No Excuses

In the veritable tsunami of recantations and recriminations pouring out of former supporters of the war, from Francis Fukuyama to various Republican members of Congress, there is one constant theme: Don’t blame us! Who knew that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction? No one could have known about the rise of the insurgency. Nobody told us!

The only proper answer to this is: Poppycock!

They were warned – right here in these pages. Perhaps these folks don’t want to admit to being avid readers of Antiwar.com, but we’re on to their dirty little secret. As Tim Cavanaugh of the then-ambivalent-about-the-war Reason magazine once put it, "Reading Antiwar and masturbation are the two most frequently denied activities in America." Deny it if you will, but we know who you are: why even the neocons over at National Review read us, I’m told by an inside source, and they therefore had ample warning of what the consequences of an American invasion were likely to be. For example, Jonah Goldberg is now claiming that he just didn’t have a clue, and that "if I had known then what I know now" he would never have signed on as one of the war’s loudest cheerleaders. But of course I personally warned Jonah that he had his head up his ass in a March 24, 2003 column, written as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was being hailed in the media as a Great Victory:

"Up until Saturday our ’embedded’ media was projecting images of Iraqis dancing in the desert, delirious with joy at the arrival of their ‘liberators,’ but by Sunday morning the edges were already beginning to fray around the official story of a near-seamless ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’

"The U.S. media kept showing feel-good agit-prop as long as they could. We were treated to endless repetitions of that rather corny image of a portly Iraqi and a bunch of kids bouncing up and down with glee as a U.S. soldier ripped down a portrait of Saddam in the border town of Safwan. National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg was quick to jump on it as evidence that he and his fellow laptop bombardiers had been right all along:

"’There’s every reason to assume that such stories will be multiplied a hundred, if not a thousand times over as U.S. forces approach the capital of the Republic of Fear.’

"Not so fast. By Sunday, reality was breaking through the obscuring mist of war propaganda, and Reuters was reporting the ‘liberation’ of Safwan somewhat differently:

"’As the convoy of British tanks and trucks rolled by, the Iraqi boys on the side of the road were all smiles and waves. But once it had passed, leaving a trail of dust and grit in its wake, their smiles turned to scowls. "We don’t want them here," said 17-year-old Fouad, looking angrily up at the plumes of gray smoke rising from the embattled southern city of Basra, under attack from U.S. and British forces for more than two days. He pulled a piece of paper from the waistband of his trousers. Unfolding it, he held up a picture of Saddam Hussein. "Saddam is our leader. Saddam is good," he said defiantly, looking again at his well-worn picture showing the Iraqi leader with a benign smile, sitting on a majestic throne.’

"This was in southern Iraq, near Basra, the scene of a Shi’ite rebellion that was brutally crushed back in 1991, where the Americans expected to be greeted as heroes: one can only imagine how many Fouads there are in the north, closer to the seat of Saddam’s power.

"For the first few days, we saw only sanitized images of a clean, hassle-free war, amid hints of a winged victory beckoning in the near future. But that is fast giving way to the gritty reality of the quagmire we are falling into. The ‘cakewalk’ that Richard Perle and his fellow chickenhawks confidently predicted is turning into a forced march into Hell."

America’s looming defeat in Iraq was easily predictable: after all, the British, the Turks, the Ottomans, and, further back, the Romans, the Persians, the Mongols, and the Macedonians under Alexander the Great had all been driven out of Mesopotamia, some quicker than others. Why did anyone think the Americans would be the exception?

