Not a Hard Call at All

This Bill Keller retrospective on the Iraq War was nauseating:

Where does this leave me? The world is well rid of Saddam Hussein. But knowing as we now do the exaggeration of Hussein’s threat, the cost in Iraqi and American lives and the fact that none of this great splurge has bought us confidence in Iraq’s future or advanced the cause of freedom elsewhere — I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was a monumental blunder.

Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call. I could not foresee that we would mishandle the war so badly, but I could see that there was no clear plan for — and at the highest levels, a shameful smugness about — what came after the invasion. I could not have known how bad the intelligence was, but I could see that the White House and the Pentagon were so eager to go that they were probably indifferent to any evidence that didn’t fit their scenario. I could see that they had embraced Chalabi, the exile cheerleader for war, despite considerable suspicion within the State Department and elsewhere that he was a charlatan. I could have seen, had I looked hard enough, that even by the more dire appraisals of Hussein’s capabilities he did not amount to what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called in a very different context “a clear and present danger.” But I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed bullshit, particularly the highlighted part. The war has been a complete and total disaster, and you don’t just get to grant yourself absolution by claiming it was a tough call. The simple fact of the matter is that warmongering cheerleaders like me and Keller got it wrong. The difference between me and Keller is I have the balls to admit I was wrong. Lots and lots of people with the exact same information we had got it right. Not only did they get it right, but they were chided and derided by folks like me, and in some cases were investigated by the CIA or had their covert cover blown.

So STFU Keller. You were wrong then, as was I, and you haven’t learned a damned thing in the decade since other than the most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to never admit you were wrong.






174 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    you haven’t learned a damned thing in the decade since other than the most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to never admit you were wrong.

    No. The most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to convince yourself that you are right and to then ensure that certainty guards against your ever learning anything about the subject in the future.

    See Party, Grand Old.

  2. 2
    Captain Haddock says:

    “I could not have known how bad the intelligence was…”

    What a liar. I read, at the time, countless reports about just how bad the intelligence was. And I am just a dude wasting time at work – not, you know, someone who has actual reporters and stuff working for them.

  3. 3

    Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call.

    A more honest person than Keller might note that it was possible to oppose the invasion without the benefit of hindsight, given that there were many people who opposed it at the time. He might give some consideration to what their arguments were, and evaluate whether those arguments should have been enough to sway a well-informed, rational person.

    He won’t do that, because they were not Very Serious People. They (we) were all Right for the Wrong Reasons.

  4. 4
    cgp says:

    If you never admit you’re wrong, you’re never going to learn anything new. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong persay (even though thousands of lives and trillions of dollars might suggest otherwise) But if you continue to stick your head in the sand….

  5. 5
    david mizner says:

    Well said. I’m still waiting for a “I was wrong” piece from David Remnick and Juan Cole (yes, he supported the war.)

  6. 6
    Martin says:

    On other lessons probably never to be learned: why isn’t the free market putting those damn fires out in Texas? Too much regulation? Overtaxed, probably. Nothing a capital gains cut won’t solve.

  7. 7
    BGinCHI says:

    How often do you all in the commentariat here watch news or read news and say, “Jesus, I could do better than that and it’s not even my job”?

    I’m guessing most of us.

    And if so, and I do believe that most of you could and would do it better, then the media are not going to be able to sustain their terrible performances forever.

    They are the shills for the corporate status quo, and something has to take their place. Die, newspaper and network/cable news hegemony.

  8. 8
    david mizner says:

    Keller’s list of “unlikely” hawks is pretty amusing:

    “Thomas Friedman of The Times; Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek; George Packer and Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker; Richard Cohen of The Washington Post; the blogger Andrew Sullivan; Paul Berman of Dissent; Christopher Hitchens of just about everywhere; and Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst”

    If there was a similar war tomorrow, all of them would support it, except for maybe Packer, who seems genuinely pained by what’s happened in Iraq. These guys are hawks.

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    Keller would not have had to look too far for skepticism about Iraq. One can (and should) be snarky about Maureen Dowd, but she was never fooled on Iraq:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07.....ffles.html

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....audiarabia

  10. 10
    jfxgillis says:

    John:

    Great post.

    That is all.

  11. 11
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I think the more interesting case is the reverse: not whether it was the right call to support a war that unfolded badly, but whether it was the wrong call to oppose a war that unfolded well.

    I remember being in college and being opposed to the _first_ Gulf War — mostly because I imagined being drafted and sent there, but also because I didn’t think it was a smart use of American military power. That one turned out better than I expected. But I don’t know if I’d say that I was wrong to have opposed it.

    And some, probably most, of the Libya threads have turned on that question too.

  12. 12
    Earl Butz says:

    But I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.

    As anyone who specialized in crisis management will tell you, that urge to be “doing something” without a comprehensive idea of what you are doing and why you are doing it is consistently the worst response of all.

    As it turns out, even by this assclown’s own admission, “standing by” was exactly the proper response.

  13. 13
    david mizner says:

    @Captain Haddock:

    You can’t blame Keller. He got his news from the New York Times. (Hi Judy!)

  14. 14
    handy says:

    @Captain Haddock:

    Whose intelligence? All that I saw for public consumption said that the intelligence on the ground was there were no WMDs and Bush/Cheney/Blair were just beating a war drum.

  15. 15
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    standing by was not enough.

    Especially when state sanctioned mass murder was an option.

  16. 16
    Big Baby DougJ says:

    @david mizner:

    They are also all idiots, with the possible exception of Packer. I don’t trust them on anything, because I think they are genuinely stupid people. It’s not even just that they are hawks.

  17. 17
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @david mizner: Of those, I don’t think Hitchens was known as a hawk at that point, though. I think he turned hawkish after the Yugoslav wars (if I remember my archives of The Nation from the 1990s) but hadn’t gone all the way yet. It was the Iraq war that brought home the extent of his newfound hawkishness — which IMHO relates to his sense that Islam and Christianity are both abhorrent ideologies that must be checked from spreading any further internationally. YMMV.

  18. 18
    handy says:

    @david mizner:

    Advocating for U.S. imperial exploits is a pretty safe bet, especially when you go up the propaganda media food chain.

    That’s the lesson I “learned” about Iraq.

  19. 19
    Chris says:

    The obsession of the wingnuts when it comes to the Iraq War is to ensure that it does NOT produce the type of backlash that Vietnam did. In that, I think they’ve been pretty successful.

  20. 20
    JPL says:

    I just read this article and was hoping that you or Doug would high light it. I get the Sunday NYTimes and will make a point on 9/11 to tear those pages out of the magazine and set them ablaze.

  21. 21
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Don’t lower your standards. The first Gulf War was a waste too. We protected one dictatorship from another dictator. Who cares who owns what oil in the Middle East? They’ll always want to sell it. Its none of our business but Bush’s love affair with the Saudis was at stake.

  22. 22
    MikeBoyScout says:

    In 2011 there are still cheerleaders who refuse to admit what hundred of thousands knew before it started and most knew by 2005.

    Further, some of the cheerleaders still feel compelled to absolve themselves for their, albeit, minor role. The DICK was taking us to war no matter who felt or believed differently.

    Amazing? No, just par for the course we are on.

  23. 23
    Poopyman says:

    But I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.

    Somebody should point out to Mr. Keller that his job is not to “do something”, unless by that he means
    * pointing out the intelligence sucked
    * pointing out that the administration was hell-bent on a war
    * point out who Chalabi was

    I could go on, but why bother. The man thinks his job was to support the Bush administration. I guess in the 21st century that’s exactly what it is.

  24. 24
    Sam Houston says:

    PETA annoys me. I try to respect them, but still…

    Now I’m part of a secret group called PETP, or peptic, as we like to say; People for the Ethical Treatment of People, formally.

    Being a member of this group I am compelled to say:

    War is Murder!

    I’m too old to solicit scantily-clad supermodels to carry this message, so I invite you, the reader, to exercise your own imagination.

    But, seriously; war is murder.

  25. 25
    handy says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    which IMHO relates to his sense that Islam and Christianity are both abhorrent ideologies that must be checked from spreading any further internationally.

    That’s great but what did that have to do with Iraqi Freedom? And actually, assuming the goal of bringing western Democracy to Iraq was really about eradicating Islam, what would Hitchens have thought the U.S. was replacing that religion with? Atheism?

  26. 26
    Earl Butz says:

    I think the more interesting case is the reverse: not whether it was the right call to support a war that unfolded badly, but whether it was the wrong call to oppose a war that unfolded well.

