Fifteen Years

This is still as true as it was a decade ago:

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.

Who knows how many dead, more wounded, just as many emotionally scarred, trillions lost, and for what? What a disaster, and a personal disgrace for me.

193 replies
  1. 1
    Elizabelle says:

    Your honesty and willingness to take responsibility is refreshing. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  2. 2
    LAO says:

    I appreciate your retrospective Cole, but can’t forgive you for making me read Sullivan. I find it fucking remarkable — Sully listed 4 sins he committed and he manages to still blame the dirty hippies. I give up. What a jackass.

  3. 3
    Betty Cracker says:

    Unlike millions of your former fellow war supporters, you admitted you were wrong — as unequivocally as anyone possibly could — and vowed to do better and did do better.

  4. 4
    Lee Hartmann says:

    What’s impressive is not that you were wrong about so many things – you have a lot of company in that. What *is* impressive is that you learned to think differently – and that is something that few people manage.

  5. 5
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Elizabelle: I think of “51/49” Tom Friedman’s “suck on this” after the fact admission, and Richard Cohen, who claimed he was persuaded by Tony Blair’s “humanitarian case for war”, and his later unembarrassed confession that he felt the need for “therapeutic violence” after 9/11. They are both still paid to give their opinions on public affairs.

  6. 6
    Jonny Scrum-half says:

    This is great. We might, as a nation, even be able to have a serious discussion about these sorts of things if someone like Friedman/Kristol/etc. published a column like this.

  7. 7
    Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.) says:

    It’s hard to stand up and say you were wrong. Too few of us are willing to do it. We need to get behind those who are. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of people in the coming years who will wake up and see that they were wrong about what’s happening now. And Lord, I know how hard it’s going to be not to beat up on them, because the truth really should be a whole lot easier to see here than it was even with Bush. But I’ll be glad to welcome them to the right side, if they really do wake up to their mistakes. Better late than never, I guess.

  8. 8
    zhena gogolia says:

    I was wrong to trust Tony Blair.

  9. 9
    Barbara says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Richard Cohen at one point said that the D.C. sniper made him too afraid not to go to war. Which, to me sounded like an admission by someone who desperately want to be loved by the right people, that he would always find a reason to cave in and do what his conscience, common sense, and existing principles tell them was misguided if not catastrophic. I wish I had done more to oppose the wore. I was actually pretty numb, and I remember arguing with my husband and then both of us realizing that we more or less felt the same way, that we didn’t know how it would go wrong, but that it would go wrong. And yes, it’s worse than even I ever imagined it would be.

  10. 10
    trollhattan says:

    Honest introspection is a rare thing and while you needn’t be proud of achieving it, you nevertheless know your parents raised you right.

    Our media stars and professional opinionaters are paid to not do this. That we tolerate and even encourage this is our shared national shame.

  11. 11
    noncarborundum says:

    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 seriously doubt this. That much concentrated stupid would be enough to create a black hole the size of the Andromeda galaxy.

  12. 12

    Good on you for admitting when you’re wrong and changing your mind, not just about the facts but also about being a dick to those of us who were right.

  13. 13
    trollhattan says:

    @Barbara:
    He said that? What a weirdo. Wonder who Richard Cohen thinks we should go to war with to counter the Texas bombings? It’s our only path.

  14. 14
    Barbara says:

    @zhena gogolia: My mother, who died last month, told me that her greatest disappointment was the abject grovelling of Blair and his failure to be a voice of reason. Blair will go down in history like Comey, as guys who see themselves on the side of the angels but who, just at the moment in time when they could have made all the difference, were catastrophically wrong. Blair’s memoirs were apparently a book long exercise in carrying through with the delusion that he was in fact right. Sounds like Comey is on the same track.

  15. 15

    I was always against the war. I could not believe how many people I knew were conned into supporting it. I used to work in a mechanical engineering lab then, me and another South African student were the only ones who saw that Bush II and company were full of shit about Iraq. Everyone else bought the case for war, hook, line and sinker.

    ETA: We also did not belabor under the illusion that Blair was being honest. I guess we were well aware of lying British men throughout history.

  16. 16
    oatler. says:

    I remember a certain Minneapolis- based blogger who mused that place names in Iraq would evolve over the centuries like “Jojbush” in the manner of Alexander the Great. Because George Bush was a historic Liberator.

  17. 17
    trollhattan says:

    @zhena gogolia:
    It’s the accent. Margaret Thatcher would seem like Phyllis Schlafly without the accent.

  18. 18
    Josie says:

    Thanks for this, John Cole. I wish more people were perceptive enough to see their mistake on this and honest enough to admit to it. It doesn’t change what happened and is still happening, but it might help us to avoid similar mistakes going forward.

  19. 19
    ET says:

    ……and on a lighter note, #rateaspecies is a thing. Fun background article from Science Alert.

  20. 20
    trollhattan says:

    @oatler.:
    Our troops still have trauma over the relentless candy and flower showers. At least that darn war paid for itself.

  21. 21
    Barbara says:

    @trollhattan: Words to that effect. The sniper freaked him out and left him so fearful that he was more open to war than he should have been.

  22. 22
    Karen Potter says:

    As a whole the US public bought it, in large part from watching and rewatching the twin towers come down; people were afraid and it is much easier to get people to take the “hook” when you are afraid.
    I maybe and have been a “hippie” but was never dirty; could never understand those who believed “back to nature” meant not bathing.

  23. 23
    Mike in NC says:

    The coming wars with North Korea and Iran will be executed with precision by Bolton and Pompeo. Trump knows that wars are fun and easy to win.

  24. 24
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @oatler.: remember a certain Minneapolis- based blogger who mused that place names in Iraq would evolve over the centuries like “Jojbush” in the manner of Alexander the Great

    I don’t know who that is, but I have a clear (perhaps polished by hatred) memory of Richard Perle, in his ridiculously affected mid-Atlantic accent and vocabulary, droning that he shouldn’t be surprised if in a very few years there weren’t some “grand square” in Baghdad named after George W Bush

  25. 25
    Cacti says:

    Way too many Democrats have their fingerprints all over the Iraq train wreck. And yes, years later, it still hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. It also set up John Kerry to be painted as an opportunist on the issue in 2004.

    On a straight party line vote in the Senate, the IWR would have failed.

    It should have failed.

  26. 26
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    John, thank you for this.

    I was totally right about everything before it started. So very happy you saw the light as soon as you did…some people are still in darkness. Dick “Why couldn’t he have died instead of those Kids at Stoneman Douglas” Cheney and his vile spawn, for two examples.

  27. 27
    Tata says:

    Thank you, JC.

  28. 28
    raven says:

    I bought it when Powell made the case. I should have known better.

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @LAO: The instant Sully’s head is on a pike will not be a nanosecond too soon.

  30. 30
    Zach says:

    Good for you for owning up to it but man it was SO frustrating at the time to see just how utterly illogical the pro-war case was and how out-of-bounds it was for anyone in power to point that out in America. As weird as the Trump era has been thus far it doesn’t hold a candle to the period between September 11, 2001 and summer 2003 for modern American turning Kafka-esque.

    I loudly made the case online and to everyone I knew: JFK showed us pretty good proof of soviet missiles in Cuba to justify escalating the missile crisis; Bush was alleging multiple vastly more complex weapons programs staffed by far more people in an era of far better intelligence gathering methods… claimed certainty and didn’t produce anything like it.

  31. 31
    Fizzle says:

    John, I understand the feeling, but your willingness to post this puts you head and shoulders, morally, above the vast bulk of this little experiment in self-government.

  32. 32
    Cacti says:

    I’ll never forget on the eve of the invasion, the general feeling of public bloodlust in the air, like the whole thing was some kind of depraved sporting event.

  33. 33
    geg6 says:

    You have more than made up for it since then, John. You are too hard on yourself. You always were a better sort of Republican, which is why I began reading here a baker’s dozen years ago or so. I expect you and few others were the last of a dying breed. You won’t see anyone making any mea culpas like that over supporting Trump. They’ll just pretend they never did. But we’ll remember and make them pay.

