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The U.S. Lost the Iraq War

Pete Wehner writes [1] a typically delusional response to a recent George Will column [2]:

On Iraq, he’s simply wrong. Because of the success of the surge, the Iraq war–unlike, say, the Vietnam War–was won [bold mine-DL].

This is just pitiful. Bush loyalists will believe whatever they want to believe, but their self-serving spin has to be rejected for what it is. The Iraq war may not have been “the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history,” as Will claimed, but it ranks among the four or five worst blunders in the annals of the United States. It was an unnecessary war, it had nothing to do with securing the U.S. or its allies, and it has manifestly made the region less stable and secure than it was before the invasion. The U.S. paid an appalling price in thousands of lost lives, tens of thousands wounded, and trillions of dollars wasted on a fool’s errand to “disarm” a government that had been disarmed years earlier. American soldiers were sacrificed year after year in the name of creating a democratic government in Iraq only to usher in a sectarian, semi-authoritarian regime whose abusive misrule helped to create the current conflict. Along the way, millions of Iraqis were displaced internally or forced into exile, over a hundred thousand died, and most of the rest have been living in a failed state for more than ten years.

The U.S. lost that war by any reasonable measure in that it threw away thousands of American lives and more than a hundred thousand Iraqi lives for the sake of creating a wrecked, impoverished country ruled by sectarian thugs. The “surge” served the purpose of allowing American politicians to pretend that this hadn’t happened in order to extricate American forces from the debacle sooner rather than later. Daniel Bolger made a related point earlier this week in his assessment [3] of the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate.

To the extent that the “surge” ever “worked,” it provided Americans with an excuse to leave the country that our government helped to ruin and created just enough of an illusion of stability to permit walking away from the disaster that Bush and his allies caused. Bush will never [4] own up to his responsibility for this disaster, and apparently neither will many of his supporters. That is their failure. No one else has to share in it.

Maybe it would be “interesting” for Will to give a more complete accounting of when and how he came to be so disgusted with the Iraq war, but it would be even better if dead-ender Iraq war supporters such as Wehner stopped offering laughable apologies for the worst foreign policy failure of the last generation.

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "The U.S. Lost the Iraq War"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 14, 2014 @ 6:58 am

There should be an on-going contest for describing events in history in the most accurate, most succinct way (in less than 250 words).

In the category of “Iraq War” my nomination for contest winner is from today’s Daniel Larison column (the following 235 words) — perfection:

“The Iraq war may not have been ‘the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history,’…but it ranks among the four or five worst blunders in the annals of the United States. It was an unnecessary war, it had nothing to do with securing the U.S. or its allies, and it has manifestly made the region less stable and secure than it was before the invasion.

“The U.S. paid an appalling price in thousands of lost lives, tens of thousands wounded, and trillions of dollars wasted on a fool’s errand to ‘disarm’ a government that had been disarmed years earlier. American soldiers were sacrificed year after year in the name of creating a democratic government in Iraq only to usher in a sectarian, semi-authoritarian regime whose abusive misrule helped to create the current conflict. Along the way, millions of Iraqis were displaced internally or forced into exile, over a hundred thousand died, and most of the rest have been living in a failed state for more than ten years.

“The U.S. lost that war by any reasonable measure in that it threw away thousands of American lives and more than a hundred thousand Iraqi lives for the sake of creating a wrecked, impoverished country ruled by sectarian thugs. The ‘surge’ served the purpose of allowing American politicians to pretend that this hadn’t happened in order to extricate American forces from the debacle sooner rather than later.”

#2 Comment By SDS On November 14, 2014 @ 8:40 am

The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom 2005

But Bush supporters will not be confused by facts…

–None so blind as those who will not see….

#3 Comment By Kodiac1221 On November 14, 2014 @ 9:09 am

Perhaps an interesting, if not ironic twist is that Iraq will eventually cause Policital Philosophers to ponder when perhaps a dictator with authoritarian rule and ruthless, sociopathic methods is a good thing. Clearly there is a possible debate that indeed the people of the region were far better off with their stable sociopath than what gifts we brought them!

