Now that we’ve passed the decade marker of the launch of the Iraq War, arguably the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history, it’s prudent that we look back. But I’m going to leave the deep thinking to the deep thinkers, and focus my retrospective on how the Republican party has dealt with the fallout. What have they learned? They break down into several groups, all of which make one hilarious excuse or another.
1) “The Bush administration didn’t screw up, it was the CIA who got everything wrong.”
Yeah, right. And who personally made unprecedented excursions to Langley for the sole purpose of pressuring the CIA to modify their reports to match the administration’s narrative? A man by the name of Richard Bruce Cheney and his little dog, Scooter. And what happened to the few rogue CIA agents who bucked the accepted narrative? They were marginalized and their reports ignored. And let us never forget what happened to a certain ex ambassador who was dispatched to Africa to get to the bottom of the Niger/yellowcake story.
2) “It’s not fair to blame the war on just the Republicans, most Democrats voted for it too.”
Elephant hooey. Here are the facts: In the Senate, the vote to go to war was 77 in favor to 23 against, with only 1 Republican opposing the war, the remaining 22 opposed were all Democrats. In the House, it was 296 to 133, with 215 Republicans favoring the war resolution, 6 opposing it. While on the Democratic side, 81 supported it, 126 opposed it. So while in the Senate, a slight plurality of Dems did indeed vote yea, but a vast majority of the House Dems opposed it, and overall, more Dems in both houses opposed the war than supported it. At the bottom of this page are some historic quotes made by those few courageous Senators who voted nay.*
3) “Removing Saddam wasn’t a mistake. He was a bad guy who used WMDs on hs own people, and the Bush administration got it right.”
Ah yes, the “I’m still with stupid” defense. This is classic Karl Rove happy talk. When cornered by reality, attack your opponent’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. Distilling the casus beli down to whether or not Saddam was a bad guy, ignores 99% of the story and conveniently omits the fact that while Saddam was waging war against Iran during the ’80s, he was not only considered a good guy at that time, but he was OUR guy. We, the Brits, the French and the Germans sold him everything he needed to produce his chemical and biological warfare toys, and when he used them on both the Iranians and the Kurds, the Reagan administration said bupkis. But suddenly, when Dick Cheney wanted him gone, those WMDs (which by this time no longer existed) had to be labeled a threat of the highest magnitude.
4) “Yes, Bush screwed up, but he turned out to not be a conservative president anyway.”
This one’s my personal favorite, I call it the “Denial Compounded by Denial” defense. When faced with irrefutable evidence that the administration lied us into the war and then bungled the prosecution of that war beyond anything ever witnessed in modern times, they simply shrug it all off by alleging Bush wasn’t really one of their own. He was a “bad” conservative, ergo, that’s why he was a bad president. So hey, don’t blame us conservatives!
Funny, huh? The man who ran and was elected twice as a “Compassionate Conservative” being thrown under the bus by conservatives for not being conservative enough. You can’t make it up. When did they first come to this realization that Bush was a faux conservative? Was it when the Iraq War went South just days after the invasion? Nope. Was it when Iraq erupted into warring ethnic factions that the administration didn’t see coming, even though they were warned that it would happen with near-certainty before the invasion? Nope. Was it when SecDef Donald Rumsfeld insisted on a smaller, lighter, more nimble military presence versus overpowering force (against the explicit advice of General Eric Shinseki), as has been used in virtually every military conflict since the dawn of man? Nope. Nobody thought Bush was anything but a conservative at that point.
They realized it first in 2008, when it hit them like a ton of bricks that just maybe, having an imbecile in the White House was something the electorate wouldn’t tolerate again, so they had to put some distance between themselves as “true” conservatives, and Bush as a “failed” conservative. Even though nobody within the GOP dared refer to him as such until it was politically expedient.
Nice try. No cigar. Bush is one of yours, and you conservatives own his legacy.
And so my Republican friends, while we as a nation reflect on this somber anniversary, perhaps it would also be an opportune time for you as a party to reflect on the war you wanted so badly, and on how honest you’ve been with yourselves since — and with the country you profess to love.
* Here are a few notable quotes from those Senators who had the courage to oppose Bush’s War. I’d say Teddy Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski said the most with the fewest words.
Daniel Akaka (D-HI) “Great uncertainty surrounds the President’s post-war strategy. Remember the day the war ends, Iraq becomes our responsibility, our problem. The United States lacks strategic planning for a post-conflict situation. Retired General George Joulwan recently said that the U.S. needs ‘to organize for the peace’ and design now a strategy with ‘clear goals, milestones, objectives.’ Our objectives in Iraq have not yet been made clear: is it our goal to occupy Baghdad and if so, for how long? A rush to battle without a strategy to win the peace is folly. I support action by the United Nations in the form of a resolution calling for unconditional and unfettered inspections in Iraq. Only after we exhaust all of our alternative means should we engage in the use of force, and before then, the President must ensure we have a strategy and plans in place for winning the war and building the peace.”
Kent Conrad (D-ND) “Before we ask young men and women to put themselves in harm’s way, I must be convinced that we have exhausted every other possibility, pursued every other avenue. For me, and I believe for the people I represent, war must be the last resort. Saddam has not directly threatened his neighbors since the Gulf War. And a recent threat assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency concludes that Iraq is not likely to initiate a chemical or biological attack on the United States. Yet the President is contemplating a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq with the goal of ousting Saddam Hussein and installing a new regime. Never before in the history of this nation has the Congress voted to authorize a preemptive attack on a country that has not first attacked us or our allies. In my judgment, an invasion of Iraq at this time would make the United States less secure rather than more secure. It would make a dangerous world even more dangerous.”
