There’s no delicate way to say this, but to supporters of the Iraq war I have a little message.
All together now, people: you were scammed.
No "weapons of mass destruction" have been found. None.
Some of us figured as much, since the rationale for the war kept changing so frequently. And when the search for these weapons was carried out in such a lackluster manner, one had to assume the administration wasn’t really worried about them. (We were casually told that perhaps seven suspected Iraqi nuclear sites had been looted. Nice planning there.)
Some people will believe administration propaganda no matter what. In reply to an article I wrote for SeattleCatholic.com, one person wrote to the editor: "Contrary to Dr. Woods’ reference to the lack of Al Qaeda—Iraqi links, we have all read of the proof of links dating to before 9/11." Have we? That’s funny, because every news article one reads these days concedes that the link has not been made, and that experts prior to the war insisted the alleged link was a mere fantasy. I wonder what special intelligence briefings this critic received.
Some supporters of the war will doubtless plead, "But, but…that’s what Hannity and Limbaugh told me to think!"
Well, it’s time now to start doing your own thinking, since Hannity and Limbaugh wouldn’t know conservatism if it punched them in the face.
The automatons who send you angry emails when you write an article like this condemn you for not wanting to "liberate the Iraqis." (I dealt with that one in an earlier piece.) They’ll point to the toppling of the statue of Saddam as a glorious moment of liberation. They somehow missed the news items informing us that that spectacle was entirely staged: 500 Iraqi National Congress goons were flown in by the Pentagon to put on that display for us. A wide-angle camera shot of the incident shows American tanks patrolling a completely deserted square (apart from the 500 goons).
Moreover, the likelihood increases with each passing day that Iraq will, whether we like it or not, wind up an Islamic state. (The idea that enfranchised Iraqis would vote for feminism and its allied ideologies was, in retrospect, a little ridiculous.) That’s just one of the answers to the veritable army of propagandized automatons who spend their time telling atrocity stories from the days of Saddam’s regime. "Nothing could be worse than Saddam." Well, Woodrow Wilson didn’t think anything could be worse than the Kaiser in Germany. A decade after the President’s death, intelligent men longed for the old Kaiser.
I’ve already explained on this site why crusades for democracy are in no sense "conservative"; the very fact that this needs to be pointed out is something of a barometer of conservative thought at the moment. The neoconservatives, not exactly known for their knowledge of history, point to Japan and Germany as democracy-at-gunpoint success stories, but Japan’s intellectuals had been acquainted with and increasingly interested in Western ideas for nearly a century by 1945, and Germany had been at the heart of Western civilization for millennia. Neither is true of Iraq, to say the least.
It is in the nature of the state to want to keep its people permanently mesmerized by some terrible dictator somewhere. ("Ethel, did you hear he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people?") Saddam may well have been a monster. There are plenty of monsters ruling African nations right now. Anyone care to depose them all? To the brainwashed among us, of whom there are many, try to think: do you suppose that would lead to more stability or less?
To peddle this silly campaign of installing democracy by force, you would have to impugn the patriotism of every early American leader, from Washington to Jefferson to Hamilton to John Quincy Adams to Henry Clay. Every one of them considered it dangerous utopianism to suggest that the United States should right the wrongs of the world (as if the matter were that simple in the first place, a point which the aftermath of the most recent conflict should be bringing home if anyone were paying attention). Anyone criticizing opponents of the Iraq war should have the integrity to condemn these great Americans as well, and be explicit in their repudiation of the American tradition. Now who’s "anti-American"?
Meanwhile, Afghanistan, another example of goodness and light being brought to a benighted people, continues to degenerate into chaos. But for people even to remember Afghanistan, they’d have to have an attention span longer than ten minutes.
Just think about how this is going to go over in the history books, or in history classrooms. The neocons had better enjoy themselves now. History doesn’t look kindly upon those who asked no questions about the alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, and the prospects for the present boondoggle don’t look much better.
"Didn’t people know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11?"
"Yes and no. The easily suggestible among us were carried away by the carefully worded insinuations of the Bush Administration."
"So you mean the patriotism of many decent Americans was exploited and taken advantage of by government officials whose motives couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with u2018weapons of mass destruction’ or any of this other nonsense?"
"I’m afraid so."
"So let’s see. We alienated some of our oldest allies, often gratuitously. We made accusations based on cooked evidence (e.g., the forged documents u2018proving’ an Iraqi nuclear program, the 12-year-old student term paper plagiarized to produce a dossier on Iraqi activity in 2003). We destroyed our credibility in the world through our reckless statements and our transparent desire for war throughout the inspections process, thereby making it less likely that other countries would cooperate with us against real terrorists. Some countries, including some of our friends, even suspected we might plant weapons in Iraq if we couldn’t find any. That’s a new low."
"Then we invaded and found no weapons at all — none of the allegedly huge stockpiles of anthrax and whatever else was supposedly on the verge of being used against us. Meanwhile, order collapsed in the country, and enormous demonstrations favoring an Islamic state broke out."
"And hatred of the U.S. grew to an all-time high."
"And there were people foolish enough to denounce as u2018unpatriotic’ those who had warned that this would happen?"
"Believe it or not, there were."
"And people who called themselves conservative considered this a glorious event? They think conservatism means ignorant, bungling belligerence, and that considerations of diplomacy or their country’s image around the world are the stuff of carping liberals?"
Good thing the neocons have no sense of history, or they’d worry about this: in the decades to come, fewer and fewer people will be able to hear about the Iraq war without snickering and shaking their heads.
Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [send him mail] holds an AB from Harvard and a PhD from Columbia. He teaches history, is associate editor of The Latin Mass Magazine, and is co-author (with Christopher A. Ferrara) of The Great Faade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (2002). The book (as well as a sample chapter) is available at greatfacade.com.