    You’re a good man, John Cole. Even if you sometimes are spectacularly wrong.

  34. 34
    I'll be Frank says:

    I hope you can find some comfort in your growth, There is no satisfaction in having been right, only a flat copper taste from living in a nation stained.

  35. 35
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cacti: The networks were salivating over the potential ratings.

    They need to ride tumbrels to their war crimes sentences as much as the deserting coward and Darth Cheney.

  36. 36
    shirk says:

    This was the post that made BJ my favorite political blog, and why I’m a daily lurker to this day. Thank you, John.

  37. 37
    Tom says:

    John – first of all, given your personal experience with Gulf War 1, it’s not surprising that you would have thought that its successor would go much better than it did. In addition, there was still a core belief with many of us that no senior federal official (cough cough, Cheney, cough cough) would be so depraved as to deliberately lie us into a war for the enrichment of his former company, or that so many people who had been upstanding and decent throughout their decades of honorable and successful service (Powell) would allow themselves to be used in such fashion. Also, it takes a big man (and no, I’m not referring to pants size) to admit when they’ve been wrong. I think that all of us would be well advised to heed the words of one far wiser than I when he said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And given all the good you’ve done with Balloon Juice, you can take comfort to the end of that story, when he says “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do i. Go, and sin no more (to the best of our ability)”

  38. 38
    Barbara says:

    @raven: I think about Powell like I think about Blair, jumping into the garbage bin of history in service to George W. Bush. I nearly cried when I read the speech of Dominique Villepin at the U.N. (find it here: http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/.....ranscript/). If only Blair had even half of Villepin’s insight. The derision of the French as being weak by fucking cowards like George Will still makes me angry.

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @trollhattan: Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Florida.

  40. 40
    PST says:

    Being wrong isn’t a sin. Smarter people than any of us were wrong about Iraq, and I mean wrong in good faith, not just wrong because they were crazy, craven, or lazy. I have trouble saying whether I was pro or anti at the critical time. I feel like Schrodinger’s cat (apologies to our schrodinger’s cat) because no observation was made until later. With all the contradictory information and differing opinions thrust at me, the choice existed in a superposition of states in my mind. I didn’t have to vote on it or write a column or otherwise commit. It is easy now to say that I was against the war from the start, since eventually I was, and there is no record to show I was ever pro. But that doesn’t seem true. Many of us were far from indifferent but far from certain as well.

  41. 41
    MMM says:

    I think the turning point for you were our discussions from COMM 605 finally kicking in

  42. 42
    Summer says:

    And I remember coming to this blog before you changed your mind because you were ALWAYS a Republican who would argue with an open mind and in the dark days of the Bush administration that felt so important. Jeez that was a long time ago. Who knew days could get darker still?
    And lots of changes here at this lovely blog but I’m still here madly lurking away. :)

  43. 43
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    What amazes me about Powell is he still walks in the glow of the willful delusion, his own and the media’s, that he nobly resigned in protest. He gave Bush cover in ’04, as in 2000, and was tossed aside in favor of the (even) more compliant Condi Rice as soon as he was no longer needed for political window dressing.

  44. 44
    The Moar You Know says:

    I remember a certain Minneapolis- based blogger who mused that place names in Iraq would evolve over the centuries like “Jojbush” in the manner of Alexander the Great.

    @oatler.: I’m putting odds on the Baghdad landfill for that particular honor. Or perhaps a sewage treatment plant. I know SF was going to do that to theirs but I think they decided at the last minute not to.

  45. 45
    geg6 says:

    @Cacti:

    I cried that whole night. I was so pissed off, frustrated and just exasperated that I just couldn’t do anything else at that point. I just cried and cried and cried. My guy at the time was just beside himself because I couldn’t be comforted. He was against the war, but wasn’t as absolutely sure as I was as to what an unmitigated disaster it would be. I knew it from the moment they started talking about it. I was just bereft.

    I’ve only felt that way one other time: November 8, 2016.

  46. 46
    mozzerb says:

    @Barbara: Blair had the ability and the chance to be one of the great PMs. Signing on to Iraq was the historic blunder that threw that away.

    He probably did have some belief that preemptive-bad-guy-removal was the Right Thing, and could and would be done effectively (given past experience of Kosovo), but it was clear that he’d committed to it no matter what and was basically trying to put together any available argument in order to do it.

    I’ve always thought a major undeclared reason was that he was apparently pretty much all-in on Gore to win in 2000, and had to reverse course and rebuild relationships when Bush managed his narrow win (i.e. 5-4). I don’t think he could have actually persuaded Bush and the PNAC lot not to do it, but he certainly gave them a lot of cover.

  47. 47
    raven says:

    @PST: And some of here are so fucking smart and THEY remember how right they were and how “bloodthirsty” everyone else was.

  48. 48
    dnfree says:

    My thought then and now was that I couldn’t believe we had forgotten the lessons of Vietnam within not even 30 years. I thought it would at least take the duration of my lifetime. I remember reading James Fallows’ “Blind into Baghdad”. Sometimes people forget how many Democrats did NOT go along with the drumbeat of war.

    But anyone who has managed to learn from that experience has my utmost respect, just as anyone who learned from Vietnam does.

  49. 49
    MJS says:

    @Zach: This. Bush signaled his intention to invade Iraq in his 2003 (I think, maybe 2002) State of the Union address, where he identified the “Axis of Evil”. Back then, everyone knew that there was no way we were going to start a shooting war with Iran or North Korea (ah, the good old days), but come hell, high water, or U.N. inspectors finding no evidence of WMD, we were going into Iraq. That so many never saw that the “facts were being fixed to fit the policy” still astounds me to this day.

  50. 50
    Kelly says:

    @raven: I bought Powell’s case for a day or two. I bought most of the pro war arguments for a day or two. Always found then wanting after a bit of thought. At the time I felt I should give our leaders the benefit of the doubt. But the claims were just too extravagant and the evidence presented too thin.

    I had several conservative friends that went off the wingnut deep end since Iraq 2. After believing the Iraq 2 case they were ready to believe anything.

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    Funny. I was recently explaining to a friend why I liked Balloon Juice over other sites. And one of the key reasons was Cole’s thinking a second time about Iraq and his core political values, and changing his mind. This is damned rare anytime, and especially in the Age of the Internets, which seems to encourage death-match level standing your intellectual ground no matter what.

    I don’t recall being immediately and totally against the war just on principle. But I remember going on line, reading a pdf about “shock and awe” doctrine and coming away thinking it one of the most ridiculous things I ever read. It also seemed particularly stupid to think that anyone would use it against the Iraqi people if you expected them to want to be your allies.

  52. 52
    Chrome agnomen says:

    @Tom: powell had a successful military career, but not a particularly honorable one. See: my lai.

  53. 53
    BluegirlFromWyo says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et Al.): Seconded. You’re a good man, John Cole, in a way that many people will never be able to manage.

    It’s going to be excuriatingly difficult to welcome recovered Trumpsters back into the fold. People who confessed doubts about their choice post-inaugural got reamed about what took you so long, etc. Don’t expect that’s gotten better.

  54. 54
    The Moar You Know says:

    Way too many Democrats have their fingerprints all over the Iraq train wreck. And yes, years later, it still hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. It also set up John Kerry to be painted as an opportunist on the issue in 2004.

    On a straight party line vote in the Senate, the IWR would have failed.

    It should have failed.

    @Cacti: All of them with only a few exceptions, as I recall. I know Bernie said yes. Never been held accountable for it like Hillary was. Wonder why.

    It should have absolutely been a party line vote and it should have failed. Dems need to stop signing on to stupid shit like this, as a rule. Syria and Libya, looking at you.

  55. 55
    Barbara says:

    Well, say what you want about Andrew Sullivan, I came to this blog via a link from his daily site.

  56. 56
    dnfree says:

    @Cacti: “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” on the flight deck.

