Inspired by Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism and, I must admit, Kenneth Pollack’s The Threatening Storm, I wavered in my commitment to opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2004. An exaggerated, deluded infatuation with the span of my moral imagination consumed me; if I could get thoughtful people to praise my ability to see Many Sides of the story, so much the better. Before Abu Ghraib, that is.
What made my attitude a travesty was my initial public disgust with the rush to war in late 2002 and early 2003. Whether Saddam Hussein kept weapons of mass destruction mattered less than the brazenness with which the Bush administration ignored the protocols it had agreed to: UN weapons inspectors, careful deliberation, publicly treating its British allies with the contempt reserved for footmen. The report issued by Sir John Chilcot yesterday confirms what we knew from the Downing Street memo. I can’t beat Daniel Larison for succinctness:
Even if Iraq had retained its unconventional weapons programs as Bush and Blair claimed, attacking Iraq would not have been justified. Even if the “threat” they identified had existed, it would not have justified the invasion and occupation of another country, the overthrow of its government, and the ensuing years of devastation and bloodshed. As it happened, the pretext for the war was a lie, and the threat was non-existent, but the Iraq war would still have been a colossal blunder and enormous crime regardless.
Because the months after 9-11 marked the last time I lived at home for any period with my parents, I haven’t forgotten the fear, often unsaid, that shadowed them. My father, who ran an operation that built airplane parts, watched with quiet anxiety the decrease in the demand for his products. For my parents, the clarity of Bush’s statements reassured them. Invading Iraq wasn’t revenge – it was a grim necessity. That period marked our first erections of bulwarks against unwanted data; we had started the process by which liberals and conservatives went to the internet in search of columnists and bloggers who confirmed our biases.
Meanwhile there has never been any indication that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice, nor their underlings, will face any judicial reckoning