It’s been fun to watch your transformation from wingnut to Democrat.

  62. 62
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    All you people who have no problem with pre-emptive war: do you not regard with anger the Japanese Empire’s attack on Pearl Harbor? How about this: if a SWAT team raided your house, confiscated your bank account, and hauled you off to prison because they thought you *might* be on your way to buy drugs, would you have a problem with that?

    War, in and of itself is not a bad thing. . .Is there ever really a good reason for blowing the bejesus out of somebody?

    Huh? I don’t get it. You say war isn’t a bad thing, then you say there’s never a good reason to wage war. So, which is it? Because I think doing something for no good reason is, to put it bluntly, bad.

    Of course war is bad. At its best–its absolute acme, its finest hour–war can cure the ills of war, while leaving destruction, death, and economic drain in its wake. So the idea of waging war against a country because it *might* someday be a danger is insane.

    And I do mean “insane”. Because our country will probably try this same gambit again, some day, expecting a different outcome.

  63. 63
    The Editors says:

    OTOH, you could have been prescient about everything, and nothing would be any different, aside from some blog posts. We’d still be fucked.

    I need practice at this ‘cheering up’ thing.

  64. 64
    bemused says:

    John, I hope you don’t later have the experience some of us had this time, namely “Wait, remember how it went in Viet Nam? Don’t do this, don’t do this…” and then listening to the shout downs of “It’s not the same, it’s a desert not a jungle…” etc.

  65. 65
    howard says:

    john, as someone who duked it out with you back in the days when you were wrong, i cannot begin to express my appreciation for your demonstration of the simple power of admitting error honestly.

  66. 66
    mk says:

    Good on you, John. Well said, and said well.

    As for this, It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004.… I hate to break it to you, as I imagine you to be fairly young, there may be other periods ahead where you wonder. Welcome to the human race.

  67. 67
    demimondian says:

    I don’t have a problem with a preemptive attack once a state of war exists. That’s very different from the notion of a preemptive war, which is, in turn, different from a preventative war. Michael Neal is right that I was abusing terminology, and should have been using the last term “preventative” war — and nobody should ever support that. (And nobody here does, fwiw.) Pearl Harbor is another example of preventative attack.

  68. 68
    PK says:

    It takes a lot of courage to come out and say this.
    What still surprises me is how many republicans still support the war and Bush. Bush’s approval rating is at 34 percent. That means one out of 3 people still like him. That to me is scary!

  69. 69
    empty says:

    Well, you had lots of company, John. And I just love a man that can learn from his mistakes.

    Takes a big man to say all that, unequivocally. You offer no ifs ands or buts. Good on you!

    AMEN I WISH THERE WERE MORE AMERICANS LIKE YOU

    I love this post.

    Let’s not get carried away.

    Friday: 22 Iraqis Killed, 10 Wounded

    Thursday: 25 Iraqis Killed, 28 Wounded

    Iraq Begins Sixth Year of Chaos, Bloodshed

  70. 70
  71. 71
    Li says:

    I was wrong to drown my doubts in a wave of deceptions, and I was a fool for thinking that our leaders had more information at hand than I did. I will never again make the mistake of thinking that some snake with an Ivy league rag in hand has any more information than I, except perhaps about where all the money is really flowing. Though, I think I can guess.

  72. 72
    Wilfred says:

    It would be nice if everyone who admits error on the AUMF applied some critical thinking to Kyl-Lieberman, another green light for preventative attack. We can’t rewrite the past but we can prevent another stupid act of unwarranted aggression.

  73. 73
    Alexandra says:

    Thank you, John,
    You are an honorable man.

  74. 74
    alyosha says:

    Kudos to you John, for being able to admit this, and in public.

    I never believed Bush. He always turned my stomach, even while he was running for office in 2000. After 9/11, I was horrified at the way he + Cheney manipulated the country, indeed the world, into starting this war. I cried the day we invaded Iraq, for something truly great about the United States of America was lost. Will we ever see it again?

    Others bemoan the Republicans’ incompetence at prosecuting this war, I bemoan their sheer evil, their inability to feel, their greed and the many deceptions they use to hide all of this, from themselves and from us all.

    As Hunter Thompson wrote:

    We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world–a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us…No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill you.

    Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush?

    They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us–they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.

    And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.

  75. 75
    p.lukasiak says:

    War should always be an absolute last resort, not just another option. I will never make the same mistakes again.

    As someone who got just about everything right (I mean, I figured that there must have been something to the WMD claim–the President is supposed to know more than we do, so while I knew he was lying through his teeth, I figured he knew something I didn’t.) I don’t think you were wrong about all that much.

    The big thing you were wrong about was “trusting Bush.”

    see, everyone thought that Saddam did have WMDs, or at least some kind of R&D program for them. And everybody thought that he would resist full compliance with inspections.

    And had Saddam not fully complied with inspections, we would have gone into Iraq with the full backing of the international community and a truly multinational coalition that included troops appropriate for peace-keeping missions, lots of Muslims and Arabic speakers, etc. etc.

    And if that had happened, things would certainly be different — and probably better — today.

    So ultimately, your real mistake was trusting Bush. I didn’t, so I was right. You did, so you believed all that crap that you “got wrong”, and you were wrong.

    Iraq is a problem not just because its a disaster, but because it has taught us that our leaders cannot be trusted. And in a democracy, its crucial that we do have trust in the integrity of our leadership because they should know more than they can tell us, and should be able to make bogus arguments because divulging the good stuff would compromise sources and methods.

    *****
    but while we’re on the subject of you being wrong, have you considered how your failure in personal judgement — especially when it came to trusting Bush — might be repeating itself in your choice of Democratic nominee? :P

  76. 76
    Cassidy says:

    I don’t have a problem with a preemptive attack once a state of war exists.

    My personal view is that a pre-emptive war exists for a total of nanoseconds; then you are at war conducting a pre-emptive strike.

    Huh? I don’t get it. You say war isn’t a bad thing, then you say there’s never a good reason to wage war. So, which is it?

    War as a concept is neither good or bad. It quite simply exists, always has and always will. There is no good reason to go to war. Now we can justify a war to ourselves all day long, but essentially we are only coming up with feel-good excuses to bomb the fuck out of some people, who in this day and age, we are entirely likely to destroy. For me personally, I don’t view war as right or wrong. It is a tool, an effective one, but still only a tool with generally limited advantages. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it is not. In the end though, it isn’t any more noble to fight over a plot of arable land, than it is to fight your nieghbor who might own a nuclear weapon. The end result(s) are still the same.

  77. 77
    Louise says:

    Everyone else has already given the rational praise this terrific post deserves, so I’ll just ask:

    Is it wrong that this post turns me on?

    Seriously, John, find a Democratic woman and show her this. I feel sure you’ll be rewarded!

  78. 78
    Jodes says:

    Thank you. Seriously, as a member of a country that got dragged into this mess because we were your allies, I needed to hear that finally someone on your side of politics understands what a balls up you’ve made of the world.

    Fear politics is leading us into hell. Privacy invasion, security checks at airports, the fear of everything, the hatred being spread….YOU’RE ALL ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS.

    So, what are you going to do about it? PLEASE do something. Please reverse the crap that has gone on because I seriously fear for our future whilst Bush, Cheny and the other cronies who play yes-men and women do nothing but gather money and power for themselves.

  79. 79
    Cassidy says:

    Is it wrong that this post turns me on?

    Get a room you two.

  80. 80
    Jorge says:

    Yes, but were you wrong about Mother Sheehan?

  81. 81
    Cassidy says:

    Seriously, John, find a Democratic woman and show her this. I feel sure you’ll be rewarded!

    You could start here
    http://www.hillaryis44.org

  82. 82
    libarbarian says:

    From a tactical standpoint, the pre-emptive strike did exactly what it was designed to do.

    1. I think your premise is wrong. There is no equivalence between a preemptive strike and a surprise attack. A preemptive strike can be a surprise, but it is not necessarily so. A surprise attack is an attack when the enemy does not expect – or have good reason to suspect one. We were very open about our intentions. We had declared our intention to possible attack over a year before and we had started moving material into position months before we attacked. The fact that Saddam thought it was a bluff and so was personally “surprised”, and that our rapid advance resulted in many cases where we achieved tactical surprise against an enemy who did not know we were close, does not make it a “surprise attack”.

    Furthermore, our strike was only preemptive in terms of of preemptive a terrorist (possibly WMD) attack backed by Saddam. There was NO ISSUE WHATSOEVER of gaining some conventional tactical advantage by attacking the Iraqi army before it could attack us. It is wrong that our “tactical standpoint, the pre-emptive strike did exactly what it was designed to do” because it was designed to forestall an Iraqi-backed terrorist WMD attack against the US and it failed. The tactical surprises our forces achieved were due to our superiority in speed, communications, etc. They had nothing to do with the fact that the attack was “preemptive”.

    2. The success of a war is not to be judged on a purely “tactical perspective”. Wars are instruments of National Policy in the service of the overall national interest and they are correctly judged by their effect on the national interest as a whole.

    People are free to argue that the effect of the war has been good for our national interest, but its lame to try and focus for limited success on one level as though thats some official criteria for how these things are supposed to be judged.

  83. 83
    empty says:

    Everyone else has already given the rational praise this terrific post deserves, so I’ll just ask:

    Is it wrong that this post turns me on?

    Wow. Be a bloodthirsty bastard cheering on an unprovoked attack that has resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents. And then all you have to do is say say oops I made a booboo. And they start throwing knickers at you. Learn myiq2xu. Learn.

  84. 84
    Wilfred says:

    but while we’re on the subject of you being wrong, have you considered how your failure in personal judgement—especially when it came to trusting Bush—might be repeating itself in your choice of Democratic nominee?

    I can’t speak for Cole, but your candidate voted yes on Kyl-Lieberman after repenting her yes vote on the AUMF. What about her judgment, and yours?

  85. 85
    ThymeZone says:

    This post is why most of us think that this is the best blog in the world.

  86. 86
    jake says:

    Perhaps a Bush League cheerleader or two will wander by and note that the sky did not crack open and rain down brimstone upon Mr. Cole.

    Nah. They’ll be too busy inspecting his counters.

  87. 87
    Cassidy says:

    but its lame to try and focus for limited success on one level as though thats some official criteria for how these things are supposed to be judged.

    I disagree. Seperating a situation into its compnent parts and examining them as their seperate entities is a good method of finding out what worked and what did not. Even in Iraq, seperating the war from the occupation is necessary to answer that question.

    I think your premise is wrong. There is no equivalence between a preemptive strike and a surprise attack.

    I disagree, but I’m willing to leave it at that.

  88. 88
    lilysmom says:

    Thank you John. That was a fierce, incredible post.
    All men are guys but not all guys are men. Our current Commander in Chief comes to mind.
    Almost every day good men and women die because of that idiot. He fucked up everything he ever touched. He has no honor.
    You sir are an honorable man.

  89. 89
    Scott S says:

    I hate to say this but I got everything right on Iraq. I never believed a word that Bush said. 9-11 gave us a historic opportunity to really make a positive change in the world, too bad that we had a complete fool leading this nation.

  90. 90
    GSD says:

    The run up to the war was really a remarkable time for those of us who were not swept up in the war fervor and collective mania.

    Amazing.

    -GSD

  91. 91
    p.lukasiak says:

    I can’t speak for Cole, but your candidate voted yes on Kyl-Lieberman after repenting her yes vote on the AUMF. What about her judgment, and yours?

    I had BDS probably before anyone else on this blog. You know that 7% of Americans who disapproved of the way that Bush was handling his job in the wake of 9-11. I was one of those.

    So, I’ll stand by my ability to read character, and my ability to distinguish between real judgment and talent, and votes made in the name of political expediency.

  92. 92
    Dug Jay says:

    This is a classic “John Cole Circle Jerk” post.

  93. 93
    demimondian says:
    I don’t have a problem with a preemptive attack once a state of war exists.

    My personal view is that a pre-emptive war exists for a total of nanoseconds; then you are at war conducting a pre-emptive strike.

    I concede that the distinction is largely semantic: once the war has started, it has started, and that’s that.

    I don’t think that the distinction between preventative war — the Bush doctrine — and “war in general” is academic, however, and I believe that is what Cole was speaking to. I think you agree with that?

  94. 94
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Aw geez, I feel so out of my depth here. All I ever knew about war I earned by carrying a belt-fed fully automatic 7.62 NATO caliber weapon in places like Chau Duc, Ca Mau, Rach Gia, the Hu Minh Forest and the Rung Sat Special Zone.

    What I learned was:
    If you’re going to place a bunch of Americans with relatively complex support requirements at the end of a supply chain that is a few thousand miles long then you’d better have clearly defined, achievable goals and a defined timetable for achieving them. This includes announcing publicly and in advance that you’re going to leave when those goals are met. Changes the goals only pisses people off and makes the whole fracas last longer.

    If you’re going into a country where many of the locals are hostile and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys at a glance then you’re fucked.

    If you fight a war where you’re at the end of the above mentioned long supply chain while your opposition can fight you at the times and places of their choice, with superior knowledge of the local landscape and the forced or unforced support of the locals then…

    If you choose to write a nation’s history for them then you’d fucking well better have a better history than they would have written for themselves and you’d damned fucking well better be able to deliver it in a timely fashion.

  95. 95
    demimondian says:

    This is a classic “John Cole Circle Jerk” post.

    Well, you’re still here, so we have a jerk.

  96. 96
    Wilfred says:

    So, I’ll stand by my ability to read character, and my ability to distinguish between real judgment and talent, and votes made in the name of political expediency.

    This why you’re such a wanker. Kyl-Lieberman is a green light for Bush to attack Iran and you know it. If Clinton’s vote indicates real judgment and talent and it originated in the Vice-President’s office then…what? It was pure political expediency on her part.

  97. 97
    rle says:

    John,

    This is why I read your site every day. I disagree with you fundamentally about many political issues. And yes, I do find it refreshing and confirming to hear someone who disagreed with me at the time admit that he was wrong!

    But the primary reason that I love reading your site is that it gives me some hope for the political future of this country. The period from 2001-2004 was a very ugly time politically in the U.S. In the midst of mainstream political discourse that continues to be dominated by the Limbaughs and Hannitys, it’s good to know that intellectually honest people exist who can admit that they, along with much of the country, were disastrously wrong about this war and this president.

    The only way that we are going to fully recover from the past 7+ years is for there to be accountability and a public reckoning of what went wrong. Mostly, I don’t hold out much hope of that. Americans in general hate acknowledging their public faults. But then I read posts like this, and it gives me a glimmer of hope.

    Thank you.

  98. 98
    Ninerdave says:

    I can’t speak for Cole, but your candidate voted yes on Kyl-Lieberman after repenting her yes vote on the AUMF. What about her judgment, and yours?