  57. 57
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    Speaking of Republican crime syndicate:

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has ties to a Tennessee lawyer who is said to have introduced a Russian politician to the National Rifle Association, which has been accused of funneling foreign money to help President Donald Trump’s campaign.

  58. 58
    mart says:

    I listened to the UN inspector updates on NPR’s Diane Rehm show every week. They would say they went to every palace on the list. Bushies would say they were denied access. They would say they can trace radioactive isotopes and were 100% certain there was no nuclear program. Bushies would say Saddam had thrown them out. They would say they can not be 100% certain of no WMD programs due to the nature of how they can be produced, but they were more than 90% sure there had been no activity since the first war. Just made me crazy that I was the only one in the country that could hear and process these statements. That the Bush regime was going in no matter what.

  59. 59
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    Cole, I actually remember arguing with you in the comments section at the GOS when the war was in its early days, and even though we disagreed I thought you were one of the more reasonable people on the other side. Let me just say I was not that surprised when you came around.

  60. 60
    Ryan says:

    On the other hand, FRIEDMAN UNITS man!

  61. 61
    muddy says:

    Did you change your mind about Cindy Sheehan?

  62. 62
    The Moar You Know says:

    And some of here are so fucking smart and THEY remember how right they were and how “bloodthirsty” everyone else was.

    @raven: Some of us were working for the DoD at the time and everyone, EVERYONE in my workplace knew it was absolute bullshit, but the payday was going to be spectacular – everyone knew that too. Lotta guys made a lot of money during the war. Big retirements, boats, nice cars, everything. All paid for by the suckers.

  63. 63
    The Moar You Know says:

    Did you change your mind about Cindy Sheehan?

    @muddy: I haven’t. She did a tremendous amount of damage to the antiwar effort.

  64. 64
    mart says:

    @The Moar You Know: All paid for by the suckers – and the dead, maimed, and displaced.

  65. 65
    randy khan says:

    I won’t say I supported the war, but at the time I found myself thinking that Hussein was acting like someone who wanted a war and that at a certain level he’d be to blame if it happened. Part of that thinking was based on the idea that it just seemed impossible that so much of what we were being told about Iraq was lies. If you could find the Slate comment archives from that time, you’d see me saying something along those lines – kind of a reluctant going along, based on the idea that if Hussein wouldn’t cooperate in proving there were no WMDs, it would be necessary to go in. (Of course, there weren’t any, and the Bush II administration always was going to reset the bar no matter how much he cooperated.)

    Stupid me.

    I began to get what was going on when it became apparent that the Bush II administration had no really viable plan for what to do after the war was over, that they had rejected decades of hard-won experience about how you need to devote more resources than you spend on the war, not fewer, to rebuilding and creating a stable society after you oust a corrupt leader. That was quicker than some people, but not nearly quick enough.

  66. 66
    B.B.A. says:

    I also was wrong about Iraq. I was young, and naive, and surrounded by what I thought were ridiculous far-left radicals. Now I’m probably to their left. (#JeffersonMustFall!)

    More to the point, I was wrong, and Cole was right, about Libya. Libya made me an uncategorical pacifist. Fool me twice, can’t get fooled again.

  67. 67
    Fair Economist says:

    @Barbara:

    Blair will go down in history like Comey, as guys who see themselves on the side of the angels but who, just at the moment in time when they could have made all the difference, were catastrophically wrong.

    I saw an old Frontline talking about a massive multibillion dollar bribery scandal involving Prince Bandar and British armament manufacturers. When the investigation had tagged the culprits and was collecting proof for a trial, Blair personally, actively, and deliberately shut the investigation down. There was also a damning clip of Blair being questioned about it, where his response was to look at W Bush (who was with him at the time) and they snickered together.

    Blair didn’t see himself on the side of the angels. He was profoundly corrupt, and no doubt was tapping his own stream of corrupt income from Iraq just like Cheney and Bush.

  68. 68
    Brachiator says:

    @Kelly:

    I bought Powell’s case for a day or two

    Powell seemed to be deliberately used, misled and then discarded by Cheney.

    And if you want to talk about the “deep state,” you have to look at the Cheney staffers and aligned personnel who either helped falsify information or suppressed more reasoned and better supported analyses of Iraq and the Middle East.

  69. 69
    rp says:

    Greenwald attacked Mueller today for supporting the invasion of Iraq, arguing that it’s weird that he’s now a liberal hero. [eyeroll] Oh, you mean like you did, a**hole?

  70. 70

    @raven: I don’t think it was intelligence or principle in my case, I was immune to the emotional manipulation Rs and Bush II deployed in the run up to the war. People were legitimately angry about 9/11 and the Rs manipulated that hurt and anger.

    ETA: I am not a pacifist, Iraq war and the case for it never made any logical sense to me. It was obvious that Bush II wanted to go to war with Iraq and everything else was an excuse to reach that foregone conclusion.

  71. 71
    raven says:

    @The Moar You Know: Like Nucky in Boardwalk Empire the night they voted in prohibition.

  72. 72
    satby says:

    This is why we love you John. You’re a mensch.

  73. 73
    pat says:

    I never did accept any of the BS that was being disgorged in favor of the war. I don’t recall now what I was reading but it always seemed that the whole thing was made up. Met a friend in the store and we shook our heads over the Asses of Evil.

  74. 74
    Zach says:

    @Brachiator:

    Powell seemed to be deliberately used, misled and then discarded by Cheney.

    That’s nonsense. Powell deserves full responsibility for his presentation to the UN in which he presented things as certainties that he either knew were false or did not bother to find out if they were true before staking his reputation on them. Cheney didn’t decide to replace facts with theater (powerpoint mock-ups of bioweapons lab, anthrax vial as a prop).

  75. 75
    zhena gogolia says:

    @trollhattan:

    No, I really had some respect for him and didn’t think he would boldfaced lie to the world.

  76. 76
    Mandalay says:

    @Barbara:

    I think about Powell like I think about Blair, jumping into the garbage bin of history in service to George W. Bush.

    There are plenty of articles spewing nonsense about the UN speech being a shit stain on Powell’s otherwise unblemished character.

    But despite his carefully cultivated public persona, Powell was hardly squeaky clean before he worked for GWB. He was a ruthless bastard who lied about My Lai, Iran Contra and Panama.

  77. 77
    Sebastian says:

    The moment the election was called for Bush I IMed a buddy verbatim “Saddam is toast” and his response was a simple “Yup”

    We all knew. You might want to ask yourself why you didn’t.

  78. 78
    trollhattan says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    Yup. And Condi still wanders around Stanford and the Hoover Institute, nicely paid and putting her toe in the political waters asking, “Now? Should I run now?”

    After Trump she’ll seem so calm and reeeeesonable.

  79. 79
    Citizen Alan says:

    There was never a second when I thought the Iraq War would be anything but a catastrophe for this nation. I did initially hold out hope that the invasion of Afghanistan would have some positive benefits in the long term. But once we started diverting resources away from Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq, it was clear to me that both of them would fail and bankrupt the nation in the process.

  80. 80

    But you wised up, Cole, that’s what counts. It’s all that counts.

    Also: MOSCOW (AP) — “The Kremlin says U.S. President Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on re-election”.

    It seems to me Russia is threatening Trump AND the republican party with that press release. That is, Russia crime bosses are threatening their American counterparts that they better stop Mueller Inc., and thus and keep Americans from learning the truth, or else. Or else they all fall together, only unlike the Americans involved, the Russians will fall laughing..

    Remember- and this has been true from the day Trump was nominated- if push comes to shove, Russia can blow the entire charade sky high with a single press conference. And Putin just might do that, too, come the day it dawns on Russia that the truth will out, and that Americans either have already, or will soon enough grasp the scale of the treason perpetrated against them. Come that day, the murderous SOB just might call that press conference, too, simply to laugh and crow about their successful sneak attack on American (and western) democracy.* At that point, it’s either that, or discredit themselves entirely in the eyes of the world by continuing to deny the undeniable. And why would they do that? The answer being: they wouldn’t. It would no longer be in their interest to do so.

