Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, the war criminals are still at large. Saddam Hussein is dead and buried, but the cabal that lied us into war is still around – and not only that, they are mocking us from their podiums in the media, justifying and obscuring their crimes. Here is former Bush speechwriter David Frum declaring he was right all along – if only:
"If we’d found the WMD, it would have been different. If we’d kept better order in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam, it would have been different. If more Iraqis had welcomed the invasion as we expected, it would have been different. If the case for the war had been argued in a less contrived and predetermined way, it would have been different."
Ah, "but it wasn’t different," continues Frum: "Those of us who were involved – in whatever way – bear the responsibility." So what have been the consequences suffered by Frum – as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were killed and maimed, their lives and country destroyed? What price has Mr. "Axis of Evil" paid that is in any way comparable to that exacted from the 5,000 Americans killed and tens of thousands horribly wounded? Why none, of course. There he is, on CNN, in the Daily Beast, pontificating in his new role as a "moderate" Republican.
A similarly soft landing has been enjoyed by Richard "Cakewalk" Perle, Frum’s literary collaborator and ubiquitous television talking head in the run up to the invasion. Perle landed a cushy position at
Neocon Central the American Enterprise Institue and a platform from which to claim "Who, me?"
The next door down at AEI is the office of Paul Wolfowitz, former Undersectary of Defense, whose Pentagon policy shop labored long and hard in that great Lie Factory to manufacture "evidence" of Saddam’s WMDs. It is illegal for a government official to do what Wolfie and his fellow neocons, like Douglas Feith, did in the run-up to the war – that is, create "intelligence" out of thin air, and pass it off as a casus belli – and yet they are all free as birds, and much better off materially for having committed their crimes. Feith is today ensconced at the Hudson Institute, yet another well-funded neocon thinktank. He recently authored – with Abram Shulsky, who headed up the Pentagon’s "Office of Special Plans," a key cog of the Lie Machine – a series of reports on how to fight the "war of ideas" against "radical Islam."
Feith and his co-conspirators not only refuse to own up to authoring the greatest military disaster in American history, they are "proud" of it, as Dick Cheney recently proclaimed. A government investigation into whether Feith and his fellows deliberately palmed off false "intelligence" to justify the Iraq invasion was quashed. To this day, not a single US government official has been held accountable, and the pro-war pundits – who spent over a decade relentlessly agitating for the war – are in their same perches, war-birds screeching for the destruction of Iran.
There is much talk of the "lessons" the war has supposedly taught us, and there is a significant debate about this, but what’s clear is the lesson learned by the architects of this war: that being a neocon means never having to say you’re sorry.
Having served as publicist-in-chief of the War Party has done nothing to dim Bill Kristol‘s career: from his subsidized lair at the Weekly Standard, he commands the respect – and the money – of major conservative politicians and donors. Every Sunday he pontificates on Fox News, denouncing any and all who question the wisdom of perpetual war as "isolationists." What "lesson" has this neoconservative Rasputin learned from a war that, by any standard, was a disaster for the United States and Iraq? Only that it was good for business – his business, that is, which is warmongering.
Conversely, let us look at what happened to a once prominent figure who was right about Iraq, who said there was no evidence of Iraqi WMDs, and that we were going to war based on a lie: Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, who originally was a hardliner and came to see that the case for war with Iraq was a tissue of fabrications. He wrote a book, Target Iran, claiming that the Israel lobby was the chief driver of the Iraq war bandwagon, and is trying to do the same when it comes to Iran. After a right-wing campaign in which he was smeared as an agent of the Iraqi government, and years of struggling to support himself – as a New York Times Magazine profile put it, "he wasn’t so much an academic or a journalist as he was a peace activist, something for which think tanks and networks had little use” – Ritter was lured into an internet encounter in an over-18 chat room by a police decoy masquerading as an underage girl and charged. Last year he was convicted and sentenced to jail. Ritter believes he was targeted and entrapped. Given the enemies he’s made, it’s a plausible scenario.
What lesson has he learned from the Iraq war? Go visit him in jail and ask him.
As for the rest of the country: at this point, it’s hard to say. There are, to be sure, rumblings of real dissent: the rise of Rand Paul in the Republican party, the debate that is taking place on this tenth anniversary of the Iraq Mistake, the overwhelming grassroots opposition likely to be awakened by a possible US strike on Iran. There is a certain war weariness, yes, but one wonders how quickly another terrorist attack on American soil might dissipate that mood.
In the years, months, and days before the war, we here at Antiwar.com warned Americans – and the world – of what the outcome would be. The costs, in troops, treasure, civilian deaths – and the cost to America’s credibility in the world – would all, in the end, add up to a devastating loss. We were right about that – but where has that gotten us? While we haven’t exactly suffered Ritter’s tragic fate, being right about such a major issue hasn’t catapulted us into the first rank of commentators and news sites, now has it? Indeed, we find ourselves repeating what we said, lo those many years ago, except now the subject is Iran, not Iraq – and the same liars are repeating the same lies on a daily basis.
At times, I imagine I’m caught up in some nightmarish perpetual loop, the same scenario being played over and over again, with no power to stop it – or to wake up. We live, increasingly, in a Bizarro World version of reality, where up is down, the guilty are praised and the innocent – the truth-tellers – are punished. And therein lies the lesson I personally have learned from this war, whose tenth anniversary we "celebrate" with endless op eds and ex post facto rationalizations: my task is that assigned to Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to roll a stone up a hill only to see it fall back down the other side in perpetuity.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I’m having great fun on Twitter and I urge you to join me on this wonderfully interactive site: you can do so by going here.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy my biography of the great libertarian thinker, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), here.