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How Iraq Explains Ferguson

Pro-war rally, March 29, 2003 (Photo credit: Eric Wagner/Flickr)

I was driving around yesterday thinking about how strange it is that so many readers of this blog seem to be unable to accept the possibility that in the Michael Brown shooting, the cop may have been entirely in the right. There seems to be such an overwhelming emotional need to believe in a particular Narrative that facts and logic seem to be only tangentially related to what really happened in Ferguson.

How do people get that way? I thought.

And then it hit me: Think of yourself, in late 2002-early 2003, on the subject of the Iraq War. 

In my mind, there was no way that starting a war with Iraq was wrong. OK, sure, maybe it was a stretch to believe that Saddam had anything to do with al Qaeda, but we couldn’t be 100 percent sure, and besides, we knew he had weapons of mass destruction, and we knew post-9/11 that Islamic terrorism was a deadly problem.

“But Saddam is a secular tyrant,” people said. They said all kinds of things that challenged the pro-war Narrative on the facts. But I knew very well that they were just trying to avoid hard truths that people like me were bravely prepared to face. Besides, look who was on the anti-war side: the loony left, unpatriotic conservatives, the French.

That turned out well for my side, didn’t it?

The truths of the Iraq matter is that Saddam was an evil man and Islamic terrorism was (is) a huge problem — but those general facts did not amount to a justification for launching a war on Iraq. Similarly, the truths of the Ferguson situation is that the police treatment of black people is a problem, as is the militarization of the police force — but those general facts do not make Darren Wilson guilty of unjustifiably killing Michael Brown. Nor does the fact that some of the people who support Darren Wilson are people the left dislikes.

I remember for the first year or so after Saddam’s ouster, conservatives like me would jump on every news tidbit suggesting that at long last, Saddam’s stash of WMDs had been found. Vindication at last! It never came, and reality made fools of us. I think that liberals will be looking for the WMDs in Ferguson for a long time to come. The need to believe is often more powerful than the truth.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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