    @FlipYrWhig: I think not. I opposed the first Gulf War, and would do so again, because it was a war that did not involve an attack on American soil, which is the only thing that would get me to consent to the use of military power. Otherwise, and there’s just no other way to say it, the world is a crappy place and it’s none of our goddamn business.

    I’m also not sure that you can say that war “unfolded well”. It certainly didn’t unfold well for those who died fighting it.

  27. 27
    JPL says:

    What is the purpose of this statement by Keller

    As a candidate for president, George W. Bush famously argued that to command respect in the world, we needed to demonstrate not only strength but also humility. In office, though, the humility gave way to hubris. President Bush got it wrong. And so did I.

    I think he is saying Bush is a …… and so am I.

  28. 28
    Sgt. Troy Barlow says:

    Stop speaking right now, Bill.

  29. 29
    dj spellchecka says:

    add me to those who aren’t sure the raw intelligence was bad [although the stuff the pro-curveball cheerleaders who never interviewed him tried to pass along WAS terrible]…

    the way bu$hco lied about the intelligence…now THAT was bad

  30. 30
    Nutella says:

    If Keller were an honest man, he would not only admit that he was wrong about Iraq, he’d have ended that article with this “And that’s why I am totally opposed to the crazy irresponsible people who say we should attack Iran”. But he doesn’t say that either, does he?

  31. 31
    schlemizel - was Alwhite says:

    sorry, but who the fuck is Bill Keller?

    It ws not hard to know the war was a mistake before it began. The information was freely available in just about every European newspaper and magazine that exposed lie after lie coming out of the White House. You either had to be terribly naive or a willing dupe – although I will certainly give our librule media an huge assist as they aided and abetted the lies by ignoring the evidence it was all a lie.

  32. 32

    Minor correction: Keller does say he was wrong, but the way he couches it is pretty lame:

    “President Bush got it wrong. And so did I.”

    Passing the buck much?

    It’s one thing to admit you were wrong about Iraq. What I want from these fuckers is an apology. (You’re all good, Cole, btw).

  33. 33
    MikeBoyScout says:

    @7 BGinCHI:

    Unfortunately your analysis depends upon some competitive model. The mass media is a monopoly of propaganda. Always was, and always will be.

    As long is there is a Tire Swing there will be asshats to ride it.

  34. 34
    david mizner says:

    @handy:

    That’s surely true, no one’s ever paid a price in power, fame, or dollars for having supported this war (or any other) except perhaps Hillary Clinton, who had to settle for Secretary of State instead of the presidency.

  35. 35
    gex says:

    This kind of mealy-mouthed avoidance of responsibility is exactly the kind of thing that will give one a Very Serious Person vibe.

    This is a “Look at meeeeeeee! I’m so reasonable and serious” piece.

  36. 36
    dr. bloor says:

    @Captain Haddock:

    What a liar. I read, at the time, countless reports about just how bad the intelligence was. And I am just a dude wasting time at work – not, you know, someone who has actual reporters and stuff working for them.

    Well, the reporter working for him at the time was Queen War Pimp Dame Judith Miller, so he’s even more invested in the “Hoocouldaknowed” defense than your average mealy-mouthed, let-me-take-myself-off-the-hook corporatist media type.

  37. 37
    Tony J says:

    “I could not foresee that we would mishandle the war so badly”

    unless

    “I could see that there was no clear plan for — and at the highest levels, a shameful smugness about — what came after the invasion.”

    and

    “I could not have known how bad the intelligence was”

    unless

    “I could see that the White House and the Pentagon were so eager to go that they were probably indifferent to any evidence that didn’t fit their scenario.”

    and

    “I could have seen, had I looked hard enough, that even by the more dire appraisals of Hussein’s capabilities he did not amount to what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called in a very different context “a clear and present danger.””

    unless

    “I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.”

    Not the smartest tool in the box, this one.

  38. 38
    Winston Smith says:

    In 2006, on a long-defunct and shuttered blog, I did an experiment. Each day, I went to the NewsMax site, and looked at what they had published three years prior, in the lead-up to the invasion. I found something really startling.

    If you read only the article headlines, you would think that all Iraq-war naysayers were complete fools. If you read the articles it was pretty clear that the case for war was no where near certain. I’m going to repeat that:

    Even if you read NewsMax, you had enough information to see that the claims about Iraq were tenuous at best, and quite possibly false. Yeah. NewsMax.

  39. 39
    handy says:

    @schlemizel – was Alwhite:

    The information was freely available in just about every European newspaper and magazine that exposed lie after lie coming out of the White House. You either had to be terribly naive or a willing dupe – although I will certainly give our librule media an huge assist as they aided and abetted the lies by ignoring the evidence it was all a lie.

    Re-quoted for truth.

  40. 40
    Mino says:

    I was watching the MSM at that period, not getting news online. I was very skeptical. Colin Powell’s UN address changed my mind, the bastard.

  41. 41
    Bulworth says:

    I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was a monumental blunder. Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call.

    I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was the initial invasion. So, logically, if OIF was a “monumental blunder” then the “initial invasion” would have to be, too.

    Also, too.

  42. 42
    david mizner says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I think that’s right. The same for Berman, I believe, he’d begun to distance himself form the doves but Iraq and the threat of Islamofascistboogeyboogey led him to seal the deal, about in the same way that a previous generation of former lefties supported the Vietnam War, sealing their conversion.

  43. 43
    schlemizel - was Alwhite says:

    @BGinCHI:

    I do believe that most of you could and would do it better

    Sadly probably not. Once you realize your seat on the gravy train is dependent on your not doing it better it becomes pretty simple to not do better.

  44. 44
    schlemizel - was Alwhite says:

    @Winston Smith:

    Damn, that would make a great documentary!

  45. 45
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Shorter Keller: Yeah, I mean, like, I guess in hindsight we all should have known that the Iraq War was bullshit from start to finish, but SUCK. ON. THIS.

  46. 46
    rlrr says:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937:

    Also, the first Gulf war was perfectly preventable. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait represents a diplomatic failure on the part of the Bush I administration.

  47. 47
    Sad_Dem says:

    I remember back in 2003 I walked in an antiwar protest with thousands of other people, and that protest took place on the same day as hundreds of others around the world, and that all those millions of people were united by the same message: George Bush, Do Not Invade Iraq. But all of us weren’t serious people.

  48. 48
    John Weiss says:

    I’m an old guy. I was pissed at the Vietnam “war”. I was pissed about the first gulf “war”. I was pissed about the second one. Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Hasn’t been a war I’d support since Korea and I’m not so sure about that one.

    So, what? No one has asked for my opinion and apparently milling about in the streets does little good. It’s difficult not to despair. That’s my war.

  49. 49
    Zifnab says:

    @Mino:

    Colin Powell’s UN address changed my mind, the bastard.

    He swung me, too.

    I mean, for the uninformed observer (and I wasn’t a political junkie back then, just a kid working his way through college) I flipped on the TV and saw a 4-star general pointing at satellite imagery and saying “These are mobile chemical weapons labs” and “These are aluminum tubes for building nuclear reactors”. To which I shrugged and said, “Can’t argue with that. It’s Colin f’ing Powell with photographic evidence sitting in front of the United f’ing Nations and spelling it out clear as day. Case closed.”

    Was I naive? As a mother fucker! But I’d be hard pressed to call anyone else stupid for coming to the same conclusions after seeing the same dog and pony show.

  50. 50
    nitpicker says:

    Meanwhile, a lowly, scumbag blogger (me) wrote this, almost nine years ago exactly:

    In a recent commentary on All Things Considered, Ken Adelman said that he “stand(s) with Othello” in supporting the Bush Administration’s move to attack Iraq. In this he says “push the details aside and use force” against Iraq. I’m not sure what details he’s talking about here, but I assume that he means details like Saddam’s actually having WMDs and whether or not we should violate the UN’s charter. Details like that.

    Keller cheered Othello and wrote columns bitching about people like me.

    Much as we might wish the administration had orchestrated events so the inspectors had a year instead of three months, much as we deplore the arrogance and binary moralism, much as we worry about all the things that could go wrong, we are hard pressed to see an alternative that is not built on wishful thinking.

    And for that sort of foresight, Keller was promoted to editor.

  51. 51
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Captain Haddock:

    What a liar. I read, at the time, countless reports about just how bad the intelligence was. And I am just a dude wasting time at work – not, you know, someone who has actual reporters and stuff working for them.

    Yeah, this.