    That vote didn’t count because it was made in D.C. where Obama won, and we all know when Obama wins the votes don’t count.

  99. 99
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Well, you’re still here, so we have a jerk.

    Actually, we have a pivot man.

  100. 100
    demimondian says:

    Kyl-Lieberman is a green light for Bush to attack Iran and you know it.

    I hate to rain on everybody’s parade here, but…um…Wilfred? Why on Earth do you think that Bush needs any excuse whatsoever to go medieval on Iran? Seriously, dude, if you think K-L is going to make any different one way or another, you’re out of sync w/ reality.

  101. 101
    Jo Fish says:

    And I would be wrong to say “I told you so”. It’s now distressingly obvious how FUBAR this whole thing is. Now it’s time to work together and end this immense fuck-up and return a competant honorable political adversarial system to this country so this can’t happen again.

    Okay, so a fish can dream right?

    -Love, a dirty smelly hippie vet.

  102. 102
    Corrigan says:

    Amen and Thanks John! Let’s hope your clarity is contagious, and many others have a similar coming to Jesus moment over the next 8 months!

  103. 103
    Dug Jay says:

    Demi, I hear that the folks around Little Rock aren’t too thrilled with your views on a range of issues involving the Palestinian territories. Not sure what the significance of that is, however.

  104. 104
    mac says:

    I was skeptical but still ambivalent up to a few weeks before–those Iraqi expats were pretty persuasive.

    Then I heard an incredible interview on NPR with Scott Ritter. I heard that and thought: ‘oh shit, how can people be ignoring this guy? This war is going to be a fucking nightmare.’ Couldn’t sleep at night for a month.

    Of course, I also got a bit nervous every time Max Booth opened his mouth. He was all eager to turn Iraq into rubble.

  105. 105
    jake says:

    Why on Earth do you think that Bush needs any excuse whatsoever to go medieval on Iran?

    “Wahl. Y’see. The Muricun people gave me mandate to attack Iran when they ‘lected the Congressmen who voted fer blah, blah, blah, moo, quack. Heh.”

    He doesn’t need an excuse, but he’s too big a chickenshit to act unless he can either hide what he’s up too or spread the blame for the consequences.

  106. 106
    Dr Rick says:

    Good for you, John; you’re a better man than any neocon.

  107. 107
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Bush, having realized that he had neither the intelligence nor the work ethic to make America greater, decided to make it as much of a failure as he has been all of his life.

  108. 108
    Cassidy says:

    I don’t think that the distinction between preventative war—the Bush doctrine—and “war in general” is academic, however, and I believe that is what Cole was speaking to. I think you agree with that?

    Of course. That’s why I seperated the two from the beginning. The Bush Doctrine (Or how I goat-fucked my way into a two front war with no popular support) is deeply flawed and he deserves every scathing remark the historians will give him.

    The reason I brought up the more “general” conversation is that people tend to be offended by war in general, yet take great pains to justify what would make a good war. Under different leadership (and facts would have helped), the reasoning for war in Iraq would have been a sound one, IF the justification for them had been based on truth. The reality is that war sucks , regardless of the reason, and the people on the recieving end, or those sent to fight, don’t really care about the justification. It doesn’t make a differnece either way.

    All I ever knew about war I earned by carrying a belt-fed fully automatic 7.62 NATO caliber weapon in places like Chau Duc, Ca Mau, Rach Gia, the Hu Minh Forest and the Rung Sat Special Zone.

    Wuss… :-)

    You’d like the 240B’s. Much higher rate of fire.

    Regarding the rest of it, read that book I referenced earlier. I think you’d like it.

  109. 109
    Steve Peters says:

    Thank you John. It takes a strong man to stand up and eat crow when crow needs to be eaten. Now let’s figure a way out of this mess.

  110. 110
    Soylent Green says:

    Speaking of attacking Iran, isn’t a powerful urge to do just that what McCain has recently been telegraphing in his conflation of Iran and al-Qaeda?

  111. 111
    jake says:

    So, I’ll stand by my ability to read character, and my ability to distinguish between real judgment and talent, and votes made in the name of political expediency.

    Wow. pluck and I have so much in common. Pre-2000 BDS? Check. Knew everything Commander-in-Codpiece did from day one was a cluster fuck? Check. But most of all, do we both have an ability to read character? Check.

    That’s how I know pluck’s so full of shit you need to flush twice to get rid of him.

  112. 112
    Xanthippas says:

    Since you acknowledge that you were utterly wrong about virtually everything, why on earth should we believe that you all of a sudden are “right” now? I rather suspect that you still don’t know shit from Shinola.

    See, in the world of normal humans-as opposed to the world of say, flaming right-wing warmongerers-people actually learn from their mistakes, and they grow as individuals and earn the respect of others as a result. You however, will always harbor completely idiotic opinions about the war in Iraq and the “war on terror”; the only reason you can sleep at night with a head full of such idiocy is that you are also possessed of the gift of complete ignorance of your own wrongness, a gift that graces approximately 28% of Americans. However, WE still know what an idiot you are, which is why every single one of your comments here receives about the same response every single time.

  113. 113
    Chris Johnson says:

    Okay, let’s take a few more steps.

    Were you wrong that America has inherent moral authority just because it is America?

    Do you now feel America has moral authority only when it makes actual moral decisions correctly, and has no claim to moral authority when it decides to do things like start wars, torture, and carry on like a banana republic?

    IF you consider that America has been doing these very things, do you feel it is to be blessed in this course of action, or damned, or simply ignored politely?

    “John Cole in MY crazy black preacher? It’s more likely than you think!”

  114. 114
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Wuss…

    I cheerfully accept criticism from the Brother and Sisterhood of Them What’s Been Shot At. Beside carrying the gun I also humped a full field pack, two two-hundred round belts of ammunition, a spare barrel and the “oven mitt” for changing same. We once hit a hot (And very soggy) LZ and had to jump from a hovering Huey. Due to all of the weight I was carrying I sank into the ground right up to my crotch. My ammo passer pulled me out, despite all of the lead bees in the air. I came to understand at the moment that true heroism consists of wetting yourself when it’s already raining.

  115. 115
    Zuzu says:

    I always hoped we’d learn from the mistakes of Vietnam.

    Evidently not.

    I hoped at least by 2004 people would figure out what an incompetent, dishonest, jerk put us in Iraq and boot him out of office.

    Nope.

    I just don’t get it.

    (But thanks for the upfront self-assesment, John. Not sure I could be so brutally honest in public.)

  116. 116
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Regarding the rest of it, read that book I referenced earlier. I think you’d like it.

    I’ll give it a read, although Tim Obrien’s masterful “The Things That They Carried” and Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” both did one hell of a job in recapitulating being there.

  117. 117
    Rook's Rant says:

    What John Cole Got Wrong

    John Cole tells everyone what he got wrong.

  118. 118
    ThymeZone says:

    So, I’ll stand by my ability to read character, and my ability to distinguish between real judgment and talent, and votes made in the name of political expediency.

    Pie is delicious. Eat more pie.

  119. 119
    Krista says:

    Jorge Says:

    Yes, but were you wrong about Mother Sheehan?

    I’m rather interested in seeing John’s response to this one.

    The run up to the war was really a remarkable time for those of us who were not swept up in the war fervor and collective mania.

    Amazing.

    If by “remarkable”, you mean “pants-wettingly frightening”, then I agree with you. The whole thing, looking back on it, seems so surreal. 9/11 happens, off you go to Afghanistan, with us right behind you to help out, and then next thing you know, all the media can talk about is Saddam Hussein, and we’re thinking, “Um…what?” Then we’re being pressured to join you in Iraq, even though the job wasn’t anywhere near done in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was still at large. And all of a sudden, we’re bad guys for not joining you in Iraq! It was just so weird and bizarre and illogical.

    And what’s even more disturbing is that there are still so many people with that simplistic, black-and-white mentality, who can’t distinguish between patriotism and blind, unquestioning, lemming-like nationalism.

  120. 120
    p.lukasiak says:

    Wow. pluck and I have so much in common. Pre-2000 BDS? Check.

    who were you in 2000, and where on the web did you hang out?

    I personally was hanging out over at Salon’s table ta;k. In fact, it was through the people that I met there that my AWOL stuff got traction — one of people from back in the old days was dave niewart who remembered my research on the origins of Florida election law, and who linked to it at his orcinus blog which is read by Michael Froomkin, who linked to it on his Discourse blog, which is read by his brother Dan Froomkin who linked to it on his “White House briefing” blog at the washington post…

    so, if you really were around back in 2000, and suffering from BDS, I probably know you and you probably know me, at least by reputation. Or your just full of shit.

  121. 121
    Dug Jay says:

    However, WE still know what an idiot you are, which is why every single one of your comments here receives about the same response every single time.

    In a similar vein, it is equally true that almost none of the fuckwad regulars on this site represent the views of a significant number of Americans (or for that matter, of Democrats’ views) on any issues of consequence. Most of the nitwits here hold views that are closer to those of Osama bin Laden or the late Yasser Arafat than that of the typical Democrat/American.

  122. 122
    AkaDad says:

    Anyone who owns up to their mistakes is undoubtedly a Liberal Fascist.

  123. 123
    Perry Como says:

    This post is why most of us think that this is the best blog in the world.

    Well, that and you TZ. That and you.

  124. 124
    Scott H says:

    I wish you had been 100% right, John, I really do. And I hope I am wrong about this: Some day no one will listen to you when you try to explain how fucked up things are about to get.

  125. 125
    demimondian says:

    Demi, I hear that the folks around Little Rock aren’t too thrilled with your views on a range of issues involving the Palestinian territories. Not sure what the significance of that is, however.

    Hmm. Hey, Dug Jay, why would I care about Little Rock? Wanna help me out here?

  126. 126
    Cassidy says:

    Beside carrying the gun I also humped a full field pack, two two-hundred round belts of ammunition, a spare barrel and the “oven mitt” for changing same.

    I hated being on the gun team. I was the brand new Joe and got handed the spare barrel, ammo, and oven mitt. Taught me how to be a helluva SAW Gunner, though.

    Never discount the ability of a pilot to find the shittiest terrain to drop you in.

  127. 127
    Soylent Green says:

    Back in the day when I was a young pup out marching around with the rest of the Vietnam War protesters, being “against the war” meant only one thing. Now there seems to be a range of possible positions.

    If two-thirds of the American people today are “against the war,” what percentage of them believe that all war is wrong no matter what the circumstances?

    What percentage believe that this particular war was wrong because Iraq was not our enemy, having had nothing to do with 9-11?

    What percentage believed that it was justified for whatever reason, but now feel strongly that it wasnt?

    What percentage believe that the war was justified but are against it now because it has been irredeemably lost by mismanagement, and would still be for it if it hadn’t?

    What percentage believe that the war has not been irredeemably lost and will stop being against the war just as soon it can be turned over to better managers?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  128. 128
    srv says:

    I had BDS probably before anyone else on this blog. You know that 7% of Americans who disapproved of the way that Bush was handling his job in the wake of 9-11. I was one of those.

    Almost. I was heckling him back in 1994 and furious when the mob missed their chance.

  129. 129
    Tracy says:

    “I was wrong about everything.”

    At least no Iraqis, Americans, or Brits had to pay with their lives for such ignorance.

  130. 130
    demimondian says:

    What percentage believed that it was justified for whatever reason, but now feel strongly that it wasnt?

    I fall into that category. I’m sorry — sorrier than any of you can imagine.

  131. 131
    p.a. says:

    America would be in much better shape if more people had the self-respect to admit what John has. Why do we find it so hard to admit mistakes when we screw up every day? Either at work, in our personal lives, financially etc? (Maybe I shouldn’t generalize for everyone out there like that. But I screw up all the time. And you know what? Admitting it is easy. People expect defensive responses and denials. When you just say ‘Yup, my bad.’ they’re so shocked, they don’t get mad.)
    Now if I may pat myself on the back, I never believed the bull about Iraq and Saddam. 2 reasons. First, anyone who knew George Bush’s personal history could see he is a cipher. Second, all the fear-mongering didn’t pass the stink test. We were told to wet ourselves over a regime that- because of American air power- didn’t control about 1/3 of its own territory in 2001.
    Now for meae culpae (my junior high latin teacher is spinning if that’s incorrect).

    I was wrong to sit on my ass in 2000 as the Supreme Court stole an election when I should have engaged in public protest.
    I was wrong to sit on my ass writing letters to the editor and blog comments in 2002, 2003 as we moved towards the moral and strategic disaster that is the Iraq war.

    I was wrong to sit on my ass writing etc. when the extent of our use of torture, abrogation of the Geneva Conventions, and abandonment of habeas corpus became apparent.

    I was wrong to sit on my ass as the extent of spying on American citizens became apparent.

    Unfortunately there is more, but you get the idea. And this comment is way too long anyway…

  132. 132
    CJ White says:

    John,

    You’ve been approvingly linked by the Glenzilla for your honest courage. That has to be the highest praise around. Kudos to you!

  133. 133
    ThymeZone says:

    If by “remarkable”, you mean “pants-wettingly frightening”, then I agree with you. The whole thing, looking back on it, seems so surreal. 9/11 happens, off you go to Afghanistan, with us right behind you to help out, and then next thing you know, all the media can talk about is Saddam Hussein, and we’re thinking, “Um…what?” Then we’re being pressured to join you in Iraq, even though the job wasn’t anywhere near done in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was still at large. And all of a sudden, we’re bad guys for not joining you in Iraq! It was just so weird and bizarre and illogical.

    You just described my exact state of mind during that time.

    I kept thinking, they can’t really be serious about this? They can’t really be this stupid and this dishonest?

    And then the realization … oh yes, they can.

    Next to Nixon’s I Am Not A Crook, the most surreal moment in American history for me.

  134. 134
    Fulcanelli says:

    To our gracious host: Kudos. That took guts! I have a lot of respect for what you did there, really. Not that you should care what I think, being a fairly new visitor and poster to your site and all…

    I knew after 9/11 we were going to end up doing something as payback, and going into Afghanistan to take out the training camps and the Taliban seemed like a solid idea. But when the Bush/Valdemort administration started beating the war drums for a jaunt into Iraq I knew it was a fucking huge mistake for a number of reasons.

    My 2 cents worth…
    1) Our military, like all good armies are designed to go in, kill anything that moves, blow shit up, go home then let the politicians and diplomats do their thing. They don’t hang around.

    2) Sun Tzu said 2000 years ago… Don’t send a fucking army to the other side of the world, it’ll bankrupt the country and the people will go broke.

    3) Does anybody in their right mind really think we would succeed in bringing (forcing) democracy on a country that doesn’t want it or know how to work it. Shit we’ve had it for over 200 years and we still can’t get it right.

