Primal Scream

Timothy Burke, just up the road at Swarthmore, lets loose a primal scream. (You could hear the echoes hear in Media, but I got the link via Brad DeLong.)

It's worth quoting at length:

"Stop with the hindsight," says one writer. "Be patient," says another.

Oh, no, let's not stop with the hindsight. Not when so many remain so profoundly, dangerously, incomprehensibly unable to acknowledge that the hindsight shows many people of good faith and reasonable mien predicting what has come to pass in Iraq. Let's not be patient: after all, the people counseling patience now showed a remarkable lack of it before the war.

One of my great pleasures in life, I am ashamed to say, is saying "I told you so" when I give prudential advice and it is ignored. In the greatest "I told you so" of my life, I gain no pleasure at all in saying it. It makes me dizzy with sickness to say it, incandescent with rage to say it. It sticks in my throat like vomit. It makes me want to punch some abstract somebody in the mouth. It makes me want to scrawl profane insults in this space and abandon all hope of reasonable conversation.

That's because the people who did what they did, said what they said, on Iraq, the people who ignored or belitted counsel to the contrary, didn't just screw themselves. They screwed me and my family and my people and my nation and the world. They screwed a very big pooch and they mostly don't even have the courage to admit it. They pissed away assets and destroyed tools of diplomacy and persuasion that will take a generation to reacquire at precisely the moment that we need them most. …

Burke notes:

… the very substantial arguments by other critics, who said, "The war on Iraq cannot accomplish what you would like it to accomplish in producing a democratic and liberal state in Iraq, no matter how noble your aims are. The war on Iraq will not enhance the war on terror, in fact, it will severely damage it. The war on Iraq cannot be justified on humanitarian grounds without arbitrarily and inaccurately defining Hussein's Iraq as a worse situation than many comparable others — and an arbitrary humanitarian claim damages the entire edifice of humanitarian concern."

There were plenty of people making arguments like these — perhaps even within the Administration — and they were shouted down or completely ignored before the war and even early in the occupation. From these arguments, most of what has come to pass was predicted. Not because of mismanagement — though there has been that, in spades. Not because of the misdeeds of individuals — though there has been that a-plenty, both within the Beltway and on the ground in Iraq. Not because the Bush Administration lacked a free hand to do what it wanted — it has had that, more than any US government in memory. But because of deep, irreparable flaws in the entire enterprise.

A war on Iraq where the build-up was handled much more intelligently and gradually, with much more attention to building international consensus steadily. An Administration not addicted to strident purity tests and not irremediably hostile to both internal and external dissent. An argument for the war that took pains to build bridges rather than burn them, and that accepted gracefully constraints on its own claims and objectives. An occupation that was methodically planned and clear about the challenges ahead. These are the preconditions for even imagining the ghost of a hope that the war could succeed in its humanitarian purposes. In their evident absence from the first moment, the war could not overcome its handicaps. …

Note the source of Burke's anger. He is not simply upset that the Bush administration has heedlessly and recklessly chosen to engage America in an unnecessary war.

He is upset because this heedlessness and recklessness chosen by the Bush administration has America losing this war.

  • Chris

    Amen!

  • Marley

    Indeed. It is exquisitely painful for all who questioned, doubted and predicted our own downfall to see our worst fears materializing. Following the news is like watching a giant, hideous, mutant flower blooming. A disgusting new petal unfolds every day. Oh and we have summer and fall still to come. Think of what your garden looks like in September, when everything is ratty and sere and gone to seed. What horrors await us I can only imagine.
    What a tremendous cost the whole world pays for george bush to have his turn playing president. Our children did not deserve this, and I hold bush and his supporters responsible for ruining this country.

  • taco cabana

    you’re just mad that there’s integrity in the white house.

  • lawguy

    The problem with guys like taco cabana is that you can never be sure that they are being sarcastic.

  • Scaramouche

    How did this happen. I was just following orders…
    What most pundits don’t remember when referring to the ubiquitous defense line of the Nuremberg Trials, “I was just following orders,” is that some went to prison and some were hanged. I am afraid, like Congressional Members should be, that the impulse will be to punish these soldiers because they embarrassed the Army, the Administration, and the Mission.
    The one thing I see missing from all this controversy is what were the questions being asked that required torture and who wanted to know? Remember this was going on more than 6 months ago, even before Saddam was found.
    Were these Iraqis being tortured to find evidenced of WMD’s or links to Al Queda? If so, wouldn’t that mean torture was being used in an effort to provide cover for the White House???
    In reading the Taguba Report several things stood out for me concerning Agu Ghraib.
    The MP division, whose first mission was traffic control, thought they were going home and then were told they got an extension. Now they’re in control of a prison, left with no guidelines. The rules were not posted, like the Geneva Conventions or Military code. A relevant portion details with not taking pictures of prisoners…
    The emphasis is put on the photos, when the real question is what were this prisoners being softened up for? Was it for extracting info on Saddam’s WMD’s, his ties to Al Queda, or his whereabouts? We don’t know when these pictures were taken but reading The Taguba Report we know that in effect that Military Intelligence took over in November, after a suggestion from a Gitmo commander that suggested that MPs be used in enabling the extraction of intelligence.
    Why do we suppose that we, as Americans, are not capable of war crimes? One incontrovertible fact is that you can’t have War Crimes without a war, even an un-declared war.
    It makes George W. Bush oddly prescient in making sure that no American would be tried for War Crimes before the International Criminal Court. On a diplomatic front this was pursued much harder than building a consensus for an UN Security Council Resolution. Those at the top turned blind eyes and gave tacit approval, or worse, did not stamp out the early indications of human rights abuses.
    I don’t hate America- I’m just wondering does anyone know where it went?

  • Marley

    Lawguy, I had the same thought. I decided to take it seriously, which of course left me dumbstruck.

  • Legomancer

    This administration is far more terrified of “being wrong” than anything else, and will do anything to avoid having to admit such. That’s why Rumsfeld will keep his job — even scapegoating him would imply that Bush made the wrong decision in choosing him in the first place: hence, he has to stay.

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