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Iraq & the Liberal Memory Hole

Crackerjack column by Damon Linker today, laying into liberals and Democrats who tell themselves that the Iraq War all came about because the Bush administration lied about it, tricking poor liberals into going along with their evil plot. Linker:

But talk of lying insinuates far worse than this. It insinuates that senior members of the Bush administration, including the president himself, knew for a fact that Hussein wasn’t a threat and that he didn’t possess WMD — and then deliberately set out to make it look like the opposite was true in order to get the country to pursue a war that they knew to be unjustified.

That is itself a lie.

How do I know? Because I was a sentient observer of American politics in the late 1990s and early years of the 2000s. I read or listened in real time to most of the statements quoted in this useful Larry Elder column from 2006. Bill Clinton in 1998 and 2003; Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in February 1998; Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger in 1998; Rep. Nancy Pelosi in 1998; General Wesley Clark in 2002; Sen. John Rockefeller in 2002; French President Jacques Chirac in 2003 — all of them, and many more, expressed the overwhelming consensus of the Washington elite of both parties that Saddam Hussein was hiding WMD and that this made him a serious threat both to our allies in the region and the United States itself.

After the September 11 attacks, some members of the Washington elite concluded that this threat was now unacceptable — that Hussein had to be taken out by force of arms. I disagreed with them, despite working at the time for a conservative magazine that strongly endorsed the invasion. Did I do so because I thought the Bush administration was lying? No, not for a second. Very little of what I was hearing and reading at the time sounded different than what I’d been hearing and reading for years. Like just about every Democrat and Republican in Washington, I assumed Hussein maintained a covert WMD program and probably possessed stockpiles of such weapons.

Linker points out that he opposed the Iraq War at the time not because he thought that even if it was true about Saddam’s WMDs — and he believed it was — starting a war over them was idiotic. The problem, Linker insists, was not the lying of the Bush administration, but that the Washington consensus was wrong. 

He says:

What a relief it must be to exonerate oneself from complicity in a catastrophic mistake by portraying oneself as an innocent victim of a diabolical plot.

Read the whole thing.

I once warned some friends of mine not to make a particular investment, because it seemed pretty clear that it was a scam. They rebuked me, saying that my pessimism was unwarranted, and the person encouraging them to make that investment was good and decent and honest. I pleaded with them to consider the evidence, but they were bound and determined to invest. It just felt right, and shame on me for doubting the integrity of the friend inviting them to invest.

Well, they lost a bundle to this crook, and ended up wailing, “How were we to have known? We trusted a scam artist!” They still talk about how they are the real victims of the scam. What a relief it was to them to construe themselves as the innocent victims of a diabolical plot. They were deceived, and they wanted to be deceived.

Linker says the Democrats’ effective denial of their own fault in the Iraq disaster is even more maddening than the Republicans’ doubling down on the policies and worldview that landed us in Iraq. I think that the entire thing is incredibly discouraging, because it shows that our leadership class — and we, the people who vote for them — are unwilling to learn hard lessons from this catastrophe. Truth and wisdom doesn’t matter to these people, only the pursuit of power.

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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