    4) I didn’t want Bush/Valdemort anywhere near that kind of firepower. Too dumb, too unstable and too untrustworthy.

    5) No Draft. No Rich kids. No incentive for the ruling elites who started this mess to get out.

    6) Rampant War Profiteering. At taxpayers’ expense. See the history of the Bush family.

    If the Repugs think the shits’ hitting the fan now, wait ’til the troops do come home. To a failing economy. No Jobs. Divorce. Poor care by the VA.

    It’s gonna be so ugly.

  135. 135

    I came to understand at the moment that true heroism consists of wetting yourself when it’s already raining.

    You and I will have to swap stories some day. I spent a good portion of my Asian vacation traipsing through the A Shau Valley and hiked a bit in and around Hue and Phu Bai.

    Ever drink any warm PBR?

  136. 136
    Dug Jay says:

    why would I care about Little Rock?

    I have no idea. There has apparently been a bit of chatter picked up lately.

  137. 137
    demimondian says:

    I have no idea.

    That part I’ll grant. You have no ideas.

  138. 138
    RH Potfry says:

    OK, John. I’d love to hear what would have needed to happen in order for you to feel the war was a good decision. Finding WMDs? Getting in and out in a few months? The world patting us on the back for taking a stand?

    You, like many in this country, had unrealistic expectations about the war. And, like many in this country, when things aren’t neat and tidy, when they don’t go our way, we shift positions and point fingers.

    That isn’t brave. It’s Monday morning quarterbacking.

  139. 139
    Dug Jay says:

    You have no ideas.

    I hold similar views about most things you say here. Much of your execrable writing comes across as the ramblings of a faux intellectual with delusions of possessing “insight.”

  140. 140
    robert green says:

    i’ve said it here before and i’ll say it again: no matter how many times you do this (and your mea culpa is the ne plus ultra of the genre–good job!), you still haven’t explained how a group of thugs like the republicans from mccarthy on to goldwater and nixon and idiot reagan and his contempt for the constitution and GW senior, another criminal, and NEWT FUCKING GINGRICH and his shitheels didn’t clue you in. i mean, seriously. how much evil did you need to suck in before you woke up? it is just inexcusable to be as smart as you are, as articulate, as well read and so on, and to not have known that the republican party was a party of corporate criminals, mass murderers (always from a distance!) and incompetents.

    and that was all pre 9/11.

    that’s the mea culpa that will really interest me.

  141. 141
    John S. says:

    I had BDS probably before anyone else on this blog. You know that 7% of Americans who disapproved of the way that Bush was handling his job in the wake of 9-11. I was one of those.

    Well, my wife and I had BDS from day one after he was named POTUS (we voted in Palm Beach in 2000 and not for Buchanan – we think) by the SCOTUS. We were also part of the 7% who disapproved of Bush post 9/11. And we both voted for Obama in the primary.

    Neither of us particularly disliked Hillary early on, but we really can’t stomach her now. So what does that say about your judgment versus ours?

    Not a damn thing, AFAIC.

    Just because you’re right once doesn’t make you right all the time.

  142. 142
    demimondian says:

    Much of your execrable writing comes across as the ramblings of a faux intellectual with delusions of possessing “insight.”

    Since I have yet to produce any execrable writing, your second statement is trivially true. That, however, does not excuse your lackwitted contributions — perhaps you’d like to provide an excuse for them?

  143. 143
    ThymeZone says:

    Much of your execrable writing comes across as the ramblings of a faux intellectual with delusions of possessing “insight.”

    Pie, however, is delicious. Can anything be tastier than pie?

  144. 144
    srv says:

    that’s the mea culpa that will really interest me.

    You knew any semblance of national character was in its’ last throes when the masses believed Grenada was a threat to them. It won’t ever get any sillier than that.

  145. 145
    Whodathunkit says:

    I’m sure all the dead people feel better now.

  146. 146
    Rick Taylor says:

    War should always be an absolute last resort, not just another option.

    That was one of the things that depressed me going into the war. I’d thought that principle, you only go to war as a last result, was one that any civilized nation would already understand. It was right up there with, you give equal right to all your citizens regardless of race or sex, and you don’t draw and quarter people or burn them at the stake. But in the run up to the Iraq war, not only did that argument not stop us, it wasn’t even considered. The position that it was wrong to invade another country that hadn’t attacked us, wasn’t threatening us, that was complying with our demands, and wasn’t (at the time) attacking our allies, wasn’t even discussed; I’m sure anyone who held it would have been considered “not serious.” It’s depressing not just for what it says about us as a nation, but if we haven’t learned such a simple principle even now, how are we going to function as a species?

    Even now, nothing has changed. Americans don’t like the war, but it’s only because it keeps going on and we haven’t “won.” Very few people care that we started a war of aggression that the other party was trying to avoid. The principle that America may invade countries like Iran if we choose is considered to be a given. Some, perhaps most would argue it’s not in our interest, but I think it’s a minority that would consider such an invasion wrong on principle, and such people certainly aren’t part of “serious” discourse.

  147. 147
    John O says:

    Oh, John,

    I would like to take this space to thank you very much for accomplishing one of the tougher feats in the human experience: Looking your beliefs in the mirror and having the capacity to say a simple, “I was wrong” or 20.

    I’m being very sincere. It isn’t an easy thing to do for anyone, of any stripe of any kind.

    I respect this blogspace a lot.

  148. 148
    RH Potfry says:

    You knew any semblance of national character was in its’ last throes when the masses believed Grenada was a threat to them. It won’t ever get any sillier than that.

    Oh, cmon, you wanted to say “Unwashed and uneducated” masses.

    God, it must be frustrating that they run this country and you don’t. And won’t.

  149. 149
    tim says:

    John, it gave me pleasure to read your post. But as one of the millions who was as right about everything on your list as you were wrong, I still have one nagging question: how is it that a political commentator who was so utterly, and viciously, wrong about everything (such as you and Andrew Sullivan) still has a “respected” place in the public dialogue? How is it that people who prove themselves to be utterly gullible, willfully ignorant, nonintuitive, self delusional as well as contemptuous of those who disagreed with them, are still accorded a place at the table in American public discourse? How is it possible that many of these fools have since risen to higher influence and bigger salaries? Why is it that you do not hide yourself in shame and devote the rest of your life to healing the wounded, comforting the bereaved, and making atonement for the horror you helped make possible. How is it that the questions I just asked will be condemened as rude and impolitic by many of the commenters on this blog?

    One answer is that American public discourse is utterly depraved; the very definition of sound and fury signifying NOTHING.

  150. 150
    ThymeZone says:

    You knew any semblance of national character was in its’ last throes when the masses believed Grenada was a threat to them. It won’t ever get any sillier than that.

    Word. Well, except for this: The national character is probably higher than we think, it’s the character of the officials that I hold in question. Most ordinary people I know have pretty good character.

  151. 151
    RH Potfry says:

    John, it gave me pleasure to read your post. But as one of the millions who was as right about everything on your list as you were wrong, I still have one nagging question: how is it that a political commentator who was so utterly, and viciously, wrong about everything (such as you and Andrew Sullivan) still has a “respected” place in the public dialogue? How is it that people who prove themselves to be utterly gullible, willfully ignorant, nonintuitive, self delusional as well as contemptuous of those who disagreed with them, are still accorded a place at the table in American public discourse? How is it possible that many of these fools have since risen to higher influence and bigger salaries? Why is it that you do not hide yourself in shame and devote the rest of your life to healing the wounded, comforting the bereaved, and making atonement for the horror you helped make possible. How is it that the questions I just asked will be condemened as rude and impolitic by many of the commenters on this blog?

    One answer is that American public discourse is utterly depraved; the very definition of sound and fury signifying NOTHING.

    We’re all trying to be as smart and visionary as you, Tim. Be patient with us.

  152. 152
    CruelJest says:

    I couldn’t not say something here. I think the reason you wrote this is that you have a conscience. The Bush administration was a bridge too far. Like many others, you realized we weren’t just being Liberals anymore. It goes deeper than that.

    That said, I’m damn glad you’re on our side.

    (Daily reader)

  153. 153
    Cassidy says:

    You and I will have to swap stories some day.

    Reminds me of a story an old NCO told me one night on Staff Duty (where I happen to be now ironically). As a young private, training for EIB, I was lamenting how hard it was to don the NBC mask in 7 seconds. He laughed. He was a veteran of desert storm and had been in a area where a SCUD had landed. He told me, “Trust me, if you have to, you can get that mask on and shit yourself in less than 7 seconds”.

    I’d thought that principle, you only go to war as a last result, was one that any civilized nation would already understand.

    I think you can chalk this kind of sentiment up to western arrogance. As a civilized society, we like to beleive that we are so much more enlightened than our third world counterparts, where bush wars over trivial matters are a daily occurrence worldwide. It’s a very subtle prejudice that we are better than “them”. Yet, anyone here, even the most pacifist can think of a “good” reason to go to war. That’s why I keep going back to there are no good reasons, only reasons.

    Personally, I like to turn to the writings of Gen. William T. Sherman when it comes to reconciling warfare and the place it has held in my life.

  154. 154
    Cassidy says:

    John, it gave me pleasure to read your post. But as one of the millions who was as right about everything on your list as you were wrong, I still have one nagging question: how is it that a political commentator who was so utterly, and viciously, wrong about everything (such as you and Andrew Sullivan) still has a “respected” place in the public dialogue? How is it that people who prove themselves to be utterly gullible, willfully ignorant, nonintuitive, self delusional as well as contemptuous of those who disagreed with them, are still accorded a place at the table in American public discourse? How is it possible that many of these fools have since risen to higher influence and bigger salaries? Why is it that you do not hide yourself in shame and devote the rest of your life to healing the wounded, comforting the bereaved, and making atonement for the horror you helped make possible. How is it that the questions I just asked will be condemened as rude and impolitic by many of the commenters on this blog?

    Oh for crying out loud, quit with the damn over the top wanksterism (I think I just made that up). For one, for all of John’s flaws, treating the guy like he personally led the charge of the idiot brigade is useless. Everyone has a right to an opinion even if you don’t agree with it. Secondly, this being America and all, you don’t get shut out just because you don’t like someone else’s thoughts. Unless of course you beleive in that whole protest zone crap…

  155. 155
    Cassidy says:

    Couple of interesting quotes:

    ANONYMOUS
    Old soldiers never die. Young ones do.

    ANONYMOUS
    He who beats his sword into a plowshare usually ends up plowing for those who kept their swords.

    GEORGE C. MARSHALL
    If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.

  156. 156
    Cassidy says:

    And a couple more:

    “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster”
    William Tecumseh Sherman

    “War is cruelty. There’s no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”
    William Tecumseh Sherman

  157. 157
    Gus says:

    Among all the self-justification self-absorption shown by most of the people who wrote the mea culpas on the war, it’s refreshing to see someone who is able to look at himself honestly. Welcome to the reality based community.

  158. 158
    Rick Taylor says:

    I was wrong about the looting being unimportant.

    Throughout the Iraq war, most war supporters have been far more concerned with fostering the appearance of success, than the actuality. This is very strange. I believed that invasion was wrong at the core, and that once it started it could never have turned out well, but if it was going to turn out well, certainly it required us to face reality, however unpleasant, and respond to it. When Lincoln’s generals didn’t do what he wanted early on in the civil war, he didn’t go around making fun of the nay-sayers and brag about how we were winning and everything was wonderful only the papers wouldn’t support it, he fired the generals again and again until he found ones who could win.

    I really did feel like I was going crazy early on, when the war supporters were crowing about how great things had went, how we’d find wmd any day now, and how utterly discredited the traitorous liberals were. Anyone could see Iraqi society falling apart on tv, yet the war supporters seemed to live in some alternate reality where everything was going according to plan, and anyone who said otherwise must want us to loose. It was like living in a nightmare.

    And it’s still going on. The presidential nominee for the Republicans is still telling us we’re winning the war. Has there ever been a time when we weren’t winning the war? When we hadn’t turned the corner? Our failures are always in the past. If things have gone badly, if we’ve made mistakes, it’s always in the past, and those who say otherwise are traitorous liberals who just want us to loose because they’d be utterly discredited if it came out how good things are going. It never changes. If we’re still at war four years from now under McCain, that’s still how things will be.

    Of course we’re not winning the war, if that means making progress to a unified peaceful Iraq. We’ve bought some breathing space by making deals with our previous enemies, getting them to fight the worst of terrorist in Iraq for us. That may be a sound strategy, it’s certainly yielded dividends in the short term, but anyone who isn’t wearing blinders can’t fail to see we’re potentially arming both sides in a civil war; the Sunni resistance we’re aiding has no intention of joining the government, and the government has no plans to accept them. At best, we can hope for an indefinite stalemate, where they divide up the country and leave each other alone. At worst, the civil war continues, with the weapons we’ve given them. But we can’t talk about this. We can’t sit down and figure out what the hell we’re going to do with the impossible situation we’ve set for ourselves in Iraq. Because to do so would be to admit that we’re not “winning” if that means achieving our long term objectives. So we just kick the can down road, which may be the goal of it all anyway.

  159. 159
    Frew says:

    Naw, you’ve gone from one stupid extreme to the other. You haven’t learned a damn thing, your thinking process is just as screwed up as ever.

    It’s almost a certainty that you will be making many more such errors in the future.

  160. 160
    secularhuman says:

    Well and truly said, Mr. Cole.
    My list is pretty short.

    I was wrong in thinking that Saddam had WMD. He was a murderous bastard and it seemed possible.

    HOWEVER, when the results of the UN inspections came in unequivocally refuting WMDs, I changed my mind and well before Bush started the bombing I was cleansed of wrongness and saw the whole war as an inevitable fiasco, even based on the little knowledge I had of the region then. Juan Cole got me up to speed. If John Cole had been paying attention to Juan Cole in 2003 the scales would have fallen a lot sooner

    Congratulations for rejoining the reality-based universe.

  161. 161
    Rick Taylor says:

    I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East.

    This was another one that blew my mind. I’d always though that it was the leftists who were supposed to be the starry eyed idealists, the ones with pie-in the-sky theorists always trying to force humanity to adhere to their ideas, while conservatives were supposed to be the clear eyed realists. But the war supporters pursued a fantasy as outlandish as any Marxist’s worker’s-paradise. They really thought that all we had to do was go in guns blazing, blast away the current regime, and spontaneously with little effort on our part the Iraqi’s would create a democracy with freedom and individual rights that would by it’s example shake the dictatorships of the region to the core, as people saw what was possible. They really believed this. I have to remind myself, they really did believe this. Conservatives who espoused this view were and are considered respected intellectuals. And I don’t remember anyone ever giving any plausible reason why this was going to happen.

