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Tilting at Windmills

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January 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE LEFT AND THE WAR....If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

Is this true? I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not. I once thought about browsing through old archives to at least see what the high-traffic liberal blogs were saying back then, but that turned out to be easier said than done. Matt, Josh, and I all supported the war for a while, so we don't count. Kos and Tapped seem to have lost their archives from that far back. C&L, Firedoglake, Aravosis, Greenwald, and the Huffington Post didn't exist back then. Atrios still has his archives, but he didn't post obsessively about the war and didn't write the kind of essays where he explained his position in detail anyway.

So: I don't know. I know why I turned against the war after initially supporting it (WMD flakiness combined with the mounting evidence that Bush wasn't serious about postwar reconstruction), but I don't know about anyone else. So I can't really play the game.

On the other hand, I think there's a problem with Atrios's response to Max Sawicky, who had chastised the early war opponents because he thought they had latched onto the wrong criticisms of the war. Here's Atrios:

I'm sure all of these criticisms were made by many on blogs including mine, but they were just extra criticisms thrown in there in various ways in an attempt to engage the dominant discourse of the times.

....But nonetheless most people rejected the concept of "pre-emptive war" and rejected the notion that even if WMD claims were all correct Saddam was an actual threat in any way to this country. That was the point that I remember most of us desperately trying to communicate, even if other arguments were used to try to further the general cause of stopping the goddamn war.

Question: If this really was the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?

I'm not sure I see it. The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right. It's the wrong unit of analysis. After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it. Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success. But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately.

PEDANTIC UPDATE: I've used the term "preemptive war" throughout this post, but it's worth noting that this is yet another case in which the Bush administration has twisted broadly-accepted language for its own use. A preemptive war is one in which an attack is imminent and you decide to strike first rather than wait for a certain invasion. A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but uncertain future attack. Iraq was a preventive war.

Kevin Drum 6:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (303)

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This is inane, even by Drum standards. If you launch a preemptive war when there is nothing to preempt, then it is a failure from the get-go. That's why the war's opponents wre right from the start.

Posted by: Bob N. on January 16, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the war from mid-2002 when it became apparent that Bush had to have his vanity war. But I shouldn't count as "ordinary" because I was talking to intel people, not reading pundits.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

How about opposing the war because it took money and resources from a more important goal: finding the 9/11 perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

Posted by: Vincent on January 16, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Bob: That's an argument about WMD. But what if Saddam really did have WMD? Then would there have been something to preempt?

Blue Girl: But what were your intel folks telling you?

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 16, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Just a general comment here: There were lots of reasons for opposing the war. In this post, I'm only reponding to the particular argument that Atrios made.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 16, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Vincent reminds us of the issue as we need to frame it: Afghanistan is being lost because of Bush's relentless pursuit of a vanity war.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta go with Bob N.

Look at who the media had represent the anti-war side back then: Jeanine G. [sp]

And the media protect their own even today, no matter their track record.

Being right on basically everything is what has doomed Al Gore to being on the Board of Apple, Inc.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 16, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think Daniel Davies made the point best IIRC it went like this, "Good ideas don't need to be sold with lies."

Posted by: Frank on January 16, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Preemption is a very bad basis for war unless you can be sure no one else will follow your example. Therefore, it shouldn't be done unless you are damn sure of the risk posed by the country you are planning to make war on. But from the beginning, the evidence about Iraq was questionable. Colin Powell almost had me sold, but many of the lines of evidence he put forward unraveled quickly. Most importantly, after all the time put in by inspectors, it became clear that either the WMDs did not exist or IRAQ was the David Copperfield of nations. That was my basis, and I believe I was lead there by commentary I read, though I can't now site any specifics.

Posted by: Tom on January 16, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Different people opposed the war for different reasons. The reason I opposed it was not for questions of principle (pre-emptive/non-pre-emptive) but because the war did not survive a cost-risk/benefit analysis. If hawks today say, hey, we have to use the information we had available at the time, I'm fine with that. But their case is still thin. We KNEW (or should have known) about the risks of a Sunni-Shiite conflict. We KNEW (or should have known) about the near certainty that our presence would attract jihadist elements. We KNEW (or should have known) that the risk factors for a functioning democracy in Iraq were bad. The truth is, the hawks didn't do a careful cost-risk/benefit analysis. They were thinking: “if we go over there and kick some Arab ass they are going to think twice about messing with us again.”

Posted by: Wagster on January 16, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

My objections were:
(a) In 2002, Bush seemed to be hyping the threat deliberately to start the war ( I didn't think Iraq posed a threat to us).
(b) I thought the most likely outcome would be a failed state, with sectarian strife.

Posted by: me on January 16, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not."

Here is what Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, who led the House opposition to the authorization for Bush to "use military force" against Iraq, said in November 2002:

Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted, and illegal. The Administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. Nor is there any credible evidence that Iraq possesses deliverable weapons of mass destruction, or that it intends to deliver them against the United States.

I think that sums it up pretty well.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 16, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

The purpose of the war is to provide security to America and its allies and to spread democracy in the middle east. Liberals don't get respect because they oppose those objectives.

Posted by: Al on January 16, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a blog but I opposed the war from the beginning for a variety of reasons all of which have been illustrated in recent years.
1. While Saddam might have had some WMD's I didn't think he was a threat to the US and in any case we should have continued the searches.
2. A preemptive strike like this violates International Law and thus only support from the UN could really justify it.
3. I thought that an invasion would mainly serve to inflame tensions in the middle east and undermine our ability to control terrorism.
4. I thought trying to impose order and a stable govt on Iraq--a country with vast underlying ethnic and religious tensions would not work and Iraq did not have a political culture likely to sustain the development of democratic impulses.

While such sentiments where hard to find in the mainstream press I certainly remember reading others who shared these concerns.

Posted by: Camus on January 16, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: I knew some (the unclassified parts) of what was in Desert Crossing. That war-game report they feared falling into competent hands.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Well, pre-emption is generally judged to be bad in international law, and there was no reason to pre-empt in 2003 since we were not under threat. Gaddis et al point to previous presidential pre-emptions, but that doesn't mean it is necessary or profitable.

There was substantial info about the weakness of Saddam's weapons before the invasion. Joseph Cirincione was one of those arguing this.

There was ample evidence of inflated beliefs about what we would achieve (e.g. the belief that democracies don't attack democracies).

And there were the inspectors, whom we got into Iraq but had to leave in March '03: Saddam did not kick them out.

So there were sound arguments for not invading. But the nation was traumatized and panicked, and too many went along, including some of my favorite Democratic bloggers in DC. The Brookings crew did not help at all. At the American Political Science Association meetings last fall, someone said in plenary session that noone at Brookings had opposed the invasion. Noone objected. Democratic interventionists bear a substantial amount of responsibility for this disaster.

I taught at the institution where Leslie Gelb did. I started in '65 and he left in '66. Around '69 someone in his department said, "Hey, Les Gelb's come out against the war. But not for the reasons YOU guys did." So the liberal hawks have good company. I think both McNamara and Chalmers Johnson have admitted they were misled, not by anything anyone told them, but by their cold war mentality, and they were wrong. O'Hanlon and Pollack seem to have similar mentality problems.

Kevin, note that your whole take pre-emption is, "does it work"? As we've seen, it often does not. But that's not the only reason to avoid pre-empting.

Dan Tompkins

Posted by: Dan Tompkins on January 16, 2007 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

What about the notion that us anti-war folk opposed warmongering in general and had an absolute (and well-founded) distrust of this particular president? It's not like we needed to have predicted the specifics of a botched occupation to be right on that regard.

Posted by: Lionel on January 16, 2007 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

I must jump in here. I opposed the war because,I, with no more resources than a computer and a cable modem, was able to determine that stories like Atta in Prague, Aluminium tubes, links to Al Queda were so much bullshit. I sat appalled while I watched Bin Laden morph into Hussain and Afganistan morph into Iraq. The policy was built on lies and was wrong morally. The fact that it turned to shit simply compounds the crime.

Posted by: brad on January 16, 2007 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who opposed the war precisely because of the lack of international endorsement from the U.N. and its diversionary impact on the War on Terror, I have to admit I always assumed Saddam had WMD's. I just thought that the best way to deal with the problem was through continued monitoring and sanctions, not militarization. Had the U.N. been involved from the start, and even approved the venture, it is less likely the subsequent fiasco would have occurred. I still would have opposed the war, but the outcome would certainly be preferable to the clusterf**k today.

Posted by: Steve Smith on January 16, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Well, let's try that link again:

Desert Crossing

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

It captures it for me. I was highly skeptical of the WMD claim and in no way convinced even if there were some stockpiles they were any immediate threat to the U.S. On top of that, I never once bought the Saddam-al Qaeda connection. In short, the whole thing smelled to me and pre-emption has never been a justifiable idea to me.

I did not write anything about it, so its not like my thoughts suit the evidence Kevin seeks, but I know I was not alone in feeling that way.

Now, I had no proof to back me up. However, it is a silly game to say those whose intuition was right deserve no respect. Then people's whose intuition is for shit do? Nonsense.

It is on the face of it silly to say those who opposed the war are not worth listening too because ultimately why it sucks was not forseen, like only seers with second sight who predict exactly deserve respect. If that is the case, no one deserves to be listened to ever.

Bottom line: had antiwar voices been listened too, even if the precise reasons don't fit today's hellhole, we would not be in this mess. And that is vastly better.

Prowar liberals who cannot come to terms with it need to face facts: people who are skeptical of war are wise to be skeptical. Wars of opportunity should never be fought.

Posted by: Some Guy on January 16, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Total BS! Everyone who wanted to know, who had the ability to read knew this was going to end up in a cluster fuck....but nobody wanted to "listen!"cj

Posted by: cleve on January 16, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

And the shame of it is that Kucinich was -- and still is -- held up as a crackpot not only by the right, but by folks who consider themselves mainstream. The man has been right more often, and about more important things, than any 10 people who appear regularly on the Sunday morning programs.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on January 16, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Read Zbgniew Brezinski.

He has the best explanation for why the Iraq fiasco was doomed to begin with, and why whether Bush surges, purges or urges, he will either lose the war or leave it to the next occupant of the White House to lose it.