Okay, so what about those "weapons of mass destruction" Saddam supposedly had squirreled away? As Mario Loyola, the last surviving member of the "we’re winning" contingent over at National Review put it recently:

"First, the issue of weapons of mass destruction. If we had known in 2003 that there were no WMDs we obviously would not have gone to war – but this skips right past the central point. Our best intelligence told us that it looked very much as if Saddam Hussein had all sorts of banned weapons, so unless Hussein could prove otherwise, it would have been criminally negligent for the president to draw any inference other than the one he drew. And because Hussein couldn’t prove otherwise, and because the Security Council resolution that sent the inspectors back into Iraq made no provision for an inconclusive inspections result, it was obvious that Hans Blix was just going to tool around Iraq forever, concluding nothing except that he needed more time. This was the best-case scenario from Hussein’s point of view, and the worst from ours. So with respect to WMDs, a military occupation was necessary to prove that a military occupation was unnecessary – a wonderful paradox for Blix to contemplate in his retirement. "

But of course we at Antiwar.com knew that the supposed existence of Iraq’s WMD was just a pretext for war, and that other considerations were at the top of Washington’s agenda. As I wrote in February 2001, in "The Myth of the Saddam Bomb," while predicting that war with Iraq was on the horizon:

"The myth of the Saddam Bomb will never die. No matter how much UN nuclear inspectors praise Iraq – as the Associated Press headline put it – for its full cooperation, the War Party is determined to keep this one alive. The only problem for them is that, each time it is raised, and then dismissed as arrant nonsense, the myth of the Saddam Bomb seems less credible."

On the occasion of Bush’s first bombing raid on Iraq, I wrote the following in my Feb. 19, 2001, column:

"Expressions of dissent on either the left or the right were few and far between. The New York Times endorsed the bombing raid, echoing the puerile argument that we attacked in ‘self-defense’ – as if any action taken by the U.S. and Britain in Iraqi airspace could possibly be described as even remotely ‘defensive.’ On the other side of the political spectrum, the Washington Times – flagship newspaper of Beltway conservatives in full cold war mode – celebrated ‘Bombs Over Baghdad.’ They drag out, first of all, the old ‘weapons of mass destruction’ argument, but this is just a ritual incantation, as far as Iraq is concerned, as everyone knows that the Iraqis have long since lost the ability to produce any such thing. Scott Ritter, a former UNSCOM inspector who dealt with the Iraqis many times, recently told CNN: ‘In terms of large-scale weapons of mass destruction programs, these had been fundamentally destroyed or dismantled by the weapons inspectors as early as 1996, so by 1998 we had under control the situation on the ground.’ Saddam, says Ritter, poses no immediate threat."

No WMD, no "links" to al-Qaeda, no threat to the U.S. – no Mohammed Atta meeting in Prague with Saddam’s secret service. It was all lies, and we said so at the time. Not only that, but we foresaw the horrific consequences of the invasion, predicted the rise of the insurgency, and clearly pointed to the dangers of creating a Shi’ite Islamic "republic" in once-secular Iraq:

"Resistance to the American occupation is now shifting from the infamous ‘Sunni triangle’ to the Shi’ite south, where Iranian influence is spreading. This is the domain of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and their party militia, the Badr Brigade. In the run-up to war, SCIRI was the only Iraqi opposition group that refused U.S. funding. (This may be the only known instance of such a refusal.) SCIRI was hosted, armed, and trained, during the Saddam era, by Iran: their goal is to set up an Islamic ‘republic,’ modeled on the one in Tehran. Their leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, was mysteriously assassinated as he visited a Shi’ite shrine in Najaf. Before the invasion, SCIRI officials predicted that they might one day fight the Americans just as they fought Saddam, and the hour may be fast approaching."

"If only we knew then what we know now" – that’s the mantra we’re hearing from the excuse-makers, Democrats as well as Republicans and repentant neocons, now that the truth about this rotten war is out there in the open, plain enough for even the willfully blind to see. Well, I’m not buying it. There were plenty of indications that the "intelligence" cooked up by the neocons was faked, but nobody in Washington wanted to hear it.

Now these same people are ginning up another trumped-up WMD charge, this time against Iran – and one can only shake one’s head in wonder at the sheer gall of it. American officials recently accused Iran and Syria of being the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East and, as foreseen here, are not so subtly threatening to extend the war throughout the region. It was all so predictable – which is why you read it here first.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].