I have spent this week trying to explain why we should not take seriously even those pro-war pundits who now think invading Iraq was a bad idea. The reason is that they have never acknowledged the fundamental wrongness of that policy and instead have tried to portray it as errors in implementation. This kind of thinking merely lays the groundwork for future wars by persuading people that it can be done correctly.
There have been many conflicting reasons given for invading Iraq. These reasons have been endlessly recycled so that as one argument is shown to be false, the next one is produced, with defenders of the war saying “But the real reason for the war is. . .” By filling in the blanks with changing rationales, they can go through the entire cycle and come back to the beginning and act as if it is a fresh argument.
Currently, the favored point in that cycle is the argument that the invasion of Iraq was to bring democracy to that country. This ‘motherhood and apple pie’ argument is always the next-to-last refuge of the scoundrel since no one opposes democracy. The fact that this was not the argument made at the time shows that the proponents of the war want us to forget the actual reasons given for invading that country.
Why is that? Because then those same arguments can then be recycled to make the case for going to war against Iran or Syria or North Korea. The same warmongers and think tanks who urged war on Iraq are now re-positioning themselves saying that while that war may have not turned out well due to tactical failures (such as not having enough troops, or disbanding the Iraqi army, or failing to hand over power quickly enough, planning ahead for the post-war occupation, or whatever), the US has learned from that unfortunate experience and will do the next invasion correctly, with glorious success.
One does not know where to begin in dismantling such a hubristic attitude. Comedian Bill Maher on the New Rules segment of his program Real Time with Bill Maher says it best as to why we should never listen to these people anymore.
And finally, New Rule, in two parts: A) You can’t call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid. And B), if you’re someone from one of the think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War, and who predicted that we’d be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn’t need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD’s would be found, that the looting wasn’t problematic, and the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that the whole bloody mess wouldn’t turn into a civil war…you have to stop making predictions!
. . .
You know, it’s a shame what happened to think tanks. They used to produce valuable, apolitical analysis. But partisanship crept into many of them. And the Bush Administration doesn’t just come up with something as stupid as “If we leave now, they’ll follow us home.” No, they have someone from a think tank say it first. It’s a way to lend respectability.
. . .
The think tanks that incubated the Iraq war have lofty names like the Heritage Foundation and the Project for a New American Century. Whatever. They’ve been wrong so often, I’m surprised they’re not my broker. Richard Perle thought we could win Iraq with 40,000 troops. Paul Wolfowitz predicted, in 2003, that within a year, the grateful people of Baghdad would name some grand square in their fine city after President Bush. And he was right when he said they’d be waving American flags. They were on fire.
William Kristol pooh-poohed the fears that Sunnis and Shiites would be at each others’ throats, as “the stuff of pop psychology.” Right.
. . .
And now, Mr. Kristol proposes immediate military action against Iran, predicting the Iranians will thank us for it. Hey, you know what, Nostrodamus? Why don’t you sit this one out? We’ll get by using the Magic Eight Ball for a while.
(You can see the video of this Maher segment here.)
But they will not sit this one out, nor the next one, nor the next one. They will remain fixtures in our media, endlessly recycling their ideas, pushing for more wars, hoping that the public will not notice the hollowness of their arguments or their lack of any empirical support or the fact that they have been wrong so often in the past.
Our only option is to treat them with the contempt they deserve.
POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert again
See Colbert have fun with the ridiculous flap over Kerry’s botched joke.