Posted by: gregor on January 16, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Of course preemptive war is wrong -- how can you even argue the point?

The concept of preemptive war is NOT that you attack someone because you are heading off being attacked yourself. That is still self-defense.

Preemptive war is attacking someone because YOU THINK they may attack you. No troops are aligned against you, no weapons or motivation is apparent, you simply BELIEVE you may be attacked.

Think about it: if there are troops lined up at the border, or threats are being made publicly against you, you can obviously respond. In war, attacking can be a good defense.

But Bush, and the vast majority of Americans, including (sadly) many liberals who should have known better, supported a war based on Bush's words -- no troops were on our border, no weapons were found, no motivation was obvious -- Saddam did not declare war or threaten the U.S. in any obvious way. Yet millions of American approved of an unprovoked attack on another nation.

It was a crime. It is a crime.

But the worst of it is that America has learned nothing from this experience. Already there are those who say that the war was wrong because Bush lied (duh), or there should have been more troops, or some sort of after war plan (yeah, Hitler had an after war plan, I guess that makes it OK, huh?).

So-called liberal hawks don't agree with other liberals because they still believe that it is right for the U.S. to act outside of the rule of law -- and many non-hawks sit around arguing with them. At some point these people need to look at what kind of world they are creating.

Posted by: Dicksknee on January 16, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Dan: I agree. As I mentioned, the arguments for and against preemption are pretty much the same now as they were four years ago. And they're as much moral as pragmatic. I just don't think Iraq really advances those arguments one way or another.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 16, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that there was one "primary critique" is pretty much a straw man. There were multiple reasons to think the war would go worse than the administration said it would and that not fighting the war would go better than the administration said it would.

"The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong..."

Not entirely, perhaps, but Iraq is obviously evidence for the argument that preemptive wars are often unnecessary wars, particularly when the evidence that you are preempting anything at all is constantly crumbling before even cursory analysis (aluminum tubes, uranium from niger, meetings that never happened, etc).

It is also evidence for the argument that medium sized wars that deep down nobody thinks are really necessary are fought in a halfhearted way unlikely to succede. If iraq really was as important as Bush tried to convince people that it was he wouldn't have tried to do it on the cheap. The fact that the evidence in support of the war was so weak meant that support for it was similarly weak so the effort made in the war was weak. Very few people were willing to sacrifice anything for this war. Integral to the sales job was the promise that it would be so easy that no sacrifice from its constituency would be necessary.

It's not just international support, it is also domestic support.

"Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive..."

Sure it did. A definition of a successful preemptive war would have to be that it prevented something bad from happening. It has now been proven that, as many were convinced before the war, nothing bad was going to happen. Saddam didn't have useful WMD's and wasn't going to get them soon. He wasn't even really trying to get them anymore. The war itself has to be regarded as a cost and whatever bad thing was going to be prevented would be the benefit. As nothing bad was going to happen nothing was prevented and all we have is the cost.

If I cut off my arm to prevent gangrene spreading from my hand, but it turns out i just misinterpreted some newspaper ink stains my amputation was a pretty greivous failure.

Posted by: jefff on January 16, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

My recollection from the time was that there was much made of a book by that Pollack character that gave credence (on our side of the fence, anyway) to the notion that Iraqi nukes were on the way. Bush himself was relentlessly pushing the "Saddam must disarm" line. The idea that Saddam might be close to getting nukes was the one halfway compelling argument for war. Without it, the rest of the pro-war arguments pretty much dissolved.

I recall telling myself that removing Saddam might not be a bad idea, but I didn't trust this batch of jokers to do it. Then I told myself that was too glib, and I ought to be more "serious" about the whole thing. My earlier "glib" reaction was right on the money.

There's a beneath the surface crisis of legitimacy in the U.S. political establishment right now, given that most of it at least tacitly supported the war at the beginning. Now that the enterprise has gone terrifically bad, there's a real question of why most of those in power deserve to be there. When I see these people talking to each other on the teevee, there's this prevailing unreality as they all pretend the war isn't lost and that the administration isn't a criminal rogue presidency. They can't admit to these obvious truths as doing so would threaten all their meal tickets - after all why listen to such a bunch of jackasses if they were responsible for this catastrophe?.

I think the whole stinking edifice will eventually crumble, perhaps rather quickly and unexpectedly, much as the old Soviet Union did. Until it does, we'll see this same pattern of all the bozohawks protecting each other by being as stupid and dishonest as necessary to avoid facing the truth.

Posted by: jimBOB on January 16, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

It was obvious to anyone who could read that Iraq was not a threat. It was obvious to a blind man after 9/11 that Bush was going to find any excuse to start a war and that nothing was going to stop him.

The moral shilly-shallying that is being practiced by those dancing around this despicable debate is nothing less than disgraceful. And that includes almost every nationally prominent politician and all but a very few commentators.

The invasion and subsequent occupation was, and is, wrong and can never be made right. And it has been made several orders of magnitude worse by the unbelievably mendacious way the Bush Administration has pretended that they have any interest in bringing anything positive to Iraq (but Iraq, of course, should feel grateful).

The only person I know who can express satisfactorily the depths of anger, disorientation and sadness that I feel is Arthur Silber (http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com). I think he coined the term "narcissistic jingoism" to sum up all the self-righteous smugness that most in the U.S. feel about the good intentions the country (supposedly) brought to Iraq and the anguish about all the blood and treasure expended by the U.S.

What about all the death and destruction heaped on Iraq? Why isn't that the constant question?

Posted by: JB (not John Bolton) on January 16, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

War should always be the absolute LAST resort to any conflict. This is not a radical view, but somehow during this time period, we (the anti-war left) were treated as batshit insane because we felt that all other options for "dealing" with Saddam had not been exhausted. This worldview will ALWAYS be right, and the view that war is a legitimate foreign policy tool to be utilized as one would utilize diplomacy is so fucking absurd it boggles the mind.

I personally opposed the war because it was clear no matter how you looked at it, that war was being pushed not as a last resort and a failure of diplomacy, but as the preferred policy of a group of powerful nutbags.

Posted by: drjimcooper on January 16, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq was an aggressive war. There was nothing to prevent.

Posted by: dj moonbat on January 16, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the war because I did not trust Bush to be truthful about the reasons for the war.

It was clear during the 2002 election campaign that he saw this warmongering as the perfect opportunity to prop himself as the war President and to paint Democrats as weak on national security, the latter contrary to all available evidence.

Posted by: gregor on January 16, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I will tell you what I wrote my 3 congressmen in 2002: that there was no evidence to back up the Administration's claims. And that if the United States invaded Iraq, we would touch off an internal sectarian war that I didn't see any signs of being prepared to handle.

Oops, guess I was right at least.

In any case, what is the liberal hawks argument? That since they were /wrong/ for wrong reasons, they are in a better position than people who were right for the wrong reasons? Seems to me that the hawks were both wrong and unlucky, which is worse than being wrong and lucky in my book.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 16, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, let's clear up some terminology. Pre-emptive war is when you attack someone who is about to attack you. Preventive war is when you attack someone who could attack you at some point in the near or not-so-near future. We waged a preventive war, which international law does not accept to be anything different than an illegal war of aggression. I understand that the terms pre-emptive and preventive are merely two different points on a scale, but in the philosophy of war and politics they mean two different things, and we ought to be clear about that.

If I had believed that Saddam was about to launch an attack on us, thus making our war pre-emptive, I would have supported it. He was not, and therefore I did not. Even if one accepted that he had WMD, he was in no position to threaten us with them, which is the necessary requirement for a legal pre-emptive war to be waged. I was opposed to our war because by the standards of international law it was a war of aggression and thus illegal and immoral, and I opposed it whether or not Saddam had WMDs or not, because I was not convinced that he was about to use them on us. Even if we had found the WMDs, the war would STILL have been illegal unless we found some evidence that Saddam was about to order an imminent attack on us or our interests overseas.

Secondly, I didn't trust the administration not to use this war for their own purposes. I think the events of 2002 gave us plenty of evidence that we could not trust this administration to act solely in the best interests of the nation, or to even know what that meant.

And lastly, I did not predict that Iraq would dissolve into an atrocious civil war. I did however predict that the Iraqis would not be as happy to be invaded as those idiots on the right thought they would be, and I also warned people that I spoke to about my opposition that wars are not something you can keep control over. If you kick over a brutally repressive government, you do not know what will emerge in it's place.

I do not think there is some sort of requirement that the anti-invasion crowd have to have predicted the exact consequences of this war to have been right about it. It was right to be opposed to it even if the consequences turned out favorably to us and the Iraqis, because it was an illegal war of aggression in the first place. And it was right to be opposed to in general on the suspicion that the occupation would not go as well as hoped, and that the Bush administration would manage the occupation as badly as feared.

Yes, by those standards the only people who don't get credit are the ones who oppose all wars, all the time. But even in that case it's still difficult to argue with someone who's right, even if they got to their conclusion the wrong way. Fact is, if we had listened only to the anti-war all the time crowd, wouldn't we nonetheless be better off? The answer is, unquestionably, yes.

Posted by: Xanthippas on January 16, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive

It failed because it was an exercise in empire-building, rather than nation building. Moreover, it was an exercise in building a 19th-century empire. I'm surprised we didn't send our troops in on horseback, armed with swords and gatling guns.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on January 16, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Part of the anti-war left (the MoveOn wing, for instance) was not only anti-Gulf War II (Operation Iraqi Freedom), but also anti the Afghanistan/Taliban removal war (Operation Enduring Freedom). The anti-Afghanistan War position, for any centrist, is not worthy of respect. And of course the majority of Democrats are unfairly depicted as being part of the fringe left.

Posted by: Bill on January 16, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

I am loathe to be more specific than to say I knew mid-grade officers, Captains and Majors mostly, who had the uncomfortable feeling that the intel they were gathering was being cherry-picked and spun.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Bob: That's an argument about WMD. But what if Saddam really did have WMD? Then would there have been something to preempt?"

That's baloney. Of course it matters if the reason for preemption was real or false.