    It’s almost as if no one involved gave any though about what would happen if something went wrong after the dog caught the car..

  81. 81
    trollhattan says:

    @rp:
    Shit, that basically means GG is attending the Freedom Caucus briefings because those assholes are all out today attacking Mueller. This is my shocked face, I guess.

  82. 82
    GregB says:

    Colin Powell was brought in as the closer.

    He is the one that made the final sale to the beltway skeptics because he was the reasonable moderate in the White House.

  83. 83
    Spanky says:

    OT, but after 60+ comments, why not?

    The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook following reports that a data analytics firm that had worked with the Trump campaign had improperly accessed names, “likes” and other personal information about tens of millions of the social site’s users without their knowledge.

    At issue for the company — and at the heart of the FTC probe — is a settlement they reached with the agency in November 2011, ending an investigation that Facebook deceived users about the privacy protections they are afforded on the site.

    Among other requirements, the resulting consent decree mandated that Facebook must notify users and obtain their permission before data about them is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established. It also subjected Facebook to 20 years of privacy checkups to ensure its compliance.

  84. 84
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @trollhattan: She recommended Tillerson to the trump people. she’s the gift that keeps on giving. A couple of friends of mine went to a talk she gave on a recent book tour (which was a huge shock, I never did get a complete explanation, they’re both liberals. I think it was part of a general desire to be better informed). Questions were screened through the moderator., the Iraq War was barely touched on, and the saddest part to me was there was only one lonely protester with a “Remember Iraq” sign outside the venue.

    On Powell, I can’t remember where I was listening yesterday to a discussion of how Clinton tried to move big things in his first year, and how lifting the ban on gay service members, which Clinton thought was just common sense and common decency, blew up in his face. My recollection is that Powell was a huge factor in that blow-up.

  85. 85
    TenguPhule says:

    Ah memories. I thought in 2008, the worst was finally over.

    /Sob.

  86. 86
    Rob in CT says:

    I still remember the run-up to the war, and how much obvious bullshit was spewed. Being right about all this stuff at the time just got me called names. I doubt I changed a single mind. I still remember, way back in 2002, pointing out that there was obviously no serious reconstruction plan for the aftermath. People just ignored me. I was like, look, that’s a broken country and we’re gonna break it some more. It will require Marshall Plan 2.0. Where is the gear-up for that? How many people does the government even have who speak Arabic…

    And then, when it was obvious that I’d been right the whole time? Did anyone I know think huh, Rob was right, maybe he’s right about some other things too? Hahahahahaha, no.

  87. 87
    TenguPhule says:

    @Elizabelle:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    No, Cole had to be that hard on himself.

    He really was drunk on the kool aid back in his conservative prime.

    It was a different time.

  88. 88
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    OT: Police in TX about to detonate a suspicious package at a FedEx facility near Austin airport. If it’s a bomb, it’s the sixth

  89. 89
    Irony Abounds says:

    Back then it was still difficult to believe your government would lie you into a war. Now, with President Shithole lying his fat ass off on a daily basis, it it much easier to believe everything that comes out of the government is hogwash.

  90. 90
    Karen Potter says:

    I think the worst of the whole war was that the US is the one who put Saddam in power in the first place, the Shah wouldn’t do what US wanted so he was removed.

  91. 91
    Kelly says:

    @Brachiator:

    Powell seemed to be deliberately used, misled and then discarded by Cheney.

    Powell had experience and his own intelligence sources. Really should have been impossible to mislead.

  92. 92
    Mandalay says:

    @Sebastian:

    We all knew. You might want to ask yourself why you didn’t.

    You’re saying way more about yourself than Cole with that comment, and none of it is good.

  93. 93
    Aleta says:

    That list is what’s important now.

    Wish today’s journalists would cover their mistakes chronologically step by step.

    Hope one day you will teach a class on doing that.

  94. 94
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @mozzerb: Possibly, but British foreign policy since the 1950’s has basically involved crawling as low as we can to the US President of the day.

    May has tried to carry on this policy but Trump’s actions have made it difficult for her at times.

  95. 95
    gvg says:

    There were 2 drumbeats to war, Afghanistan, then Iraq. Afghanistan seemed like a problem to me but inevitable because they were definitely harboring the ones who attacked us on 911, didn’t even really hide it. We were kind of required to put an end to that government. My problems with it were the history of others failing to pacify it. A short while later it was obvious that boy blunder was screwing it up even worse than it needed to be. So then before he had really finished with Afghanistan, he wanted to invade a tougher country, on what to my hangout at the time people could show was trumped up false reasons? No, just no. Bush and company were known to have talked about war with Iraq before he was elected too and had tried to claim Iraq did 911 before the evidence lead to Afghanistan.
    Apparently I was also just lucky. The blog I hung out on back then was a sports board for gator fans and SEC rivals. I was barely political back then and most of the others were sports not politics too. I think most of them were actually lean conservative and republican. Hillary jokes were made. However several of them started posting links that showed how the evidence was being faked. One of the most conservative was a scientist who knew the WMD “evidence” was crap and showed us. he wasn’t the only one either.
    What gets me is a lot of the clear evidence was published in the same NYT’s that was also publishing biased drumbeat to war stuff. It’s just the true stuff didn’t get much attention. It wasn’t sensational enough I think. Reporters DID publish the truth. Other reporters covered gossip and sensational made up stuff and fake won. I wasn’t that clued in myself, i was just lucky in my associates at the time so I knew the right facts.
    I don’t know what to do about the media. i think the problem starts with the customers, us. Too many people read drek without realizing they are choosing to be misled.

  96. 96
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @rp: Whataboutism. Classic KGB disinformation. Greenwald is a FSB operative.

  97. 97
    Kelly says:

    @gvg: I also saw the need to go to Afghanistan and at least get Osama ben Laden and destroy his supporters. That seemed like a very big job and deserved our undivided attention.

  98. 98

    @Villago Delenda Est: He delivered Snowden to Putin, and has paid zero price for it.

  99. 99
    Geeno says:

    I wasn’t really for or against the war. My salesman father had taught me to recognize a roll-out when I saw one. It was obvious to me from the get-go that no serious debate would be entertained. I really wanted Powell to convince me so i could feel better about what was happening, but after his presentation I was just “That’s it?”.
    This whole time was where i really lost all hope in the media.
    I was just depressed when I realized that all I could do was hope it would work out while feeling pretty sure it wouldn’t.

  100. 100
    Mandalay says:

    @Sloane Ranger:

    British foreign policy since the 1950’s has basically involved crawling as low as we can to the US President of the day

    I agree with that in general, with two notable exceptions:
    – Suez, which ended disastrously for Britain.
    – Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, which didn’t bother St. Ronnie in the slightest.

  101. 101
    Sebastian says:

    @Mandalay:

    Maybe. But us Europeans knew that George wanted his war because Saddam tried “to kill his Daddy” and we all knew about Cheney.

    All of fucking Europe knew that if he gets elected that they would come back to finish the job.

    So spare me your fake outrage and character judgement.

  102. 102
    smintheus says:

    @raven: Some of us were right, and we remember accurately how senselessly bloodthirsty others had become, because we recall the things we said to others and the things others said to us about the rush to war. In particular, I recall debating Powell’s UN speech with a Slate journalist who also was persuaded by it and remained – steadfastly and inexplicably – ignorant of all the ways that Powell’s assertions had been disproven…even when I handed him detailed rebuttals.

    I also recall faculty colleagues insisting fatuously that there was no need for evidence because of course Bush knew he would be impeached if his unproven claims turned out to be baseless. Those people had no interest in the human consequences if their bland assumptions turned out to be wrong, presumably because other people than themselves were going to do the dying. I think it’s fair to describe those people as bloodthirsty.

