Trying to avoid blame for the Iraq fiasco

I had thought that I had said all that I had wanted to about the warmongering pundits attempts at rewriting the history of the Iraq war, but some dramatic developments over the weekend compel me to revisit the question. The recognition that the situation in Iraq is very bad, if not hopeless, is more widespread among war advocates than even I had thought. Consequently, the attempts to avoid blame for the debacle have become even more desperate

It is clear that the Iraq war debate has long past the point at which the options could be described as to whether the US should “stay the course” or “cut and run.” Now the options are better described as a choice between those advocating “stay and lose” (which is the position of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and a rapidly shrinking coterie of their true-believer allies) and the “run and blame” crowd, which has seen an explosive growth in its ranks, consisting largely of conversions from the once-enthusiastic war supporters.

Nowhere is the extent of the disaffection with the war and the Cheney administration revealed more than in an extraordinary preview of a Vanity Fair article released over the weekend. (The full article will be in the January 2007 issue.) The article, titled Neo Culpa, consists of interviews by David Rose of the leading lights of the neoconservative movement. Rose says that as he prepares for the interviews: “I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.”

All of the people interviewed by Rose are now distancing themselves from any responsibility for the war. The Vanity Fair articles lists an astonishing number of influential former war cheerleaders who have turned against the Bush administration. In the process, they are scrambling to find excuses, seeking to blame others for their grand dream going sour. Once again, though, their chief complaint is not that the war was wrong in principle but that they had no idea that the current administration would be so incompetent in executing the war or that the Iraqis would be so stupid as to not realize what was in their own best interests. In fact, according to them, everyone and everything is to blame except the one thing that is obvious: that the idea of the invasion itself was wrong and that they were wrong to promote it.

Take Richard Perle, once chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee and popularly known as “The Prince of Darkness”. He blames all the problems on the “depravity” of the Iraqi people and the “devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush.” He says that “The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn’t get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. . . At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible. . .I don’t think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.”

Perle now says that “total defeat – an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic “failed state” – is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely.” He still believes in some of his earlier delusions, though. “I don’t say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct.”

But he has suddenly realized that there were options other than going in with guns blazing. “Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have.” Thanks, Prince. I am sure that the hundreds of thousands of dead people and their loved ones, casualties of the war you helped instigate, feel so much better now that you have seen the light.

Of course, Perle was one of the very people who poo-poohed any overtures by the Iraqi government to avoid war and was gung-ho about the invasion. The London Guardian newspaper reported in November 2003 that these overtures were actually channeled through Richard Perle but went nowhere because of stringent conditions imposed by Perle himself. This has become a standard pre-war tactic, to impose conditions that you know will be refused, and then justify invasion because of that rejection.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum also says something extraordinary. “I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.”

Pause for a moment to understand how low Frum’s opinion of Bush is. What he is saying is that by him putting words in Bush’s mouth, Bush might come to act on them. In other words, he thought of Bush as an idiot who could be made to say things that other people want him to say, and having said them, believe in them because he had said them. Frum is saying now that Bush is even more of an idiot than he had thought, because although he did say the words Frum put in his mouth, he did not really understand or know what he was saying, and therefore did not wholeheartedly act on them.

And then there’s the famous Kenneth “Cakewalk” Adelman. He too now says that he was wrong to have placed his faith in Bush and his fellow bunglers.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” Now he berates the entire administration, saying: “I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional. . .There’s no seriousness here, these are not serious people. . .The problem is a performance job. . .Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don’t think that’s true at all. We’re losing in Iraq.”

Next: More neo culpas


  1. Sandy says


    thank you for bringing me somewhat up to date. I opposed the war from the beginning, and I confess that I have insulated myself from the news about it over the last year or so because I was so disgusted.

    In some ways the media coverage is now encouraging me, though, because the reporters are finally approaching the stories about the decisionmakers in a way that does not exempt any of them for responsibility for what has happened. It sounds like this upcoming Vanity Fair article will actually be useful in terms of holding many individuals accountable for their roles in creating the Iraq debacle.

    Have you seen the Keith Olbermann special comment on MSNBC? Apparently it aired at the end of September, and I only became aware of it this past weekend, courtesy of YouTube and a blog by a tenured professor in a square state. It deals with Chris Wallace’s interview of Bill Clinton, in which he apparently asked the former president about his role in letting bin Laden get away, and then in followup reporting, Bush reinforced Wallace’s attempt to blame Clinton for the 9/11 attacks instead of acknowledging that Bush had been president for 8 months before the attacks occurred. It’s worth watching, I think.


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