Yea, if there had been WMD's you'd be one step on the way to knowing that you successfully preempted something (still not 100% because there wasn't any real reason to think saddam would use any WMD's he did have or could immenently have come to have against the US any time soon, and if he had had them they might have been used because of the war), but since he did not have any useful WMD's (even loosely defined to encompass usable chemical weapons or active weapons programs making meaningfull progress) we can be certain that we preempted nothing.

In short we are spending on the order of $1,000,000,000,000 and have set off a war which is heading toward killing a million people to not prevent an attack.

That's failure.

It would work exactly the same way with a defensive war, or an explicit war of conquest. If we invaded canada in response to pearl harbor that would be an automatic failure. If we invaded greenland to secure the strategically important sugar cane industry it would be an automatic failure.

Invading Iraq to prevent an immenent WMD attack on the US was an automatic failure.

Posted by: jefff on January 16, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

I participated in two marches against the war prior to the actual commencement of hostilities. My motivating factors were 1.) an inherent belief that any administration, and especially this one, was more than willing to distort facts to line up with their political motivations (said as a Vietnam-era activist who felt the same about the Johnson administration) 2) a logical progression from the question of primary strategic rationale for the war which led me to a conclusion of a dual factor: establishing the unquestioned primacy of the US in the world arena and securing greater control in the distribution and pricing of the world oil supply, key to our current economy. I felt strongly for months preceding actual hostilities that the US was gaming the UN in a way that was both obvious and destined for success, given decades of preparatory work establishing the UN as an organization leaning strongly towards obstruction of US positions based on a believable (to US interests) desire for some form of comeuppance to US power and positions.

Posted by: John on January 16, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

This is an all-too-common case of Kevin relying only on the work of other bloggers. Prominent anti-war non-blogging liberals: Tony Judt, Al Gore, Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, James Fallows, Anatol Leiven, Timothy Garton Ash, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Kenneth Waltz, etc. These individuals opposed the war from the get-go, and in terms 1000X more eloquent than any blogger. Kevin ignores it just cuz he's so focused on the blogosphere.

Posted by: Jordan Smith on January 16, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

I once knew a liberal hawk who refused treatment for cancer because the doctor who diagnosed it could not tell him the exact reason for the diagnosis. For obvious reasons, the aforementioned liberal hawk does not exist anymore.

Posted by: gregor on January 16, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, first of all -- and not solely to mince words or split hairs -- when are people going to stop calling the American military presence in Iraq a "war"?

Secondly, what I remember as the chief reason why most anti-war folks were against the invasion -- and why I was against it: Iraq was clearly not a threat to Americans, especially not with the American and British boot on its neck with the northern and southern no-fly zones for 11 years. Iraq was a toothless and clawless lion. As for the WMDs . . . Saddam didn't have the money or the resources thanks to post-1991 sanctions (and, in retrospect, in spite of the Oil-for-Food scandal).

As for the failure of the continued presence in Iraq, that's simple. Nation-building in our own image -- which is the sole reason Bush went into Iraq, per the authority of House Joint Resolution 114 (2002) and House Concurrent Resolution 104 (2003), both of which affirmed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, signed by Clinton -- requires the will of the conquered.

Posted by: Robb Pearson on January 16, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

The key point is legitimacy, something which means other countries will help you, along with many within the country being invaded. The U.N. signing off would be indicative of legitimacy, but not the cause of it. The U.N. could, in theory, sign off on an illigitimate war. In this case it didn't.

Posted by: Lee on January 16, 2007 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was a long-planned war of unprovoked aggression. There was no threat to "preempt".

Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Powell etc. knew this very well.

They spent an entire year lying to the American people, the United States Congress, the United Nations Security Council and the entire world about what they knew to be a nonexistent "threat" from nonexistent "Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" and nonexistent "links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda" in order to justify a corrupt war of unprovoked aggression for the purpose of seizing control of Iraq's vast oil reserves for their cronies and financial backers in the US-based multinational oil companies.

Arguments about the legitimacy of actual "preemptive war" -- where a nation acts in self defense to preempt an actual imminent attack -- are irrelevant.

What is relevant is that Dick Cheney and his gang of career war profiteers from the military-industrial-petroleum complex had planned to invade Iraq and seize control of its oil reserves for years before Cheney seized power in the stolen election of 2000, and from the moment they took over the White House they were focused on how to pull it off.

As it happened, in September 2001 they got the "new Pearl Harbor" that the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) had written, years earlier, would be needed to persuade the American public to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and they took full advantage of it.

They are a gang of criminals masquerading as "conservative" or "neo-conservative" politicians in order to dupe enough weak-minded gullible rubes to vote for them that they could get close enough to steal an election, nothing more and nothing less.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 16, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I knew how blithely he had sent people to their deaths, deliberately and one by one, with the stroke of his pen and nary a moment of reflection. I knew how he mocked Karla Faye Tucker. I could see his pathologies manifesting a decade ago and I know I wasn't alone.

Who the fuck didn't see him then as the megalomaniacal war-monger he turned out to be?

I am not apologizing for being right.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

If you can't remember what the arguments against the war were, try this: what did the war's supporters gloat about in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad?

1) Welcomed as liberators
2) No uprising on the "Arab street"
3) No mass exodus of refugees
4) Not a quagmire

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 16, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Here is why Brent Scowcroft was against the war (writing in the Wall Street Journal 15 August 2002):

"But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence."

Posted by: Castorp on January 16, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

I was against the war because

(1) In general, war is such a destructive unpredictable enterprise, it should never be chosen except in cases of self defense in response to humanitarian crises. This is something I thought should be self evident; it's very sad we still haven't learned this lesson.

(2) It was clear that as ruthless as he was, there were plenty of people in Iraq who benefited from Saddam's rule and who would fight against us if we over threw him. I figured that if we invaded, we'd be in the horrific position where people would be arguing, well we can't leave now because that will be a disaster, but it wouldn't be clear our staying would help.

(3) Experts on the area at the time were comparing Iraq to a beam under pressure. There were tremendous sectarian pressures that Saddam's brutal dictatorship was keeping in check. They warned that it would take skill to make the transition to a new government without a break down and possibly civil war. The Bush administration had shown itself to be completely incompetent.

(4) As in Vietnam, I expected that the pressure of having troops in a foreign land getting shot at for a dubious cause where it wasn't clear who the enemy was would lead to atrocities that would tarnish our reputation. I didn't expect the sort of sexual abuse of Abu Ghraib though.

(5) The administration was clearly acting in bad faith. By the time we had invaded, it was clear they were seeking for excuses to invade; aluminum tubes had already been shown to be bunk. We should only go to war after an honest discussion of why we're doing it.

(6) I feared that getting caught in a quagmire in Iraq would remove resources (both military and diplomatic) that were needed to address North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. I was frightened in particular that North Korea would be allowed to keep developing nuclear weapons.

I'll just add, when we invaded, I had a horrible sick feeling in the pit of my gut. It's the kind of feeling you have in a nightmare, where there's a monster in the closet, and those you know and love are smiling and insisting on opening the closet, and you know what's going to happen when they do.

As for reputation, I don't think liberals who opposed the war in advance should be feted as foreign policy geniuses, because it was fairly obvious from the beginning the fiasco this was likely to develop into; it didn't take any genius to see it.

On the other hand, I do think people who supported the war ought to be a lot more embarrassed than they seem to be. After all, if I'd been wrong, if the occupation went smoothly, if the current government in Iraq was stable, friendly to the U.S., if our reputation was strengthened, if the Middle East peace process was helped, if we'd discovered weapons of mass destruction, I would give up politics and foreign affairs. I would figure, I obviously don't know a thing; I was sure Iraq would be a disaster, and the reasons we were being told we had to invade were a bill of goods. If I'd been that wrong, I'd happily give up politics, and pursue subjects I have some competence in. But now that the opposite has happened, now that the invasion that was supposed to have protected us and burnished are reputation has turned into the biggest foreign policy disaster we may have ever had, the people who pushed this policy don't seem particularly humbled. They're still in positions of power, still making decisions. This is terrifying, because things aren't as they could be; they could easily get worse if we don't learn from our mistakes. I'm just praying we don't go to war with Iran.

--Rick Taylor

Posted by: Rick Taylor on January 16, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Preemptive? Preventive? What utter bullshit. Sure that's the way it was sold to the American people, but many, including myself, never bought that.

This was a war of choice that didn't need to occur, period. Forget the reasons for why it strategically failed (ignorance, incompetence, arrogance, etc.), it was wrong because it was unnecessary.

Unnecessary wars are always wrong.

Posted by: DH on January 16, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

"The purpose of the war is to provide security to America and its allies and to spread democracy in the middle east. Liberals don't get respect because they oppose those objectives."
That is true, in the fantasy world you live in, Al.

Posted by: OXYMORON on January 16, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the war for the following reasons:

1) that if there were any WMD, it was well bottled up. The UN inspectors didn't find them, just for example.

2) I couldn't figure out how the hell it was supposed to play out, what with the possibility of conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, and the fact that Shiites were (and still are) the majority. Iran gaining influence in the region is no surprise at all. What I had not realized, what occurred to me earlier just this week, is that right now the next Osama is probably in his teens or twenties in Saudi Arabia, watching the Sunnis in Iraq most likely get the very short end of the stick. These botched executions don't help.

3) Bush was too clearly not-quite-lying his way into the war. If you look at some of the speeches (at least one of them quoted in Neil Young's "Let's Impeach the President") the sentences are carefully constructed -- Clintonesque, if you will -- to give the impression that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11, but if read carefully, you notice that it doesn't exactly say that. This was a total red flag for me -- why would he not state the involvement explicitly and declaratively, unless, perhaps, he didn't truly believe it? (Note that Cheney just lies, flat-out, about Atta meeting Iraqi agents in Czechoslovakia. This is more likely to fool me that Bush's carefully constructed non-statements).

4) I have a general bias against "trust me" coming from the government. Something this serious, you cannot say "let's go to war" (at likely cost of hundreds, actually thousands, of soldiers) but also "we cannot compromise our sources" (a few dozen, at most, probably not citizens, probably not as loyal to the US as our soldiers. And, it turned out, our sources were either nonexistent or shit). Sorry, if you cannot compromise sources, I don't think we need to compromise soldiers. There's cases where the sources matter more -- I'm thinking of the cold war, and WW2 -- but this was not one of them.