  103. 103
  104. 104
    Lori Brand says:

    Loooong time lurker, first time commenter from Wyoming. John, I appreciate your blog so much. I was first introduced to it when, back in the day, Salon would list out daily blog posts on the left and the right. Though (so ashamed to admit) I had voted for George W. Bush, after 9/11 the sheer authoritarianism and destruction of core American values and civil liberties freaked me out. I became a liberal and as a woman lawyer just kept moving left. So every morning I would read the left blogs and look at the headlines on the right blogs. Balloon Juice was listed on the right, but over time, it just kept making more and more sense, and of course your writing is pithy and descriptive. Long story short, I have loved this blog ever since, consider it my absolute favorite, and read it daily, along with Talking Points Memo, Vox, atrios, etc. Even more mind blowing, a few years ago my good friend out of the blue said “have you ever heard of a blog called Balloon-Juice?” Turns out he is Mister Mix’s brother. I felt I had met a celebrity! Anyway, keep up the great work all of you, such a vibrant front page and commenting community here. You keep me sane in a difficult time. Cheers!

  105. 105
    trollhattan says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    Ugh. “But, she’s polite and plays piano!”

    If she ever runs for anything, dogcatcher, whatever, I want a phalanx of people at every event wearing shirts imprinted, “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US”

  106. 106
    muddy says:

    @The Moar You Know: Can you detail this?

  107. 107
    Lori says:

    Loooong time lurker, first time commenter from Wyoming. John, I appreciate your blog so much. I was first introduced to it when, back in the day, Salon would list out daily blog posts on the left and the right. Though (so ashamed to admit) I had voted for George W. Bush, after 9/11 the sheer authoritarianism and destruction of core American values and civil liberties freaked me out. I became a liberal and as a woman lawyer just kept moving left. So every morning I would read the left blogs and look at the headlines on the right blogs. Balloon Juice was listed on the right, but over time, it just kept making more and more sense, and of course your writing is pithy and descriptive. Long story short, I have loved this blog ever since, consider it my absolute favorite, and read it daily, along with Talking Points Memo, Vox, Atrios, etc. Even more mind blowing, a few years ago my good friend out of the blue said “have you ever heard of a blog called Balloon-Juice?” Turns out he is Mister Mix’s brother. I felt I had met a celebrity! Anyway, keep up the great work all of you, such a vibrant on point front page and commenting community here. You keep me sane in a difficult time. Cheers!

  108. 108
    Mandalay says:

    @Zach:

    Powell deserves full responsibility for his presentation to the UN in which he presented things as certainties that he either knew were false or did not bother to find out if they were true before staking his reputation on them.

    Amen to all that. The fact that he was given false information is irrelevant. Given Powell’s background, for him to have made that speech without personally verifying all the bullshit he spewed was inexcusable.

    And doubly so since Powell had soared way above his pay grade by being a master of cover ups and lying himself. Of all people, you’d think Powell would smell bullshit when it was placed under his nose.

  109. 109
    Brachiator says:

    @Zach:

    Powell seemed to be deliberately used, misled and then discarded by Cheney.

    That’s nonsense. Powell deserves full responsibility for his presentation to the UN in which he presented things as certainties that he either knew were false or did not bother to find out if they were true before staking his reputation on them. Cheney didn’t decide to replace facts with theater (powerpoint mock-ups of bioweapons lab, anthrax vial as a prop).

    We disagree. Neither you nor I can say for certain that Powell knew the information was false.

    People assume or blandly assert that he should have known better, but I don’t know that historians have clearly laid out how he vetted the information he was given, or the degree to which the administration fed him lies and disinformation.

    The Bush administration was evil and stupid, but the full story has not yet been told.

  110. 110

    @muddy: she certainly tarnished the anti war effort in my mind, and I was part of the anti war effort.

  111. 111
    arrieve says:

    @geg6: Yes, this. I marched in the streets of New York for the first time since my college days, and knew that it would have no effect whatsoever. I’d managed to forget how much despair I felt then. Like election night 2016 indeed.

    My mother used to quote John Kennedy: Forgive your enemies but never forget their names. But I’ll never forgive the monsters behind that disaster. Not that most of them have asked for it.

  112. 112
    joel hanes says:

    @oatler.:

    a certain Minneapolis- based blogger

    Norwegianity ?

  113. 113
    PST says:

    @dnfree: Speaking of Fallows, and in case no one else has mentioned it yet, he has a characteristically smart piece in the Atlantic today on roughly this subject.

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    @Sloane Ranger:

    British foreign policy since the 1950’s has basically involved crawling as low as we can to the US President of the day.

    A great deal of the Suez crisis in 1956 was based on the British and the French trying to play Eisenhower in a futile attempt by the European countries to maintain their power in the region.

  115. 115
    TenguPhule says:

    @Brachiator: Colin was certainly a willing accomplice. And his track record suggests that we error on the side of “He was a fucking bastard just like the rest of them.”

  116. 116
    smintheus says:

    @Brachiator:

    Neither you nor I can say for certain that Powell knew the information was false.

    Yes we can. Powell repeated lies that had long since been disproven, including the ludicrous claim about the aluminum tubes. There’s plenty more info about Powell’s duplicity here.

  117. 117
    Mandalay says:

    @Sebastian:

    …us Europeans knew that George wanted his war because Saddam tried “to kill his Daddy” and we all knew about Cheney.

    And unlike Europe, the US was directly attacked on 9/11, and Cole was a young Republican from WV who actually fought in the first Gulf War. And the whole of Europe was skeptical about the evidence, so it’s not as though you were some super star with special insight.

    It’s hardly surprising that you and he had different perspectives back then, and your bragging is cringe inducing.

  118. 118
    catclub says:

    @Zach:

    JFK showed us pretty good proof of soviet missiles in Cuba to justify escalating the missile crisis;

    Although he neglected to mention the US missiles in Turkey.

  119. 119
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Sebastian:
    This, all of it. It was clear to pretty much everyone outside the US and Britain that the war in Iraq was a mistake. A majority in Britain opposed the war, but Tony Blair cared more about keeping Britain on America’s good side than about what Britons thought. European allies tried to warn America and got nothing but insults for their trouble. The UN Security Council voted against war and got ignored. America has been paying for that arrogance ever since.

  120. 120
    mart says:

    @Irony Abounds:

    Back then it was still difficult to believe your government would lie you into a war.

    Gulf of Tonkin, Remember the Maine, To Hell With Spain!, etc.

  121. 121
    Kelly says:

    Up until the Iraq 2 roll out I was confident that reading NYT, Wash Post, watching the PBS news shows, listening to NPR in the car kept me well informed. I trusted the big news sources. Not any more and I still struggle to find out what’s going on.

  122. 122
    Ocean dude says:

    What was a Friedman unit again? 6 mos or 3 mos? A general compared the insurgency/war to Albert Camus’s “The Plague”. We can do all we want; inoculate, isolate, and perhaps ameliorate the worst of it in the process, but the plague is still going to run its course. It is still running its course. Holy hell did I just a semicolon? Screw it, leaving it in.

  123. 123
    Ruckus says:

    @Barbara:
    It would go wrong in every concevable way, and every inconceivable way, because it was the wrong answer to the wrong question.

    John, humans make mistakes in judgements every minute of every day, it’s admitting error in the face of overwhelming evidence that many never can bring themselves to do. Congratulations, you made the right choice.

  124. 124
    maura says:

    so happy at last you came to that conclusion. i hope was longer ago than today. do you have any idea how many iraqi citizens died? how many displaced from their home? you couldn’t learn anything from viet nam? why can’t you say that bush and cheney are war criminals? what about torture. the probablem is that america will go anywhere to bomb the shit out of people that are different from us. unfortunately for iraq, unlike japan we will not rebuild them. also, we destabilized the entire mideast. well, certainly made it worse. england destabilized it after wwii

  125. 125

    @PST: I was certain enough to use it as a scenario in a college Ethics course I was teaching (because we were discussing the Just War Theory). At the time I stuck my neck out and said that there wasn’t enough proof and simply trusting Bush’s word wasn’t good enough. Almost all of my students (and there was quite a range in age) bought the administration’s argument and thought I was being unpatriotic. I honestly wonder how many of those students remembered those classes and what I told them. I would have liked to have been a little bird on their shoulders the day we all found out there were no WMD’s. However, it’s little comfort, all these years later, to know I was right. The cost, not only to the U.S. but also to the world, was far too high.