    I wasn’t here back then, but I was one of the lonely anti-war voices on another (now defunct) site. The way I remember it, there was just a certain… bloodlust in the air that reason could not penetrate.

    Looking back, I think it would be pretty useful to try and figure out why that was, why otherwise rational folks went temporarily mad, and what (if anything) folks like me could have done or said to change minds, because we clearly failed, miserably.

    (Unfortunately, I think I already know the answers– (1) Human Nature; (2) a sort of culture-level PTSD caused by 9/11; and (3) not a gods-damned thing).

  52. 52
    JPL says:

    @Winston Smith: While the Washington Post opinion pages touted War, War, War, their foreign policy writers did an excellent job of reporting.

  53. 53
    El Tiburon says:

    Nice pivot Cole from the ABL/AL bungfuckery to heal a wounded BJ nation.

    You know how we libtards love to hear you wax nostalgic about your ignernt days as a conservative.

    Bravo, sir. Bravo.

  54. 54
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Sad_Dem:

    I remember back in 2003 I walked in an antiwar protest with thousands of other people, and that protest took place on the same day as hundreds of others around the world, and that all those millions of people were united by the same message: George Bush, Do Not Invade Iraq. But all of us weren’t serious people.

    Even The Liberal Jonathan Chait knows that the only people who really matter are “Congress, pundits and business leaders.” Not the likes of you, pleb.

  55. 55
    singfoom says:

    It was clear to me in 2003 that it was horseshit. So much blood and treasure and our reptutation in the world ruined. With some time between then and now, it’s less of a surprise that Keller would be such a bullshitter.

    What the Iraq war was a shift of the economy. We got the addition of the contractor-military-industrial complex. Before the Iraq War, the contractor part was much smaller.

    But then as now, I’m not a serious person.

  56. 56
    Robin G. says:

    Don’t know that I’ve mentioned it recently, but the fact that you (Cole) acknowledge that you were flat wrong on Iraq is the biggest reason I read here. Being able to say “I fucked up and there’s no excuse” is such a rare trait in the blogosphere (hell, everywhere) that is deserves ongoing respect.

  57. 57
    smintheus says:

    Great post.

    Anybody who wanted to see could see that Bush & Co. were lying about the WMD evidence (e.g. the much hyped aluminum tubes). You can’t put your faith in liars and call yourself prudent. You just can’t.

    Anyhow, who didn’t know that Bush insisted that Hussein had to re-admit weapons inspectors to avoid war, only to start a war while they were in Iraq doing their job? What more did anybody need to know to size up the rush to war?

  58. 58
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    @rlrr: Thanks, that’s an excellent point that doesn’t even have to be speculated on now. Thanks Wikileaks. (I think it was WikiLeaks that published the state dept cable that confirms this – I’m too lazy to look it up now)

  59. 59
    Martin says:

    @Zifnab:

    He swung me, too.

    He didn’t swing me. But I distinctly remember watching the reporting of that testimony, and then in the very next segment, CNN interviewed Hans Blix, who basically contradicted everything that Powell said.

    Was Hans more credible than Powell to me? No, but Blix was every bit as qualified to speak on the issue as Powell. It’s not like Blix had a vested interest do draw an opposing conclusion as the US – in fact, they had the same goal. So with no consensus, I had to assume that the intel was FUBAR. Turns out it was.

  60. 60
    John Weiss says:

    @Zifnab: Oh, come on now! Colin Powell looked like a coon dog shitting peach pits! He knew he was lying and he certainly looked it. I wonder who had his balls in a vicegrip? Maybe the name starts with C.

  61. 61
    Beauzeaux says:

    My 80-year-old nonpolitical uncle was yelling at the TV in 2003. “If they find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq it’ll be because [the USA] put them there.”
    He knew the war drums were beating and that he couldn’t do shit about them.

    He supported the Vietnam war but both Gulf wars were about “bullshit.”

    I dunno but if he could figure it out, I don’t know why the pundits and insiders couldn’t.

  62. 62
    Poopyman says:

    @Judas Escargot:

    Looking back, I think it would be pretty useful to try and figure out why that was, why otherwise rational folks went temporarily mad, and what (if anything) folks like me could have done or said to change minds, because we clearly failed, miserably.
    __
    (Unfortunately, I think I already know the answers—(1) Human Nature; (2) a sort of culture-level PTSD caused by 9/11; and (3) not a gods-damned thing).

    Can’t argue with your analysis, except that #2 isn’t probably necessary. We’ve been here before time and again as a species. Remember The Maine. Hopefully it’s a once-a-generation thing and we’ve shot our wad for 30 or more years.

  63. 63
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Earl Butz:

    I think not.

    I think not too, and obviously “well” is a word I’m deliberately using with tongue in cheek and/or through clenched teeth. But most of the challenges when it comes to talking about war from a liberal context are not related to what you do intellectually when a war you oppose goes badly — because you _expect_ wars to go badly — but rather what you do intellectually when a war you oppose goes “well.” Some of the liberals in Congress who opposed the first Iraq War, like John Kerry IIRC, have been stymied in their attempts to talk about war ever since. And around here some of the testiest exchanges were over the proper reaction to, or lessons learned from, US involvement in Libya.

    Maybe I’m talking in circles, but the basic idea is this: when you oppose a war, the fact that the war became a quagmire functions as vindication: you were right to oppose it. When you support a war, and it becomes a quagmire, that should be sobering: you were probably wrong to support it. But when you oppose a war and it _isn’t_ a quagmire, does that mean you were wrong to oppose it? I’d say no, but the discussion would go around a few more times and slide in a few more unpredictable directions than either of the others would.

  64. 64
    smintheus says:

    @Zifnab: \\

    Was I naive? As a mother fucker! But I’d be hard pressed to call anyone else stupid for coming to the same conclusions after seeing the same dog and pony show.

    Powell’s dog and pony show was widely ridiculed at the time. Not in the US news media, which was pretty fawning. American reporters didn’t care to do any research, they had their hero and they swallowed his garbage whole. But at the UN itself Powell was mocked, and foreign media were not kind to him. Much of what he claimed in that speech were repackaged lies that had already been widely discredited (at least, discredited in the foreign news media). So almost nobody except American bobbleheads were impressed by the dog and pony thing. But Bush & Co. of course intended it as propaganda for domestic consumption. They assumed rightly that American journalists wouldn’t expose their lies. It was one of the greatest issues of our times, and for professional journalists to get it so badly wrong when the truth was readily available is not excusable.

  65. 65
    Karen in GA says:

    Keller talks about

    Iraq, a place that had, in the literal sense, almost nothing to do with 9/11

    “Almost” nothing? Seriously, Keller? Still not letting go, are you?

    And another thing, fucknozzle: making the 9/11 anniversary all about you rehabbing yourself for fucking up Iraq is just… [head explodes]

  66. 66
    singfoom says:

    @Judas Escargot: Uh, it was #2 all the way. 90% of the country had a giant 9/11 revenge hardon and they didn’t give a shit who we punished for it, just that we punished someone. And hell, Iraqis were BROWN and Muslim which is close enough, right?

  67. 67
    El Cid says:

    Why not? Tons of people I’ve read and known appear to have no substantive opposition to the invasion & occupation itself other than it wasn’t sufficiently approved by the UN.

    Had the US been a bit better at its typical arm-twisting of Russia and China, and got such a resolution, then, bang-on, it’s all good & legal, and then just run badly.

  68. 68
    Winston Smith says:

    @JPL: In one email exchanged I challenged a pro-war advocate to cite one fact-checked article that said that Saddam Hussein unquestionably had WMDs. He came back with op-eds and war blogs and finally just gave up (without admitting defeat).

    The deafening silence he had as all of us anti-war people came to pass proved one thing to me: none of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists really cared about reality. They just wanted to blow up some Mooslimbs. I even asked him if the war were so crucial, why he wouldn’t fight it and he essentially said that it would be inconvenient to join the military. No shame, these people.