5) Without clearing our shiny new doctrine with the rest of the world, starting this war is most likely an actual war crime. Just another shrill liberal, that's me, but the law's the law, and we're a big country, and we can in fact take a punch before hitting back. As horrible as 9/11 was, several times that number die each year in various stupid ways -- from drunk driving, from suicide, just for example.

Posted by: dr2chase on January 16, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraq war was neither preemptive nor preventive. It was pretextual.

Posted by: Ross Best on January 16, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

"I once knew a liberal hawk who refused treatment for cancer because the doctor who diagnosed it could not tell him the exact reason for the diagnosis. For obvious reasons, the aforementioned liberal hawk does not exist anymore."
This is a valid analogy, in the fantasy world you live in, gregor.

Posted by: OXYMORON on January 16, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Who trusted the likes of Richard Perle and other unsavory figures from the Iran Contra and the leftovers from the Nixon Watergate era to have the best interests of our country as the their top priority? Add to it the President's blatant falsehood that Saddam ordered the UN inspectors to leave Iraq in 2002.

It was clear from the beginning that this whole thing was a big Enron like scam. I never felt the need to think any deeper than this to conclude that the Iraq fiasco was going to be exactly that.

Posted by: gregor on January 16, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK
If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

The "doves" (I don't know that those of us who opposed this war but had advocated, at the time, that the First Gulf War ought to have as its overt aim the unconditional surrender of Iraq with a WWII-style war crimes trial, occupation, and reconstruction of Iraq by the victors really count as "doves") pointed to a wide array of reasons for concern about the war, from the moral to the practical. The truth of some of those are independent of the results of this war, the truth of some of them (such as the overstatement of the administration of its justifications particularly as regards WMD) have been borne out unambiguously, and some of them are consistent with the results but not clearly demonstrated by them (such as that the lack of international support and the lack of provocation made it, moral concerns aside, unlikely that the US could succeed, even if it could have without those factors which was doubtful, with the kind of limited costs the warfloggers were suggesting.)

As to Atrios point to rejection of "preemptive" war, this is perhaps how many phrased it, but is not quite technically correct in historical context.

Very few people rejected the idea of "preemptive" war, as that is historically understood. The anti-war left extended Bush's expansion of the idea of preemptive war (which previously referred to war in response to a specific, imminent threat that has not yet materialized into an actual accomplished attack) to include what others have labelled "preventive" war, that is war in response to nonspecific threat that may or may not materialize in the future.

Atrios also leaves out the very common pre-war refrain on the anti-war left that, even aside from the question of justification, the administration was underselling the costs and duration of the war as much as it was overselling the provocation, and consequently that the costs on both sides, if the war "succeeded" at all, would be far out of proportion to any good that might be done.

If this really was the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?

First, I don't think its true that there was one clearly identifiable "primary" flaw in the case for war that the anti-this-war left coalesced around. There were myriad challenges, often articulated in long litanies, each of which was often presented as reason enough alone to reject the war. Second, the critique that Atrios points to (at least, as you relate it) isn't really one that can be "vindicated" by facts, it is a deontological critique, not a utilitarian one. OTOH, I suppose you could recast it into a utilitarian argument, in which case, with revision along the lines I suggest above to accurately reflect the dominant critique—the rejection of preventive war vs. that of preemptive war—I think that the present results are consistent with it, but not necessarily dispositive.

To wit, one might (I think I saw and perhaps even made this argument before the war, but I'm not really sure) flesh out a utilitarian argument that, in a war without provocation, it will be very difficult for the aggressor, if they are initially victorious, to do the kind of value transformation that the US proposed, because the perceived moral situation will be very different than with the defeat of a clearly aggressive regime by a nation or group of nations acting in response to aggression. Such an argument would be supported by the conditions that have actually resulted, though of course its impossible to make say that the lack of provocation is a "but for" cause of the failure.

After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help);

I don't think that's clear (replacing, again, "preemptive" with "preventive".) It certainly isn't the only factor tending toward failure; I'm tempted to say it is a sufficient but not indispensable cause of failure.

it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building is doomed to failure no matter who does it.

It certainly is possible that the latter contributed to failure, but "militarized nation building", has, in fact, often succeeded, and may even be the primary way nations get built, so the second proposal isn't even credible. But even if Bush's incompetence is such that it was sufficient for failure, that doesn't demonstrate that the context of the war didn't guarantee or strongly weigh in favor of failure no matter who was in charge.

Preemption per se had very little to do with it

I would agree, but, again, only because preemption is the wrong issue. Prevention, OTOH, I would argue may well have had quite a bit to do with it, because with prevention—unlike actual defense or proper preemption—the Americans (etc.) are not victims of the Saddam regime in common with the Iraqi people who then have a common moral claim and interest in replacing Saddam, but an invader whose perceived commonality of interest with the people of Iraq ends with the removal of Saddam, after which our perceived interests are opposed.

and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

There is no serious argument made against preemptive war. The "pure" deontological argument against preventive war remains much the same as in 2002, with no additional buttressing. The pragmatic argument aainst preventive war is somewhat buttressed by the results of the Iraq campaign. Sophisticated arguments like those applying Just War doctrine which involves both deontological elements and pragmatic elements balancing of benefits and costs, are likewise buttressed by the results of the Iraq War.

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success.

Well, certainly one could argue that defensive, including preemptive, wars are more likely to get broad international support or, even barring such support, be recognized as legitimate by the international community and the non-regime elements of the nation that is the target of the war, and are therefore more likely to succeed.

But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Well, certainly that would have both made the war consistent with international law and perhaps slightly improved the context on the ground and marginally reduced the degree of failure; had there also been more substantial international support outside of voting, that might have even further reduced the degree of failure. But its unlikely that UN approval alone would have made the war either morally justified or winnable.

Now, if you assume Bush doing what was necessary to get widespread support for authority for military action: accepting the deal brokered by Mexico and others that had majority support on the Security Council for beefed up inspections with an armed presence and firm deadlines with an explicit authorization for force on a set timeline in the event of failure, that might have transformed the situation even more.

Of course, it also might have secured actual compliance and eliminated the need for war, revealed Saddam as a paper tiger, weakened his regime, and paved the way—though not quick and easy, but note that invasion hasn't done that either—for a domestic, internal transition.

Either way, it would have been far better than what we ended up with.

That actually comes perilously close to my own view.

So, your own view has gone the whole way from "the war is a good idea" to "the war would have been a good idea, except the UN opposed it"? Well, I wish I could say I was surprised and disappointed, but I'm really not.

But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately.

Well, its a pretty dumb argument that mostly only gets raised as a strawman used by pro-war pundits trying to justify their claims that the anti-this-war left was wrong from the beginning even as the bulk of the public is coming around to being anti-this-war.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 16, 2007 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Listen: If you are under direct and imminent threat of attack, then you have a right to defend yourself. This was not the case with Iraq. The administration has repeatedly conflated 9-11 with Iraq in order to justify the war, and it has told countless other lies to justify it.

I became skeptical very early because of Bush's urgency to attack and not let the inspections play out. It seemed pretty transparent to me that Bush was simply going through the motions with the U.N. resolutions and everything else -- he was itching to get the war started, and that seems quite obvious in retrospect. At the time, I was initially quite alarmed by Iraq but quickly shifted to an anti-war stance largely because of Bush's insincerity in the pre-war negotiations. He did not act like a man who was trying to avoid a war with Iraq, just as he is not now acting like a man trying to avoid war with Iran. He appears to be itching for it.

Granted, Saddam did not help himself by being pretty cagey about the WMD he didn't have. But given that his mortal enemy Iran would have been very interested to know how little firepower he actually had, one can see the logic behind Saddam's unwillingness to come clean about it.

Now Iraq is a broken country and what do we have to show for our half a billion dollars and 3,000 dead soldiers and 25,000 severely wounded soldiers? What do we have as a result that we would not have had if we had simply not done this thing? We've isolated ourselves, we're weaker, we're despised around the world, not for our freedom, but for our belligerence.

Posted by: Harpo on January 16, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Members of the religious left opposed the invasion of Iraq for the simple reason that war is everywhere and in every case - wrong. It never solves anything and inevitably plants the seeds of the next war. Real liberals understand this. If only there were a few more around...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 16, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

The value of international opinion isn't just because it's the only way to secure military support, it's because the international community has some brains and are not tied to U.S. political considerations.

France also thought the Iraqis had something, I imagine that they thought Rumsfeld seemed so certain because he still had the merchants copy of the receipts. But they, and many others, perferred to let the inspectors do their work and that we secure things in Afghanistan first.

Wouldn't it have been nice to capture Osama Bin Laden with all the non-diverted resources we could have left in Afghanistan instead of yank out? Maybe prevented the Madrid or London bombings? Avoided the quagmire we're now in?

Incomptence was surely an issue, how could anyone have trusted the running of a precision campaign with someone who said that WMDs were in "the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Read that again - "east, west, south, and north" is everywhere. How anyone could have listened to him without saying "Whatta maroon" is beyond me.

But incomptence is only part of the reason that these kind of projects fail. Even in a well run enterprise, the present state would have been a risk, perhaps a likely or even unavoidable outcome considering the facts of the Iraqi nation.

There's always risks when you choose the path of war, which is why the wise are careful with this decision. Like anything else, one measures the risks and rewards, which is why war isn't considered a good idea vs. intangible/potential future threats.

Posted by: Fides on January 16, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK
Pre-emptive war is when you attack someone who is about to attack you.

More precisely, pre-emptive war is when you attack someone who is in the process of attacking you, but before they have actually successfully delivered the attack.

For instance, if you intercept radio communications ordering the launch of ballistic missiles at you, and you immediately launch your own strike before the enemy can attack you, you have engaged in preemption.

What Bush engaged in against Iraq is what some have termed "preventive war", which is a subset of what is generally known as "aggressive war": to wit, war for which there is neither an actual attack nor a specific imminent threat provoking the war, nor is there a threat to international peace and security short of an actual or imminent attack judged to warrant the use of force by a body competent to do so under international law.