  126. 126
    maura says:

    yeah, i had to read it again just to make sure. so, you support torture> you did not mention it

  127. 127
    Roger Moore says:

    I was wrong not to be more involved. I knew the case for war was weak, but I had accepted that the AUMF was a genuine attempt to get the weapons inspectors readmitted to Iraq. Once they were back in, I thought we should let them do their jobs rather than rush to war. I was just too naive in accepting that Bush and Company were operating in good faith. I won’t make that mistake again.

  128. 128
    joel hanes says:

    @Ocean dude:

    What was a Friedman unit again?

    The next six months will be critical.

  129. 129
    TenguPhule says:

    @Ocean dude:

    What was a Friedman unit again? 6 mos or 3 mos?

    Six months.

    Coined by Atrios.

  130. 130
    The Moar You Know says:

    Greenwald is a FSB operative.

    @Villago Delenda Est: So’s his pal Assange.

  131. 131
    The Moar You Know says:

    I would have liked to have been a little bird on their shoulders the day we all found out there were no WMD’s.

    @Ms. D. Ranged in AZ: A piece of news which none of them believe. Not a one. I guess they’re entitled to their own facts now.

  132. 132
    Aleta says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: We need to remember the ways operatives keep using military people like Powell or people with neutral reputations as cover. It’s all through the T campaign and his occupation. Take the stories introducing Hicks in June 2016, at the same time two very damaging stories about his sexual aggression appeared or reappeared. On non-sex subjects, Ivanka ‘had his ear.’ Jared and others supported Ds ‘before Trump,’ only caring about tech and what’s good for US business. Fcking “hey, a lightbulb: why not me?” Cheney.

  133. 133
    The Moar You Know says:

    Can you detail this?

    @muddy: If you can’t see it for the obvious thing it is, there is no point in us even having a discussion about it.

  134. 134
    Ohio Mom says:

    I was sure the war would be a mistake but I thought it would be one of those quickie affairs, like Grenada or the first Gulf War.

    We’d throw some weight around, declare victory, and leave. I thought we’d learned our lesson and didn’t do long wars anymore.

    I still remember going out to get the newspapers fifteen years ago and they weren’t there — I knew right then that the war had started. The printing presses had been held up by the breaking news, and that was a kick in the gut.

    What remains fascinating to me are the people like Cole who have it in them to change their minds. If only we could bottle that!

    Really, this is something I hope social psychologists are studying because it is an ability we need to nurture in everyone.

  135. 135
    mart says:

    @The Moar You Know: I have been told they secretly moved them WMDs to Syria, right under our occupying noses, doncha’ know.

  136. 136
    sheila in nc says:

    @Karen Potter: Wrong country. The Shah that was deposed by the US was in Iran.
    Saddam Hussein was the second ruler/president of Iraq after the Ba’ath Party overthrow of the previous Iraqi military controlled government.

  137. 137
    rikyrah says:

    Thanks Cole, for admitting your mistake.

  138. 138
    walden says:

    wow. 15 years. The media and too many members of Congress just did everything to make that war happen, and it was such a bad idea. It seemed obvious to me in the run-up that the war was an utterly bad idea and likely to lead to long-term US commitments and blowback. I knew a civilian at the Pentagon at the time of the run-up, and remember a couple of weeks before the launch that person (a staunch Republican) commented to me and others in a social setting “I can’t believe they’re going to do this.” I was off work the day Powell testified at the UN, and watched on TV….and found him completely unpersuasive. And then there was no public forum for opposition. The media would not put anybody on to argue against it other than a few actors or celebrities. Went to a dispiriting demonstration on the Mall with about 20,000 other people, but there was a general air of futility to the exercise….it was poorly organized and seemed just about pointless since launching the war was by then a completely foregone conclusion (and there were – sigh – giant puppets, people advocating lots of random unrelated causes, and “free Mumia” signs). It wasn’t til sometime that year that I heard about blogs, and that I found out you could use the internet to get newspapers with other points of view or better reporting (like Knight-Ridder at the time, if I recall correctly).

  139. 139
    muddy says:

    @The Moar You Know: Sorry you were not able to state a specific reason, I know it was a while ago, so don’t be embarrassed.

  140. 140
    Brachiator says:

    @smintheus:

    There’s plenty more info about Powell’s duplicity here.

    Thanks for the links..

  141. 141
    TenguPhule says:

    @The Moar You Know: To be fair, the woman only went completely bonkers when President Obama was in office.

  142. 142
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Mandalay: @Brachiator: Yes. It was Suez that led to us adopting that policy.

    As for the Falklands, I understood that while Republican policy wonks favoured Argentina, right wing dictatorship etc. Reagan allowed his friendship with Thatcher to influence him.

  143. 143
    marcopolo says:

    I wasn’t wrong about our Iraq adventure under Bush, but I sure as hell have been wrong about other things. So there!

  144. 144
    smintheus says:

    @Brachiator: You’re welcome.

  145. 145
    Mandalay says:

    @Sloane Ranger:

    Reagan allowed his friendship with Thatcher to influence him.

    Perhaps, but as a practical matter that was beside the point. And in the UN Kirkpatrick actually supported Argentina’s claim to the Falklands!

    Whatever your personal opinion of her, Thatcher’s legacy was enhanced when it was revealed that her government had effectively told the Reagan Administration “Fuck you! We’re going for unconditional surrender with you or without you.”, and I’m certain that Thatcher wasn’t bluffing.

  146. 146
    Roger Moore says:

    @trollhattan:

    Shit, that basically means GG is attending the Freedom Caucus briefings because those assholes are all out today attacking Mueller.

    No. It means both Greenwald and the Free Dumb Caucasians are getting their talking points from the same place. Just watch, the rest of the right wing noise machine will be saying the same thing, too. It’s the way they work.

  147. 147
    Miss Bianca says:

    I remember the whole Iraq lead-up smelling like such a crock of shit in the sticks of CO that i was amazed that the stench didn’t overwhelm DC. But something must have neutralized the odor enough for it to pass the smell test for pols whose judgement i respected – HRC and Joe Biden, for example – as well as those I didn’t. I sometimes wonder to this day what that something was. Intel that i wasn’t privy to that actually looked legit? Or simple fear for re-election prospects if they stood against the tide?

  148. 148
    sheila in nc says:

    @Roger Moore: I think a lot of people assumed some level of good faith when assessing the data. We also had the same situation that we have today (but didn’t know it at the time) of the highest levels of the administration ignoring or subverting the good faith work of the intelligence agencies and their analysts. I remember thinking, what’s the rush? Why not let the inspectors do their job?

    ETA also seconding the observation made above that the analysts on our side totally misinterpreted Saddam’s squirrellyness and lack of candor. It had nothing to do with us and everything to do with his own domestic politics. We make the same mistake these days as well.

  149. 149
    NobodySpecial says:

    I knew the moment the bullshit about aluminum tubes came out that they were lying. Colin Powell was to me a known liar, so I put no stock in his bullshit, either.

    People who planned and voted for the invasion should be horsewhipped in the public square for their actions.

  150. 150
    Sloane Ranger says:

    @Mandalay: Wow! I didn’t know that.. For the first time in my life I find myself saying good for her!

  151. 151
    NobodySpecial says:

    Too late to edit, but remember they always wanted this.

    “Near term target needs – go massive – sweep it all up, things related and not.”

  152. 152
    TenguPhule says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    But something must have neutralized the odor enough for it to pass the smell test for pols whose judgement i respected – HRC and Joe Biden, for example – as well as those I didn’t. I sometimes wonder to this day what that something was.

    Political calculation. They figured 1) Bush probably wasn’t making it up (Mistake #1), 2) The inspectors would have to find proof before we invaded (Mistake #2), and 3) even if we invaded, it would be a short victorious war and voters needed to see Strong and Stable Democrats supporting the boys in uniform! (Mistake #3).