    Of course a simple-minded person would have expected otherwise. A simple minded person might have observed that while Saddam was a despotic murderous dictator, he was instrumental in keeping certain people in power; a whole ethnic group. A simple minded person would have concluded that the people who benefited from his rule wouldn’t be happy when we overthrew him. They wouldn’t lie down and cooperate with their own fall from power. A simple minded person would have concluded that after our initial victory, there’d be an ongoing battle between the people we’d overthrown and the people we’d empowered, with us in the middle and no good solution, no way out. It really wasn’t hard to foresee the rough outlines of what was most likely to happen. But our actions were driven by a bunch of pie-in-the-sky-theorists who considered themselves intellectuals and who hadn’t the faintest idea of what they were talking about.

  162. 162
    russell says:

    A lot of folks felt the way you did at the time. It’s good that the reality of the situation is being recognized now.

    Let’s all move on.

    Thanks –

  163. 163
    JakeB says:

    Props to you, John, for putting this up.

  164. 164
    JGabriel says:

    ThymeZone: “Next to Nixon’s I Am Not A Crook, the most surreal moment in American history for me.”

    Once we get out of this, if ever, I suspect you’ll change your assessment. It may be hard to see now, while we’re still in the middle of it, but the past 6 1/2 years have been far more surreal (and evil) than Watergate.

    .

  165. 165
    empty says:

    What Tracy said.

  166. 166
    PaulB says:

    In a similar vein, it is equally true that almost none of the fuckwad regulars on this site represent the views of a significant number of Americans

    LOL…. You must tell us what world you inhabit. Out here in the real world, the majority of Americans share our views, which is just one of the reasons why Republican Congresscritters are dropping like flies. But hey, you keep living in that little fantasy world of yours if it makes you feel all warm and gooshy inside.

  167. 167
    xyzzy says:

    John, this is why I bookmarked Balloon Juice. No demagogue ever admits that they were wrong.

  168. 168

    […] That’s interesting enough, but more interesting is what you now hear from a former Bush fan, a guy who five years ago mocked everyone who was at all hesitant about blowing off the UN and not in favor of wiping Saddam Hussein’s Iraq off the face of the earth, but now has changed his mind, and has even left the Republican Party and registered as a Democrat.  What does he say?  See John Cole at Balloon Juice with My Iraq War Retrospective: […]

  169. 169
    Not good enough says:

    Can you make the maimed and mutilated whole again?

    Can you bring the dead back to life?

    Can you restore the millions of ruined lives resulting from this war?

    Of course you can’t. So your mea culpa don’t mean shit!

  170. 170
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Ever drink any warm PBR?

    Oh yeah. And some swill called (phonetically) Bassei Dai. Also remember having to not drink milk and smoking some horrible cigarettes in a red and white pack so I’d smell like a native.

  171. 171
    Chris Johnson says:

    Again- “leaders bad, the common American people are inherently good” my ass. The sooner we figure this out the sooner we get control of our own crazies and put ’em on leashes…

    We CANNOT devote equal time, and listen politely to, people who feel that torturing brown people is sad but necessary, and probably morally okay and for their own good really, to bring them freedom. blah blah blah, we’ve heard it 1000 times before, usually with the expectation that we must treat it as civilized discourse.

    Being American does not give you a free pass to sit at home surrounded by cheetos and decide whether torturing suspected Iraqis is moral. Whether you have moral authority is not up to you, it’s seen in a larger and historical context and it’s earned by the choices you make and the things you sit and quietly put up with.

    I have seen a video (described here- http://www.time.com/time/world.....82,00.html ) where David Lynch’s crazy TM guru attempts to tell a German crowd they should have an ‘invincible Germany’. The crowd was hip to him INSTANTLY. They shouted and heckled and were really, seriously upset, outraged.

    One day, that will be us, and Americans will have that hard-won self-awareness, that they don’t have moral authority just by being Americans.

    We so ain’t there yet, but guys like John are the vanguard. You don’t say these things in order to be praised, or forgiven- you say them because they’re true. Your thinking was really fucked up- and you know not to trust that Kool-Aid now- and you mean to never forget, because you owe it to all the dead people and all the future people who could cheerfully march to equal madness, believing themselves virtuous.

  172. 172
    Chris Johnson says:

    Here’s the actual video of the clown telling a German audience that they should work for an ‘invincible Germany’, and the reactions he got.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k357ErdUQyk

    I love present-day Germans for this. Why aren’t we shouting down our psychopaths yet? They are far more armed and dangerous than a demented TM guru, but we don’t start yelling and throwing things. Yet.

  173. 173
    ThymeZone says:

    but the past 6 1/2 years have been far more surreal (and evil) than Watergate.

    Evil … I dont know. The Peace With Honor scam and the mass deaths in Southeast Asia that came from it …. still trump the current fuckups. I think.

    And, Nixon was sitting in the White House drinking and being mentally ill all over everybody, keeping wads of cash in drawers to pay criminals, it was chaos.

    None of this however diminishes the horror of what is happening now.

    So, they are both pretty awful.

  174. 174
    Cassidy says:

    Oh yeah. And some swill called (phonetically) Bassei Dai.

    At least you guys got beer. All we get is near-beer and it taste like shit.

  175. 175
    TenguPhule says:

    So, I’ll stand by my ability to read character, and my ability to distinguish between real judgment and talent, and votes made in the name of political expediency.

    When that vote is a fucking stupid thing to do, the point is moot.

    Character means jackshit if you still do the wrong thing anyway.

  176. 176
    tBone says:

    empty says:
    What Tracy said.

    Tracy said this:

    “I was wrong about everything.”

    At least no Iraqis, Americans, or Brits had to pay with their lives for such ignorance.

    John is honestly contrite and brave enough to admit his mistakes with no attempt at self-justification. You and Tracy respond with pissy sanctimony.

    I hope you’re never wrong about anything or that self-righteousness of yours could prove embarrassing.

  177. 177
    Bleu Meme says:

    Your simple, unequivocal mea culpa is the perfect anodyne to the largely delusional shite published at Salon. Having followed The Editors here, I hereby reward thee with a spot on my blogroll.

    Please email this post to Richard Cohen (one of the aforesaid poo-flingers) — there is only a small chance he would actually read it, but even that small chance of making his head explode is worth the effort.

  178. 178
    TenguPhule says:

    . Most of the nitwits here hold views that are closer to those of Osama bin Laden or the late Yasser Arafat than that of the typical Democrat/American.

    Shorter Dug Jay: Fuck you all for getting it right all the time. How the hell was I supposed to know that Bin Laden was a fucking genius at war and that my pimp couldn’t find his ass with the entire Secret Service helping him look?

    If we could somehow convince Al Queda to adopt Bush and Dug Jay as leader and goon, they’d already be bankrupt and lined up for welfare.

  179. 179
    TenguPhule says:

    I have always been right about Bush and the GOP.
    I am always right about Bush and the GOP.
    I will always be right about Bush and the GOP.

    It’s depressing.

  180. 180
    Thomas says:

    What I find odd about all of these “mea culpas” is that most, including Cole, don’t mention anything about the fact that nearly 4000 American soldiers are dead.. that some 30,000 are injured.. and that over a million innocent Iraqi civilians are dead.

    Cole says he got it all wrong, and in it played his part in enabling all that death and destruction.. and has demonstrated that he has zero judgement when it comes to the most important issues facing a nation.

    He says he won’t make the same mistake again… and doesn’t justify why he doesn’t quit his job and go sell cars. How can you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, and go and do what you are doing.

    Over a million human beings are rotting in graves in the Iraqi desert. You got it wrong? What a bummer.

  181. 181
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    At least you guys got beer. All we get is near-beer and it taste like shit.

    That is one of the most fucked-up aspects of a fucked-up war. There is a tradition, going back at least to ancient Rome, of letting the troops have a snifter or two between battles. Drunk and/or stoned is no good way to fight but it’s damned sure a good way to get ready to fight again.

  182. 182
    Cain says:

    I started to read Balloon-Juice when I read John’s post on his rejection of the Republican party. That there was an honest conservative blogger out there really impressed the hell out of me. Then I discovered that teh commentariat were the masters of snark and I have enjoyed many a day or night laughing my ass off at the comments on Balloon-Juice. Best. Blog. Ever.

    cain

  183. 183
    ImJohnGalt says:

    John:

    You got Schiavo right. Give yourself that, at least.

  184. 184
    Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice says:

    From my heart, it takes an indescribable amount of courage to say what you have said here. I commend you for your bravery in admitting your mistakes. This is a rare ability in your line of work.
    However, we are paying you to be more right than wrong. You are in a privileged position to help right these mistakes. You have shown the ability to hold your own feet to the fire. Please extrapolate. You are not alone in your party; because of this expression of humility, we will consider re-hiring you.
    We appreciate your service, and we see you have learned a valuable lesson.
    Innocent people have unwittingly died trying to teach it.

  185. 185
    testing says:

    John Cole,

    You may have been wrong, but you have character.

    Superb blog!

  186. 186

    John Cole,

    Glenn Greenwald has a post that directed me here.

    All I can say is that this has earnt my deepest respect, and I’ll add this blog to my daily blog vists.

    You wrote: “I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING.”

    Dude! Awesome!

    (Of course, the next step is to get right about AS. MUCH. AS. POSSIBLE.)

  187. 187
    Kevin Lyda says:

    John,

    If it makes you feel better, the Democratic Party has been wrong on “how to get people elected” for the past 30 years. Part of the reason for that is that we have lacked people like yourself who can make posts like this.

    With honest self-assessment like you’ve done (and now publicly shared), I don’t see you making those same mistakes again. Hopefully enough Democrats have been having similar internal conversations.

  188. 188
    Naum says:

    Wow, that was refreshing. It takes maturity to admit when you’re wrong… …while I was in the minority who were speaking out before the illegal and immoral Iraq invasion and occupation, there is lots of stuff that I’ve written since I started blogging in 2001 that at minimum, I wish I would have worded differently and with less vitriol, and at the other end, stuff that I was wrong about (I’ve changed my compass on immigration issue a bit…)

    I wish those MSM talking heads would come clean, some of those Slate “mea culpas” were so milquetoast and riddled with equivocations…

  189. 189

    You missed one:

    “Believing that anything I said or did would have the tiniest possible effect on the situation.”

    Donahue was right and all he got was a rapid “introduction to the world”. Still, I applaud your willingness to accept your mistakes. I just wish that your statements, or mine, or Phil Donahue’s or the smelly hippies made a single solitary bit of difference. All I know is that I’m too tired, too burned out, and to jaded to believe that my actions have any real impact. Unfortunately, that too is dangerous.

  190. 190
    delbierzo says:

    The reason that nearly 70% of americans now believe that the Iraq adventure was a glaring mistake is that millions of people who thought as John did realize that they were wrong too, only they don’t have the guts to admit it as has John. But seriously, doesn’t anyone read books? There have hundreds of books published detailing the hubris, malfeasence, and stupidity that drove our war on Vietnam. Hasn’t anyone read “Fire in the Lake,” “Bright Shining Lie,” or ” The Best and the Brightest.”? Everything that the Bush admin had in mind had already been done. The usa lost that war, really lost it, and this invasion was doomed from the start because it was based on lies, lies that freaks like McCain continue to spew. Now attention is turned to Iran and the same arguments are being made. It’s an outrage, and if Iran becomes the next Iraq I’ll try to hang those responsible from the nearest lightpost or die trying.

  191. 191
    JoshA says:

    I find the people making the “f you and your mea culpa” weird. Guys, there are plenty of unrepentent war supporters who’ve learned nothing and want to go after Iran or Syria or whatever, and the whole “you can’t bring back dead soldiers” implies that John’s support caused them to die. For both of those reasons, I’m not sure what sense it makes to abuse John. Go yell at John Hindraker or something.

    So I say kudos on the mea culpa. Of course, unlike the people criticizing you, who have been perfect, I have also made errors in judgment.

    And I don’t comment here, but I do read with interest and wanted to take the opportunity to say thanks as well.

  192. 192
    fahrender says:

    when the shit came down in ’03 i was in Khartoum, watching it on CNN. i never liked Bush or his father and i knew he was an idiot. i can’t say that i predicted anything about Iraq but i recognized that it was a huge gamble. i certainly didn’t even consider that it would become the unbelievable disaster it has become, nor that congress would be so cowardly and clueless to allow the fucker to continue for more than FIVE YEARS!
    i’m not a Balloon Juice regular but i want to thank you, John, for your statement today. the people who snipe at you in the comments today are
    petty and narrow-minded.

    it’s despicable that everyone who was so certain that the invasion of Iraq was a good thing is not capable of such an open admission. that so many of these people are still denying that they were, and now are even more, wrong about Iraq, the ones that are claiming that, oh, we just bungled the part after the invasion, or, we can’t leave now because Al Qaeda or Iran will just take over. or. or, or ……….
    and, of course, the MSM keeps consulting these very serious experts. they get to appear again and again on the tube, or in the print media to desperately try to repair their totally refuted wrongheadedness, while the people who saw the disaster looming and even predicted the actual outcome are either ignored or given short shrift.

    thanks, again, for being honest and forthright.

  193. 193
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    This long haired hippy thanks you for your change of heart on this. As one of the few in my group of friends and family who was against this war before it started, it always felt strange to see and hear my fellow Americans disparage people like myself, calling us names like ‘traitor’. I can’t tell you how much it sucked to hear shit like that. It just pissed me off endlessly, and it made me more determined to stand my ground.

    I was wrong on the war only in the sense that I had no idea how badly Bush would fuck it up. Other than that, I knew from the day he was selected that he would find any excuse to invade Iraq. I told my wife and friends the same thing too.

    After 9-11, I knew he had his excuse, and I watched as the rails were greased and war express took off. The drums of war won, and we all lost as a result.

    To the holier than thou asswipes who have to dump on his mea culpa, I hope you are just as hard on yourselves the next time you fuck up.

  194. 194
    Joe says:

    It takes a lot of courage to admit you’re wrong. It’s easy to get swept up in everything, but it’s very difficult to come down from it. Just look at our “stupid national discourse”, six-some-odd years running (counting the run-up) and they still don’t have a clue.

    If I were you I’d take solace in the fact that you were even able to “snap out of it” when you did in the first place. While every day a few more people come to realize the truth, for many, it won’t come until later and for some, it will never come.

  195. 195
    Lupin says:

    I was born in 1954. This is not meant as an “I told you so” but I honestly do not understand how ANYONE who lived through Viet-Nam could have been fooled even for a second about Iraq.

    After Nixon got the kick, I remember thinking that we (as a country) had made a serious mistake by letting him, and especially Kissinger, got away without some kind of trial, or even a public investigation.

