Today’s Washington Post has a lead story by reporter Peter Baker. In it, he quotes a number of prominent neoconservatives who are now openly sour on the way the Bush Administration conducted its war in Iraq. For example, Kenneth Adelman, who was part of the original Iraq War brain trust, now acknowledges that the Iraq War has turned into a debacle. “This didn’t have to be managed this bad. It’s just awful.”
Richard Perle, head of the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Board and one of the predominant cheerleaders for the invasion now says “If I had known that the U.S. was going to essentially establish an occupation, then I’d say, ‘Let’s not do it,’ and instead find another way to target Hussein. It was a foolish thing to do.”
Joshua Muravchik, a neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute reportedly told the Post’s Baker, “There’s a question to be sorted out: whether the war was a sound idea but very badly executed. And if that’s the case, it appears to me the person most responsible for the bad execution was Rumsfeld, and it means neocons should not get too angry at Bush about that.”
It is natural to see things clearer in hindsight. It is also natural (though shameful), if your forceful advocacy for an unnatural policy like a preemptive invasion of a foreign country goes awry, to try to salvage your own reputation. You can bet the officers on the S.S. Titanic did not want to go down with their ship and its captain either. It may be late in the voyage. There may not be much above the water than the stern of this ship, but these neoconservatives are now jumping into the lifeboat anyhow. In their mind, just because they were cheerleading this war, that does not mean they are partly responsible for it.
These same men were in a position to directly influence policies and strategies for this war. For example, they could have insisted that their support and employment was conditional upon a well thought out security strategy. However, since many of these men were raising a glass with Dick Cheney right after the invasion toasting its success, apparently they let themselves be caught up in euphoria the moment. If they had criticisms, they largely kept their lips buttoned and went with the crowd.
If they truly had misgivings prior to the war, it was their duty to speak up. If they had them but did not share them with those in authority, then they acted cowardly. If they were more concerned about their own careers and being properly positioned within the levers of power than looking out for the best interests of the country, then they did not deserve to have been entrusted with their positions in the first place. To express misgivings and cry wolf now so many years later suggests they are simply weasels.
We should not waste our time listening to anything they have to say anymore. Peter Baker should have done us all a favor by not even bothering to print their pathetic mea culpas. No more trees need to be turned into pulp so the public can learn their discredited opinions and turncoat mutterings.
Unquestionably, President Bush has ultimate responsibility for the debacle in Iraq. Nevertheless, all those who sat on the sidelines and urged him and his top cronies on are also permanently tainted. No amount of public regrets after the fact changes the fact that they were key players in an action that was cataclysmic for Iraqis, lethal to our country’s hard-earned international reputation and devolved into folly of the most egregious kind. If it were possible to impeach, convict and then send Bush to prison for this disaster, men like Aldeman, Perle and Muravchik should be doing time also in nearby adjacent cells. They should be allowed their once a week phone call home to family. Just please do not let them near a reporter!