    They fucked up by the numbers trying to do a the popular thing at the moment instead of the harder job of doing the right thing.

  153. 153
    James E. Powell says:

    I came to this blog post-transformation so I never had any exposure to RW John Cole. Sounds like he was quite a guy.

    I was against the invasion of Iraq as soon as it was brought up. The first Gulf War was total bullshit. The USA should not be going to war to protect or re-install dictatorial regimes. The ‘royalty’ claims should be disparaged by all free peoples. Saddam Hussein was a dictator, a really bad one, but that is no reason for the USA to go to war.

    Afghanistan, too, was a horrible move. By the next presidential election, we will have been there for over 20 years. We will have done nothing to make life in the United States better or safer.

    I’m not a total pacifist, I’m not even very kind, but American wars since we helped get rid of Hitler have been about imperial ambitions.

  154. 154
    Mandalay says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    Or simple fear for re-election prospects if they stood against the tide?

    I doubt if Biden or Clinton would have lost re-election regardless of their position on Iraq.

    This is the core problem: what if your critics paint you as being soft/weak on security, and then they are proven correct? That renders you completely toxic for re-election**, but sadly the reverse is not true: an absurd hawk can be demonstrably wrong on everything, but still has a powerful argument up their sleeve: “We must never let up our guard against these threats!”.

    That asymmetry (a dove cannot get away with being wrong, but a hawk can) explains why politicians almost always go for the more hawkish position when it comes to the crunch. It’s not automatically a safe option, but it is definitely the lesser of two evils with respect to re-election.

    ** Dubya is a shining exception to this rule with his inaction over 9/11, but the country was at war when he was re-elected.

  155. 155
    JimV says:

    I wasn’t as wrong as all that, but I was wrong. The main thing I was wrong about was, and I quote myself to myself, “The Bush government would not lie to us about WMD, since they know that if they did they would get thrown out in disgrace in 2004.”

    I do however recall Powell saying to the UN, something like, “As an old soldier, I don’t know any reason that aluminum tubes would have to be polished on the inside just to be used as mortar shells,” and thinking, what about the scene in “Schindler’s List” where he tells the camp guard he needs the Jewish children to polish the insides of shells with their small hands? It turns out Schindler was right and Powell was wrong – the Iraqis got the polishing tolerance from the U.S. Army Manual, which we had given them during the Iran-Iraq war. (Funny nobody caught that at the time or during the vetting of Powell’s speech. I didn’t hear about the Manual until years later.)

  156. 156
    Mandalay says:

    @TenguPhule:

    They fucked up by the numbers trying to do a the popular thing at the moment instead of the harder job of doing the right thing.

    Indeed. But let’s not forget one shining exception: the woman in Congress who had more balls than all the men combined.

    This is Sheila Jackson Lee from March 2003:

    She called the Bush administration’s failure to consult with Congress before deciding to go to war her “greatest heartbreak.” “How in the world can you not debate this question of war?” she asks. “What we’re talking about is disrespecting the people of the U.S. I’m not afraid of going to the floor and losing the vote [to repeal the war], but at least we’d be fighting against the backdrop of the voices of America. Do we not want to reaffirm the U.S. Constitution?”

    She was (and is) awesome.

  157. 157
    mozzerb says:

    @Sloane Ranger: True, but Blair in 2001-3 had the best chance ever to step back from that (in terms of the general political climate) and didn’t.

    Brexit basically means May (and indeed any other PM in the near future) is going to have to crawl to the US even more than previously. It’s unlikely to achieve much given the current state of US politics. It’s also what a significant faction of Tories have always wanted.

  158. 158
    Roger Moore says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    I think the position of people like Hillary, Biden, and Kerry were a result of the run-up being in two parts. There was one part before the 2002 elections where Bush asked for authorization from Congress to go to war with the claim the threat of war was necessary to get Iraq to let weapons inspectors back in. That claim, with the implication we would only go to war if Iraq failed to comply, and the desire not to appear weak right before the midterm elections got a lot of Democrats to go along. But we didn’t go to war immediately, because the threat actually was enough to get Iraq to start complying with weapons inspections.

    After the elections, there was a second round of trying to drum up the war. That was the round that involved Powell making claims to the UN. That second round was almost exclusively about making a public case for war, both to the citizens of the US and to other countries whose help we wanted in the war; there was no need to go to Congress because they had already authorized the invasion earlier.

    I think that helps to explain why so many Democrats went along. They weren’t going along with the public claims Bush and Co were making in early 2003; they went along with the earlier claim it was necessary to have a big stick to threaten Saddam with to get him to let weapons inspectors back in. The problem was the earlier claim was made in bad faith, and the authorization was completely open ended; Bush still had the authority to go to war even though the justification given was no longer valid.

  159. 159
    joel hanes says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    But something must have neutralized the odor enough for it to pass the smell test for pols

    Three quarters of the nation was insane with lust for vengeance and blood, and was not in a mood to particularly care whose blood.
    Senators and Representatives were not immune.

    About a third of the nation has never recovered, and those people are Bin Laden’s victory.

  160. 160
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Roger Moore: it was a complicated time, and I doubt either political calculation for higher office and sincere hawk-ism was completely absent from either of their positions, but I do think people have forgotten how widespread and deep faith in Colin Powell was back then, that he would never let Junior blunder into an actual invasion aimed at regime change.

  161. 161
    Jamey says:

    People get shit wrong all the time. You had a platform and used it to publicly set the record straight.

    And if you think your list was long, imagine how it would compare to, say, that of a McMegan or other blogger of your vintage.

    If this site is the enduring legacy of your wrong-wrongity-wrong-wrongness, then consider the ledger even.

  162. 162
    Matt Smith says:

    John, you give everyone hope that others could also come to their senses, repent, go forth and sin no more. You symbolize that possibility. That’s a big part of what originally drew me to this community.

  163. 163
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @gvg:

    Afghanistan seemed like a problem to me but inevitable because they were definitely harboring the ones who attacked us on 911, didn’t even really hide it. We were kind of required to put an end to that government.

    Osama bin Ladeen was Saudi, a Wahabbi (Saudi) religious fanatic financed and supported by Saudi princes and powerful families. He recruited mainly from Saudi Arabia, nearly all of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. So you attacked Afghanistan to put an end to “that government” instead, started a civil war, killed a few hundred thousand people, destabilised the region and you (and a bunch of NATO troops) are still there today, sixteen years later in the middle of a shooting war which the other side are winning while you’re a trillion bucks in the hole for the pointless wasteful effort. Good joined-up thinking there.

  164. 164
    TenguPhule says:

    Headlines I didn’t need to see today.

    Trump congratulates Putin on reelection, discusses ‘arms race’

    Goddamnit Wapo.

  165. 165
    Mnemosyne says:

    @raven:

    I listened to Powell’s testimony on the radio and realized he was lying. I think his visuals convinced quite a few people.

  166. 166

    Why not look at your support of the War in Iraq this way, Cole.

    You wised-up (and that is all that counts) about alcohol. But a temptation to take another drink will forever be an itch you’ll occasionally want to scratch. Believe me, I know whereof I speak.

    In a similar sense, although you misjudged as righteous launching that unholy war, you proved Lincoln correct when he noted that “you can’t fool all the people, all the time”. And while your political judgement will never be infallible- that is yours, mine, or anyone else’s- keep uppermost in mind the fact you were deliberately deceived. You were lied to your face on a matter of war or peace by the same un-American actors that set the table for the ascension of Trump. And, lest we forget, continue to sustain him.

    The War in Iraq had, and will continue to exert, profound repercussions within our democracy, all of them bad. Unless we do wise-up, of course. Then we’ll right the ship of state, perhaps even redeem our own historical reputations in the process* (by dealing severely with the abject traitors). How can it be otherwise? To quote Winston Churchill, who, when addressing a joint session of congress in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, asked Americans this question about Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan: “What kind of people do they think we are”?

    *(to the degree we ever can).

  167. 167
    jackmac says:

    At least you came to your senses. There are millions who still haven’t.