Mark Dayton (D-MN) “There appears to be no imminent threat to the United States from Iraq. If there were, the Bush Administration could not have decided last summer to delay this unveiling until September because, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr., ‘from a marketing point of view, you don’t bring out new products in August.’ Because Iraq’s threat is not immediate, and because U.N. diplomatic efforts are just under way, I believe it is unwise and unnecessary for Congress to vote now on a future use of military force. So why is Congress rushing to judgment at this time? It is for political advantage in the upcoming election, rather than diplomatic or military necessity.”
Richard Durbin (D-IL) “Historically, we have said it is not enough to say you have a weapon that can hurt us. Think of 50 years of cold war when the Soviet Union had weapons poised and pointed at us. It is not enough that you just have weapons. We will watch to see if you make any effort toward hurting anyone in the United States, any of our citizens or our territory. It was a bright-line difference in our foreign policy which we drew and an important difference in our foreign policy. It distinguished us from aggressor nations. It said that we are a defensive nation. We do not strike out at you simply because you have a weapon if you are not menacing or threatening to us. Has September 11, 2001, changed that so dramatically?”
Russell Feingold (D-WI) “Both in terms of the justifications for an invasion and in terms of the mission and the plan for the invasion, Mr. President, the Administration’s arguments just don’t add up. They don’t add up to a coherent basis for a new major war in the middle of our current challenging fight against the terrorism of al Qaeda and related organizations. Therefore, I cannot support the resolution for the use of force before us. I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. My colleagues, I’m not suggesting there has to be only one justification for such a dramatic action. But when the Administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the Administration’s motives in insisting on action at this particular time.”
James Jeffords (I-VT) “I am very disturbed by President Bush’s determination that the threat from Iraq is so severe and so immediate that we must rush to a military solution. I do not see it that way. I have been briefed several times by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet and other top Administration officials. I have discussed this issue with the President. I have heard nothing that convinces me that an immediate preemptive military strike is necessary or that it would further our interests in the long term. We must ensure that any action we take against Iraq does not come at the expense of the health and strength of our nation, or the stability of the international order upon which our economic security depends. Just think of what progress we could make on non-proliferation if we were to put one fraction of the cost of a war against Saddam Hussein into efforts to prevent the emergence of the next nuclear, chemical or biological threat. Strong efforts at strengthening international non-proliferation regimes would truly enhance our nation’s future security.”
Edward Kennedy (D-MA) “It is wrong for Congress to declare war against Iraq now before we have exhausted the alternatives. And it is wrong to divert our attention now from the greater and more immediate threat of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorism. We cannot go it alone on Iraq and expect our allies to support us. We cannot go it alone and expect the world to stand with us in the urgent and ongoing war against terrorism and Al Qaeda.”
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) “This resolution, like others before it, does not declare anything. It tells the President: Why don’t you decide; we are not going to. This resolution, when you get through the pages of whereas clauses, is nothing more than a blank check. The President can decide when to use military force, how to use it, and for how long. This Vermonter does not sign blank checks. We have heard a lot of bellicose rhetoric, but what are the facts? I am not asking for 100 percent proof, but the administration is asking Congress to make a decision to go to war based on conflicting statements, angry assertions, and assumption based on speculation. This is not the way a great nation goes to war. The key words in the resolution we are considering today are remarkably similar to the infamous Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 38 years ago which so many Senators and so many millions of Americans came to regret. Let us not make that mistake again. Let us not pass a Tonkin Gulf resolution. Let us not set the history of our great country this way. Let us not make the mistake we made once before.”
Carl Levin (D-MI) “The vote we take today may have significant consequences for our children and our grandchildren. I believe our security is enhanced when we seek to enhance the authority and credibility of the United Nations and when, if military force is required, it is done with support of the world community.”
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) “America cannot face this situation alone. The support and cooperation of allies would enable us to share the risks and costs. We need international legitimacy, international support, and international manpower. I also worry that unilateral action could undermine the war on terrorism. Some special forces have already been withdrawn in the efforts to hunt al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The focus of our top military and civilian leaders could shift away from Bin Laden and al Qaeda.”
Jack Reed (D-RI) “Acting alone will increase the risk to our forces and to our allies in the region. Acting alone will increase the burden that we must bear to restore stability in the region. Acting alone will invite the criticism and animosity of many throughout the world who will mistakenly dismiss our efforts as entirely self-serving. Acting alone could seriously undermine the structure of collective security that the United States has labored for decades to make effective. Acting alone today against the palpable evil of Saddam may set us on a course, charted by the newly announced doctrine of preemption, that will carry us beyond the limits of our power and our wisdom.”
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) “If we do this right, Mr. President, we will truly make the world safer for our families. If we choose the wrong approach, I am deeply concerned that we will start down a road that could ultimately create a more unstable and dangerous world for our children and our grandchildren. There is no doubt that we can defeat Saddam Hussein in battle. The test of our strength is not in our ability to marshal our military forces, but our willingness to adhere to that which has made us great. We are a strong and powerful nation, made that way by our willingness to go the extra mile in the name of liberty and peace. The time is now for us to work together in the name of the American people and get it right.”
Ron Wyden (D-OR) “I am not convinced that Saddam Hussein currently poses a clear and present threat to the domestic security of our nation. While my service on the Senate Intelligence Committee has left me convinced of Iraq’s support of terrorism, suspicious of its ties to al Qaeda, I have seen no evidence, acts, or involvement in the planning or execution of the vicious attacks of 9/11.”