“I’m waiting for the architects of those policies to get up and say it didn’t work, but it’s tough to expect that because they never articulated what the hell they were doing.” This is what conservative activist Grover Norquist told the Huffington Post in a piece published today on what the anniversary of the Iraq war means for the Republican Party and foreign policy (spoiler: it’s in disarray).
But Norquist hit on an important point. While a majority of Americans — and indeed the rest of the world — know and have recognized that the Iraq war was a complete debacle that never should have taken place, those who dreamed of taking down Saddam Hussein long before 9/11 and cooked up the intelligence to make it happen either refuse to find any fault in the overall decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or their role in it.
The Daily Beast reported yesterday that some of the Iraq war’s boosters are expressing “few regrets.” The American Enterprise Institute foreign and defense policy studies vice president Danielle Pletka laid all the bad stuff that happened in Iraq on Barack Obama: “Had President Obama chosen not to withdraw from Iraq, it would be a different picture there.” Sure, Ms. Pletka.
And today, the war’s top architects seized the 10-year anniversary to play some historical defense. Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary famous for painting a rosy picture about the war that bore no relation to reality, patted himself on the back for helping liberate Iraq:
How liberating is it for the tens of thousands of Iraqis, including civilians, who were killed as a result of the war? We also wonder if the millions of Iraqis who are now refugees or internally displaced feel liberated. And as NBC News notes today, Iraq “is considered one of the most corrupt in the world, and many of the improvements promised have not materialized. Sectarian tensions regularly explode into open violence.” Liberation, indeed.
Richard Perle — who was chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee during the run-up to the war — wrote in USA Today on Tuesday that it’s “senseless to argue” that because Saddam Hussein didn’t have WMD that “the decision to remove him was wrong.” Actually, Perle himself made that argument In 2009, he saying, “we would not have invaded” if Saddam had no WMD. Nevertheless, Perle says “the decision to remove Saddam was right,” it’s just that “the decision to occupy Iraq was not.”
Key Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz picks up on Perle’s theme in perhaps the most egregious example of today’s Iraq war architect self-congratualtion. “If the war in Iraq had actually ended when we got to Baghdad, it would have been counted an historic victory,” he says in a FoxNews.com column, regretting: If only it wasn’t for that pesky insurgency. On that point, Wolfowitz blames other Bush administration officials — not himself of course — and in a video posted on AEI’s website today, he says things would have been different if he was in charge:
WOLFOWITZ: We were very slow in adopting a counterinsurgency strategy [COIN] but equally slow in building up Iraqi security forces that could deal with this problem themselves. That effort really only got underway in the summer of 2004. That’s when things really turned. If I had been running things they would have been run very differently. I would have started a counterinsurgency strategy. I can’t claim I saw it right at the beginning but very soon.
Oh really? Even by Wolfowitz’s own admission in his Fox News column, “a counter-insurgency strategy required more troops.” So why then did he say in February 2003 that “the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, [is] wildly off the mark”?
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Iraqis themselves aren’t spending much time reflecting on the anniversary, mainly because they can’t. “The instability in Iraq is more important than this day,” said one Iraqi newspaper editor.
The fact is that no matter the evidence showing that the Iraq war wasn’t worth the cost, those who got the United States into arguably the worst foreign policy blunder in American history will most likely never admit it wasn’t the right thing to do.