  69. 69
    Samara Morgan says:

    ummm….well.
    im not sure Bushco was lying about WMD suspicions.
    you see…
    theres two things that gave Bush an entry pass. One, Saddam did destroy his WMD stockpiles after Gulf I….but he didnt want the Iranians to know it.
    He feared the Iranians far more than he feared the US, for a lot of reasons.
    i mean, Cheney shook his hand.
    And two, we had no HUMINT in Iraq after Gulf I.
    OPINT, SIGINT, IMMINT all suggested there were things that MIGHT be WMDs, like Powells bioweapons mobile labs.
    The main problem was paranoia reflex induced by 9/11.
    Iraq was a knee-jerk reaction by those guys.
    Then Peaceful Democracy Theory and the Bush Doctrine/COIN kicked in.

    and pardon me in advance, soonergrunt….i dont memba if any of that was classified.
    its all a blur after last night and the mechanical bull.
    :)

  70. 70
    wenchacha says:

    Yeah, I marched, along with my teenager daughter. At that point, it was hopeless; the troops were already in place! We couldn’t wait another second! Or it would be winter, and too cold to invade a country! Or some other bullshit like that. Bush committed us to war months before the actual start, because it took that long to set the stage.

    And you know, that cost a lot of money! If we waited, or changed our collective minds, why, it would have cost us a bundle! How silly we marchers were, to think that we shouldn’t go to war, and let all that money and planning that was done without our consent just go to waste.

    I would like a gigantic spreadsheet of a book, showing us who was wrong, and who was fucking right. (Hint: not Judy Fucking Miller.) Same on the economy. Same for environment. I am so tired of having to hear over and over from assholes who get everything wrong but still get to pretend they know so much more than everyone else. Fuck them all.

  71. 71
    Amir Khalid says:

    The Bush administration never had a convincing case for invading Iraq. They were bound and determined to do it since before they took office. They wanted to show the world that they didn’t need the UN’s permission to do anything because the UN, that useless “multilateral talking shop”, was irrelevant in the face of American might and determination. And we can see how that has turned out.

    They didn’t care that the case for invasion they did present was pure bullshit. Bill Keller and his mainstream media peers never challenged the Bushies on that bullshit. if they had, they wouldn’t be splattered now with the Bushies’ mud.

    Now Keller asks himself: If I’d known it wasn’t going to be done right, should I still have agreed to the invasion? Well, I can answer that one for him. Since there was no good case for invading Iraq in the first place, it didn’t matter whether the Bushies wanted to do the job right, let alone whether they could. If there are not good enough reasons to do a thing, then it shouldn’t be done. Whether it can be done right becomes a meaningless question.

  72. 72
    Cheap Jim says:

    I suppose those who thought, beforehand, that the war was rushed, or bloodthirsty, or both can be termed “prematurely anti-war”.

  73. 73
    isildur says:

    @Robin G.:

    “the fact that you (Cole) acknowledge that you were flat wrong on Iraq is the biggest reason I read here.”

    Yes. This is also why I read this blog every single day. I was also a pro-war conservative. Reading BJ is like reading a play-by-play of my own climb out of ignorance and stupidity.

  74. 74
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Winston Smith: they didnt want to blow up Mooslims…they wanted to make muslims into tame little brown psuedo-xian freed market fans.

  75. 75
    schlemizel - was Alwhite says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    sorry – bullshit. There were UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq that had verified much of the destruction during the Clinton years. There was a new batch of them on the ground who were saying that not only were they destroyed but that the government was giving them unprecedented levels of cooperation in inspections and verification. Boy Blunder had to order those inspectors out of the country for their own safety before he started blowing shit up.

    There were no verified reports of anything like the load of horseshit Powell peddled at the UN. They were going either on “curveball’s” word or the word of people he had put them in touch with. Often times the CIA knew those resources had not been inside Iraq for more than a decade.

    Add to that the fact that both the UN and US atomic energy guys were reporting the aluminum tubes could not be used to enrich uranium, that the yellowcake story was impossible (Niger could not have produced, let alone delivered, even a fraction of the bullshit being stated) and a couple other tidbits that were well known before the rush to invade and you pretty much have the evidence that the British Intel reported when they said Boy Blunder and His Super Friends were “fixing” the intel to justify the invasion

  76. 76
    singfoom says:

    @Samara Morgan: C’mon MC, you’re being deliberately obtuse here.

    Even if you accept that they wanted Iraqis to turn into good free marketeers, you have to admit that the country wanted blood in return for 9/11.

    So blown up muslims + a new free market for the Reagan world was double win for them…

  77. 77
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Amir Khalid: that simply isnt true, Malaysian boi.
    9/11 was the first attack on american soil since the brits burnt the wh.

    it was paranoia reflex.
    the pentagon think tanks ran the kepler/trigo risk analysis and Uncle Sadam popped up at the top.
    actually, Iran was more threat, but a bigger bite and likely unchewable after 1979 and Operation Ajax.

  78. 78
    catclub says:

    @FlipYrWhig: “which IMHO relates to his sense that Islam and Christianity are both abhorrent ideologies that must be checked from spreading any further internationally.”

    Didn’t that ship already sail 1400 years and more ago?

    He can still protect Antarctica.

  79. 79
    Nutella says:

    @wenchacha:

    I am so tired of having to hear over and over from assholes who get everything wrong but still get to pretend they know so much more than everyone else.

    The people who got things wrong got promoted. The people who got the most things wrong got promoted the most. Being right about important, real-life issues is a career killer in the US meritocracy so I’m afraid you’ll be hearing from those assholes for a long time.

  80. 80
    Chris says:

    @smintheus:

    They assumed rightly that American journalists wouldn’t expose their lies. It was one of the greatest issues of our times, and for professional journalists to get it so badly wrong when the truth was readily available is not excusable.

    They assumed rightly that the American people wouldn’t want to hear it, you mean. The bloodlust was in the air and anyone who whined about things like “facts” or “reality” was going to be tarred and feathered and run out on a rail, or so they feared.

    The graver issue, though not so much “of our time,” is the tendency of people to rally around the flag not only when there’s an attack, but even when it’s their choice. Even the corrupt, unpopular junta in Argentina had a temporary boost in public support when they attacked the Falklands.

  81. 81
    JWL says:

    Good on you, Cole.

    However, I take exception to your characterization of having the “balls” to admit you were wrong. What you possess is better styled as “maturity”.

  82. 82
    salvage says:

    I was reading Balloon Juice back then and my jaw dropped when Cole supported it. “But he’s not an idiot, wha’?” was all I could think, it was so obviously a bad idea for some many reasons outside of getting GW Bush a second term.

    On that score it was a triumph and let’s face it as far as the GOP is concerned winning elections is always the right cause.

  83. 83
    smintheus says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    im not sure Bushco was lying about WMD suspicions.

    Certainly by the time the weapons inspectors had been in Iraq for a while, Bush & Co. knew they’d find nothing. That’s why they rushed to war and bumped the inspectors out before the final UN report could be produced.

    Maybe you haven’t heard about the infamous WH meeting between Bush and Blair on Jan. 31, 2003. British minutes from the meeting were leaked more than 5 years ago. Bush told Blair that the inspections were going to come up empty, and said they had to have a plan to start the war anyway. Among the proposals that Bush floated was this bizarre idea: to paint an American plane in UN colors and fly it provocatively over Iraqi defenses so as to insure that it got shot down.

    They were every bit as cynical as they appeared to be from the outside.

  84. 84
    Samara Morgan says:

    @singfoom: okfine i yield me.
    revenge was operative also– but how much sweeter the revenge of beating Allah the merciful the compassionate in the race for converts?

    but the bush admin dumbshits didnt get that al-Islam is immune to wevangelicals.

  85. 85
    Chris says:

    9/11 was the first attack on american soil since the brits burnt the wh.

    *facepalm.

    Someone else can take this one…

  86. 86
    catclub says:

    @smintheus: “You can’t put your faith in liars and call yourself prudent. You just can’t.”

    There is a famous internet post about this.
    It goes thus: “If you need to lie about your great idea that people will love, it ain’t a great idea.”

    There are also corollaries: e.g. Once you start lying there is no reason to believe you about ANYthing.

    If i were energetic I could google it.

  87. 87
    MTiffany says:

    @Earl Butz:

    As it turns out, even by this assclown’s own admission, “standing by” was exactly the proper response.

    But! But! But! But if we just stand by and let problems solve themselves, however can we give credit to the Great Invisible Handjob of the Free Market? Or The Divine Right of American Exceptionalism? Can we at least lower marginal tax rates?

  88. 88
    Winston Smith says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    the pentagon think tanks ran the kepler/trigo risk analysis and Uncle Sadam popped up at the top.

    There was no analysis. Iraq was predetermined and you don’t have to dig very far to prove it.

    First, invading Iraq was in the blueprint sketched out by PNAC years prior to Bush taking office. All the PNAC imbeciles with in the Bush Administration. All of Bush’s foreign policy was driven by that document. Even if you find that a stretch, it isn’t difficult to verify that Bush started saber-rattling about Iraq within days of taking office. As sick as it is, 9/11 was a “lucky break” for their agenda.