  168. 168
    Jay says:

    @Elizabelle:

    Back in the day, I used to come here and argue against the Wars. Ir was semi-intellighent here, unlike LGF or Instapundit, but I gave up argueing with Warmongers.

    I came back a few years ago, ( also LGF) and was “shocked” to find you had changed your positions, and had added great front pagers.

    It made me actually respect you.

  169. 169
    Zelma says:

    I appreciated this trip down memory lane. (Appreciated, not enjoyed.) I read the comments to the “I was wrong” post and was led to the “This is no fun” post of five years earlier when John gave up on the Republican Party. Again the comments were fascinating (Whatever happened to Darrell?) It is interesting to immerse oneself in long ago conversations and sad to conclude that American politics have actually gotten worse. And they seemed so awful at the time!

  170. 170
    Sebastian says:

    @Mandalay:

    Buzz off. I clearly said all of Europe and the world saw it. Attacked or not, how fucking stupid do you have to be to see a secular dictator who massacred Islamists as the mastermind of a Islamist group?

    Go and hide behind your inkcloud of butthurt.

  171. 171
    Sebastian says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Exactly, thank you. Ignorance and hubris, indeed.

  172. 172
    John Cole says:

    @maura: No I don’t support torture- I was always opposed to it. Which is why I never had to apologize being wrong about it.

  173. 173
    TenguPhule says:

    @John Cole: It was that firm moral principle back then which gave us hope for your eventual redemption.

  174. 174
    Jay says:

    @Zelma:

    I’m old enough to remember when a US President ans his Administration wasn’t deliberately setting half a dozen dumpster fires every day, mired deep in corruption and under criminal investigation.

    I remember back in the day when the Wingnuts and MSM had to chase fake scandals, and fake scandals were tried in the Court of Public Opinion.

  175. 175
    Zelma says:

    @Jay:
    Heck. I’m old enough to remember when the chief of staff’s getting a vicuna coat from somebody was a big deal. I still don’t know what a vicuna is.

  176. 176

    I read Sully’s article. What a fucking gasbag.

  177. 177
    J R in WV says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I have a clear … memory of Richard Perle… droning that he shouldn’t be surprised if in a very few years there weren’t some “grand square” in Baghdad named after George W Bush!

    Only way for this to happen going forward would be if we turned W. over the the Iraqis for a war crimes trial, ending with his public execution in the grandest square in Baghdad.

    Doesn’t that sound grand? I would chip in for his plane tix into Baghdad airport!!

  178. 178
    judge crater says:

    Shock and Awe made me sick.

  179. 179
    Some Dude says:

    I was supposed to be at the ‘tip of the spear’ out of Turkey, and into Iraq. I won’t go into the fiddy details, but I was in Romania when the flag went up. My Commander and I (I was his SNCO) were watching the attack, and were just shaking our heads at what was happening. Still can’t believe its been 15 years, and none of the architects have been called on the carpet. But, then again, I have to….

  180. 180
    J R in WV says:

    @Tom:

    …that so many people who had been upstanding and decent throughout their decades of honorable and successful service (Powell) would allow themselves to be used in such fashion.

    Colin Powell’s first cover-up wasn’t at the UN holding up fraudulent evidence of WMDs in Iraq. It was decades earlier in his “honorable” service when he did his best to cover up the My Lai atrocities committed by soldiers serving under Lt. William Calley.

  181. 181
    J R in WV says:

    John,

    You did a far greater thing when you found the truth and made it a part of your life than when you were wrong in the beginning. Don’t put yourself down for being misled by professionals conjuring up smoke and mirrors.

    In retrospect, W. Bush was simply trying to out do his father’s Gulf War, which was questionable, but not merely a huge pile of war crimes like W. Bush’s war was. Being surrounded by yes-men and corrupt monsters like Cheney, W. had no chance of pulling off a clean war with a well-grounded recovery effort after the combat.

    You did far better than many with more resources than you had in rural WV, so be proud of the truth you found.

    Thanks for the Blog, also, too.

    JR

    ps: where’s my calendar? ;-)

  182. 182
    debbie says:

    The vast majority of people who supported the invasion, and I’m looking at certain family members, still refuse to admit they were wrong.

  183. 183
    RemindsMeOfThatMovie says:

    It finally happened. Wrong Way Cole posted something that is not wrong that I agree with.

  184. 184
    smintheus says:

    @RemindsMeOfThatMovie: This is a repost of a mea culpa that Cole originally posted 10 years ago. Duh.

  185. 185
    SmokeyB says:

    Hey man, as has been mentioned above, your well intentioned mea culpa is unnecessary. You let go of those views when you became better informed. And since that time, it seems you took action and now look – you’re the beloved head of activist Juicers all across the land. Mahalo!

  186. 186
    Janus Daniels says:

    AFAIK, you never swallowed the Islamofascism tripe that Sullivan served for… a decade?

  187. 187
    mg_65 says:

    I’ve been reading and lurking here since before that post, John. I very much respect and admire your ability and willingness to admit you were wrong. I wish more people could do that.

  188. 188
    seefleur says:

    Lurker here mostly – for probably about 8 years, can’t recall exactly when I found this place. Mr. Cole, I think I love you. Granted, I’m probably a wee bit too old for you, (and am married with 4 adult kids) but your writing and metamorphosis into the man you are now is a wonderful thing to behold.

    When the first Gulf War started, my youngest son was an infant. I vividly recall knowing even before the rest of the country that something big and bad was happening because we happened to live very near Bangor International Airport; where a LOT of heavy military air traffic was happening. I knew even before ABC, CBS and NBC announced that we were at war because of the C-5 Galaxy traffic that was flying directly over our little farm house at all hours of the day. I remember one night sitting in our living room with the walls shaking from all the heavy air traffic and nursing our youngest son. At that point I said to my husband that I hoped all this shit would be over before our kids were old enough to enlist or be drafted. Ironically, it was that son who opted to join the National Guard while Obama was still in office. All of our kids were raised to give back to their community and country. But our youngest was the only one who felt that joining the military (he was in college studying electrical engineering) was where he could best serve.

    He’s got 3 years left in the Guard, and is hoping against hope that the C-5 Galaxies don’t fly over our house again. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be hearing them again – and our youngest is now affiliated with the Brunswick Base, so FSM only knows where he’ll end up. Given that it’s been nearly 27 years, as a country we sure haven’t made much progress. But I thank you for this post. It means a lot to someone who has family who still hasn’t “seen the light”, and thinks that because they were in the Marines, they are right/correct.

  189. 189
    Svensker says:

    @oatler.:

    I remember a certain Minneapolis- based blogger who mused that place names in Iraq would evolve over the centuries like “Jojbush” in the manner of Alexander the Great. Because George Bush was a historic Liberator.

    Really? Jojbush? Honest to God? Who was this? Gah.

  190. 190
    Tehanu says:

    A bit late, but I also want to say, John, you’re a good man — a truthful man — with a big heart. Thanks for being the heart and soul of this community.

  191. 191
    Chris Johnson says:

    Must have been one of the last times I posted with my real nym.

    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?

    Seems fair enough to dial back to those questions and re-ask them, under the same nym. Ten years of bad road really wears a person out. That thread is a caution: so much in there to read. Fulcanelli:

    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.

    He wasn’t wrong, but how could he have imagined just how ugly it would get?

  192. 192
    Batocchio says:

    Props, John, for each and every time you post this. I wish all the other supporters would follow your humble and gutsy example.

  193. 193
    Luigidaman says:

    @Elizabelle: Yeah, sorry John Cole. Apology not accepted. From a guy who worked hard to stop Nam and whose students recoil in anger and shame over what was done in the dirty hippie 1960s to people who opposed all war, and from someone who grew up right across the river from you in Ohio… no, you don’t get a pass. War makes no sense at all. You were old enough and educated enougj at the time to know better. Yes, I’m glad you are trying to make amends, but please tell that to all the dead and crippled soldiers and Iraquis. I don’t want to hear it from Sully. And I don’t want to hear it from you.

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