It opens the door for authoritarians everywhere to point and say “see, I am useful, I’m your best altera active” no doubt many in the Middle East for generations will have to agree.
(I don’t go to Machiavelli here because he is premised on ruthlessness for the people, Sadam seemed to be in it for himself only, but perhaps they two can be symbiotic…a different debate)

#4 Comment By tbraton On November 14, 2014 @ 9:45 am

“Maybe it would be “interesting” for Will to give a more complete accounting of when and how he came to be so disgusted with the Iraq war, ”

What bothered me about George Will is not that he supported the war and later changed his mind but, as far as I can tell, never admitted that he was wrong in the first place. He used to be a regular panelist on This Week With (fill in blank), which I used to watch on a regular basis. I remember once about two or three years after the war started he stated that the Iraq War “violated every conservative principle in his body.” I thought principles were those bedrock beliefs which guided your thoughts and actions. Those must be some principles that allow you to support an unjustified war, become a leading cheerleader for that war and to disparage persons who had the nerve to question the war.

#5 Comment By Flavius On November 14, 2014 @ 10:21 am

Let us weigh the matter of victory on the scales of war aims: we deposed a dictator and “went on to Baghdad”, if going on to Baghdad can be equated with hunkering down in a fortified bunker in the Capitol city of collapsed country. The war results from our excellent Libyan adventure are similar, as have been the results from our 12 year pseudo-semi occupation of Afghanistan. The argument that our country has been made any “safer” from incidental terror attacks by these occupations is refuted by the Marathon bombing which sent the city of Boston into a nervous breakdown and the rise of ISIS. A byproduct of the whole has been the steady construction at home of a security surveillance state and militarized law enforcement that might very well be turned against the country in the future. These results might constitute what the face of victory looks like in some circles but not in mine.

#6 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On November 14, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

The “victory” in a war (campaign) is measured by a single metric–attainment of the political objectives of the war (campaign). Military strategy, operational art and even tactics are all subordinated to this single metric. “War is merely a continuation of the policy by other means”(c)Clausewitz. You don’t achieve the set of your political objectives–game over. Judging by the unmitigated catastrophe in the ME, not a single realistic political objective (I omit here strategic delusions of “democracy” in Arab, let alone Afghan tribal Islamic world) has been attained. Conclusion is obvious. The rest are the consequences, first of all in human terms both for Iraq and United States.

#7 Comment By T. Sledge On November 14, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

In the video of the hooded men leading Saddam to the gallows, the mob didn’t chant “long live Iraq”, or “justice is served”, they chanted the name of their pudgy Shia cleric. That scene should have been enough to tell anyone who cared to listen that the concept of “rule of law” wasn’t going to sink in any time soon in the newly “liberated” Iraq.

The “victor” in a war is the side or the faction that sees its objectives reached or attained when the smoke settles. Just like the deluded fools who write “we won the Vietnam war”, which would have to mean that our real objective in getting 58,000 GIs killed and squandering billions of dollars was to see Vietnam united as one country under North Vietnamese control, there will be deluded fools saying “the surge worked” 40 years from today.

Well, if “we won” that would have to mean that we intended all along to have Iraq dominated by Shia who want to punish Sunnis for all those years of being marginalized, we intended to create a one-faction state (what passes for leadership in Iraq can’t be dignified by calling it a “party”), we intended all along to create a “parade ground only” Iraqi military, that would disintegrate in the face of a few thousand fighters that have only small arms and no air support. If all that is true, then indeed we “won”.

#8 Comment By Bill Springer On November 14, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

As we see so many of the rabid hawks huddling tightly down in the victory bunker, perhaps the question we should ask them is the opposite. What would have constituted a “defeat” in Iraq? Going in, some might have said it was a defeat if we didn’t find WMD. Others might have said it would be defeat if we couldn’t stablize the country with a workable government. Few, if any, thought there was a threat we wouldn’t take Hussein out, so any claim that we won because we overthrew Hussein is a strawman.

Remembering the pre-war rhetoric of us being welcomed as liberators, it is unquestionable that a prediction of the actual results of the Iraq War would have been mocked and said to be impossible. But would they have been considered a failure at that time?