  89. 89
    catclub says:

    @Chris: McClatchy was being pointedly ignored thereabouts. They got it right.

  90. 90
    Samara Morgan says:

    @smintheus: nah, they were every bit as stupid as they appear to be.
    membah, i was a technodroid.
    there was plausible suspicion that Saddam was hiding WMDs.
    the decision was made long before jan 31 2003…that was all cya.

  91. 91
    Tony J says:

    The thing that has always burned me most about the run-up to invasion was that, by early 2003, the inspection regime demanded by the Bush Administration had already blown a hole straight through the middle of their ‘Case for War’ so big and smoking that it was visible from orbit.

    In the real world the argument was over. The experts who had been sent to Iraq under a UN Resolution written by the US and UK had taken the “intelligence” which supported all the claims that “Something had to be done” and, simply by doing their jobs, exposed it as a bunch of bullshit. All this happened on TV and in real time. No one could credibility argue that Iraq posed any kind of WMD threat. It was so obvious and undeniable that the French ouright laughed at the desperate attempt by the US and UK to bribe a bare majority of UNSC member states into violating the UN Charter by saying that an invasion was justified by majority rules. An attempt so pathetically transparent that the vote didn’t even take place.

    The Bush Administration had been humiliated and exposed. All that was required was for the American Media to report on the facts and start the inquest into how and why the Bush Administration had squandered all the post-9/11 support America had enjoyed and blundered the country into such a humiliating debacle.

    A few days later, all the coverage was about how the French had apparently said they would veto any use of force by the UN no matter what the inspectors found, therefore the inspections were rendered useless, and the US and UK had no choice but to invade to stop Iraq launching WMD against Europe within 45 minutes.

    There are no words to describe how badly a person has to suck in order for them to – still – pretend that none of that happened or had any meaning. Unfortunately, sucking that badly is clearly a job requirement in the American Media, then and now.

  92. 92
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @catclub: Well, that’s Hitchens, not me, but I think the growth of his militant secularism and the growth of his hawkishness were inextricably linked — he believed in taking “Islamofascism” seriously as a threat on very different premises than the neocons did, but ended up in an unexpected place ideologically because of it. Basically, he supported these wars as defenses of Enlightenment secular-rational values. I think he made the mistake, like Pollack and others did, of substituting his hypothetical ideological wars for Bush’s real wars.

  93. 93
    ItAintEazy says:

    Hell, back then I opposed the war, but I still thought Saddam Hussein had at least SOMETHING, you know, at least one barrel of chemical weapons here, one rod of weapons grade plutonium there. I knew he didn’t have nearly the quantity to actually pose a threat to anyone due to the inspectors on the ground finding nothing. But still, all these people screaming at me about smoking guns and mushroom clouds can’t be completely wrong, can they?

    I mean, that would make them complete douchebags.

  94. 94
    dmbeaster says:

    I was against the war from day one, though as noted above, what really seemed to be behind the push for war was a certain bloodlust, which could not be overcome with arguments against war. It is the similar impulse which fuels support for new wars without adequate circumspection (i.e., Libya).

    Because that is what this is really all about – analyzing the thinking that makes war advocacy so easy. Yeah, it would also be nice to get an apology from Keller about getting it wrong, but frankly, who gives a crap about whether or not Keller grows into a higher moral plane. What I want first and most is a change in the thinking from the elites that allows such carelessness to govern decision-making about wars.

    Keller’s point isn’t automatically crap – that in hindsight, it is frequently easier to see what should have been done, and to defend how a wrong decision could have been made at the time. But what he really needs to do is write a mea culpa about his own thinking that allowed himself to be led into error.

    After all, plenty of people got it right, and were derided by the likes of Keller. What I would like to see from Keller and his ilk is some self-analysis as to why they got it wrong – rather than mealy mouthed b.s. about why it was allegedly hard to get it right back then.

    Because that sort of introspection applied in the future might just prevent further rounds of harm to our country. An apology would also be nice, but so what. He can keep on being a jerk so long as he stops using the power that he has to abet future warmongering.

  95. 95
    Bruce S says:

    “I wanted to be on the side of doing something”

    Which is why when I saw the fire I tried to douse it with the can of gasoline I had in my hands. Sorry your honor…but “standing by was not enough.”

  96. 96
    Dennis SGMM says:

    “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

    In my worst moments of tinfoil-hattery I suspect that the military told Bush, or Cheney, early on that without a massive commitment of forces and money that we were just as likely as not to be stalemated in Afghanistan so the twins asked “Well, whose ass can we kick over there?” The answer to that one led the assholes to fabricate all of the reasons why it was necessary to invade Iraq.

  97. 97
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Winston Smith: sure. copacetic.
    im just telln’ how these guys work.
    within days of triangulating OBL in A-stan, the wargames ppl were running sims.

    Uncle Saddam was the biggest bite we could concievably swallow.

  98. 98
    smintheus says:

    @schlemizel – was Alwhite:

    …you pretty much have the evidence that the British Intel reported when they said Boy Blunder and His Super Friends were “fixing” the intel to justify the invasion

    You’re right, but I’d like to clarify one point regarding that phrase in the “Downing Street Memo” that I sense a lot of people don’t realize. The passage reads:

    C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

    To ‘fix facts around’ a policy or theory or such is an expression I heard used in British academic circles when I worked there in the ’80s and ’90s. ‘Fixing facts around’ means not ‘to make stuff up’ or ‘falsify’ or ’embroider’ or even ‘exaggerate’, as many in the US assumed when the DSM came out. It simply means to cherry pick facts to support the idea in question, ignoring their weaknesses and avoiding unhelpful facts. Fwiw.

  99. 99
    Samara Morgan says:

    @dmbeaster:

    fuels support for new wars without adequate circumspection (i.e., Libya).

    no, your point is crap.
    Libya is humanitarian interventionism and right-to-protect doctrine, aka Type B interventionism.
    Iraq was Type A interventionism– Peaceful Democracy Theory and the Bush Doctrine aka COIN.
    Intervention in America’s interests.

  100. 100
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    9/11 was the first attack on american soil since the brits burnt the wh.

    Pearl Harbor in 1941? The WTC bombing in 1993? The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who in the early 1960s?

    The neocons’ lust for invading Iraq was common knowledge years before 9/11, in case you don’t remember. They were unhappy that Poppy Bush didn’t march on to Baghdad during Gulf War 1 and finish the job by toppling Saddam.

    Oh, and I’m 50 years old. Please don’t call me “boi”.

  101. 101
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Chris: HAHAHA!

    lol, i can take correction.
    CONTIGUOUS american homeland soil (not Pearl Harbor).
    doesnt change my point about paranoia induction. :)

  102. 102
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Amir Khalid: hahaha.
    okfine.
    can i call you a maftoon then?

    The neocons’ lust for invading Iraq was common knowledge years before 9/11

    and they have wanted to invade Iran since 1979.
    i do not get your point.
    So fucking what?

  103. 103
    smintheus says:

    @catclub:

    There are also corollaries: e.g. Once you start lying there is no reason to believe you about ANYthing.

    If i were energetic I could google it.

    Hmmmm…are you talking about the thing I wrote back in the day? Don’t trust a liar

  104. 104
    HyperIon says:

    I’m glad Keller wrote this piece.
    (However, the NYT decision not to allow comments on it is BS.)

    I find some of the comments here to be over-the-top smug.
    I remember that time and many people were scared.
    There was immense popular support for the invasion.
    People wanted to kick Arab butt.
    When people want revenge, they stop being rational.
    They don’t want to know “the truth”.
    They want to lash out.

    Keller admitting that he was wrong is a step in the right direction. It is better than not admitting he was wrong.

  105. 105
    someguy says:

    People making comparisons between Iraq and Libya are completely off base because our guy is in charge of Libya so it’s totally different. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the black Africans now getting rounded up and jailed by the new Libyan leadership are wondering where the humanitarian intervention to protect them is going to come from.

  106. 106
    Chris says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    The neocons’ lust for invading Iraq was common knowledge years before 9/11, in case you don’t remember. They were unhappy that Poppy Bush didn’t march on to Baghdad during Gulf War 1 and finish the job by toppling Saddam.

    If memory serves, the preferred New Bogeyman in the 1990s for Republicans was China. So much so that even a couple years after 9/11, I still saw a couple books on the shelves at Borders trying to tie the Chinese to 9/11, or saying “9/11 shows how vulnerable we are so prepare for war with China,” or something.

