Paul Wolfowitz, probably the most important driving force behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is finally admitting that they may have made some mistakes. But he still thinks it was all worth it and that it would have been far worse if we’d let Saddam Hussein stay in power.
In an interview with The Sunday Times to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, he said there “should have been Iraqi leadership from the beginning”, rather than a 14-month occupation led by an American viceroy and based on “this idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them”.
He accepted that too many Iraqis were excluded by a programme to purge members of the ruling Ba’ath party, that the dissolution of the Iraqi army was botched and that the “biggest hole” in post-war planning was not to anticipate the possibility of an insurgency.
“The most consequential failure was to understand the tenacity of Saddam’s regime,” he said.
Say what? Saddam’s regime was not the least bit tenacious. We deposed him and his henchmen almost immediately. What Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and the rest of the neo-cons failed to understand was the basic principle of “you break it, you buy it.” Deposing Saddam was the easy part; building a new government, a new civil society and finding a way to get the warring religious, tribal and ethnic factions to work together was the difficult part. They just never understood that. They thought that we’d be greeted as liberators, that we’d parade through Baghdad as the grateful Iraqis threw flowers at our feet and then they’d all join hands and sing Kumbaya in Arabic. When that didn’t happen, what they thought was going to be a quick strike with little cost turned into an 8-year occupation that cost trillions of dollars.
In February, 2003 Wolfowitz testified in front of a Congressional committee that the war would cost $60-$95 billion total, but that Iraqi oil money would make the higher estimate highly unlikely. On January 19, 2003 Donald Rumsfeld put the estimate at less than $50 billion. Every single justification for the war and prediction about the war was wrong. I don’t know why anyone would take them the least bit seriously now.