I find it hard to believe anything other than the sole way these hawks continue to believe in victory is to continuously redefine “victory” every time there is a potential threat to their belief. As they have captured so much of every possible result in their definition of victory, perhaps the best question now is what would have been a defeat for the US. I do not think they can provide a legitimate answer.

#9 Comment By tbraton On November 14, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

I notice that even some liberal media types are beginning to scratch their heads in wonderment as they think “I thought Obama was claiming credit for pulling all of our troops OUT of Iraq” while watching Obama send an additional 1500 “advisers” BACK INTO Iraq in order to defeat ISIS. I guess I was more right than I thought when I characterized the original “300” advisers as straight out of a Hollywood movie. But that was so far in the past—nearly 5 months (and two beheadings) ago.

#10 Comment By collin On November 14, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

Until the ISIS blitzkreig earlier this years (which has been halted at this point), I always wanted to call the Iraq as “Won!” If you simplified the goals to ending their WMD program, removing Saddam and help install democratic, then you could state the war as “Victory” To be sure it was an empty victory, in which this country gained nothing from it but it was a Victory!

In reality, by calling Iraq a victory I felt the war was more empty and did not let the Hawks claim that “If let Rambo, the soldiers, win it, then we could have won Vietnam.

#11 Comment By tbraton On November 14, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

“What would have constituted a “defeat” in Iraq? Going in, some might have said it was a defeat if we didn’t find WMD.”

I have been searching off and on for several years for a quote of Paul Wolfowitz that I clearly remembering him making during a television interview (it might have been PBS’ Newshour or one of the Sunday talk shows) but have been unsuccessful in locating. He made it before the war began or in its very early days, and it went like this: “If we don’t find WMDs, then the war would have totally unjustified.”

The closest I could come to the quote I distinctly remember Wolfowitz making is the following (but not what I was looking for):

“The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason [for going to war].” [USA Today, 5/30/03]

#12 Comment By EliteComInc. On November 14, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

“I notice that even some liberal media types are beginning to scratch their heads in wonderment as they think . . .”

Don’t kid yourself, they are the primary advocates of going back in. Afterall, a couple of thousand men risking life and limb for a the heads of a few journalists is small price to pay to assuage their overpaid egos.

#13 Comment By The Wet One On November 14, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

Strangely enough, I would actually contest that the U.S. “lost” the Iraq war.

Sure, there’s a tremendous, immoral, stupid amount of waste involved, in lives, treasure, security and national standing, but really, the U.S. had nothing on the line in the Iraq. What was there to lose? Basically nothing.

Iraq most certainly “lost” in the war and the U.S. failed to “win” much of anything (other than a few trillion spend, 4,400 or so dead, x10 maimed and wounded), but otherwise, the U.S. was unscathed.

Considering that I can’t figure out anymore what the U.S. war aims were in Iraq, the fact that there were none (so far as I can tell) means that nothing was really lost in a failure to achieve said war aims.

It was just a collosal waste of time, effort and lives.

But does waste = loss? I’m not sure I’d say that is the case. All those resources could have been directed elsewhere, sure, but this is what Americans wanted (they voted for it in 2004, and changed their mind by 2008), and this is what they got.

The Iraq War was definitely a blunder, a waste, and a useless effort, but it was probably all of that before it started. However, to say it was “lost” as a war, just strikes me as wrong. Vietnam was lost. The enemy won. Your allies were defeated etc. etc. etc. The Iraq war was simply pointless as best as I can tell. It was a wasteful sham from the word go. The fact that it was such is clearer in hindsight, but it seems it was always the case.

After all, where is the definitive statement of U.S. war aims that wasn’t a pile of horse manure (seriously, the whole weapons of mass destruction thing is simply horse manure. There was plenty of good reason to believe no such weapons existed from day -100)? I don’t think there is one. I know I bought the WMD line, hook line and sinker, but in retrospect, I don’t actually believe that that was in fact the war of the U.S. I don’t think there was one at all. In which case, there couldn’t have been a “loss” properly speaking. Just a waste.