    I never thought the price of that mistake would be so costly — and it looks like we’re going to do it again.

    Until we publicly prosecute the bastards and expose the truth, we’ll never be free.

  196. 196
    Dumbo says:

    John: Thank you. Thank you for being honest. There is too little of it.

    I’ve been wrong about a lot of things before. I’m patting myself on the back for being right about the war, but just knowing you and Andrew have enough integrity to think about where you went wrong gives me hope for us all.

    My formulation for why the war was a big mistake was fairly simple:

    1. It’s the FUCKING MIDDLE EAST.

    2. Growing up in the sixties and all the grade school Cold War brainwashing that came with that taught me that the good guys don’t start wars with people who don’t attack them first. That’s what Nazis did. That’s what the Soviets did. They were bad. We were good. (Oversimplification, yeah, but that is what we were taught and that lesson was reinforced in many ways. Attacking other countries first is just plain unAmerican.

    We have gone through a period of mass insanity, just like certain other 20th century societies went through. The Germans had the decency to fiercely reevaluate everything in the years after Hitler. Although our mistakes were not nearly as grave, I hope that we all can become clear about what a mess we got ourselves into. Most of all, I’m waiting for the day when there is no more debate about the wrongness of torture. THAT is unAmerican.

    And let’s not ever forget Flightsuit-George. He’s a real lesson.

    I hope my thank-you doesn’t come off condescending. It’s not meant that way. I really appreciate what you said not for any reason of triumph, but because it gives me hope.

  197. 197
    Xenos says:

    Until we publicly prosecute the bastards and expose the truth, we’ll never be free.

    Good luck with that. Now we know that for the first two years of the war, not only did they delete the five million emails in the White House system, they physically destroyed the hard drives. That is, after switching from Lotus Notes (which archives everything) to an unsecure off the shelf Microsoft system that archived nothing.

    The maladministration must have smelled failure early on.

    Either that, or what we call failure, was what they planned on from the very beginning.

    Dupes, stooges, fools, marks, you name it. 70 per cent of the population (including me) conducting malpractice in the business of being citizens.

  198. 198
    Ellyn says:

    It’s great to see someone just admit it without excuses or blame, but tell me, how was it that you got it so wrong? Did you start with a theory and then try to ignore all facts that didn’t fit your theory? Just curious. And let me expose my own foolishness: I never understood why the Clintons were so hated. Now, I do.

  199. 199
    Pablo says:

    It takes a giant to admit they were wrong. Kudos.
    And this comes from one who was right about everything.
    ON 9/11, between the first and second plane at the WTC, I made the offhand remark at work, “there are thousands of people gonna die in those buildings, and we’ve got that stupid motherfucker as president”, for which I was ostracized for months.

  200. 200
    dbrown says:

    I am sure the 100,000 – 200,000 dead Iraqi’s would be happy to hear this if they weren’t all dead … . At least all the tens of thousands of terribly injuried and millions of hurt or dislocated Iraqi’s and all the injuried American boys and families of the soon to be 4000 dead American soliders can feel better now, too.

  201. 201
    Jkat says:

    cassidy .. you’re full of it …

    how about this ..we’re signatories of the geneva concentions and the hague protocols on the rules of land warfare .. both documents .. once ratified became part of the “law of the land” both documents outlaw and forbid “agressive war” .. that’s attacking someone who hasn’t attacked you ..or attacking someone who does not present an imminent threat to you ..further agressive war was defined as a war crime .. “a crime against humanity” ..at our [the good ol”US of A] fucking request before the trials of the nazis at the nuremburg tribunals ..

    pre-emptive war ..and pre-emptive strikes are exactly “attacking someone who has not attacked you” and is doubly damning when coupled with the idea that the nation we attacked was NOT an imminent threat ..

    your ideas of pre-emption are not in accord with actual US Law .. not international law .. and where they should get you if you acted on then .. is the same place bush and cheney and company should be .. in the docks at the international court at the ahgue being tried as war criminals for” crimes against humanity”

    it’s truly sad that we have become such a nation of cowards that hundreds of thousands of other people must die to assuage our fears .. to salve our lack of courage in facing the threat of death ..

    and thank you john cole for your come-uppance it takes a good man to admit his wrongs ..you’ll always be a knuckleheaded conservative in my book ..but at least i’ll acknowledge you possess integrity ..

    integrity is what you gain by being man enough to admit a mistake and learn from it btw .. that an maybe a good nights sleep ..

    i don’t like you .. but i wish you no ill …

    Jkat

  202. 202

    […] Posted in GOP at 4:59 am by LeisureGuy John Cole lays it on the line: I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  203. 203
    Robert Johnston says:

    A very good apology, but there’s at least one extremely important item left off the list:

    You were wrong not to recognize “weapons of mass destruction” as a term of propaganda rather than a term of art.

    The phrase “weapons of mass destruction” is an obvious and deliberate effort to conflate chemical weapons and anthrax, which are quite a bit less deadly than ordinary explosives, with weaponized small pox and nuclear weapons. The use of the term by the Bush Administration amounted to an admission that they had no evidence that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear program or a program to develop biological weapons of significant danger. Trusting anyone who uses such blatant propaganda to be doing anything other than lying definitely falls under the rubric of concentrated stupidity.

  204. 204
    Stronger Apology says:

    I was wrong mindlessly pledge allegiance to the flag as a child.
    I was wrong to believe the fairy tales of noble wars in history books.
    I was wrong to express support for the troops.

  205. 205
    Tiger says:

    Thanks for being a real grownup and able to accept responsibility for your own past views. It’s a sign of maturity and growth. Thanks for the brutal honesty. Too bad some of your former pro war associates can’t see the light. Obviously, they are adults in age only.

    By the way – you would have counted me as one of those dirty hippies when the GB’s glorious war started. But let me assure you that I bath every evening.

  206. 206
    MxPt says:

    I feel bad for the Bush war supporters. They were duped into becoming accomplices to one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history. It’s certainly not easy to fess up to that, but it’s only the first step of three required to set things right, or clear your karma, if you believe in such things.

    Step 1: Fess up. Done.
    Step 2: Apologize.
    Step 3: Make restitution.

    I’ve been doing everything I can to try to make restitution for your catastrophic errors, just because it needs to be done and so few of you are doing it.

    Visit and help the maimed and brain-damaged vets. Adopt one of the maimed and orphaned Iraqi children. Help clean up the depleted uranium in Iraq. Lobby to undo the loss of civil liberties in this country.

    There’s no shortage of opportunities to make restitution. You will never be able to completely undo your share of the damage you helped enable, but you have to try if you ever want real peace within yourself.

  207. 207
    Casual Observer says:

    Thanks for the laugh.

    You seem fine now. Truly.

  208. 208
    via says:

    Just came over from Glenn Greenwald’s blog on Salon. Your post gives me hope.

  209. 209
    via says:

    p.s.

    Hippies smell great. I love sandalwood and patchouli.

  210. 210
    YatPundit says:

    would that they all were this honest

    Greenwald pointed to this post by John Cole, which Glenn describes as a real man’s mea-culpa. He’s right: And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of…

  211. 211
    RH Potfry says:

    It takes a giant to admit they were wrong. Kudos.
    And this comes from one who was right about everything.
    ON 9/11, between the first and second plane at the WTC, I made the offhand remark at work, “there are thousands of people gonna die in those buildings, and we’ve got that stupid motherfucker as president”, for which I was ostracized for months.

    C’mon, Pablo. With smug arrogance like that, you’ve been ostracized your whole life.

  212. 212
    Bill Arnold says:

    John,
    you might be receptive to some of the contemporary pacifist thinking. A good place to start would be an old Quaker lobbying organization, FCNL (www.fcnl.org, Friends Committee on National Legislation). They have booklet on peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, specifically produced to address the question “If war is not the answer, what is?”

    It was only a pacifist upbringing (and a pretty good eye for government spin and propaganda) that kept me from being a cheerleader for this war. I (probably) wrongly believed Iraq had some chemical weapons, ready to fit on longer-range (and sanctions-violating) missiles. Oh yeah, we were greeted as liberators, for about 10 minutes.

  213. 213
    frankdawg81 says:

    JOHN – I THINK I AM IN LOVE!

    Seriously though, I am sure that coming to this realization was painful. To be so wrong about so many things. But what a man you are to step up and admit you got it wrong! If 50% of the pundits and politicians of this country would be this reflective and honest there would be no real problems we couldn’t tackle.

    THANK YOU!

    Anyone can get things wrong but it takes a mensch to realize it and admit it.

  214. 214
    Masklinn says:

    John, I come over from reddit (you’ve been posted there), and even though you got all these things wrong, you managed to look back and admit it. That’s something most people in general and me in particular have a hard time doing.

    I just wanted to thank you for being able to do it at all, and having the balls to do it publicly.

    Thank you.

  215. 215
    jnfr says:

    This pie script is the most entertaining thing I’ve experienced all week.

    And that aside, thank you for your honesty John. It’s been a brutal seven years for those of us who knew Bush and PNAC for the disasters they were from day one.

  216. 216
    Danny says:

    wrong is not stupid

    John;

    I saw you on Bill Maher recently, I liked what you had to say.

    As to your recent post, that took balls, yes. I do believe the whole thing should be deconstructed. What exactly does it mean?

    I believe positing theories of the world, and testing them, is human nature; it is what differentiates us from all the other animals we live with. All those things you believed, in 2003, were in essence, unknowable.

    There are ways to test these types of things — namely through modeling. As an example, the Pentagon has many computer models used to test the effectiveness of our armed forces against those of everyone else — through computer models. I’m sure they had a very good idea of how many troops would be lost on both sides in the war and how long it would last.

    BTW: I’ve never seen it pointed out, but I believe Bush’s greatest lie was when he was asked how many troops we would expect to lose during his war — he answered he didn’t know, he knew.

    Anyway, testing the political is much harder, though we can look to history for our models. Unfortunately for those who expected to turn Iraq into his democracy, the history of colonization (especially in the Middle East) provides little to no reason to expect success.

    So why did we (not me, I was part of the minority who didn’t) expect success? I suppose it was a projection of American values — we want to be free and part of a Democracy, so must the Iraqis.

    I did think it was The Bad Idea, but have to admit, I had no clue it would be handled as badly as it was. I was wrong, too. My theory was that we’d displace Saddam only, leave the Bathists and the Iraqi Army in place, declare victory and leave. I’m sure that if James Baker was involved at all in this White House, our Iraq Quagmire, wouldn’t be.

    …Dan

  217. 217
    bob says:

    You know what, John? Fuck you, you screaming piece of shit. All this shit was OBVIOUS back in 1999 when you were all aboard. YOU and all your Diaper media crowd were all about this. You called US traitors. Fuck you you traitorous piece of shit. I don’t really want you on our side. Go die by Cheney’s side. It’s people like you that put us here. NOW you say your sorry? Cry me a river motherfucker. YOU wrecked our country. YOU. That’s right you Mountaineer piece of shit. Redneck moron with a degree. You chose your side. Stay there.

  218. 218
    bernarda says:

    I don’t even want to say “I told you so” to all those who thought I was crazy for opposing the war from before the beginning. It is just too sad where we are now.

    But at the time, Americans like Senator Chaffee and foreigners like President Chirac said that they hadn’t seen the evidence for war. March 16th, Chirac gave and interview to CBS objecting to the war. March 18th, he gave a speech warning against war.

    “AMANPOUR: Do you believe that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction; for instance, chemical or biological weapons?

    PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Well, I don’t know. I have no evidence to support that… It seems that there are no nuclear weapons – no nuclear weapons program. That is something that the inspectors seem to be sure of.

    As for weapons of mass destruction, bacteriological, biological, chemical, we don’t know. And that is precisely what the inspectors’ mandate is all about. But rushing into war, rushing into battle today is clearly a disproportionate response. ”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories.....4161.shtml

    Tom Paxton rewrote his song about Lyndon Johnson to apply to George W.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft36GQMmvXs

  219. 219
    John Cole says:

    You know what, John? Fuck you, you screaming piece of shit. All this shit was OBVIOUS back in 1999 when you were all aboard. YOU and all your Diaper media crowd were all about this.

    You are right. Three years before I had a blog and six years before I joined PJ media, I should have worked harder to impeach Clinton.

  220. 220
    doggril says:

    Well, credit where credit is due. I’ve read a number of the 5-year anniversary posts that are circulating; and most of the ones by the former warmongers show them straining to avoid responsibility for their complicity in what’s happening right now in Iraq.
    I was right on Bush and right on Iraq. I have no platform, so my rightness didn’t matter much. But I have to wonder what would have happened if the press and the punditry had done their job, which is, in part, to demonstrate a healthy skepticism toward those in power. If the press and the pundits had not acted like cheerleaders in the front row, waving their jingoistic pro-war pom-poms, would the general public been as supportive? Would there have been increased pressure to move a little slower? Would we be in Iraq today? We’ll never know for sure; and that’s a shame of historic proportions.
    I appreciate your mea culpa. I really do. It puts you head and shoulders above many of your colleagues. That, sadly, does not wipe the blood from your hands for doing your bit to encourage people to support what was, to anyone who was really paying attention, an entirely and completely avoidable disaster.

  221. 221
    LiberalTarian says:

    How weird are the posts by the ones who say, “you were wrong, so stay wrong.” So, what, people who voted for Nader should keep voting for Nader? I tried my damndest to talk people out of letting him split the party, and giving us GW Bush, but these righteous sorts could just simply not choose the lesser evil (as it turns out, much much much much lesser evil).

    I am so relieved to see people like John Cole admitting they were duped by a fascist ideology. I was terrified watching protesters and demonstrators being attacked first by rabid Republicans, then by the police, during anti-war protests and demonstrations against the Republican convention. We came very, very close to a dictatorship. Arguably, and tragically, I think we may have actually been saved from ourselves by the profound tragedy of the Iraq war. It took malfeasance on this scale to wake people up, to alert them to the depth of depravity of the modern Republican party.

    When John Cole can come right out and say, “I was wrong,” I see the trickle that presages the flood. He is only attacked by the very extreme on both sides, not those who are thoughtful. If I could find any compassion for those who led us into this disastrous war I might feel sorry for them. People who have been made to look foolish have a tendency to seek revenge. Myself, I intend to stoke that fire, not piss it away with pithy cynicism and apathy.

    [Re current plethora of 50 cent words … I’m listening to Anthony Gottlieb’s Dream of Reason during my commute. Ah, the wild and wacky Greeks, the short-sightedness and vested interest of the early Xians … :D]

  222. 222
    Tracy says:

    I was wrong about everything.

    At least no Americans, Brits, or Iraqis lost their lives due to such ignorance.

