Just Say Mea Culpa

The Iraq disaster is more obvious and undeniable than ever, yet everyone is trying to avoid taking responsibility for the fiasco. Politicians are trying to account for their votes for the war. Bureaucrats are offering excuses for staying silent. Warmongers are elucidating all the reasons why others foiled their plans. In the same way that 13 months ago, elites would say anything to make a case for war, at this point in a failed war, people are grabbing at anything to evade responsibility for it.

I believed the intelligence about WMDs. In the months, even years, before the war, we heard about Saddam’s magically disappearing weapons. They are there. They really are. But they keep being moved. They are really well hidden. That Saddam is so sneaky that he is trying to deny what everybody knows: that he is plotting a great attack against all of humanity. That there is no evidence to this effect is the final proof of how desperate he is to hide it.

Everyone paying attention outside of government knew that this was a hoax. It was well known that the only WMD Saddam had he had courtesy of the US and that they had been destroyed after the first Gulf War — not that there was any intention of using them in the first place. Anyone following this case knew that all subsequent WMD claims were phonied up. In fact I just received a piece of spam email — “I must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction” — that was more convincing.

Oh, they believed the Bush administration, huh? It is just not credible. These arms inspectors, politicians, bureaucrats, and statesmen are opportunistic but not entirely stupid. People believed what they wanted to believe. They used the propaganda about Iraqi WMD’s as a cover for going along with the war.

At least Saddam is gone. The kernel of truth here is that most all nations — save a few tiny monarchies in old Europe that serve mostly as tax havens — would be better off without their respective heads of state. Yes, Iraq benefits from being without Saddam, just as Britain would benefit from being without Blair and the US would benefit without Bush. But by what standard of international law can one state dislodge the head of another state on such a utilitarian calculus?

In any case, Saddam was replaced by a US-run martial law dictatorship that rules the country from inside of tanks, shuts down opposition media, shoots dissenters on sight, and fuels terrorism. Those who continue to celebrate Saddam’s overthrow should be required to defend what they find so glorious about martial law under foreign occupation. Iraq used to have an immigration problem because it was the most liberal regime in the region; now its immigration problem comes from attracting killers who want to help throw out the US.

At least we secured the oil wells. Have you seen the price of gas lately? Somebody is certainly benefiting but it is not American consumers.

It turns out that Iraq was corrupted by Saddam and is thereby not as ready for democracy as we hoped. This is the line you hear from bureaucrats in Iraq and their neocon supporters, which attempts to take a virtue — a people’s unwillingness to yield to an alien military occupation — and turn it into a pathology. It is an attempt to disparage the Arab history and people as if they are not somehow good enough to be ruled by foreign tanks and soldiers. Pundits should really stop calling dictatorship democracy. It is far too reminiscent of Soviet propaganda.

If only we had acted sooner and more decisively. The fallback position for the defenders of every government fiasco in history is that whatever the government did was too little, too late. The unworkable always looks that way.

We had to strike back. The conventional wisdom is that the failure to prevent 9-11 was the crucial government failure. True enough. But as much, if not more of a failure, was the non-interest in investigating the culprits afterwards. The government merely ticked off the usual suspects and started firing away. There was no link between Saddam and 9-11, and no one established a truly firm link between Bin Laden and 9-11 other than the fact that he wanted his own followers to believe that he was somehow behind it. And the link with the hated Taliban was even more tenuous. We still know very little about who or what was at fault.

Now, conspiracy theorists (I’m all for them!) say this is deliberate. Could be. In the private sector, when a building goes up in flames, the insurers find the culprits and bring them to justice. That is all most people wanted for 9-11, but it is not clear that it ever happened. All we got was a “war on terror” which turned out to be a war on anything and everything that bugged the current managers of the White House. There’s no justice, no peace. In fact, after 9-11, many of us were reluctant to suggest that the government ought to do anything at all about what happened, simply because experience suggests that all government action makes matters worse rather than better.

Be patient! This is a line taken by the Bush administration and its Amen chorus at NRO, the people for whom the occupation is not the problem but the solution. So they send their pathetic missives day by day on how they met an Iraqi who was pro-American (a phrase designed to cloud the crucial difference between WalMart and an Apache helicopter). They tell us that matters are improving all the time.

Reading them carefully can be revealing. Here is some kid blogging from Iraq about the glorious occupation while sending posts that could be coming from Siberia: “Today marks my fourth week in Baghdad, and I am pleased to announce that after what had become a quest, I now have a working coffee maker. Getting to this fine day saw the destruction of one power converter, one power adapter, and one coffee maker. I celebrated this momentous occasion with six cups of coffee this morning.”

Well, good for him! He ought to stay put right where he is and not attempt to venture too far.

Meanwhile, many Iraqis still lack clean water and reliable sources of energy, and face unrelenting security problems. Bremer himself is dealing with the problem of hiring police and border guards that come from within the Iraqi population. The problem is this. When they are loyal to the US, they are likely to be shot. But when they are not loyal to the US, they tend to shoot US troops.

Bremer concludes from this that he needs more time. I submit that anyone who reads this news report and believes there is still hope for the occupation is more deluded than the craziest communist in the interwar period. Some, like Fred Barnes, are beginning to see the light. Others will come around in time.

What is the right attitude to take once you realize that the war you backed has been a disaster? Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame others. Just apologize. Admit you were wrong. And join the rest of us in calling for the US to leave Iraq.

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