"Preventive war" is distinguished from other kinds of aggressive war by the aggressor's claim that a speculative, general threat that the target nation poses currently or in the future (not an imminent threat) justifies the attack.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 16, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, first of all -- and not solely to mince words or split hairs -- when are people going to stop calling the American military presence in Iraq a "war"?

One one nations military invades another nation without the consent of that nations leaders, seeks to destroy the regime there, and occupy the nation and impose a regime of its own liking, that is, indeed, a war.

That one or the other nations involved may not have declared a state of war, that certain conditions in the domestic law of some of the nations involved pertaining to certain classes of war (i.e., "declared war") may not be triggered, etc., do not change the fact that a war exists.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 16, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK


I think this August 15, 2002 article from the Nation best captures the sentiments from those who believed we were rushing to war without adequate consideration of the risks involved. The war's supporters never addressed most or all of these very basic concerns prior to the invasion of Iraq.

It's a must read if you're trying to recreate the debate from memory alone.

Posted by: Tim on January 16, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a blogger. But I was opening my mouth and talking about the stupidity of the war prior to the invasion in my circle of friends, family, and coworkers. And now (note this well) I am opposing the coming war in Iran.

I opposed the Iraq war from *before* the beginning for more than one reason:

(a) The U.N. inspectors hadn't finished their work and were kicked out of the country in advance of imminent attack.

(b) I didn't think Bush and his team were serious about diplomacy. I thought they were talking out of one side of their mouth and doing the other.

(c) I didn't think Iraq was a threat to us. We had no-fly zones over their country, we had embargoes, and to me the country didn't look like a present or future threat.

(d) Iraq hadn't *attacked* us on 9/11. I also don't think we should've attacked Afghanistan, for that matter. I thought the official gov't line, at the time, was that the hijackers had come mostly from Saudi Arabia. SAUDI ARABIA. Including bin Laden, originally (and still had a lot of roots there with extended family and royal connections).

(e) In general, Cheney and Bush seemed to me like lying sacks of $hit then (and even more so now). I saw Bush as being an illegaally *appointed* president (the Supreme Court of Florida, while slow, was in the process of supervising that state's vote count, as was legal under our national constitution). I saw Bush as a continuous failure throughout his life at his many endeavors. I saw him as a flat-out war dodger who not only got a plum assignment but then went AWOL from it. I saw Cheney as a repeat draft dodger by getting bogus deferments. In short, I saw them both as chicken hawks who knew nothing about war except for how to avoid it under personal threat of "service to their country", and who were now itching to retroactively "prove their manhood" by starting a war of their own.

(f) I thought Powell's appearance in front of the United Nations was pathetic and it threw up all kind of red flags for me.

(g) I thought the playing of the nuclear card -- excuse me, "the mushroom cloud card" was bogus and over-hyped.

(h) I knew of the reputation of Perle and some of the others who had previously screwed the country over in various ways in earlier Republican administrations.

(i) I knew something of the history of the great powers (Britain, Russia, others) in the Middle East and to me, starting a war in the Middle East just seemed stupid to the max.

(j) The "Azores coalition meeting" pre-invasion just seemed fantastically pathetic to me on so many levels I don't know where to start. America, Britain and Portugal. Great. There was the coalition assembled on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Why the Azores? It seemed fakey to me then, it seems fakey to me now.

I could go on. In a nutshell, I saw the administration and its surrogates as a crowd of poseurs, fakers, chickenhawks and liars. Yes, *liars*. My pre-war opinions have only thickened over time. For you, Kevin, or any other "inside-Washington-politics" to retroactively say that they were "duped" seems like such an easy way out. Were you dumber four years ago, and now you're smarter? Were you not as able to sift and focus on evidence then, and now you are? What?

Posted by: Piehole on January 16, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

This whole thing -- Kevin's original post and this whole discussion -- seems to me to be nothing more than the never-ending effort of the so-called "pro-war liberals" to prove to themselves, somehow, some way, that they were "right" to support Bush's invasion of Iraq after all.

It was an illegal war of unprovoked aggression based on lies, for the corrupt purpose of seizing control of Iraq's oil for the Bush administration's backers in the oil industry.

It was wrong. Lots of people knew it was wrong, lots of people knew exactly what it was all about, and said so, loudly, and marched in the streets about it, at the time.

It was wrong -- before the arrogant incompetence and greedy corruption of the Bush administration turned the occupation of Iraq into a bloody catastrophe, it was already wrong.

The so-called "pro-war liberals" were wrong.

They should admit it, and get over it.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 16, 2007 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

There were many reasons, usually based on preexisting convictions, for opposing the war, such as beliefs that war is not the best way to resolve many problems, that it may worsen them, or skepticiam about whether this administration would run a war in a way that beneficial. That was not the primary factor in why 13 million people protested on February 15, 2003, the largest international protest in history, however. The primary factor--in other words, what they (I) were supporting in their (my) hearts, minds, and guts--was that there was an alternative to war: the United Nations inspections. Those inspections would determine whether Iraq had WMDs, and thus whether there was a threat or not. Above all, people were supporting giving the inspections a chance. That's what the UN was supporting; no need to speculate about whether you would support a UN-sanctioned war. The prior question that needs to be answered first is whether you did--or would--support UN actions to determine whether a war was necessary in the first place. It's hard for me to believe that even antiwar liberals who once supported war were opposed to letting the inspections run their course. There were other reasons to support the war--removing an odious dictatorship, spreading democracy in the Middle East, or even gaining control over a vital natural resource--and that's an argument worth having. But that's not what the war was sold on, or even should be sold on. Was Iraq a threat to U.S. national security--that is, was it a threat to the safety of the American people? That's the key question, and it's one the UN inspections would have answered. Those who supported the war failed to apply the key test--that war is a last resort. That's true for two reasons: (1) because of the destructiveness and unintended consequences that war brings, even when it is well run and those running it have a well thought out plan for peace; (2) because all peaceful means and avenues should be explored and exhausted first. The bedrock of opposition to this, or any, war lies here: the conviction that war should be a last resort, to be considered only when peaceful means have been exhausted (and that doesn't mean the Neville Chamberlain strategy, but building and using robust peaceful means and forces adequate to the task). Kevin, if you want a debate about a nonmilitary foreign policy to bein, as an earlier post urged, I'd suggest that you begin here.

Posted by: John Raymond on January 16, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Pre-emptive war is just one of the many bullshit
manipulations of language that the neocons and Bush foisted on (seemingly) intelligent Americans.
Many of us never bought it for the obvious reason that it makes as much sense as shooting your neighbor, because he might have an affair with your wife. Then of course there is the fact that it should have been bleeding obvious to the meanest intelligence that Bush/Cheney are seriously disturbed indivduals. Maybe they didn't recognize it in Texas, but the press who covered the election/selection of 2000 should have. It's always easy to be annoyed with those who have the legitimate right to say I told you so. Unfortunately, we're in the same deep shit as those who got us here.

Posted by: horatio on January 16, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq was a preventive war.

What kind of war was (were) the war(s) in the Balkans? That (they) also lacked U.N. support.

Are you sure that anti-war critics are not getting sufficient credit? I thought the problem was that they can't agree among themselves what to do next (in addition to the fact that they didn't agree in their criticisms).

The UNSC created a sanctions regime against Iraq, and is (or may be) creating a sanctions regime against Iran. The UNSC has passed resolutions against Syrian involvement in Lebanon, and passed resolutions against the Baathist government in Iraq. There are also sanctions on trade with N. Korea. What kind of war is it when the US (with some allies, but not necessarily many allies) enforces UN resolutions without the additional UN resolutions authorizing the force?

But nonetheless most people rejected the concept of "pre-emptive war" and rejected the notion that even if WMD claims were all correct Saddam was an actual threat in any way to this country.

Is that even true of most war opponents, much less "most people"? The lack of WMDs, and resultant mistrust of all administration "intelligence", has been the single most important fact eroding support for the war.

last question, as long as we are talking about liberals: Don't liberals get embarrassed by all these toothless "resolutions" passed by the UNSC? Hizbollah is substantially re-armed; without the US invasion Saddam Hussein would have suffered "no consequences" instead of "serious consequences". Or the atrocious behavior by the U.N. "peacekeeping" armies? The U.S. crimes at Abu Ghraib hardly rank in seriousness and scope.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

a few of them have admitted it ... their continued inability to "get over it" seems to prompt the majority of these types of posts.

I see this as kevin's and max's insecurity, nothing more profound.

Posted by: Nads on January 16, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking only for myself, all I wanted was some convincing evidence that Saddam has reconstituted his weapons programs and posed a significant threat -- which, given the nature of the Baathist regime, wasn't exactly an impossibly high hurdle to overcome. Or so I thought.

Instead, we got lots of overblown rhetoric about UAVs hovering of the eastern seaboard, small vials of "If this was really anthrax ...", and cartoonish and exaggerated drawings of supposed mobile weapons labs (that ended up being weather balloon platforms.

Oh, yeah, and we got lots of insults, along with heaping helpings of insinuations about our supposed lack of patriotism because we dared to question Fearless Leader's decision to turn away from Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

If we learn anything from this latest misadventure, it's that the true lessons of Vietnam in fact held considerable merit, that a healthy dose of skepticism on the part of the general public isn't necessarily a bad thing when it comes to debating issues of war and peace.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 16, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Without reading any of the responses so far, I will chime in with my own reasons for opposing the war from the start:

1) I suspsected that the war would necessarily lead to a lengthy occupation (especially since PNAC doctrine said that permanent bases were a strategic goal), and I could very well imagine that Iraq would become our own West Bank.

2) There were dissenting views about WMDs -- I don't know about blogs, but definitely in the international news -- even in those early days.

3) And despite whatever one took as the truth about WMDs, one had to ask oneself whether the cost of the war would be worth it since conventional WMDs are not particularly effective weapons. If I were a terrorist, I wouldn't bother trying to procure exotic biological or chemical weapons -- it's been well-proven that a mundane fuel-fertilizer bomb is perfectly good to kill hundreds of people (McVeigh) or an airplane (the 9/11 terrorists).


Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

The only good things to come out of the war (and in now way worth the cost) are:

1. that this kind of bloody nose will perhaps make the US is less cavalier about invading other countries for hyped up reasons (for the next thirty or so years anyway by which time you will have to more strongly factor in China's response)

2. a less somnabulent American citizenry.