  223. 223
    WANUNU says:

    Juan:
    This is the old Christian trick of repent of your sins and continue life as if nothing happens. Morally repent and doing nothing, amount to be morally turpid. Yes, there in company of “Scooter” Libby and Jack Abramoff. I guess it is the old testament make you pals.

  224. 224
    Russell Borogove says:

    Thank you.

  225. 225
    Gord Metcalfe says:

    Swell but, I was not wrong about one single thing on your list and I am a nobody. I am sure you didn’t arrive at this place over night. Since you have likely had time to reflect, please explain why it is that you were so completely wrong at every turn.

    Help me understand how a sentient human being could not see what I and millions around the world so clearly saw in the incoming Presidency of George Walker Bush?
    The same individuals that RWAs screamed at on TV to ‘SHUT UP,SHUT UP’ and cut their microphones and branded them traitors and Nazis, are now right? Is that correct?

    People were fired from their jobs, their careers scuttled (Donahue, Maher, Plame,to name a few), threatened, attacked with anthrax, blackmailed, smeared, renditioned to foreign jails where they were and are tortured, raped and murdered.
    You may be contrite but you are a century from forgiveness.

    It’s one thing to say that you were wrong and offer a list.
    The question remains. When Bush won the Republican nomination in 1999, I was astonished because it was apparent that a nightmare was about to unfold.

    I expected that the Bush Administration would be an absolute disaster.
    I WAS WRONG. It has been and remains so much worse than I could have imagined, and ever worsening.
    The Bush administration is a runaway train with a drunken, mentally-defective engineer in command.

    US-style conservatism is the biggest failure of any political movement in the history of the world and the GOP is nothing more than a dangerous and unpredictable mob of extremists and thugs that cloak their immoral brand of politics in fundamental religious ideology and goose-step in lockstep with a zealous fascist dictator.

    I hope that you live for many, many years so that you have to live with the impact of your choices for as long as possible.

  226. 226

    Ironically, the people who got it most right are satirists:

    I speak, of course, of the Onion on March 26, 2003.

  227. 227
    stevie says:

    “Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”
    ~Dwight D. Eisenhower~1953

  228. 228
    Davis X. Machina says:

    You know what, John? Fuck you, you screaming piece of shit. All this shit was OBVIOUS back in 1999 when you were all aboard. YOU and all your Diaper media crowd were all about this.

    Well, someone needs to read their Prodigal Son, and it isn’t John.

  229. 229
    Helena Montana says:

    Some of the responses to John’s mea culpa reveal that some liberals can be just as hateful, self-righteous, sanctimonious–not to mention ungracious–as their counterparts on the right.

    A few points: (1) Everybody is gullible at one point or another in their lives. (2) John, himself, was not responsible for all the people that were maimed and killed. The blame for that is on the people that run this country, who lied about…everything. They would have killed and maimed whether John believed their lies or not. 3) People who react nastily when somebody makes a massive admission of wrongness deserve to have their heads shoved up their asses.

    That is all.

  230. 230
    empty says:

    People who react nastily when somebody makes a massive admission of wrongness deserve to have their heads shoved up their asses.

    Speaking of “hateful, self-righteous, sanctimonious—not to mention ungracious.”

  231. 231
    Tye says:

    While its good to admit your mistakes, to view yourself as fallible, at the moment, none of this matters. Whether anyone was right or wrong.

    The fact is that many people are still being killed because we too stubborn to develop out of the need for productivity increasing events such as war in order to A) Mask our intent to keep our allies close, and our “supposed” enemies closer B) increase revenue through war profit C) Strategically place military in places that put them at advantage D) Gain/ steal/ replace resources from enemy and ally and E) Increase technology development and war advantages.

  232. 232
    HighPlainsJoker says:

    John Cole Says:

    You know what, John? Fuck you, you screaming piece of shit. All this shit was OBVIOUS back in 1999 when you were all aboard. YOU and all your Diaper media crowd were all about this.
    You are right. Three years before I had a blog and six years before I joined PJ media, I should have worked harder to impeach Clinton.

    I applaud your approach to admitting your mistakes. Unqualified as it is, seems te best way, especially compared to some of the others, worst being the Brit Twit C. Hitchens. As someone said in a blog I read today, being intelligent and able to write well does not mean one can analyze well.

    SO, Thanks.

    However, I do not understand your response to the quote above. Was it sarcasm? Sorry, but I just don’t get it.

  233. 233
    Helena Montana says:

    Never said I was perfect!

  234. 234
    mark says:

    Ironically, the people who got it most right are satirists:

    I speak, of course, of the Onion on March 26, 2003.

    Thanks for the pointer. This totally nails it. Wow.

  235. 235
    Mooser says:

    John, don’t despair! Soon there will be a new war. It doesn’t matter where or when. This new war will involve even greater dangers than Saddam (seems impossible, yes), and they will be even more imminent. Technological changes and advancements will insure that only those who are truly evil, and immoderate masturbators into the bargain, will be killed. And the conditions in the country we are to invade will be more propitious, much more, the rose petals, American flags and rice already in warehouses for distribution. And a whole new American Army, reformed and composed entirely of A students, who’ve sworn chastity until marriage will be ready to fight it.
    And this great war, finally, after your closest inspection, will deserve your support, as it deserves the support of every red-blooded, right-thinking, clean-shaven, hands-out-of-your-pockets American. And you will support it. Good for you, sir, and God Bless you. America needs more like you, almost more than we need 18-25 yr. old males who want to learn, have adventure and get $20,000 just for signing up. Hell, maybe even more.

  236. 236
    Tehanu says:

    Helena Montana speaks for me too. It takes courage to admit being wrong and to change. And although John may have supported the war, his individual support or lack of it wouldn’t have made one damn bit of difference to the real criminals, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al. He doesn’t need to atone for their crimes by spending the rest of his life nursing the wounded — they do. Asking him to “bring the dead back to life” and saying that, since he can’t, his apology and admission of error is meaningless, is … well, meaningless. I’m talking to “Not Good Enough” and co., who ought to re-read John 8:7, unless of course they really ARE without sin.

  237. 237
    Tracy says:

    John, himself, was not responsible for all the people that were maimed and killed. The blame for that is on the people that run this country, who lied about…everything.

    I would add that even the soldiers, those at Haditha, Falluja, and My Lai are innocent also. They were just following orders. Just as Andrew Sullivan labelled the war protesters as a “fifth column” of traitors, his words had no real impact any more than Bush demanding Sadaam give up his WMD. The real consequences of these mistakes should not be made to bare on those who tried earnestly to seek the deepest value of freedom (like John Cole, Sullivan, or even Bush), but those liberals who early on created the atmosphere of division that forced others to make hasty decisions.

  238. 238
    doggril says:

    Tracy-
    Sweet. The leaders of this country bear (not bare, btw) no responsibility for lying to us. The soldiers who committed war atrocities (who, incidentally, were NOT following legal orders and knew that or should have known that) don’t bear any responsibilities for their war crimes. The pundits who helped encourage the culture of bloodlust that drove this country insane for several years–nope, no culpability at all there. Ah, but the DFH, who were RIGHT about Bush being the wrong guy for the job, who were RIGHT about the war being wrong, and who were for years DEMONIZED by the press and by any number of rightwingers who were WRONG about oh, so much, bear ALL responsibility because, unbeknownst to apparently anyone but yourself, THEY held a gun to the head of everyone else to force them to do, you know, all the stupid shit they did.
    I don’t know what you’re smoking, but it must be AMAZING stuff.

  239. 239

    […] It’s been a long time since John Cole’s come around to the Dark Side, but in the name of the anniversary, here’s his Mea Culpa; complete: I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  240. 240
    Pablo says:

    Hey Potfry:
    Not arrogance, just fact, not everyone was a scared sheep hiding under the blanket, and voting for this idiot. We have a right to feel vindicated, but unfortunately, our country has suffered irreparable damage.

  241. 241
    chicago dyke says:

    kudos, john. you are A Man. nice post.

  242. 242
    fleinn says:

    Wow. Be a bloodthirsty bastard cheering on an unprovoked attack that has resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents. And then all you have to do is say say oops I made a booboo. And they start throwing knickers at you. Learn myiq2xu. Learn.

    Ha.

    Allright. Now are you idiots going to start believing in things like the law, process, dialogue and being a responsible citizen in a democracy?

    Are you going to ditch the personality- oriented puddle- deep politics, where getting a glance at someone’s knickers is the most interesting thing on the news?

    Are you going to start thinking that a presidential candidate is a focal point for advancing issues of various importance, instead of trusting the Leader to bring you to glorious progress through the power of your vote?

    Are you going to start treating government as a tool for a purpose, instead of an enabler for your superficial collective conscience?

    Are you going to start discussing actual policy before the elections, and electing leaders who have a stake in the people’s approval on anything of substance?

    Are you going to start looking for aggressive journalism that questions authority, without managing to cast every goddamned single person who has read a book without pictures as a political operative because they denounce proto- fascism?

    Are you going to create something worth actually reading and orienting people’s views around, with the intention of crafting viewpoints that make any possible kind of sense from a viewpoint not dominated by belief alone?

    Are you going to realise that declaring your principles (or lack of them) doesn’t have even the slightest bit of impact – even though you feel the world should cover you in rose- petals for so courageously expressing yourselves?

    Are you going to start thinking about just how broken your political process is, and attempt to do something about it on a conscious level?

    Are you going to finally start acting like adults?

    The fuck you are. You regret not nailing Clinton harder when you had the chance, because you find your high- minded principles were offended in retrospect. You regret not flocking more seriously around the personality- oriented politics before, because then you were only cheering from a distance. You regret that it didn’t turn out the way you wanted: you regret you’re not living in a dream- world where intentions are equal to action.

    But as long as we’re doing mea culpas: I regret that I ever thought americans would learn. I regret that I didn’t believe you were morons enough to simply shrug off the entire episode and continue as usual – instead of covering in shame, like any human being with a conscience would do. I regret that I underestimated the arrogance involved, and ever convinced myself that it was nothing particular abou it. I regret that I believed any of you had the courage to look at what you were, and are doing. I regret that I ever thought any being couldn’t be so superficial and false. I regret thinking that you weren’t completely useless. I regret I believed that any of you were genuinely ashamed of what your politicians were doing in your name – before it turned out your “gamble” went bad. I regret that I trusted people over the pool who are involved in politics to be anything but narcissistic children with the self- insight equal to absolutely nothing. I regret that you can bear the idea of perpetuating the situation that launched your country into Iraq in the first place, as well as support by sheer indifference what your representatives around the globe are doing, right now, on your behalf. I regret that I thought higher of you than I did. I regret that I thought you were capable of anyhing. And most of all, I regret that I was wooed by your blue- eyed stupidity and naivite into believing that you cared about the truth.

    Because you don’t – you denounce it collectively: For the information is available to you. The GAO reports exist. The journalists you rail against for not serving you the right news are there, however well hidden. The scandals in government conduct has happened. The constitutional crisis is there. The final declaration from the president that he does not respect the law has been affirmed – several times.

    And what do you fucking do? Wallow in self- pity, congratulating yourselves on being so open- minded in exercising your arrogance.

    You make me sick. You’ve broken your country, and I welcome you to it – powerless as you are to do a damn thing to change. And it finally makes me feel good to say that.

  243. 243
    empty says:

    doggril Says:

    I suggest you reread Tracy’s posts.

  244. 244
    Tax Analyst says:

    Dennis – SGMM Says:

    Aw geez, I feel so out of my depth here. All I ever knew about war I earned by carrying a belt-fed fully automatic 7.62 NATO caliber weapon in places like Chau Duc, Ca Mau, Rach Gia, the Hu Minh Forest and the Rung Sat Special Zone.

    What I learned was:
    If you’re going to place a bunch of Americans with relatively complex support requirements at the end of a supply chain that is a few thousand miles long then you’d better have clearly defined, achievable goals and a defined timetable for achieving them. This includes announcing publicly and in advance that you’re going to leave when those goals are met. Changes the goals only pisses people off and makes the whole fracas last longer.

    If you’re going into a country where many of the locals are hostile and you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys at a glance then you’re fucked.

    If you fight a war where you’re at the end of the above mentioned long supply chain while your opposition can fight you at the times and places of their choice, with superior knowledge of the local landscape and the forced or unforced support of the locals then…

    If you choose to write a nation’s history for them then you’d fucking well better have a better history than they would have written for themselves and you’d damned fucking well better be able to deliver it in a timely fashion.

    Well-made points, Dennis.

    Yeah, it woulda been nice if someone in power had been paying attention to this type of thing instead of busily milking the, “We’re at War now, so you mustn’t criticize us” so they could push through any old bullshit in the name of “National Security”.

  245. 245
    Brian says:

    Respect to you, John.

  246. 246
    Tax Analyst says:

    Cassidy Says:

    I disagree. Seperating a situation into its compnent parts and examining them as their seperate entities is a good method of finding out what worked and what did not. Even in Iraq, seperating the war from the occupation is necessary to answer that question.

    Cassidy, I don’t think we needed to go to war with Iraq to find out that we could kick their ass from border-to-border with our initial military assault. There really was nothing to learn from studying this particular “component part” as you call it, unless you’re in the Max Boot category, you know, jerking off over the prospect of having a REAL WAR to play with, and I give you a bit more credit than that.

    Really, what WAS the plan for the period AFTER the initial attack? There was none…except trying to figure out what color flight suit the Deciderator would prance about in on that aircraft carrier and how to keep his weight down with all the candy and flowers that would soon be forthcoming. Or maybe the plan was to kick ass and walk away? No, they apparently didn’t know (or care) enough about Iraq history to know that it would be a dangerous place to create a power vacuum…that Sunni & Shiite would not instantaneously join hands around a common campfire in joyful unity for an extended version of “Kumbaya”.

    Before you rain the horror of war on a country and it’s people – and place your own soldiers in harm’s way – you really ought to have some idea of what you are going to do to stabilize the fucking place when the initial onslaught in over.

    So you separate the components all you want, but in the end all you come up with is a bunch of useless bullshit conclusions and excuses and the festering reality that is Iraq at this very moment, along with a fairly thorough decimation of our military that may take quite some time to rectify.

    You want to find a good method to determine what works and what doesn’t? Buy a fucking history book, because this fiasco isn’t a whole lot different from countless other arrogant, hubristic fuck-fests throughout time. Check out Napoleon at Waterloo, Hitler’s push into Russia…your common thread will be the one’s Dennis SGMM has already made above.

    And with that I wish you all a beautiful Easter Egg…may it end up someplace where it brings you joy.

  247. 247
    George Smiley says:

    Many of you are acting as though the public support for the war was spontaneous, organic. It. Was. Not. It was the product of a meticulously engineered series of lies that were known to be lies, spread through a systematic and cynical PR campaign.

