On the fifth anniversary of the dreadful invasion of Iraq, the Times is doing an investigation of the mistakes. Yesterday the paper ran a long piece on the "fateful" decision in May 2003 to disband the Iraqi army, with the claim that this was the big error. This is pure George Packerism (from his book The Assassin’s Gate), also reflected in Charles Ferguson’s film, No End in Sight, and it is horse feathers. The question of whether Iraq would be better off or worse off with Saddam’s army intact is a good one to debate at the Army War College in Carlisle but a waste of time for smart journalists at the Times.
The mistake was to invade a country that had not attacked us, then change its government, and run its affairs. If that happened in the U.S., you and I would be in the hills, with muzzleloaders and M-16s. How astonishing that towel-heads responded in a similar fashion.
This mistake was an intellectual one, and made by countless contributors to the New York Times, notably Thomas Friedman, Judith Miller, and of course Ken Pollack, who was given the run of the house in the months leading up to war to make his case that, among other things, the Arabs would welcome us and they don’t really care about the Israel/Palestinian issue. David Brooks was for the war. Bill Kristol spearheaded the sale of the plan in Washington; and now he’s an op-ed columnist.
In short, The Times is so implicated in that "fateful" decision that it is apparently incapable of examining the most important factors/mysteries in the runup to the war: the neoconservative program for regime change and spreading democracy and how that virus spread in D.C.; Dick Cheney’s cranium; and George Bush’s stubbornly loyal reliance on a cadre. (Historian Erwin Hargrove says that Bush lacks the ability to listen to anyone outside his little circle; can’t even have a substantive conversation with a congressman…)
(Need I add that there was an unexamined Jewish component to this war? This blog
really began the day my brother said to me, "I was against the Vietnam
war but my Jewish newspaper says this war could be good for Israel." I
have needed since then to examine the role of my people, or its rightwing
leadership, or its confused identity, in fostering violence as an answer to Israel/America’s joined-at-the-hip problems in the Middle
Today’s letters to the Times are simply brilliant (and the paper’s sole credit: it ran them). Says Edwin Walker of Nashville:
You enabled the Iraq war with your cheerleading reportage, and you
continue to provide a forum for its blinkered defenders, Richard Perle,
Frederick Kagan, Danielle Pletka, Kenneth M. Pollack and L. Paul Bremer
They were wrong at the beginning, and continue to be
wrong. They hide their defective judgment behind excuses that someone
stabbed them in the back, or that they were in good company in their
disproven beliefs, and argue that we should forget about their history
of failure and take their advice now.
They are an insult to public discourse, but you continue to enable them.
And Melissa Macauley of Evanston disputes the assertion in the Times’s essays on Iraq (I haven’t looked at these yet, I want to keep my breakfast down) that even the most "prescient" could not have anticipated the problems in the invasion five years on. More horse feathers. I demonstrated against this war with hundreds of thousands of Americans who were that prescient. We were not Ph.D.’s in international relations; we knew this was bad policy. Packer caricatured us in his book, The Assassin’s Gate, as grayhaired hippies. An elitist conceit; and The Times marginalizes us to this day, as boobs. Doesn’t matter. We’re coming in. And we’ve alloyed our thinking with realism. Watch out, baby.
An insult to public discourse. Nice. Let us say it again: This is the paper that anatomized Vietnam so courageously, that gave us the Pentagon Papers with the help of brave Ellsberg. This time around it’s providing haven for the war’s planners.