TNC reflects on his initial response to the Iraq War:
[I]f I regret anything it is my pose of powerlessness — my lack of faith in American democracy, my belief that the war didn’t deserve my hard thinking or hard acting, my cynicism. I am not a radical. But more than anything the Iraq War taught me the folly of mocking radicalism. It seemed, back then, that every “sensible” and “serious” person you knew — left or right — was for the war. And they were all wrong. Never forget that they were all wrong. And never forget that the radicals with their drum circles and their wild hair were right.
Since I’ve been airing some of my own delusions about the Iraq war ten years’ ago, it’s worth recalling that TNC was right. Perhaps one of the most critical pro-war opinion-leaders was Bill Clinton (even though he supported more time for diplomacy in the run-up to the war). In 1998, it was Clinton who made removal of Saddam official US policy. Here is Bill Clinton on the Letterman show ten years ago this month, predicting a cake-walk and assuming the presence of WMDs:
“[Saddam] is a threat. He’s a murderer and a thug. There’s no doubt we can do this. We’re stronger; he’s weaker. You’re looking at a couple weeks of bombing and then I’d be astonished if this campaign took more than a week. Astonished.”
One more Clinton quote from that March:
“[I]f we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance, there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam… In the post-cold war world, America and Britain have been in tough positions before: in 1998, when others wanted to lift sanctions on Iraq and we said no; in 1999 when we went into Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. In each case, there were voices of dissent. But the British-American partnership and the progress of the world were preserved. Now in another difficult spot, Blair will have to do what he believes to be right. I trust him to do that and hope the British people will too.”
But what would happen then? Even Clinton, who made it formal US policy to remove Saddam, hadn’t thought that much about that. Neither had I. To my eternal shame.
(Photo: US President Bill Clinton (L) is introduced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a ground-breaking ceremony for Springvale Educational Village in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 10, 2007. By Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty.)