    Y’all did not merely misjudge. You were duped. You were played for the stupid suckers that you are, and that Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld have always known you to be.

  248. 248
    Brian From Elsewhere says:

    Directed here from Delong.

    I could quibble on one or two of those points; among them the fact that the dirty smelly hippies might have made more of an impact if they’d just showered for peace, so it’s hardly unfair to have doubted them.

    But as one of the folks who was only wrong about one or two of the above, it really does make it feel a little better to know someone is willing to any lessons at all, let alone several.

    There are still lots of drones and lobotomized partisan fools out there who haven’t learnt a thing.

    Thanks for saying it out loud, and congratulations for helping to restore a little faith by doing so.

    -B.

  249. 249
    Gerard MacDonell says:

    Oh, the pain of admitting an error! It is almost as bad as actually being in Iraq. Well, not really.

  250. 250
    lee says:

    Actually I think Bush et. al. thought there were WMD’s, otherwise they would have brought some to, I think the word is, “plant”. On the shit/shinola question I will decline if you offer to polish my shoes.

  251. 251
    doggril says:

    I’m presuming you mean that Tracy was being sarcastic. If that’s correct, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately, the whole challenge of parodying the Right is that it’s really, really hard to out-bizarre the Right wing (or, I dunno, maybe God really did bury fake dinosaur bones to test our faith…) I reread Tracy’s post, and, sad to say, there’s nothing there that wouldn’t be perfectly at home at LGF, Redstate or some of the other winger sites. So, I’ll just take your word for it.

  252. 252
    empty says:

    Unfortunately, the whole challenge of parodying the Right is that it’s really, really hard to out-bizarre the Right wing (or, I dunno, maybe God really did bury fake dinosaur bones to test our faith…)

    I hear you. I suppose the advantage I had was that I had read some of Tracy’s earlier posts.

  253. 253
    MNPundit says:

    Think John, what could have convinced you in 2002 that you were wrong? Could anything have?

    Imagine the frustration of those of us who were called traitorous and objectively pro-terrorist in those days and simply could not get through to others.

  254. 254
    Brachiator says:

    I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:

    Everything.

    Brave stuff. I wonder how many pundits appearing on this weekend’s political gabfests will be as willing to admit what they got wrong about the Iraq Misadventure.

    stevie Says:

    “Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”
    Dwight D. Eisenhower1953

    As with quotes falsely attributed to Mark Twain or Groucho Marx, it’s difficult to verify this statement. The full version, which may have been made in reaction to speculations about 1954 military policy, may have been the following:

    “All of us have heard this term ‘preventive war’ since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time, if we believe for one second that nuclear fission and fusion, that type of weapon, would be used in such a war–what is a preventive war?

    I would say a preventive war, if the words mean anything, is to wage some sort of quick police action in order that you might avoid a terrific cataclysm of destruction later.

    A preventive war, to my mind, is an impossibility today. How could you have one if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone? That isn’t preventive war; that is war.

    I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.”

    — Eisenhower Press Conference, 11 August 1954, quoted in Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, p. 149, note.

    More from the “good old days” when military men debated the possible merits of a nuclear first strike can be found here: Preemption and the evolution of America’s strategic defense.

    Either way, Ike’s image of “cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone…” is a fair description of significant areas of Iraq today.

  255. 255
    F says:

    John,

    Even though this is Easter, I’m sad to see we have a run on forgiveness, you and others like you; Clinton, Freidman, Klein, etc. don’t deserve forgiveness, you should have known better.

    I’ll forgive you when these 3,996 men return home, until then you mea culpa doesn’t mean shit.

    YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOW BETTER!!!!

  256. 256
    p.a. says:

    WANUNU Says:

    Juan:
    This is the old Christian trick of repent of your sins and continue life as if nothing happens. Morally repent and doing nothing, amount to be morally turpid. Yes, there in company of “Scooter” Libby and Jack Abramoff. I guess it is the old testament make you pals.

    And DugJay now has competition as worst b-j poster!
    I know this thread has run out of gas, but if anyone’s on after me, is turpid a word? I know turpitude, but turpid? Like revolting has no ‘volting’ antonym.
    ‘Juan’ I think WANUNU is asking if you’re circumcised! I love these free porn sites… Or maybe he thinks you are Juan Cole.

    As for those unloading on this blog’s proprietor for being wrong, go read some Greek tragedy and learn the meaning of humility.

  257. 257
    Diane says:

    Well, I was not wrong.
    I yelled loud and clear when bush and his cronies “stole” the 2000 election.
    All anyone had to do is look at Bush, look at his FAILED record and then look at whom he surrounded himself with, Cheney, Rumsfeld and go back to the Nixon days to find out what they were doing then.

    I am a disabled school nurse with NO political background.
    When a country,US, bullies other countries, denigrates others that are saying contradictory information( No WMD’S), and calls those who question war, “traitors” the alarm bell went off in my head.
    This period in our country was a wake up call.
    WE need to heed that call!

  258. 258

    […] John Cole: My Iraq War Retrospective "I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: Everything. And I dont say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything." Link __________________ "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it" (Terry Prachett) The Pledge Disabled American Veterans The Marine Defense Fund Medical Aid for Iraqi Children […]

  259. 259
    fleinn says:

    As for those unloading on this blog’s proprietor for being wrong, go read some Greek tragedy and learn the meaning of humility.

    What a splendid suggestion. We were right, and you were wrong. So we need to learn humility.

    Try to wrap your head around this: you do not stand, continuously, in front of a monumental choice between going the easy way, and between saving the planet with your arrogance.

    You think so, but you don’t. And you deserve no humility from me, or from anyone. Because if you were part of a greek play, you wouldn’t be one of the characters who develop and learn – you would be one of the Hollywood- characters written in later. Honestly – you can all go fuck yourselves.

    And four more years!

  260. 260
    Clifford says:

    As a veteran of an idiotic war, I love you, man.

    I wish everyone who KNOWS how wrong their position on this war had the guts to do what you just did. We could be out next year.

    Ignore the pinheads who will criticize. You just ‘manned up’, and that ain’t easy. It’s not supposed to be.

    c

  261. 261
    tdraicer says:

    As someone who got it all right (and can demonstrate it if asked as I was quoted in the NYTimes way back when) I just want to say that in the Age of Wingnuts, Mr. Cole strikes me as that almost extinct species, an actual Conservative. I’m a liberal secular humanist myself. with some socialist leanings in economics (though not a pacifist) but I recognize the need for honest opposing voices (any political grouping without opposition grows lazy and corrupt) and I want to applaud Mr. Cole.

  262. 262
    Doctor Jay says:

    This is a fine example of how one mistake leads to many. Once you’ve supported the war, you then support all the other stuff that came with it. All manner of beliefs fall in line with that one commitment.

    I wasn’t wrong about the war, but I’d advise humility, because this kind of mistake can happen to anyone. All too easily.

  263. 263
    Nathanael Nerode says:

    Wrongness.

    I was right about nearly everything. What was I wrong about?

    I was wrong when I thought that there were at least a few honorable, competent Republicans in Congress who would stop Bush from violating the Constititution, as they did when Nixon violated the Constitution. (There was a total of one. Ron Paul.) I was wrong when I thought there were enough honorable, competent Democrats in Congress, too. (There were a lot more, but that means 10-15.)

  264. 264
    Jaime Frontero says:

    Soooo….

    By extension, Senator McCain is also wrong about everything. Right, Mr. Cole?

    And in the General Election you will be supporting Senator Obama.

    Correct?

    JF

  265. 265
    purpleOnion says:

    The problem was that there were many people who did not have their bs detectors tuned properly.

    It must have been confusing to many, because there were so many deceptions coming from so many directions that in self-defense they assumed that minimally elected officials would not intentionally do harm to the United States. I do not harbor such an assumption.

    Between Judith Miller and other intrepid embedded journalist stenographers across all media were told that true patriots supported the war and everyone else was a Communist who was soon to lose his or her chosen profession if he or she was not dedicated to the great purpose.

    There were a few obvious signs of deception such as George Bush reciting a different reason for going to war on a weekly basis. There were also “experts” retired military toadies who had a difficult time keeping their stories straight depending upon the time between when they were last told what the reason was for war and the most recent excuse is usually a fairly good barometer for deceit.

    Iraq did not represent a threat to an Afghanistan that the Russian military miraculously returned to the Stone Age from eight years of high altitude bombing raids. Who claims that time travel is impossible when leaders have no problem at all when it comes to sending us backward in time.

    Then there were the traitor accusations against anyone who used reason and logic with a dash of moral sensitivity to realize that backward, primitive Iraqi soldiers would surrender as rapidly as possible to prevent being converted into human ground beef. It’s true there were some who were aware that Iraqis knew a war with the U.S. would generally be thought of as suicide rather than martyrdom, but that did not require an intervention by mental health professionals

    The U.S. could not unleash total war against Iraq, because it would have had the uncomfortable feeling of participating in, choose one: slaughter, massacre, or genocide. Thus our brilliant military leaders chose the least effective type of warfare “limited war” in which a nation can win a war, but will be ambushed intermittently forever. Americans would resist such a plan, of course, because they foolishly believe that one enters into war with the goal of ending it with victory, not perpetuating it for as long as Americans can accept a statistical “minimal” loss of American soldiers.

    Minimal is a relative term that is approximately four thousand over a five year period of time if one does not take into account the nearly eighty thousand soldiers who have been wounded so severely that their lives will not be the same as long as they shall live. Modern medicine is a miraculous creation of people dedicated to saving the lives of people they reassemble so that they can be labeled wounded instead of dead.

    The calculation missing from many discussions about this war was the sadistic intellectualized racism that permitted some of our best political and military leaders to give very little weight to the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. After all, they were foreigners who were different from us, but that appears to be enough for some people. This is perfect for relieving us from feeling shame, disgust, and guilt over a principled war that was not an act of aggression and mass murder, because they were “strangers”. Who wastes their time worrying about strangers, especially strangers who don’t have a proper alphabet and believe in a heathen prophet that approve of war as long as it is against infidels; in other words, us.

    Finally, the event that gave the entire historical madness a tinge of unreality was when the Iraqi leaders foolishly believed that if they accepted that they were going to be creamed unless they capitulated to both the U.S. and UN demands, and then did so a few days before the attack, proved how naive’ they were to think that the neocons would hold back the plans for invasion. The neocons were hungry for war because it appeared to be so easy and the profit potential was enormous, roughly twelve to fifteen trillion dollars.

    Now what person, in his right mind, would not attack a weak nation for fifteen trillion? The answer is a responsible, pragmatic, logical, and moral person who understands that war is the last resort simply because of the unintended consequences and it is the slaughter of human beings. One of those unintended consequences was the possibility of turning one and a quarter billion Arabs, who at one point were somewhat curious about how we did things in the U.S., into extremist radical enemies. Imagine that. Some people do not have a sense of humor when it comes to the loss of their land, families, and sense of national identity.

    Well, maybe when Mr. Obama sits down with some of these third world leaders they’ll realize that America had a severe illness that would only be cured by making certain that no warmonger bacteria ever infects our government and our people again except when it is necessary or in self-defense. If war does become necessary we should become merciless and calm barbarians.

    Everyone together now, tune up those bs detectors, because, who knows, the life you save may be your own.

    Sorry about the length. It is the effect of years of frustration, depression, and yes at times anger that may be converted into a celebration of a sunset on this terrible tragedy for all concerned, including the “minimal” losses on our side and the “acceptable” losses on their side.

    I think the American people deserve to finally awake from the neocons’ and weak willed nightmare. A new day is dawning and we will be free of this national disgrace. I deeply apologize for not knowing how to prevent it.

  266. 266
    nellieh says:

    I knew Bush was a momma’s boy and a priveliged fratboy asshole when he ran for governor of Texas. I predicted he would be an asshole president when daddy’s crony’s and contemptible political pawns stole the 2000 election. I was wrong for not beating those that supported that lame AWOL twit over the head with a 2×4 to get theitr attention and make them realize what they were supporting. Maybe they are among the 30% diehards. They remind me of the inbred interviewed on 60 Minutes that ‘heard’ Obama was a M

  267. 267
    L. Caution says:

    Some possibly helpful guidelines in the future.

    1. There are lots of awful leaders in the world, so choosing the worst isn’t easy – and it is a lot more helpful to go after the SOB while he is doing the maiming and killing rather than 5 or 10 years later.

    2. The zebra test. I didn’t have much doubt about Sadaam’s being bad. I even thought he might still have had some WMDs. but I simply couldn’t make myself believe that a tin-pan dictator in a small country over there could target WMDs at us. From Cuba, maybe? North Korea? Sure. From the Middle East? Nope.

    3. I’m old enough to remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – so I know that Presidents can lie, and lie BIG, when they want to go to war.

    4. The Middle East is, well, The Middle East. The Crusades were a bad idea centuries ago and I hadn’t seen any evidence that a new one would fare any better.

  268. 268
    Chris Brown says:

    There was plenty of information and plenty of credible, informed voices decrying the Cheneypaths plans in the run up to the invasion and occupation for one to draw opposite conclusions than did you.

    Were you not reading Juan Cole? Did you not listen to Bob Graham? Did not take Scott Ritter seriously? Did you seriously not realize that those pushing for an Iraqi invasion were the same crew that has been for the last thirty years busily making the world a more dangerous place?

    Why should anyone believe that at some point in the future you won’t swallow the same kind of nonsense proffered by the neo-fascists in the Iraq invasion run up?

    You’re mea culpa, I’m sure, is of little comfort to the families of the 4,000 dead, tens of thousands of wounded, and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi killed, wounded, and displaced because you’re demonstrably a gullible dumb ass.

  269. 269
    Gladmaya says:

    In a debate during 2000 primary, Dubya, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes were asked to name the “political philosopher or thinker” that had influenced them the most and explain how they had been influenced. Forbes named John Locke, Keyes the Founding Fathers, and Bush Jesus Christ. Asked how Christ had influenced him, Bush said, “He changed my heart.” By some odd coincidence I happened to watch, so I knew nothing the man said could be taken seriously and that any enterprise of his would crash and burn. (The heart surgeon DeBakey said he knew the Iraq war would fail because he “knew who was performing the surgery.”)
    One part of the run-up to war that seldom gets discussed is how people like you who were knowledgeable about the region and its people didn’t see that the games Saddam played on the subject of W.M.D.s arose not from the fact he had them and wanted to hide the fact but that he didn’t and wanted to hide THAT fact, because he feared the consequences if his weakness became known. Which is also why it’s illegitimate to argue that Saddam would still be in power if we hadn’t invaded. Once it was known that he was a paper tiger, he would not have lasted long.

