Nostra Maxima Culpa


Ezra apologizes for supporting the Iraq War. His key mistake:

Rather than looking at the war that was actually being sold, I’d invented my own Iraq war to support — an Iraq war with different aims, promoted by different people, conceptualized in a different way and bearing little resemblance to the project proposed by the Bush administration.

Chait also accounts for his mistakes:

The biggest single conceptual failure of my argument for war is that I gave absurdly little thought to the post-invasion phase. I was aware that the Bush administration was deploying far too few troops to the front for a workable occupation while blatantly lying about the war’s likely costs. I assumed that its real plan was to decapitate the Iraqi leadership, install a more pliant and less brutal military figure in Saddam’s place, and call it democracy.

In other words, I deemed the administration’s rhetoric about democracy to be a pack of lies. Now, I could accept this, because I assumed the successor regime would be less brutal than the psychotically cruel one that was being deposed. The quality of the regime was an important predicate for my support of the war — I would not have supported it had I believed it would make life harder for Iraqis, on the whole — but not the necessary rationale. I assumed these things because at the time Bush appeared — from the 2000 campaign through Florida through his push to cut taxes — to be a dishonest but ruthlessly effective figure. A messy, undermanned occupation would be politically fatal, I reasoned, therefore Bush wouldn’t actually undertake one.

Both critiques apply to me as well. Rumsfeld and Cheney were great at projecting confidence, competence and management skills. And we were all still traumatized by 9/11 and grappling with how to respond to it. But we know now they were as terrified as we were, and their fear drove them to abandon restraint or skepticism or competent military and intelligence advice.

This feels like an academic debate. But it isn’t. I have blood on my hands. However many times I try to wash them, the blood will not come off.

(Photo: An Iraqi carries the body of his grandson out of the morgue of a hospital in Baghdad 21 November 2006. The child was killed according to his grandfather when Iraqi and US forces raided Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City to hunt for a kidnapped US soldier, the second such raid in two days. A shattered Iraq limped into 2007 after a year in which a bloody insurgency escalated into brutal sectarian war, forcing Washington to contemplate a major policy shift to halt total disintegration. By Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty.)