In fact, Rep. Paul responded to the September 11 attacks by voting to authorize an actual war against its perpetrators; and as anyone who is even passingly familiar with his worldview knows, his controversial opinion is that Islamist terrorists attack the United States partly because they are furious about the quasi-imperial role America plays in their countries. The blow-back theory is itself controversial, but it is obviously different from 9/11 Trutherism.
As it turns out, the editorial was misleadingly alluding to something Paul said a few days ago in Iowa, when he was talking about the Iraq War and his fears that we’re headed for a war with Iran. “Just think of what happened after 9/11,” Paul said. “Immediately before there was any assessment, there was glee in the administration because now we can invade Iraq. So the war drums beat.” Contra Paul, I don’t think it’s fair to attribute “glee” to the Bush Administration. I presume even the most Machiavellian among its officials were horrified by the attacks. It is nevertheless true that longtime proponents of invading Iraq exploited 9/11 to urge a war.
I’m not sure how controversial it really is to acknowledge that actions have consequences, but leave that aside for the moment. There may not have been glee as such, but there clearly was strong support for invading Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Hawkish interventionists saw a political opportunity to launch a war against Iraq in the year and a half following the attacks, and they seized it. The terrible crime that resulted from their folly has now formally come to an end today, and for that we can be grateful.
Ron Paul was one of six House Republicans to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2002. The Iraq war was one of the major causes for the deterioration of the Republican Party’s reputation for competence in matters of national security and foreign policy, and that reputation has still not been repaired. Republican militarism has become one of the party’s greatest weaknesses, especially with younger cohorts of voters, and Ron Paul and his movement represent the only remedy on offer. It is amusing to read that the GOP doesn’t need a corrective to its militaristic nationalism, when it is this more than anything else that wrecked the GOP as a national party prior to September 2008.
The Iraq war was the largest political liability for the GOP during Bush’s second term, and it was one of the most important reasons why Bush’s approval rating plummeted and why the GOP lost control of both houses of Congress in 2006. Had the U.S. not invaded Iraq, it is unlikely that Obama would now be President. Had there been no debate over invading and no invasion, Obama would never have been on record opposing the “foolish” and “dumb” war, and he probably would not have had an issue to distinguish himself from the rest of the Democratic field. Apart from the financial crisis, no other post-9/11 event has shaped American politics as much as the Iraq war, and the vast majority of Republican leaders still doesn’t understand that they have been thoroughly repudiated by the public. As far as the vast majority of the public is concerned, Ron Paul was one of a handful of elected Republicans on the right side of that issue, and his myriad detractors were all on the wrong side of it.