  270. 270
    TC says:

    John-kudos for being a big enough man to admit you made a mistake. I have all kinds of respect for people who can admit they have erred. I constantly make mistakes, but I constantly apologize also and I don’t make the same mistake twice. Anyway, much respect for your candid and frank admission of error. Best wishes. Todd

  271. 271
    Bladesmith says:

    Bravo and screw you.

    While everyone else here is blowing smoke up your ass and telling you what a high minded, noble thing you’ve done with your mea culpa, I call bullshit.

    I’m sure your admission make YOU feel better, and salves what little concience you may have, but ultimately, like everyone else associated with this administration, you don’t face any real repercussions from your screwup, do you?

    You won’t lose your job. You won’t be sued. There’s no stocks or pillory in your near future. Any chance you’ll pick up a rifle and offer YOUR life up on the line in Iraq as an act of contrition?

    Your “apology” won’t bring back a single dead American soldier, won’t get a maimed one his limbs back. Your apology won’t restore any of the hundred thousand or so dead Iraqi civilians to life. It won’t return to the taxpayers any of the BILLIONS of dollars your screwup tossed down the toilet. In short, it doesn’t do a single goddamned thing to correct the problem YOU helped create.

    Nor does your apology go far enough, because no where in it do you call for the people you followed, the people who lied to this nation and the WORLD to step up, come clean, and admit both their lies AND their screwups, which are legion. You let them off the hook, while letting yourself off the hook. “I’m sorry, I screwed the pooch, but I apologized so it’s all better now.”

    Well, shove your self serving apology. We KNOW you and the rest of the Bush Admin supporters who swallowed their bullshit hook line and sinker are wrong. We knew it BEFORE th Iraq invasion started, and we told you so. We don’t NEED you to admit it, we can see it for ourselves, every stinking day. Your apology means nothing. Until you do something to fix the problem YOU helped create.

    You Mea Culpa’d. Yay you. Now, to make things RIGHT, as your act of contrition, what are you prepared to DO?

  272. 272
    FDK-Brussels says:

    Sorry for not having visited your website earlier. I found the link in Brad Delong’s.
    I admire your openness.
    But I think you forgot the most important:
    “I was wrong about the implosion of the twin towers”.
    I try to be as objective as possible and have open and clear critical view on every position, but do you really, really think that a relative small engine compared to the mass of the Twin Towers can bring them down, an hour after the fire was extinct. Do you really, really belief that the explosions heard by hundred of persons seconds before the implosion were just imagination or cracking steel? Do you really really belief that ?

  273. 273
    DemRealist says:

    That’s great that you apologized, but what about the damage your views have wrought? Can you undo the 4000 American deaths, countless Iraqi civilian deaths, hundreds of thousands of severely injured, and all the people who mourn and deal with these injuries every day of their lives? Can you give American citizens their 3 trillion dollars back, and all the hours they and their children and their children’s children have worked and will work to earn that money? Can you give America back its self-esteem? I, and all the other “smelly” people who have taken time and life’s blood out of our lives to march the streets in vain for the past 6 years, who have shouted to deaf ears and closed minds and the censored media, must find it in ourselves to forgive you, and must recognize that at least you have been courageous enough to admit your misguiding of the American people. But, should you continue to wear the mantle of pundit, journalist, commentator on the American scene? I think not. True atonement requires the humility to step down and walk the streets and see the pain you have caused. Maybe then, you will see that this is not a simple game of “Sorry” or “Oops I goofed”, but it is a question of immeasurable destruction and pain. May God bless you and lead you in a new path.

  274. 274
    Batocchio says:

    Well, at least you’re admitting it across the board, which I can respect. I can’t respect people like Richard Cohen, who still claims he was wrong for the right reasons and while war opponents were right for the wrong reasons. I’m so sick of these vain, arrogant wankers. The only two things necessary to oppose invading Iraq were a high threshold for war and a decent bullshit detector. But when idiocy and chickenhawk fervor are the social norms, the voices of sane adults who have studied some basic history or have some common sense tend to get dismissed.

  275. 275
    Dave R. says:

    Mr. Cole – you are a person of real integrity, and if I may venture into this usually silly territory, you are a real man. At least in this post!

    The world DESPERATELY needs more people who are able and willing to admit their mistakes and then pledge to learn from them, rather than pretend they weren’t made and presume that they should still be taken as seriously as ever on the very issues which they were so wrong about in the first place!!!!

    Great post – I’ll visit here more often.

    -Dave R.

  276. 276
    Tom M says:

    Gladmaya, the games Saddam played on the subject of W.M.D.s arose not from the fact he had them and wanted to hide the fact but that he didn’t and wanted to hide THAT fact, because he feared the consequences if his weakness became known.
    That was the discussion in our house but among our wider circle of friends, who,quite frankly, stood to gain from GwB’s tax policies, they believed all the stories in the media. If there’s blame, the press corps bears heavy responsibility.

  277. 277
    Mike says:

    That is an interesting post. While you admit to being wrong about ‘everything’ you fail to mention your reaction at that time to those who disagreed with you, i.e. those who were right. You and your fellow hawks savagely attacked any dissent as anti-American, communist, a fifth-column, ignorant, appeasers to Islamic terrorism, and other McCarthyite smearing. I cannot see anything in your admission of error that apologizes for those smears either from you or from any others now revising their opinions. Therefore, I am unmoved by your post. You fail to note anything that taught you to question you basic judgment or to re-think your basic assumptions about the world and others in it who may disagree with your bias and viewpoint. In fact, you still exhibit those same personality traits when it comes to the Democratic primaries. You were an a-hole then, you’re an a-hole now.

  278. 278
    gussmith says:

    Dear John,

    Why the McNamara mea culpa now, after all this time? I would like to know more about your decision-making thoughts, both prior to the Iraq mess and now that you have written that you made bad decisions.

    As an earlier commenter said, we all had access to writings by Scott Ritter, David Kay, Richard Clarke, etc. Why did you not find them credible?

  279. 279
    Lisa says:

    Bladesmith: You are a selfrighteous dickhead.

    I was going to add that even those of us who protested the war from the beginning are culpable. Because we allowed these fuckers into power. We shouted “no war for oil” and “Bushit” but we weren’t exactly Paul Revere. We did not stand at the doors and say “enough”. We bought “Somewhere in Texas, a villaige is missing its idiot” stickers for our Priuses and with immense self satisfaction, went back to bragging about our indie music collection and our new commitment to veganism and Ayurvedic Yoga.

    Get off your high horse and go look in the mirror. You preening jackanapes.

  280. 280
    Lisa says:

    BTW: Good on you, Cole. But dont do it again. The next time we have a terrorist attack (and we probably will), Try to keep your cool and avoid boarding that Crazy Bus.

    Seriously. Remember: IRAQ SYRIA PALESTINELEBANON IRAN IS NOT HARBORING AL QAEDA.

  281. 281
    Tim F. says:

    By extension, Senator McCain is also wrong about everything. Right, Mr. Cole?

    And in the General Election you will be supporting Senator Obama.

    Correct?

    You may not know this, but I have a magical ability to detect people who have never visited this site before. You’re new.

  282. 282
    jimbo92107 says:

    Admitting that you were entirely wrong is a courageous first step, but there are dangers. At this point it would still be easy to shuck off the whole episode as a horrible “whoopsie,” while never giving thought to the source of the errors.

    Wrong assessments come from some combination of erroneous information and faulty reasoning. To avoid future blunders of this magnitude it is essential to track down and eliminate the sources of the error.

    Are you willing to go that far, or are you hoping that a single, painful purge, like yanking out a bad tooth, will suffice? If an alcoholic admits he shouldn’t have gone binging and driving last night, that doesn’t cure his disease, nor does it clean the blood off his bumper.

  283. 283
    gussmith says:

    Oh, I just had another question…John, what do you propose we do now with this disaster we have created in Iraq?

  284. 284
    willibro says:

    From someone who was not wrong about any of this stuff, thanks for the apologies, John. I respect the courage it took to admit all that. And as for learning some humility…next time, when we have a disagreement about national policy, maybe you could lay off the name-calling and accusations of treason and other foaming-at-the-mouth? Because I’m just another American, rather fallible, much like yourself.

  285. 285

    […] From John Cole’s mea culpa about his early support for the war; If I had been wrong about the war, this would be a Thing I Wish I’d Written: I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  286. 286
    Bladesmith says:

    Hey Lisa?

    Blow out your rear, dear.

    What is this “WE” bullshit?

    Because I’m a conservative, libertarian, disabled combat veteran of TWO branchs of our military. I SERVED in GulfWar one and in Bosnia, AND I’m an ex cop.

    So I’m NOT one of the liberal left’s slogan spouting neohippies.

    I’ve spent the better part of my life at the sharp end of the stick. I’ve got a nephew on the ground in Iraq as we speak.

    I campaigned, best I could against even electing Mr Dipstick. I spoke out, from experience, against letting a Bush anywhere near running the military after fighting in Bush the first’s ORIGINAL war for oil.

    So sorry sweety, I’m not one of you.

    This particular self rightous dickhead has earned his stripes, AND his opinion.

    And I still want more than some self lubricating “Sorry, I fucked up and helped kill 4000 good American men and women, and tens of thousand Iraqi’s.”

    I want some PENANCE from Mr Cole, to go with his mea culpa. Unlike the administration he supports, and by his ommission of condemnation STILL supports, He CAN be accountable and at least attempt to make amends.

    If he’s sincere about being wrong, that is. Because like I said before, there is no Mea Culpa without an act of contrition.

  287. 287
    Stone Riley says:

    Cassidy said:

    blah blah, blah . . . as noted, I’m seperating the war from the occupation . . . blah blah blah

    And on what grounds, pray tell, are you separating the war from the occupation? This is the very reason why I feel very very impelled to give very little weight to anything at all that you say. The war and occupation are inextricable in any analysis that could give us true lessons. Sorry.

    Re-read Thucydides and then tell me that one piece of the puzzle can be discarded if you want to understand the other pieces.

  288. 288

    […] I think my favorite has to be by my friend John Cole at Balloon Juice who rather bluntly declares: I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  289. 289
    McMartin says:

    Because I’m a conservative, libertarian, disabled combat veteran of TWO branchs of our military. I SERVED in GulfWar one and in Bosnia, AND I’m an ex cop.

    None of which helped stop the current war in any way shape or form. Your point? It better not have been this:

    This particular self rightous dickhead has earned his stripes, AND his opinion.

    Since the inescapable implication is that people who haven’t been shot at don’t get to have opinions. Definitely something to keep in mind when we hear claims that The Troops Are Defending Our Freedoms.

    Oh, wait, our proprietor here is a veteran too. Does he get to have opinions? Or did he not get shot at enough?

    I want some PENANCE from Mr Cole, to go with his mea culpa.

    Mmmm. Sweet, tasty revenge fantasies. Nothing like demanding that people you don’t like risk maiming or death for a cause they explicitly don’t believe in.

    Penance is reasonable to the degree that one has done actual harm. The burden of proof is on you to show that his opinion helped sell the war anywhere it mattered. Otherwise The Editors nailed it at the beginning of the thread:

    [Y]ou could have been prescient about everything, and nothing would be any different, aside from some blog posts.

    And he owes nothing.

  290. 290

    […] There’s a lot of breast-beating in the blogosphere this past week about how many were wrong about the war in Iraq, and why. I especially appreciated John Cole’s candid and honest confession: I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  291. 291

    […] Here is what he has to say about being a full throated supporter of the Iraq invasion and occupation: I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  292. 292
    Dayv says:

    I was 100% right about Iraq, and I still didn’t manage to change a damn thing as far as I can see.

  293. 293
  294. 294
    Malcalypse says:

    I was right about everything, myself. Then again, I am not a big man, or even a Middle East Scholar. I’m just someone who knows his ass from a hole in the ground. I’m someone who doesn’t trust what the president says just because it was said by a president. I am also someone who cannot be scared into thinking poorly or not thinking at all.

  295. 295

    […] John Cole is one of them, though.  (If he indeed can even be called a pundit.) […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] John Cole is one of them, though.  (If he indeed can even be called a pundit.) […]

  2. […] Here is what he has to say about being a full throated supporter of the Iraq invasion and occupation: I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  3. […] There’s a lot of breast-beating in the blogosphere this past week about how many were wrong about the war in Iraq, and why. I especially appreciated John Cole’s candid and honest confession: I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  4. […] I think my favorite has to be by my friend John Cole at Balloon Juice who rather bluntly declares: I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  5. […] From John Cole’s mea culpa about his early support for the war; If I had been wrong about the war, this would be a Thing I Wish I’d Written: I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. […]

  6. […] John Cole: My Iraq War Retrospective "I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: Everything. And I dont say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything." Link __________________ "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it" (Terry Prachett) The Pledge Disabled American Veterans The Marine Defense Fund Medical Aid for Iraqi Children […]

  7. […] It’s been a long time since John Cole’s come around to the Dark Side, but in the name of the anniversary, here’s his Mea Culpa; complete: I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  8. YatPundit says:

    would that they all were this honest

    Greenwald pointed to this post by John Cole, which Glenn describes as a real man’s mea-culpa. He’s right: And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of…

  9. […] Posted in GOP at 4:59 am by LeisureGuy John Cole lays it on the line: I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  10. […] That’s interesting enough, but more interesting is what you now hear from a former Bush fan, a guy who five years ago mocked everyone who was at all hesitant about blowing off the UN and not in favor of wiping Saddam Hussein’s Iraq off the face of the earth, but now has changed his mind, and has even left the Republican Party and registered as a Democrat.  What does he say?  See John Cole at Balloon Juice with My Iraq War Retrospective: […]

  11. Rook's Rant says:

    What John Cole Got Wrong

    John Cole tells everyone what he got wrong.

  12. […] Hillary should take notes. Here’s how you do a mea cupla for supporting the Iraq invation. I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong: […]

  13. […] John Cole does an Iraq War Retrospective By Doug See, I’d be more inclined to give past policymakers who got Iraq so wrong more of a chance if they would be as forthright as John Cole, a guy who supported the War back in the day, but apparently has a nasty habit of reconsidering his positions as facts become available. Certainly it’s not “resolute,” that most treasured of virtues, but it’s still admirable. In what way does he now believe he was wrong? I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare. I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD. I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections. I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections. I was wrong about the containment sanctions. I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East. I was wrong about this making us more safe. I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq. I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath. I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps. I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East. I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army. I was wrong about the looting being unimportant. I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent. I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators. I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protestors. I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies. […]

  14. […] 21, 2008 The Difference Between… Posted by John O under Political | Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Balloon Juice, fuck you! just because Ihad everything wrong!, John Cole, mea culpa, please forgive me, Slate |   …an honest conservative, and a dishonest, or at least painfully un-self aware conservative. Or fake intellectual or something. […]

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