    But Iraq was an easier bite, and besides, they’re hajjis too, so they MUST be connected…

  107. 107
    Winston Smith says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    within days of triangulating OBL in A-stan, the wargames ppl were running sims. Uncle Saddam was the biggest bite we could concievably swallow.

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying (I think). One of the things that the PNAC blueprint called for was the ability to fight three conflicts at one time. Thank Jeebus they didn’t get to test that extent of the Plan™.

  108. 108
    Winston Smith says:

    @someguy:

    People making comparisons between Iraq and Libya are completely off base because our guy is in charge of Libya so it’s totally different. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the black Africans now getting rounded up and jailed by the new Libyan leadership are wondering where the humanitarian intervention to protect them is going to come from.

    No doubt it will come from the same forces of Justice and Wholesome Goodness™ that protected the Iraqi Christians…

    …oh, wait.

  109. 109
    Nutella says:

    @HyperIon:

    There was immense popular support for the invasion.

    There was also huge popular opposition to the invasion which was deliberately not covered by the press to give the impression that the “immense” popular support was universal.

    Just like today where Tea Party events are covered obsessively and news about anything even slightly left of that is suppressed. For example from New Hampshire yesterday:

    This is what the media ignoring the Tea Party looks like: Palin is speaking to a crowd of maybe 700 people. Every protester holding a reasonably witty or weird sign—-or a sign with Sarah Palin’s visage on it—-is being interviewed by a reporter. There are at least 50 of us looking for quotes. CNN is taking the event live

  110. 110
    Jonny Scrum-half says:

    I was still a Republican in the summer of 2002, and therefore generally supported Bush, even though I didn’t see the “leadership” that many right-wing pundits were claiming to recognize in Bush.

    But when I started reading about the plans for confronting/invading Iraq, I recall thinking “WTF”? I was sure that it was all a head-fake or a bluff, for some strategic reason that I couldn’t fathom.

    By late 2002, when it was clear that the Administration was serious about invading, and I had seen on TV and heard on radio that anyone who opposed the war was anti-American, treasonous, etc., I was well on my way to being a former Republican.

  111. 111
    smintheus says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    there was plausible suspicion that Saddam was hiding WMDs.

    You don’t start a war based on mere suspicion…which is why Bush & Co. portrayed their suspicions as certainties. It’s possible to be both stupid and cynical; those things often go together.

  112. 112
    Silver says:

    Regarding Colin Powell, it would have been nice if someone pointed out that he had a nice little stint in Vietnam ignoring charges of murder and brutality against Vietnamese civilians. I didn’t find out about that until after his UN speech.

    At the time, I felt sorry for Powell that he was used as such a dupe. I had never realized that he already had prior experience at it.

  113. 113
    catclub says:

    @smintheus: Nope, but now you have me interested in finding the one I meant. I did read yours. It was close.

  114. 114
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    “Nobody could have anticipated–” has become the standard Village hawk attempt to write the first draft of history. Actual historians will judge them very badly.

    As Daniel Davies memorably put it: “Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.”

  115. 115
    Samara Morgan says:

    @smintheus:

    You don’t start a war based on mere suspicion

    YOU don’t.
    the Pentagon does.

  116. 116
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Chris:

    If memory serves, the preferred New Bogeyman in the 1990s for Republicans was China.

    Remember the fuss about the downed EP-3 spy plane in China just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001? China remained the bogeyman for nine months.

  117. 117
    Samara Morgan says:

    @someguy: no, its because Libya is type B interventionism (humanitarian) and Iraq was type A interventionism (american interest).
    for example, Rwanda.
    no intervention because no American interest.

  118. 118
    Stefan says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Pancho Villa’s raid into Columbus, New Mexico in 1916.

  119. 119
    Rick Taylor says:

    Whether to go with Iraq was one of the easiest calls I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I was stunned we would would do something so obviously insane, and my faith in ourselves and what we’re capable of as a country suffered a permanent drop of after that. Even the conservatives in power under Nixon, Reagan, Bush the younger, would never have done something so stupid. It’s not surprising but it is depressing that people like Keller can still pretend. John Cole was the only person I’ve read who wrote a mea culpa for supporting the war that was worth a damn, in my opinion.

  120. 120
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Winston Smith:Qaddafi’s chad mercs were OBVIOUSLY and INIMITABLY BLACK.
    that is why black ppl are being rounded up.

  121. 121
    Mino says:

    @wenchacha: Oh, I knew when troops were sent to the Gulf that war was on. They set it up that way for a reason. I am a Vietnam era baby.
    And whether I supported or didn’t support their war was moot to them. I’ve never in my life voted for a Republican. I’m just admitting that Powell (as a fairly non-politician) had some credibility with me. He was the only one, though.

  122. 122
    TheWorstPersonInTheWorld says:

    @John Weiss:

    Oh, come on now! Colin Powell looked like a coon dog shitting peach pits! He knew he was lying and he certainly looked it.

    This.

    Anyone with half an ounce of discernment could see past Colin Powell’s shiny, purty reputation (which is the subject for a post of its own) to the fact that there was no THERE there at all. I watched the ridiculous presentation and my mouth was agape at how bogus it all was…to the extent of fucking drawings standing in for photographs to show us what something would look like IF they could only get a photo. What horseshit. The american public as a whole is retarded, and the over the top reception given Powell’s transparent charade taught me that lesson more clearly than any other evidence.

  123. 123
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Stefan: lol
    might as well count drug cartels making sorties into nogales.
    you get the point im sure.
    quit throwing radar chaff.

  124. 124
    catclub says:

    @catclub: Ha! found it!

    http://d-squareddigest.blogspo.....chive.html

    The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA – Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101

  125. 125
    catclub says:

    @smintheus: see post 124

  126. 126
    Stefan says:

    might as well count drug cartels making sorties into nogales.

    Look, if you’re going to count nineteen men who hijacked four planes as an attack on American soil, then I’m certainly counting an incursion by an armed guerilla force who invaded and burned a US town, attacked a detachment of the 13th Cavalry, and killed 18 Americans.

  127. 127
    dmbeaster says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    no, your point is crap.
    Libya is humanitarian interventionism and right-to-protect doctrine…

    You win the crap award. I guess all we have to do in order to avoid circumspection is relabel the type of military adventure we are undertaking. Humanitarian intervention? Go for it!

    In 2003, the short circuit to critical thinking was invoking scary terrorism. There is always going to be a slip shod reason for jumping into wars, if you persist in creating low bars for engaging in war. That is my point, and also what Keller needs to re-examine when he splits hairs between calling the war a mistake but also defending the reasonableness of having advocated for it. If it was a mistake but you ended up advocating for it, its time to rethink your criteria for going to war.

  128. 128
    Samara Morgan says:

    @dmbeaster: nope you are wrong.
    Type A interventionism.
    In America’s interest. Like OIF. the interests, reducing terrorism, creating a trading partner, reducing Iranian regional hegemony, making a “friend” for lsrael, etc.
    Type B interventionism.
    For humanitarian needs, like keeping Qaddafi from bombing the living shit out of his rebellious citizens.
    thus it should not matter that an Islamist is the head of the NTC.
    right?

  129. 129
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Stefan: the kill ratio for 9/11 was pretty damn good.
    But what OBL accomplished was far more impressive.
    he wrecked the US economy and induced paranoia reflex.
    :)

  130. 130
    dmbeaster says:

    @HyperIon:

    I remember that time and many people were scared.
    There was immense popular support for the invasion.
    People wanted to kick Arab butt.
    When people want revenge, they stop being rational.
    They don’t want to know “the truth”.
    They want to lash out.

    Other than the “immense popular support for the war,” this is largely true. But none of it justifies or explains at all why it would have been a reasonable mistake to support the war at the time. These types of irrational motivations for war are exactly what should be resisted in advocating war.

    Indeed, I would agree that because of these emotional factors, supporting the war was a lot easier than opposing it. But if anything, recognizing that these emotional motivations for war are driving the debate makes it easier to discern that the war is a mistake – not harder. If we are judging the reasonableness of the mistaken support for the war, these factors make it easier to condemn the war advocates, who caved to emotional factors in supporting war. God help us if this type of decision-making continues to be accepted as a justification for war.

  131. 131
    Turgidson says:

    @Sad_Dem:

    And to the extent protests like the one you were in were covered at all, they were panned as being tiny gatherings of old (or too-young-to-be-serious) hippies who never realized the 60s were over.

