Past And Present: March 3, 2003

U.S. Marines In Kuwait Prepare For Looming Iraq War

This month, the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, I’ve decided to re-publish some of my posts from March 2003. Call it masochism or basic journalistic accountability or the Internet’s revenge. But I was wrong. I was wrong in good faith. But I was wrong. And it’s worth, ten years’ later, to show just how wrong I was in order to understand better my massive error of judgment (let alone of tone). So here we go. From March 3, 2003:

The capture of KSM is big news. In fact, it’s surely the biggest news in the war on terror in months. The nabbing followed previous arrests and interrogations, all of which have clearly helped stymie and disorient al Qaeda. In terms of the broader debate about the war, one conclusion is obvious. It’s time to retire the frayed notion that somehow we cannot go to war against Saddam and al Qaeda at the same time. In fact, it would be hard to think of a more perfect refutation. Could the administration be more preoccupied with Iraq than it is today? It’s a little hopeful to think that this phony argument against waging war on more than one front will now be retired. But it is useful to remember that, as an argument, it was never based on any actual assessment of how the government works. It was an argument entirely designed to make the Democrats look tough on terror while they were counseling appeasement of Saddam. It was a pretty obvious ploy at the time. Now it’s transparent. I’m glad we’ve finally cleared it up.

So let’s re-clear it up. Maybe among some cynics it was a ploy. But from ten years’ later, it seems clear that it wasn’t easy to fight Saddam and al Qaeda at the same time, or at least that the Bush administration was simply far too incompetent to pull off both. I was wrong. I was onto something about KSM – but little did I know or dream that it would be a key milestone in the illegal, secret torture program in earnest.

(Photo: U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Battlion, 7th Regiment listen at a pep talk at Life Support Area 7 March 8, 2003 in northern Kuwait, 20 miles south of the Iraqi border. By Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.)

[Updated – to remove some early, solipsistic blather about Lent.]