Of all the people that are mentioned in the Vanity Fair article that are seeking to escape responsibility for their role in urging the Iraq war, none sinks lower than that Michael Ledeen.
Jonah Goldberg alerted us to the fact that Ledeen was an “entertaining speaker” but he did not tell us the half of it. In the Vanity Fair interview Ledeen turns out to be real yukmeister when he argues that the influence of the neoconservatives paled in comparison to a much more powerful bloc: “Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes.” So according to Ledeen, it is women, those lovesick, lovelorn women surrounding George Bush and assiduously competing for his affections, who are to blame for the Iraq mess! Bush was too enraptured by the sirens around him to listen to those who were giving him good advice. Who would have suspected that the whole Iraq war was a soap opera, the result of romantic intrigues within the White House?
But Ledeen’s ability to generate laughs does not end there. Ledeen has also received widespread ridicule because he has been the most shameless in trying to rewrite history, and his feeble and transparent attempts have been quickly exposed. Following the emergence of the Vanity Fair article, he claims that he never supported the invasion of Iraq and so feels no reason to apologize.
I do not feel “remorseful,” since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated – as I still do – support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters. . . So it is totally misleading for Vanity Fair to suggest that I have had second thoughts about our Iraq policy.
He also asserted this opposition to the Iraq war in his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross. When I heard him say it on the radio, I was surprised since it seemed so inconsistent with the strong support that the neoconservatives had for the invasion, but Terry Gross did not challenge him. Since I had not personally been keeping track of what Ledeen had been saying all these years, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that perhaps he had been a more sophisticated thinker than his fellow neoconservatives. But it turns out he is simply and brazenly lying.
People like Ledeen seem to keep forgetting that things like Google and Lexis-Nexis now exist and keep records of whatever you have published. Gone are the days when you could deny what you said in the past, confident that few people will bother to go to libraries and dig up archives of old publications to check on you. Now that information is available at everyone’s fingertips and there are legions of bloggers out there tirelessly doing the detective work to expose these shameless efforts at rewriting history. And Ledeen’s come-uppance was not slow in arriving.
Thanks to Mona at Inactivist we have proof that Ledeen is lying. In August 2002, this is what he wrote in response to former National Security Advisor (to George H. W. Bush) Brent Scowcroft’s misgivings about invading Iraq:
It’s always reassuring to hear Brent Scowcroft attack one’s cherished convictions; it makes one cherish them all the more.
. . .
So it’s good news when Scowcroft comes out against the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters.
. . .
He fears that if we attack Iraq “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a caldron and destroy the War on Terror.”
One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.
That’s our mission in the war against terror.
So not only was Ledeen for the war in August 2002, he so lacks basic human feeling for the lives of the people of that region that he wanted to turn it in to a “cauldon.” But there’s more. In an August 12, 2002 interview with other panelists on the topic “To Invade Iraq or Not; That is the Question?”, he responds to questions this way:
Question #1: Gentlemen, should we go to war against Iraq?
Ledeen: We have been at war with Iraq for years, since we performed victory interruptus at the end of the Gulf War phase. Iraq has attempted to assassinate a former American president, broken the agreement to permit international inspectors, aided anti-American terrorists both internationally and within the United States, and called for anti-American jihad with monotonous regularity. The only question is whether or not we’re prepared to finally wage the war in such a way as to win it.
Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?
Once Mona had pointed out these examples of Ledeen’s lie, others quickly began to investigate and found even more. Jonathan Schwarz makes up a damning compendium of Ledeen’s self-incriminating words. On August 19, 2002, Ledeen said “I think in the case of Iraq, the strongest argument for a preemptive strike is to say what I believe which is that we have in effect been at war with Iraq for quite a long time. They have attacked us repeatedly. They tried to assassinate one former American president. They’ve supported terrorists that have carried out terrorist activities within the United States. . .So this would not be a preemptive strike. This would be a response. . .I think that if President Bush is to be faulted for anything in this so far, it’s that he’s taken much too long to get on with it, much too long.”
And then on February 18, 2003 he says, urging war on Iran as well as Iraq, “As in the war against Iraq, we have already waited far too long to get on with it. Faster, please!”
Suddenly finding himself in the crosshairs for his transparent attempts at rewriting history, Ledeen resorts to that old debating ploy, the non sequitur, by pointing to some other writing of his where he did not urge an invasion, without addressing the substance of the case that has been made against him. It is like someone accused of assaulting his wife trying to absolve himself by saying “But I bought her flowers just last week!” People like Ledeen have no shame.
Glenn Greenwald, as usual, puts his finger on the key point:
People are entitled to express a wide range of opinions and to be forgiven for being wrong sometimes. We are all wrong sometimes. But the type of dishonesty and willingness to say anything, no matter how false, that is evident in Ledeen’s efforts to save himself has become so pervasive and acceptable at the highest levels of our government and pundit class, and it has completely destroyed the quality and value of political debate in our country. Nobody is entitled to do that, and it’s difficult to think of a more important priority than re-establishing the most minimal standards of honesty in our political discourse. That begins by making liars like Ledeen have some accountability and consequences for their lies.
The one big question that arises from all this is the following: How could it be that the US, the most powerful nation in the world, with all the information and expertise and resources at its disposal, be persuaded by people like this to make one of the most disastrous blunders in the history of modern warfare?
You can be sure that this question will be pondered by historians for generations to come, providing the raw material for many doctoral dissertations.