    Fucking ridiculous how a few dozen confused old people and racists can get wall-to-wall coverage for hating the sitting president because shut up that’s why and take your govt hands off our Medicare, and an actual issues-based opposition to a war of choice was treated as a joke. Good times. Where’s the bourbon?

  132. 132
    Karen in GA says:

    @HyperIon:

    There was immense popular support for the invasion.

    IIRC, before the invasion there was a lot of popular support for going in with the UN. The support for going in the way we actually did only picked up after the invasion started.

  133. 133
    Stefan says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Which, again, has nothing to do with your earlier claim that there was no attack on the US between 1812 and 2001. You’re as bad as Bill Keller in admitting you were simply wrong.

  134. 134
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    @handy: True enough, and it certainly doesn’t let these asshats off the hook. But I heard it on some American media outlets: FAIR’s Counterspin radio show, Democracy Now, The Nation and the New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh, to name a few. Not your typical “All of ’em, Katie” type rags, but it was there in America if you were actually curious about the truth.

  135. 135
    Hesiod says:

    @david mizner:

    No. Its pretty clear Andrew Sullivan wouldn’t support it. he opposed even Obama’s rather limited Lybian intervention, so we do have a valid test case.

  136. 136
    Hesiod says:

    Yes. I was one of the folks who John berated back in the day when I came here to comment on his pro-war posts and mix it up.

  137. 137
    chaucer says:

    i love you and your balls john cole! just wish more people were like you!

  138. 138
    Hesiod says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    That issue also came up over Kosovo in the late 1990’s. I actually supported that action, so long as we didn’t send in ground troops.

    What Kosovo and Lybia have taught us is that we are far better and more effective at intervention if we provide logistical, intelligence, special operations and air support to a pre-existing insurgent force within a country rather than supplying our own ground combat forces.

    Hopefully, we derive some valid lessons from that.

  139. 139
    AA+ Bonds says:

    See, I opposed the war, and I know that was right. I guess I don’t get any credit for that either?

  140. 140
    cpinva says:

    gosh, no it isn’t, not at all.

    Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call.

    there was so much public information that the whole causus belli was a total fabrication by the bush administration, that anyone who professed to believe it willingly suspended disbelief. broadway loves those kinds of audiences, wars not so much.

    of course, coming on the heels of the illegal invasion of afghanistan, what else was bushco, inc. supposed to do?

  141. 141
    Hesiod says:

    @brutishandshort (formerly known as blogbytom): \

    No. President bush didn’t get it wrong. He only “got it wrong” if you presuppose that he and Cheney and Rummy gave a flying fuck about whether Saddam really had WMD’s or not — or was working with Al Qaeda.

    A hard nosed pragmatist as President would have turned Saddam into an erstwhile ally against Al Qaeda and cut him a deal on UN sanctions.

  142. 142
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Stefan: ok i was wrong.
    can i say the first MAJOR attack killing 3000 civilians and destroying billions in property?
    doesnt change my point.
    Iraq was a knee-jerk reaction, and not a long term plan.
    And Iraq was what the kepler-trigo popped up as bitesized and doable.
    there was enough SIGINT and IMMINT chaff to start up the wargame sims, largely because there was zero HUMMINT.
    its always a risk/threat/payoff 3D matrix.
    Bush was a fan of American Imperialism, sure, and 9/11 gave him an oppo.
    But the neocons would have prefferred to invade Iran over Iraq.
    Saddam was our ally against Iran.
    it must have blown their minds when we took him out.

  143. 143
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Hesiod: yup, but Bush was a crusader.
    He based the Bush Doctrine on Peaceful Democracy Theory, which is crap.

  144. 144
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Hesiod: the lesson is no nation building in muslim countries.
    i think we learned that in time for Libya.
    :)

  145. 145
    EriktheRed says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that warmongering cheerleaders like me and Keller got it wrong. The difference between me and Keller is I have the balls to admit I was wrong.

    And this is why it pisses me off when some folks here will still hold John’s former affiliation with the GOP against him. Just by this admission alone he’d have been kicked out if he hadn’t left voluntarily.

    He knows full well that the dirty fuckin hippies were right.

  146. 146
    catclub says:

    @Hesiod: Counter example to this theory is Afghanistan 2001-2 and the hunt for OBL.

  147. 147
    Will Reks says:

    @Samara Morgan: OBL didn’t do what you think he did. Unless, he’s somehow responsible for 30 years of Reaganomics and a collapsed housing bubble. Take 9/11 away and I think Bush/Cheney still invade Iraq and possible another country.

  148. 148
    catclub says:

    @Samara Morgan: Of course Pearl harbor was not an attack on the US between 1812 and 2001.

    “can i say the first MAJOR attack killing 3000 civilians and destroying billions in property?”

    How about first major attack in sep 2001 with airliners and boxcutters? It is completely general.

  149. 149
    HyperIon says:

    For the several folks who commented on the same stmt in my post, I found this:

    From Wiki

    Following Powell’s February 5 speech at the UN, most polls, like one conducted by CNN and NBC, showed increased support for the invasion. NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, said the bumps in support were “largely” due to president Bush’s State of the Union speech in January and to Powell’s presentation on February 5, which most viewers felt offered strong evidence for action against Iraq. Bush’s approval ratings jumped 7 points, and support for the invasion jumped 4 points. Only 27% opposed military action, the smallest percentage since the polls began in April 2002. The percentage of Americans supporting an invasion without UN support jumped eight points to 37%. 49% of those polled felt that President Bush had prepared the country for war and its potential risks, a 9 point jump from the previous month.[8] A Gallup poll showed the majority of the population erroneously believed Iraq was responsible for the attacks of September 11.

  150. 150
    Sad_Dem says:

    @ Turgidson: Yeah, since then I’ve been drinking more. Not bourbon, but still.

    @ Rick Taylor: I remember telling people that Powell’s speech was a sad, sick joke, that he’d been pushed in front of the U.N. by his cynical bosses, that before long we’d hear stories of atrocities like those in Viet Nam, etc., and people not believing me, and how sad and angry and frustrated I felt that I could see it all coming and the idiots on TV were pretending they couldn’t.

  151. 151
    Karen in GA says:

    @HyperIon:

    The percentage of Americans supporting an invasion without UN support jumped eight points to 37%.

    Yep, pretty much how I remembered it. The invasion as it actually happened was not what the majority of Americans wanted.

  152. 152
    Hungry Joe says:

    To recap, for perspective: 19 lunatics with box cutters committed a heinous, horrific act. In response we invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with that heinous, horrific act. Even if Hussein had WMDs — and it was obvious that he didn’t — he couldn’t have delivered them any way other than FedEx, and any invasion force he wanted to send into the U.S. would have had to change planes in Frankfurt.
    None of this was secret.

    “Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call.”

    Not really.

  153. 153
    Stefan says:

    @Karen in GA:

    You go to war with the invasion you get, not the invasion the majority of Americans actually want.

  154. 154
    rikryah says:

    you were wrong.

    you either believed the lies, or went along with the lies.

    period

  155. 155
    AlphaLiberal says:

    Thank you for that message to Mr Keller. Well said.

    I opposed the war back then. Part of the argument against it used at the time (I think I first heard it on NPR from a retired general or military planner) was that Iraq had long been under an iron fist. That fist was a force holding down a spring. Remove that force and **sproing** all hell breaks loose. So, yeah, bullshit on you, Keller.

    BTW, as liberals voicing an unpopular truth, we were vilified then. Gotta tell ya, on economic policy, (as Atrios said) it does feel a lot like the runup to the Iraq War.

  156. 156
    RalfW says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Bush pushed for the invasion when he did because he knew Blix and the nuclear inspectors were weeks away from announcing that Bush’s “intelligence” was utter hogwash.

    I was literally screaming at my TeeVee way back then as the news announced Blix being cut off from his mandate to inspect, no assurances for his safety, etc, and that war had to start soon.

    It was as plain as my nose then – and now – that the intelligence was being fixed, and Blix would blow it. And I was a snowboarding, unemployed schlub who had dialup internet and 2 fuzzy channels of TeeVee back then – not media-level access to politicians, all the news wires, etc – when I made my much more accurate analysis than Keller did.

    Good lord, Keller’s bit is garbage and absolves him of nothing.