3. a curtailing of the ablilty of America's elite to exercise power

I opposed this war (FTR I was in favour of the First Gulf War, Bosnis, Kosovo (with more ground support) and Afghanistan; against Panama, against Grenada) because it seemed obvious to me that the reasons were being trumped up, that any WMD stockpiles Saddam had were negligible. The claims of drones capable of reaching the US and of mushroom clouds were the worst kind of hype - and I was gobsmacked that so many Americans were falling for it. As for the Al Qaeda/Saddam crap, well, you know, sometimes up is up and down is down... the links proponents tried to draw were so convoluted... I saw Bush and the people around him as chomping at the bit to attack and seizing on anything they could as rationalization...

My judgement proved absolutely correct. Of course those with no judgement - the Peter Beinarts of the world - want to discredit it.

and I will echo DH - Unecessary wars are always wrong. War is always the last, last, last option.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

In 2002, Iraq went from not being on anybody's radar as a threat to the U.S. to being *the* principal threat to the U.S. - all this with no change in their wmd capability (whatever it was perceived to be at the time). For me, this is what set off the alarm bells. If Iraq wasn't a threat in 2001, how did they suddenly become a threat worth an invasion in 2002?

And, let's say they had all the stockpiles they were claimed to have, and they had some desire to cooperate with Al Qaeda. What were they waiting for? We'd been attacked several times by Al Qaeda (WTC the first time, USS Cole, Saudi Arabia, etc.) with no Iraqi-supplied wmd involved. Seems like if they were going to do that they had their chances.

All of this added up to: "we want to invade Iraq, for reasons we're not telling you, and we're now making stuff up to justify it". It was never necessary to invade.

Posted by: rch on January 16, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not.

—Kevin Drum

That's why I rarely read this blog any more. You're a fucking idiot.

Posted by: EconoBuzz on January 16, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Dude - What The Hell?

you are back at nations as amoral sharks, claiming advantage. Not the way to enforce a ruleset among nations.

What was being "prevented?" Saddam was caged and cornered. Preventive war usually means stopping an aggression - thus GW1 is fine - GW2, no.

Posted by: JC on January 16, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

robb Perason: "Kevin, first of all -- and not solely to mince words or split hairs -- when are people going to stop calling the American military presence in Iraq a 'war'?"

Please pardon us for that slight.

We really meant to say "an established military presence on foreign soil that is currently costing us an average of 100 dead, 500 wounded, and $8 billion per month."

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 16, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is inane nonsense. Read the speeches in the Congressional Record about why the war was wrong AND a mistake, that is about what the anti-war people said, on the left and also the few brave souls on the right who opposed it.

And what is this junk about arguing that it is somehow inconsistent be opposed to the war both because it was a bad idea, a wrong thing to do and the fools couldn't do it right even if it were otherwise OK.

OK, so you got too very good solid arguments not to start the stupid war. How do those two cancel out, or make the anti-war position self-contradictory? Now you let some stupid-ass CYA artists spout meaningless incoherent goggledygook and you fall for it.

Try this out on your spouse: Hey, the restaurant we want to go to has really crummy food -the very idea of this food is horrible and you will gag even thinking about it -it's a combo of Hungarian-Vietnamese-Creole with good old American liver and onions poured over the top of everything, even the ice goulash ice cream for desert. And PLUS, even if the reicpes were good, the cooks are incompetent and can't boil water.

So, we should go. See, the two badnesses cancel each other out, so they don't count. And theoretically, my reasons could be twisted into potential inconsistencies on theories about what kind of food is good and what isn't.

This is crap. Are you turning into a mainstream pundit or something?

Posted by: this post is junk on January 16, 2007 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

I speak for no one other than myself, but I think that Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Byrd, and their arguments, have enhanced credibility right now. As well as the other Democratic senators (and Congressmen) who voted against the war resolution.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

when are people going to stop calling the American military presence in Iraq a 'war'?

Fine. Clusterfuck it is.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK
What kind of war was (were) the war(s) in the Balkans?

The intervention in the civil war in Bosnia was just that: an intervention in a civil war; not a war between one state and another.

The NATO-Serbia war was either a defensive war based on both actual attacks and imminent threats against Albania, or an illegal war based on humanitarian concerns that have yet to be accepted as justifying war without UN sanction in international law, depending on whether you refer to the facts cited as providing a legal pretext at the time or the actual motivation of the war.

The UNSC created a sanctions regime against Iraq, and is (or may be) creating a sanctions regime against Iran. The UNSC has passed resolutions against Syrian involvement in Lebanon, and passed resolutions against the Baathist government in Iraq. There are also sanctions on trade with N. Korea. What kind of war is it when the US (with some allies, but not necessarily many allies) enforces UN resolutions without the additional UN resolutions authorizing the force?

Fantasy. No such war can actually exist, its an oxymoron. Such an act violates the UN Charter and the premise of UN authority underlying any UN resolution (and, in the specific case of the Iraq war, violated directly the resolutions it was supposed to be "enforcing") and therefore cannot validly be said to be "enforcing" any UN resolutions.

last question, as long as we are talking about liberals: Don't liberals get embarrassed by all these toothless "resolutions" passed by the UNSC?

Nope, never been embarrassed by them. Why?

Hizbollah is substantially re-armed;


without the US invasion Saddam Hussein would have suffered "no consequences" instead of "serious consequences".

False. Had the US went with the proposal by Mexico and others that had support of the majority of the members of the UNSC, Saddam would have been forced to comply with inspections on a set timetable backed by authorizations of force for failure (and the inspectors would have been backed with direct force to assure their immediate access to facilities, as well, IIRC.)

Now, admittedly, the US stopped those proposals from being adopted by the UN in favor of going to war without approval. But that hardly is justification for the argument that without that US aggression, Saddam would have faced no sanctions.

Or the atrocious behavior by the U.N. "peacekeeping" armies?

There have been some abuses by UN peacekeeping forces — including those from the US (or, even, private contractors for the US military involved in, and protected from liability by, UN operations.)

The U.S. crimes at Abu Ghraib hardly rank in seriousness and scope.

They included murder, so they can't fail to compete in seriousness. They may be smaller in scope than the worst abuses by militaries participating in UN operations, but they are certainly worse than occur in most UN operations.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 16, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I am anti-war in general, because war causes death and maiming to many people who are fellow human beings and who deserve just as much as you or I, to live out their lives unmolested. The only justifiable causes for war are forces massed on your border, or humane intervention in genocide.

Lots of good comments on this thread. I particularly liked the following:

Wagster said:

“The truth is, the hawks didn't do a careful cost-risk/benefit analysis. They were thinking: ‘if we go over there and kick some Arab ass they are going to think twice about messing with us again.’ ”

The most salient part of this comment is the part in quotes. The idea that we were going to prove to the Arabs that they couldn’t mess with us, and even worse, that invasion would make them, in essense, say, “Yessa boss, whatever you say, boss”, is ludicrous and completely illogical given history of the region. In fact, humans in general. If your territory has been invaded, you do whatever you can to get rid of the invaders. History has shown this time and time again. There was NEVER any chance that the Iraqis were going to greet us as liberators. I believe that most of them would have liked to get rid of Saddam, but he was still THEIR guy. We didn’t have the right. This administration and its supporters are deeply ignorant of human nature.

Brad said:

“I must jump in here. I opposed the war because,I, with no more resources than a computer and a cable modem, was able to determine that stories like Atta in Prague, Aluminium tubes, links to Al Queda were so much bullshit. I sat appalled while I watched Bin Laden morph into Hussain and Afganistan morph into Iraq. The policy was built on lies and was wrong morally. The fact that it turned to shit simply compounds the crime.”

ME TOO!!! I second, third, and fourth this statement.

One blog that was antiwar from the getgo is Buzzflash. They posted many many articles from various sources, including Scott Ritter, various military figures, the International Atomic Energy Agency, UN inspectors, etc., reporting that Saddam couldn’t have WMDs. Scott Ritter said that as of the end of ’98, almost 100% of the weapons had been destroyed. Given the international interdiction under which Saddam operated, and spy satellites, he could NOT have significantly built up his level of weaponry after the UN inspectors were kicked out (per Clinton’s request) in ’98.

Also, the Bush cabal was inconsistent. On the one hand they were claiming massive WMDs, and on the other were saying that the invasion would be a “cakewalk” and would last only a few weeks, or a few months at the most. These two ideas are mutually incompatible. Andrew Card said that they began the drumbeat for war in the fall 2002 because “You don’t market a war in August”. MARKET? MARKET? If a war is truly necessary, you don’t have to MARKET it! In fact, this marketing thing is one of the Bush Cabal’s central failures, i.e. that all you have to do is market something aggressively enough, regardless of its merits.

I wrote to all seven of Arizona’s congressmen in Sept. 2002, asking them not to vote for a war resolution, stating my skepticism about WMDs, and that the war would inflame the Middle East, rather than doing anything positive.

Bottom line is that we antiwar liberals have been proven abundantly correct. I’m hearily sick of war hawks, proven wrong about everything, still putting us down. They need to be thrown out, and their words given absolutely no credence, because they deserve no credence.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on January 16, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

It can't be an illegal undeclared war if it isn't a war. And Bush can't be a war criminal.

Posted by: Ross Best on January 16, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it might be necessary to confront Saddam someday, BUT
a) Let the weapons inspectors finish their work first, and
b) Win international consensus before taking action.

Posted by: Mr. Zhou on January 16, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

calibantwo: "The U.S. crimes at Abu Ghraib hardly rank in seriousness and scope."

That preposterous statement would only be true if the United States had never held itself up to the world as a bastion of decency and truth. After all, didn't President Bush himself testily respond to a reporter, "The United States doesn't torture!"?

All you are doing with your specious comparison to the strawman/bogeyman that was Saddam Hussein is enabling the hypocrisy to continue -- a hypocrisy that no longer fools anyone in the world anymore but those 26% of Americans who still support the president. And that, my friend, is precisely why Abu Ghraib and Haditha are considered an abomination by the world at large, rather than merely an aberration.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 16, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

My husband and I, along with many, many other citizens, viewed the idea of invading Iraq with horror and dismay - 2001 and every year since. We saw no immediate threat to this country from Iraq; we heard too many "maybes" in the White House's propaganda; and we were prophetic in stating, over and over again to no avail, that we'd have a hornets' nest if we did invade Iraq. No, we're not historians - we just saw through the clouds of propaganda put out that MSM blindly followed and we wondered "what in the hell is everyone doing!??" And, no, it doesn't feel good to be able to say "I told you so".