Where am I mistaken?

And yes, I understand that if I was paying for this war, or had someone I know die in (though I had family fighting in Afghanistan), I’d feel it was more like a “loss,” but I’d just call it a waste at this point. Waste doesn’t equal a loss in my books, no matter how frustrating and infuriating it may be after learning more about it in retrospect.

I think that America was simply hoodwinked, flim-flamed or conned (seriously, WMD? Get real!) and is now suffering the regret that comes from the realization of same. It’s taking its time, but basically, this seems closer to the truth of the thing than saying America “lost” in Iraq. The Iraqis lost. America just racked up more debt and had a number of its volunteer army members killed, maimed and wounded. Which is unfortunate, but nothing that the U.S. can’t recover from. Iraq, on the other hand, was destroyed.

#14 Comment By HyperIon On November 14, 2014 @ 3:06 pm

re The Wet One’s “Just a waste.”

Yeah, a waste of human lives, of money, of reputation, of time, of resources.

But you claim that it was not a loss.
Human rationalization is very powerful.

#15 Comment By John On November 14, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

The Wet One/2:45 p.m.:

The Iraq War was definitely a blunder, a waste, and a useless effort, but it was probably all of that before it started. However, to say it was “lost” as a war, just strikes me as wrong. Vietnam was lost. The enemy won.

Iraq was a firebreak between the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the influence of Iran. It was a contiguous nation-state ruled by a central government that was capable of holding the Shi’a- and Sunn’i-dominated regions together. Public works and utilities were not targets while Hussein held power. Iraq posed no real threat to us. But it had oil that was underdeveloped because of a UN-led embargo.

So then we invaded at great expense, wearing out our military and borrowing money that has added to our debt service that we cannot use for other things. The Saudis now can’t count on an Iraqi central government to respect their borders. The Iranians now wield substantial influence over the eastern third of the country, and might even aid the Shi’ite Iraqis if it came to a real civil war between them. Nobody in the region trusts us, and fewer respect us as competent to rule or provide for them what their governments have failed to provide. What we did in Iraq will haunt our diplomacy with the region for generations.

We lost.

#16 Comment By Magus Janus On November 14, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

The irony is the Vietnam war was mostly won. Follow the Easter offensive Vietnamization had worked. Given time for natural econ growth to occur South Vietnam would the equivalent of South Korea. They just needed time to build up their own defenses and US guarantee to supply them and use air superiority to bomb N Vietnam if it threatened to invade.

Of course, Watergate then happened, and N Vietnam realized it had one last shot to take out S Vietnam while the Left was in power. And it threw everything it had at S Vietnam in blatant violation of the Peace accords, and the Left Congress in the US refused to aid S Vietnam with military supplies or use air superiority to bomb N Vietnamese forces (which would have been trivial and low cost).

And so S Vietnam was allowed to fall, and hundreds of thousands of those who believes American promises paid the ultimate price. And the hard earned victory 60k Americans and countless hundreds of thousands of S Vietnamese had fought to earn was thrown away by the Progressive Left, who then turned around and said “I told you so.”

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 14, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

“Sure, there’s a tremendous, immoral, stupid amount of waste involved, in lives, treasure, security and national standing, but really, the U.S. had nothing on the line in the Iraq. What was there to lose? Basically nothing.”

I must beg to differ.

1. The US had as its objective to rebuild Iraq as a democratic state in which it’s citizens had equal participation.

2. The purpose of removing Pres. Hussein was for the purpose of removing a threat to the US and the region.

3. Destroy Iraq’s ability to produce and deploy WMD. Reducing such a threat.

In all three areas we failed.

