July 25, 2007

I see Andrew Sullivan, inspired by Daniel Larison, has decided to issue his own list of “lessons I’ve learned from the Iraq debacle,” and being that he’s one of the chief culprits outside the administration in leading us down that particular primrose path, we read it with a somewhat critical eye:

“1. I believed that the United States would never violate the Geneva Conventions and that an American president would never authorize torture as a policy. Semantics aside, I have been forced to accept that this has indeed happened, and that the American public, by and large, is fine with it.”

Hmmmmm …. But surely Andy’s own suggestion —nay, demand—that the Bushies nuke Iraq, on account of his apparent belief that the Iraqis were behind the anthrax attacks—a belief, I might add, that was based on exactly nothing—would, if implemented, have been a violation not just of the Geneva Accords, but the most basic rules of human decency and reason. To my knowledge, no one in the Bush admnistration even came close to advocating a nuclear strike on Iraq, and so it seems Sullivan surpassed them in his eagerness to inflict … yes,  torture—mass devastation and suffering—on the Iraqi people as a whole.

“2. I believed that there was no doubt that Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs, and that these constituted an active and potential threat to the US, Europe and Israel.”

Doesn’t this guy remember anything he writes? Everybody knows he disdained any strict standard of proof for the existence of WMD in Iraq, as Josh Marshall noted back in 2003. At that time, he wrote that war critics were operating under “a premise here that strikes me as off-base. The premise is that after 9/11, only rock-solid evidence of illicit weapons programs and proven ties to terrorists could justify a pre-emptive war to depose Saddam.”

So, then, which is it: did he believe “there was no doubt that Saddam has piles of WMDs,” or that the “better safe than sorry” doctrine is good enough for the post-9/11 world?

“3. I believed that rough-and-ready democracy could be brought to the Arab Middle East within a few years. I now believe democracy as the West understands it will not take root in the Arab world in my lifetime, if ever.”

Really? I find it hard to believe that anyone who claims the mantle of anything remotely resembling “conservatism” could possibly accept such nonsense. It goes against everything that conservatives believe about the nature of the world and of humankind. Not for nothing does Claes Ryn call attribute this rough-and-ready reformist impulse to Jacobinism. Is Senor Sullivan sure he’s a conservative?

4. I didn’t think a US occupying force would simply shrug its shoulders at spiraling chaos in a country it had invaded and occupied.

One doesn’t really know what to make of this particular excuse—and, make no mistake, that’s what these numbered mea culpas are, rather pallid excuses for making a really enormous error of the sort that invites perpetual distrust of those who made it with such enthusiasm and with such horrific consequences. Did Sullivan not realize that the moment we invaded Iraq, chaos would result? And he can’t say he wasn’t warned. The point being that the American invasion couldn’t have prevented chaos, because it caused the chaos ….

“5. I didn’t think the American public would re-elect a commander-in-chief of such an occupying force.”

See above—and, add this: did he think it would have been any better, or even much different, under President John Kerry?

“6. I thought that conservative intellectuals would show a modicum of intellectual honesty in grappling with the disaster in Iraq. Most didn’t and haven’t.”

The conservative intellectuals who opposed the war were not listened to: instead, they were smeared, and Sullivan joined in the smearing. He’s recanted his support for the war—but not for the campaign of character assassination that accompanied it, and in which he played a key role.

“7. I didn’t think we would go another six years after 9/11 without a major terror attack on US soil.”

To begin with, we were attacked again: the anthrax attacks, which Sullivan concluded were authored by Iraq—and that’s how he justified his call to nuke Baghdad. Secondly, if we had been struck a third time, albeit not by Iraq—which didn’t have the means to do so—that still wouldn’t have justified the invasion and occupation of a country that had never attacked us and was no threat to our legtimate national security interests.

Andy’s contritional list is, in short, inadequate. Overall mark: “D”. But an “A” for effort …




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