Posted by: Violet Cauthon on January 16, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely on January 16, 2007 at 7:46 PM

Two questions remain: Is it true that anti-war liberals are not getting sufficient credit? Should they be getting credit?

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

I am generically opposed to "preventative" wars on principle. There will always be unknown, unknowable, potentially terrible threats to the US from foreign nations.

There will also be people, sometimes very highly placed people, who want to start a war for their own purposes.

So if you believe preventative war is moral and acceptable you create a situation where in theory the US might always be at war.

Had the war in Iraq gone as planned I'm quite certain we'd already be engaged in another "preventative" war in the Middle East.

Posted by: Greg VA on January 16, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK


As a liberal who was against this war from the get go, let me tell you why I was against it.

1. The rhetoric did not fit the evidence on the ground. Too much hyperbole about smoking guns being mushroom clouds clouded normally rational Americans's thinking.

2. Colin Powell said in February 2001 that sanctions had actually worked against Iraq and Iraq wasn't really a threat to her neighbors.

3. No Iraq neighboring country was preparing for a supposed invasion from Iraq, not even Israel. If Iraq was not a threat to her neighbors, how could it pose a threat to the United States, 8000 miles away?

4. Saddam had no part in 9/11. Our priority was to completely dismantle and destroy Al-Qaida, which was in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. Zarqawi was in Iraq, yes, but the Bush administration failed to disclose the fact that Zarqawi lived in northern Iraq, among the Kurds, far from Saddam's influence, in the no-fly zone, in fact. But that evidence, were it to be publicly pronounced, would undermine the rationale that Saddam harbored Al-Qaida fugitives.

5. Iraq would have been (and as it turns out correctly has become) a distraction from the real fight against those who attacked us, in Afghanistan. The sole and number one reason why Afghanistan is regressing is because we no longer had it as our priority. Now what we see is Al-Qaida just as strong as before, but now operating from Pakistan and still in Afghanistan. This is a criminal travesty!

6. The notion that Iraq could be turned into a flourishing democracy was a fool's dream.

7. Worse, the executors of this fool's dream attempted to do nation-building on the cheap when Pentagon war games clearly showed you needed at least 500,000 troops on the ground!

Do you really need anymore reasons in 2002 for not backing this war? I'm still rather shocked that back in 2002 so many Americans bought the crap from this administration. In 2002, 70% of Americans thought Saddam had something to do with 9/11. What the hell is wrong with y'all! The evidence was clear (at least for those who don't have short-term attention spans).

Forgive me, the feelings are still a little raw that so many Americans fell for this charlatan act, this bamboozling!

Posted by: Dan on January 16, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, just say that you were completely wrong prior to the war and then move on. Anything else you say just makes it worse.

Posted by: ppk on January 16, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

One blog that was antiwar from the getgo is Buzzflash. They posted many many articles from various sources, including Scott Ritter, various military figures, the International Atomic Energy Agency, UN inspectors, etc., reporting that Saddam couldn’t have WMDs. Scott Ritter said that as of the end of ’98, almost 100% of the weapons had been destroyed.

Thank you, thank you Wolfdaughter for reminding me of Buzzflash. Though it's fallen off my morning reading list these days, it was (and so was Cursor) definitely a source of the international/alternative news I mentioned in my comment above.

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

MoveOn.org prepared an anti-war ad that settled on the idea of "Let the Inspections Work" (per my recollection).

To me that represents the 'minimalist' antiwar position - ie, let's not jump until all the facts are in.

Tom Tomorrow spent a lot of time with the theme of the "erroneously hyped up threat used as political cudgel." (Criticizing Democrats for not recognizing the imminent danger the moon posed and being weak on US security.)

I was wrong about the war. Per notes from a Toastmasters speech I gave (October, 2002) I thought that Bagdhad would be more difficult, that we would be there roughly 2 years, that violence would more or less subdue, and that we would walk out of there with a new friendly dictator and be 200B dollars and 2000 American lives poorer. I didn't think it was worth it, given that the IAEA had determined that Hussein had about 6 medium range ballistics, no nuclear program, and uncertain stocks of pre-1991 chemical weapons of dubious quality.

I was wrong insofar that I expected an outcome that is now unachievable, at a cost that we have long since surpassed. The idea of 'preventative' vs. 'pre-emptive' didn't seem central given that the that particular war was such a bad idea from the get-go.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 16, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

calibantwo: "The U.S. crimes at Abu Ghraib hardly rank in seriousness and scope."
That preposterous statement would only be true if the United States had never held itself up to the world as a bastion of decency and truth. After all, didn't President Bush himself testily respond to a reporter, "The United States doesn't torture!"?

I did admit, did I not, that the actions at Abu Ghraib were crimes. The perpetrators of the crimes are in jail or awaiting trial. I am sure that you do not mean to imply that only nations with high ideals deserve to be criticised. So let me repeat the question: Does it embarrass/shame/mortify you that UN troops on UN missions commit those awful crimes? The scale of their criminality is vast: Balkans, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Cambodia.

The question is only relevant to the issue of the relevance of UN support for the invasion. Even with UN support, the Abu Ghraib crimes would have been crimes. Without U.S. involvement, the crimes would probably have gone unpunished (as they have in most of the other places that I named.)

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

And another problem with this post is that I think the whole premise is completely wrong. The divide in this little opinion-pundit pushy-fight is not between those who opposed the war and those who did not. Josh Marshal and Matthew Yglesias were for it or on the fence when it started. I think Josh Marshall turned ambiguously and reluctantly against it just before the invasion. Joe Klein, Joe Liebermen and the TNR 'liberal hawks' were for it or on the fence.

Now it seems like the the former and latter groups are on different sides. What made that happen? Well, the former provided honest analysis, called them like they saw them, and they reported their change of mind without making stupid excuses as soon as they realized that they had been wrong. See any vicious attacks from 'the anti-war' mob or 'the left' on those two? No, I didn't think so.

Now the latter have not been honest, and have provided very self-interested and self-serving analysis and reporting. A few of them (and a Senator no less) have in my opinion resorted to outright lying. They have been conducting a CYA operation, and denying reality for over three years.

I think that is the difference. This whole debate is nonsense, and in response to sophistry from people who have been wrong about the whole war from before it started to right now today and think the most important use of their time and influence it to conduct more CYA operations.

Posted by: this post is junk on January 16, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK
If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect?

Let me ask a different question: If pro-war conservatives were wrong about the war from the start, how come they continue to get respect?

Yes, I'm talking about Fredrick Kagan (and his brother and father to a lessor extent). Could some wingnut explain this? Or perhaps some pundit?

Posted by: Edo on January 16, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I've been reading you since your Calpundit days, and very rarely do I find fault with your posts. But this is the epitome of one of those times.

I can't believe the nonsensical quibbles that those who got it wrong have with those who -- I'm sorry, ok?! -- got it right. We got it right for reasons I am TIRED of reiterating because they were so obvious!

I'm a housewife from New Hampshire, average in IQ and education. My anti-war convictions didn't come from "pundits" or "intel" -- just common sense reasons -- all bourne out after the fact -- along with the belief that you ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION when you're thinking of STARTING A WAR.

I'm going to employ common sense again to make another prediction. I believe that Bush/Rove/etc. were, in their arrogance, caught totally off guard by the results of the Nov elections.

I think they're making it up as they go along now, but I believe martial law has always been in their plans. (Remember Bush's remark after the election that the American people "should be glad they were able to vote in wartime"?)

I think when New Mexico votes for impeachment, other states will follow (dragging congress after them.) I think there'll be another terrorist attack (they've shown they don't mind destroying a city.) Martial law will be declared and we'll lose the internet along with what other freedoms we still have, post Patriot Act and signing statements.

I hope I'm wrong! But I think talking about it ahead of time is a defense of sorts....

Posted by: exasperated and afraid on January 16, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

I've waded through 70 comments and come to the following conclusions:

1) A substancial percentage of the left sincerely hates the US as a warmongering bully nation beating up on poor little Saddam.

2) If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?

3) I always cringe at the mention of preemptive war - a more honest justification would have been we were enforcing a violated ceasefire agreement. I do not believe the majority of Americans would have supported a preemptive war against, say, a Chavez-dominated Venezuela, even if we transposed all the WMD and terrorism threats. The anti-war liberals believed, and still believe, America is too enherently evil to be the world's policeman. Liberal hawks do not.

4) Deep cover agents of the neocon agenda like Howell Raines or Jeffery Goldberg in The New Yorker alerted the American people to the very real vulnerablity we had to biological weapons. Now the left wants to play three card monte and say the only real threat was the (long-range or non-existent) nuclear program.

Posted by: the ex-minion on January 16, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraq war was wrong because it was dumb. Even if it had been moral--which it was not--it was a dumb move. I said so at the time and some others (Barack Obama for one) said so, too. As to matters of morality, Kevin got close to the issue: Preventive war is immoral. The idea--which Bush raised in his 60 Minutes interview--that we can go to war because something might threaten us at some unspecified time in the future--is a violation of all norms of international relations. I'm not sure that liberals put it exactly that way at the time, but the sentiment was there.

Posted by: old_new_englander on January 16, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

If the United States of America has the right to wage so-called "preempive wars", than every nation on earth has the right to do the same. Given the advanced state of war-making technology,I would think that anybody with a shred of intelligence could see where that path leads to.

Also,I have yet to see a convincing argument as to why the USA should have special war-making privileges not permitted to any other nation, which seems to be the heart of the Bush Doctrine.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on January 16, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals aren't being ignored because they were wrong. They're being ignored because the people who were wrong don't want to give up their seats at the table to the people who were right.

I mean, this is very obvious.

For instance, read Al Gore's speech in September 2002. He was one of the few people to say out loud what most war opponents (and many cowards who voted for it) were thinking.