Beginning with number three the weapons inspectors had successfully covered the issues of WMD and despite having over estimated the amount effectively destroyed them. That was devastating to our technical, intelligence and managerial expertise — if Mr. Larison will excuse the reference — credibility. We made a claim to that which did not exist. I hate to tell you, but if you contend that someone did something they better have done it. (Something I am very familiar with.) The arguments surrounding the issue placed Iraq in an untenable position, prove you don’t have what we say you have. Which says something about or understanding of logic or at least reasonability.

with respect to number two: Pres. Hussein was a threat to no one.. In fact, I would contend that he was maintaining the country by threads given the impacts of the first gulf war and subsequent sanctions and the no fly zone restrictions. The evidence that he was a threat were exaggerated claims and lies by Iraqis in the US who had not been in the country since the first gulf and were seeking to the player or the players after we removed the Hussein Admin. Regardless of their claims, no evidence supported their descriptions.

And number three –well, it speaks for itself. The division are far worse as is the patronage system. And for those wanting to free women — well, let’s just say, under the conservative hierarchy of Muslim practice by Shia, advances encouraged by Pres. Hussein are in a state of retrograde as is education and all manner of secular practice. The random murders, and sectarian violence is completely on drive and has been since we invaded removing any semblance of order.

We did not send nearly enough troops to manage a nation the size of Iraq. Our administration was inept exacerbating the problems that prevented us or them from achieving the immediate goals much less the long term agenda. We have made our military and technocratic expertise look slipshod and haphazard – I was in every way ineffective. The surge provided platform by which we could have changed the mater, but we either missed the opportunity or it was so far gone as to unsalvageable.

Last year I had not yet concluded the mater closed. But after Libya, Syria, and Egypt and the wholesale debacle of “Arab Spring”, the mater is los and we are having to start from scratch.

At least in Vietnam, we stumbled into a victory after Pres. Nixon said enough and actually engaged in war as war should be conducted.

Here our own sensibilities, over confidence, over promising and seriously undelivering have turned the entirety of the region against itself: people in the region, placing Christians in particular risk. However, I do think the Christian genocide is largely exaggerated.

If we measured loss as you are measuring it. I might agree to some extent. But that is now how determine loss. The only possible sliver of contention is if you argue a military victory. But that would include an ultimate suppression or agreement to quit by the opposition.

We never came close. Our actions have brewed worse – that in my view is a loss.

#18 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 14, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

And for the record, I am very conservative and would that my assessment in 2002 and now was had been wrong.

But given the overwhelming data —

#19 Comment By Ken_L On November 14, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

It’s impossible to have a rational exchange of views with anyone who claims, as Wehner does, that “as Krauthammer argues, President Obama blew it by failing to secure the SOFA; and in blowing it, Mr. Obama lost the war”. Such a thesis assumes that somehow a residual force left in Iraq would have prevented the rise of ISIS and the consequent regional conflicts. Neither Krauthammer nor Wehner (nor anyone else I’ve read) tries to justify this assumption; it’s just presented as an article of faith. In fact of course there is no reason to believe a residual force would have made any significant difference unless persistent American casualties resulted in the force expanding once again to tens of thousands of combat troops getting embroiled with the Syrian war – which I suspect is what Krauthammer and company really wanted all along.

#20 Comment By William Dalton On November 14, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

“On Iraq, he’s simply wrong. Because of the success of the surge, the Iraq war–unlike, say, the Vietnam War–was won [bold mine-DL].”

What Magus Janus said. Wehner has a short memory. When the U.S. withdrew its combat troops from Vietnam in 1973, it left a South Vietnamese government far stronger and in greater control of its territory than the Maliki government ever was in Iraq.

“The Iraq War was definitely a blunder, a waste, and a useless effort, but it was probably all of that before it started. However, to say it was “lost” as a war, just strikes me as wrong. Vietnam was lost. The enemy won.”

Depending on how you identify America’s “enemy”, and admittedly this requires more than nominal effort, the U.S. has lost or will lose the Iraq War twice. It lost to Iran when a pro-Iranian government was established in Baghdad, and it will lose to Saddam Hussein when his old generals, now in command of ISIS forces, consolidate their hold upon Sunni regions of Iraq.

#21 Comment By tbraton On November 14, 2014 @ 8:05 pm

Ken_L, as I pointed out a few months back, the people who are arguing that the U.S. should have maintained a longer presence in Iraq are the same people who were assuring us back in 2002-03 that we would be overthrowing Saddam Hussein and leaving Iraq in short order. That was the reason they were disparaging Gen. Shinshecky who thought a much larger force was needed to accomplish the job.

“Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials “are unwilling to come to grips” with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq. The Pentagon has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and recently announced that the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s stay there has been extended indefinitely.

“This is not what they were selling (before the war),” White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. “It’s almost a question of people not wanting to ‘fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term.”. . .
White said it is reasonable to assume the Pentagon will need more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to provide stability for at least the next year. Pentagon officials envisioned having about 100,000 troops there immediately after the war, but they hoped that number would be quickly drawn down.” [5]

Of course, the gentleman who came up with the brilliant idea of disbanding the Iraqi army deserves a Presidential medal. Oops, I forgot. L. Paul Bremmer actually got that medal.

#22 Comment By Quiddity On November 15, 2014 @ 12:07 am

The Iraq war was a “success” in that it was the first step in the AEI/PNAC plan for re-making the Middle East. WMD and claimed ties to al-Qaeda were mere selling points, not to be used as a metric for success.

So they got what they wanted. Turns out it didn’t lead to the transformation that they hoped for because it was all based on wishful thinking, blinkered ideology, and a callous disregard for lives and money.

To cover their asses, they say all worked within a deliberately tailored time frame (up until point X in the surge). Everything that went sour after that is dismissed or used as an argument to go back and “finish the job” – which appears to be a rising sentiment nowadays.

#23 Comment By CharleyCarp On November 15, 2014 @ 5:48 am

The Iraq war had a clear winner: Iran.

#24 Comment By John Blair On November 15, 2014 @ 8:01 am

This post is exactly why I promote TAC whenever I can. There is a lot of tribalism and denial in politics, but TAC promotes intellectual and moral integrity. Iraq was big disaster and President Bush was the leader of that big, costly blunder. We should never forget it and hold the supporters of that war to account for the mistake. The families of all those dead American soldiers should remind us everyday about this very costly mistake. We should be filled with a determination, especially when the next attack comes (because it’s only a matter of time), to remind our political leaders about the Iraq debacle before we go rushing into another needless and unwinable conflict. Our first job is to preserve American lives, especially the men and women of our military from needless sacrifice, and to keep the military industrial complex in check when then begin the push for the massive stimulus spending that fills the pockets of military contractors.

#25 Comment By sglover On November 15, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

The Wet One is sharp:

Considering that I can’t figure out anymore what the U.S. war aims were in Iraq, the fact that there were none (so far as I can tell) means that nothing was really lost in a failure to achieve said war aims.

Truly an astute, concise summary of the entire debacle. And I can’t see anything wrong or false in it. It’s the grand strategy version of the ultimate, damning write-off of crackpot science theories: It’s not even wrong.

That aside, it’s got to mean something that, outside of the Bush scutboy camp, the only real question about Iraq isn’t whether it was a disaster, but how much of one?

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 17, 2014 @ 7:14 am

“The Iraq war had a clear winner: Iran.”

I would tend to agree with this. As for whether or the not the US had clear goals and aims. I think the record is pretty clear that they had specific and general aims.

But those goals were predicated on false information fed by the would be successors.

And as the backdrop — what remains was our internal desire for revenge. And I think it continues to feed the pipeline, even though the actual perpetrators have long since faded.

#27 Comment By chris moffatt On November 18, 2014 @ 6:59 am

The wet one ends: “Iraq, on the other hand, was destroyed.”

How do we know that this was not the purpose of the war? Cui bono? It may not be who you think!

I am mightily unimpressed by conservatives who, in 2014, are finally coming to where they should have been in 2003. If anyone was misled by Bush and his cronies in 2003 it was because they wanted to be. The evidence that the casus belli was a crock was freely available.

And let us not just lay this at the door of Bush and the neocons. The whole country, with few exceptions, is to blame for this one (as they were overwhelmingly for the war in VietNam at its start). The congress on both sides overwhelmingly supported it; the media overwhelmingly supported it; the people of the USA overwhelmingly supported it. And the few who did not support it were roundly condemned on all sides.