  157. 157
    melior says:

    Gotta agree with AlphaLiberal here. I was actually one of the dirtyfuckinhippies who attempted to persuade you, John, here in the Balloon Juice comments, against the folly of Chimpy’s Big Elective War Against Iraq For Freedumb And Profit in the months leading up to the invasion. Perhaps it was the fact that I had prior experience with Bush Jr. as my Governor, or the fact that I followed more diverse international news sources than you, but I could smell the familiar Bush Jr. bullshit from miles away. Not a hard call at all, far from it, as events soon made obvious.
    I recall receiving all-caps profanity-laced comments here in response from you the blog owner, which is why I laughed you off as just another ignorant closed-minded rightwingnut hiding behind the last refuge of scoundrels. I deleted my bookmark and didn’t really plan to ever return, until I eventually heard you’d changed your tune and accepted and regretted the error of your ways.
    We will not let Keller or anyone else rewrite history.

  158. 158
    Ruckus says:

    @Zifnab:

    The only thing I got from Powell was that a general would be giving the company line without deviating one iota from it. And that’s exactly what he did.
    Would he have done it had he not been deceived? He had or should have had all the data available to him. Either he didn’t or he didn’t care to question it. A general makes his livelihood by telling the political side what they want to hear. The only time he can survive not doing that is when he has all the facts on his side, and even then the result may not be good for him job wise.
    Maybe this attitude comes from being in the military, maybe it’s just my natural level of cynicism.

    As many have pointed out, a lot of people knew Iraq was wrong. It was wrong on so many levels and was so clear to so many that my conclusion is that people who supported it, wanted war. Any war as long as it was in the middle east. Period. What they needed was justification. It didn’t have to be a plausible reason, it just had to exist.

  159. 159
    Shlemizel - was Alwhite says:

    @smintheus:

    Actually I knew that but, in this case it is a difference without a distinction. It makes no matter if they ignore the truth and ‘cherry pick’ evidence or just make shit up. The end result, given the complicity of our useless media is the same.

  160. 160
    Hob says:

    The amazing thing about Keller’s piece is that right after saying it was a hard call, he lists all the reasons why it wasn’t a hard call. All of the sentences that start with “I could see” are correct insights, and he doesn’t offer anything resembling an argument against them. He just skips that step and throws up his hands.

    “Should I have smashed the cookie jar with a sledgehammer to steal the cookies? It’s a hard call. I knew that mommy told me not to, and that I would get in trouble, and that I’m diabetic, and that I’d end up with just a bunch of broken cookies mixed in with broken glass. On the other hand, I wanted cookies.”

    You couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of his inability to think. If it were just ordinary dishonesty, I’m sure he could have come up with something more evasive and less damning.

  161. 161
    Uncle Clarence Thomas says:

    .
    .
    Think long and hard right now about all of President Obama’s JSOC global roving extrajudicial death squads and report back in 10 years.

    ETA – You too, Bill Keller.
    .
    .

  162. 162

    reading keller’s bullshit literally ruined my day. and if you want to read a worse column, read richard cohen, who devotes on sentence to “getting it wrong” and then blames “all of us” as well. Not as in “all of us idiots columnists” but “all of us americans.”

    if these walking piles of fucking dogshit would take my advice, the world would be a happier place.

  163. 163
    DFH no.6 says:

    @RalfW:

    Bush pushed for the invasion when he did because he knew Blix and the nuclear inspectors were weeks away from announcing that Bush’s “Intelligence” was utter hogwash.

    This.

    I told anyone who I could collar at the time that there were two overarching reasons we were attacking when we did (March 20th of 2003).

    The most important reason was, as RalfW wrote, that the bullshit about WMDs was not going to survive much longer as the inspectors kept finding bupkis. How much longer is hard to say (I don’t think weeks), but certainly no more than a few more months. Cheney, et al, knew this very well.

    And secondarily (though still very important) our military wanted to get into Iraq before the blazing hot summertime commenced. And waiting till autumn was taking too great a chance that the WMD bullshit would be exposed beforehand.

    Obviously our military occupation (and the insurgency) continued for many years afterward (including each and every blazing hot summer from then till now), but the main combat operation of invasion was over in a matter of weeks. So spring of 2003 it was.

  164. 164
    pseudo999 says:

    I don’t agree with all you write, but your honesty demands respect.

  165. 165
    addicted says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Hitchens is a hawk because both his father and grandfather were war heroes.

    The “War against Islamofascism” is for him to elevate himself from an admittedly good writer, with interesting viewpoints, to another soldier and not feel like his manhood was diminished.

  166. 166
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Will Reks:

    OBL didn’t do what you think he did.

    sure he did.
    he won.
    and in December when we ignominously get kicked out of Iraq according to the SOFA, i think its gunna become obvious….
    even to cudlips.
    :)

  167. 167

    . I could not have known how bad the intelligence was, but I could see that the White House and the Pentagon were so eager to go that they were probably indifferent to any evidence that didn’t fit their scenario.

    See, this really pisses me off.

    Just from reading stuff I found on the web, I knew that the nuclear intel was bogus. The only thing that bugged me, the only thing that made me question, was how it could be so obvious – the tubes weren’t appropriate for centrifuges, and there was clear paperwork showing they were part of a rocketry reverse-engineering effort – and yet, the administration was still bold-facing the claim, and *NO ONE WAS CALLING THEM ON IT*.

    There are only two possible answers to why no one called them out: either no one put together the publicly available information, or no one cared. Not much middle ground there.

    The childish “well, *at the time*, maybe I was right” sickens me. No, when you make a hideously huge mistake, you don’t say “maybe I was right, in a way.” You say “I was wrong.” Then, you ponder how you made such awful mistakes, and see if there’s a way you could have avoided them, or determine to avoid them in the future.

  168. 168
    Tehanu says:

    But I wanted to be on the side of doing something,

    Yeah — attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 and killing a couple of hundred thousand innocent people. I’d like to be on the side of doing something to Keller involving tar, feathers, and a rail.

  169. 169
    pattonbt says:

    @FlipYrWhig: For me, this is the position I find myself on Libya (kind of) – opposing something that is (so far) going as well as could be hoped.

    I was against the US’s participation in that conflict from the very beginning (not against “outside” participation by other, more closely related countries) even though I felt 1) this conflict would not result in an “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” type situation for the US, 2) this administration would prosecute it’s war functions more effectively and with much less “USA USA USA” bloviating, and 3) many other reasons to why this conflict was different and more worthwhile than previous ones. And yet, seeing and admitting all that upfront, I was, and am, vehemently opposed to our involvement.

    I am glad things seem to be going well. Time will tell on how it works long term, but from the US’s involvement perspective, it is going about as well as I could have hoped. Yet, I still hold my opposition and I do not feel my opposition was “wrong” just because it it is going well. I will be thankful if all ends well, but we never should have been there in the first place (in my mind).

  170. 170
    Tom says:

    You would think that the people that were wrong about the most important decision of our lifetimes.. which resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost.. would just shut the fuck up about everything.

    I wish one of you fuckers had the balls to just say “you know what.. I have no idea what I’m doing, zero judgement and I’ve just been doing this for the money.. so I’m going to quit now while I’m behind”.. and then go get another fucking job.

  171. 171
    Jamie says:

    Well, a week before the Iraq war started I went to a lecture from a Cornell Middle Eastern Professor, who told us why the was a bad idea. By my memory he was 95% correct on his appraisal of the situation. It’s still mind boggling that no one in the government talked to anyone who knew anything about the area before starting our fiasco..

  172. 172
    Scott says:

    John: you are my hero. We’re all wrong – about so many things – all the time. Yet so few of us ever have the balls to admit it. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  173. 173
    Jado says:

    @Chris:

    I agree – the populace isn’t spitting at troops or chanting “baby killer” at poor teenagers who were drafted. We should be chanting these things at the politicians (and Village VSPs) who lied us into war, but we are so beaten down with the experience of shouting at people who are deaf (said politicians and VVSPs) that we mostly don’t even bother. I guess we hope that at some time the guilty might open their eyes and actually SEE the misery they caused, and realize their part in it. Judging by Keller’s nimble dance whereby he states boldly that it was a tough call, and then proceeds to point out exactly why it SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN a tough call if he had the balls to stand up to peer pressure, I don’t think any of the VVSP will open their eyes any time soon.

    And the politicians have been a lost cause for decades. None are so deaf as those who choose not to hear. They are the textbook definition of narcissists.

  174. 174
    Kenneth Almquist says:

    John Cole: “[Keller hasn’t] learned a damned thing in the decade since other than the most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to never admit you were wrong.”

    Uh, Keller admits he was wrong in the paragraph immediately following the two paragraphs quoted by Cole.

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