He lays out the specifics of why preventive war is a losing philosophy in general, as well as laying out the specifics as to why this particular preventive war will likely end in catastrophe, and why it is, at best, an inappropriate response to the level of threat represented by Saddam Hussein, and he warns that the consequences of failure will be dire in terms of destabilizing the region, weakening our nation, costing a fortune, and, um, making it harder to capture Osama bin Laden and rebuild Afghanistan--two actions that WOULD make us all safer.

Honestly, there were a lot of very good reasons articulated by liberals as to why this war was a bad idea, which have tragically been vindicated--everything from "they're hyping the threat" to "we're quite obviously not preparing for the aftermath" to "it's going to isolate us diplomatically" to "it's going to make it harder, not easier to win the war on terror."

Sure, some people sang "kumbayah." Also, some war proponents shouted "exterminate the brutes." We pretty much ignore both these sides because, you know, it's what they always say and we think both these foreign policy philosophies are lousy, so if their preferred course of action is right, it's pure chance.

I'm not sure what you're looking for here. Do you want the take-away to be "well, the Iraq war tested the theory of X, and because X failed (as opponents said it would), this theory should be trashed"? It's extremely hard to say that some particular approach to foreign policy was repudiated in Iraq, because in many ways a key problem was that there wasn't so much a coherent foreign policy theory as there was petulance and a constantly shifting strong of mutually contradictory PR-driven war justifications.

I mean, yeah, Iraq repudiates the idea that a president should use "because I want to, so go make some shit up and sell this idea" as his foreign policy framework. It also repudiates the idea of "well, just take out the guy in charge, and the whole thing will inevitably shake out in a way that's better for us." It repudiates the idea of spending billions of dollars on reconstruction without accountability, of appointing partisan political hacks instead of regional experts...but, I mean, were these ideas ever really worth testing in the first place?

To me, the key observation is that in spite of the fact that Iraq not just an obviously terrible idea on many, many levels but also not a good idea on any level, we still did it. This teaches us that we as a society dramatically overestimate the utility of military solutions and underestimate the utility of diplomatic and "soft power" ones. Furthermore, we learn that we're shockingly willing to tolerate the demonization and misrepresentation of people who quite clearly and rationally point out the reasons why military force will not be effective in a given situation.

That's the most important take-away I think we should have here. The key observation is that oing in everything about this operation screamed that it was a fool's errand, and yet it was pretty much a fait accompli as soon as the President decided he was going to do a full court press on it.

Oh, and also, electing very stupid and incompetent people to lead the nation, and then allowing them to remove all institutional checks on their power is an EXTREMELY bad idea. But I think we knew that before Iraq, frankly.

Posted by: anonymous on January 16, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Had the US went with the proposal by Mexico and others that had support of the majority of the members of the UNSC, Saddam would have been forced to comply with inspections on a set timetable backed by authorizations of force for failure

Good answer on the whole but that excerpt is probably not true. France had announced its intention not to vote for any resolution that had an "or else" clause; in other words, it refused to back the inspections with an authorization to use force in case of failure. The word "probably" is because France might have changed its mind.

Just like the result of 1441, a failure to comply (including interference with the inspections) might have been adjudged not to be a failure to comply. McDruid and Marler went through this a couple weeks ago, where "process compliance" crept in as a substitute for "complete compliance with all previous UN resolutions", and the rigid schedule was adjudged evidence that the resolution was not serious.

I would be happier if the UN would not pass all those resolutions that it ignores. It's like spitting in the wind: who does it 1701 (and counting) times? It's a waste of real estate, of talking, reading, and writing.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

exasperated and afraid: ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION when you're thinking of STARTING A WAR

Think before you start a war? You'll never be president with that attitude.

Posted by: alex on January 16, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think Josh Marshall turned ambiguously and reluctantly against it just before the invasion.

Since we're all working from memory here, I'll affirm this. I remember Josh had a great analogy for the neocon plans that went something like (again, from memory):

"Their plans are like something from an action film where someone exclaims 'That's just so crazy, it might work!' The whole thing relies on every detail going exactly to plan, down to the guard turning his head at the precise moment."

Or something to that effect. (I hope Josh is proud that his imagery was memorable to this reader.)

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Military Times newspapers will run a front page story tomorrow on a rally of active duty troops that was held off-base in Norfolk yesterday. Today the leaders of that group, Marine Sgt. Liam Madden and Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Hutto presented 1028 Appeals for Redress Against the War in Iraq on the Capitol steps today. From Madden's speech:

"We will not tolerate the rhetoric that we must support the troops by funding a war that puts them in harm's way," Madden said. "If you are funding a war that puts them in harm's way, you are not supporting them. You are endangering their lives for a war that cannot be justified, has not been justified and will not work."

The actual text of the Appeal for Redress reads, "I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

anonymous: For instance, read Al Gore's speech in September 2002.

Do you think that this enhances his candidacy (if any) in 2008? I think that, plus his movie, plus his mostly good composure since 2000, does enhance his candidacy. Especially if he continues to act as a non-candidate.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

> it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it.

It failed because it was an act of Western colonialism in the nonwestern world. That stuff doesn't work any more because the power imbalance between West and non-West isn't as lopsided as it was in Kipling's day.

Posted by: Laney on January 16, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

the ex-minion: I do not believe the majority of Americans would have supported a preemptive war against, say, a Chavez-dominated Venezuela, even if we transposed all the WMD and terrorism threats.

Wow, Chavez with all of Iraq's WMD and terrorism threats would be almost as big a threat as Chavez is now. Sometimes he says not nice things about our president, some of them in very poor taste!

Posted by: alex on January 16, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?

These were interventions in a genocidal war. Not preemptive in any sense of the word. Asshat.

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

The war was not pre-emptive, nor preventive. It was an unjustified act of aggression sold to the world in a wrapping of criminal lies. The reality of the Iraq war has vindicated only those who didn't even consider the aftermath, those who argued against the very act of war and the criminal behaviour of the Bush administration in propounding it.
Kevin, like many of the confused liberals, seems unable to grasp this. His critique is based on the assumption that the U.S. is unquestionably free to do whatever it likes, and it's only the subsequent effects of that action that need to be examined.

Posted by: billy on January 16, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

To invade another country which posed no threat and had not attacked us is generally considered wrong by both legal & moral standards. One of the four articles that Nazis were tried under at the first IMT was "war of aggression" and that's exactly what the United States' invasion of Iraq was. I would not say it was a "preventive" war at all since Saddam wasn't planning -- and couldn't have gotten far anyway -- any hostile act against the USA.

Posted by: zhak on January 16, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

There were lots of opponents of the war, each with a somewhat different point of view, so I can only speak for myself. Basically, I thought the war was a bad bet. If the UN had really wanted to do it, I would have thought that the US should go along as a matter of supporting the international community, and putting some teeth in at least some Security Council Resolutions, but I wouldn't have thought the war itself was a good idea.

Why was it a bad bet? Because there was lots of downside risk and little upside. In order for this to be a coherent position, I don't need to predict in detail just how things are going to go South, and in fact a healthy respect for the unknowability of the future simply reinforces this position. George Kennan said [roughly] "You know where you start, but you don't know where you'll end up." Does that make him an unserious DF Hippy?

The liberal hawk's argument about who deserves respect actually works much better in the other direction: to advocate a war of choice, you have some obligation to explain in detail how you're going to get to the other end better off than when you began. The administration resisted planning precisely because (I am convinced) serious planning led quickly to the conclusion that this was going to be a much bigger, badder war than America wanted. Presumably each liberal hawk had his or her fantasy concerning how it was going to be hunky dory, and I vaguely recall some of these being articulated to a greater or (more frequently) lesser extent, but they were all wrong, and their proponents should consequently be viewed as damaged goods, though some perhaps more than others.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on January 16, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

the surge might be working already:


follow the link to Iraq the Model.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 16, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin --

"...Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of...."

I think you were looking in the wrong place. Polling a few blogs would not have been statistically viable in representing liberal view. Suggest you go back to the editorials, meaningful commentary, etc. of the time.

Also, there were all sorts of reasons, among the best of which were 1) not lauching an illegal war against 2) a country which many saw as no immediate threat to the US, UK or anybody else. So I wouldn't exactly dismiss those reasons.

As to looking into the crystal ball, there have been as many people in all the books published who foresaw bad things as there were all rosey.

Suffice to say there was definintely a large number of people in the USA who thought it was a "bad idea" and a majority in UK, France and Germany who were extremely vociferous anti.

Most importantly, this all came around to this sorry mess because a small cabal at the seat of power were determined to bring this on almost at any cost and without regard to truth or judgement and willing to use any manipulation.

They tilted the table of judgement.

I don't think we need to do a count on who was right and how right. The result and inestimable costs of bad judgement and being wrong stare us in the face.

And continue.

Posted by: notthere on January 16, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

the surge might be failing already:

"Deadly Day in Iraq Leaves 109 Dead"

A total of 142 Iraqis were killed or found dead Tuesday, in what appeared to be a renewed campaign of Sunni insurgent violence against Shiite targets. The sharp uptick in deadly attacks coincided with the release of U.N. figures that showed an average of 94 civilians died each day in sectarian bloodshed in 2006....


Posted by: Windhorse on January 16, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

2) If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?
Posted by: the ex-minion

1) america wasn't responsible for establishing, arming, and supporting milosevic, so we may have some perception of moral authority there.

2) no oil, so less potential for war profiteering; possibly more authentic to go to war for stated humanitarian reasons without an obvious resource grab.

3) no historical imbalance in american approach to the balkans, as contrasted with the consistently anti-arab position the US espouses in the mideast.

4) actual evidence that the conflict would spread, whereas saddam was contained and impotent.

5) paleocons enjoy killing muslims; I assume their refusal to back clinton may have had something to do with their inability to see the bosnian muslims as worth rescuing from genocide.

Posted by: Nads on January 16, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just curious about something. Why the hell is it incumbent upon us to explain ourselves, when we were the ones who were right?

It's instead the responsibility of anyone who ever supported this obscenity for even a second to do the explaining, I do believe.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

William Lind, who is not a political liberal or leftie in anybody's book, was against the war for military strategy reasons before it started.

His archive is here:

Posted by: Bob M on January 16, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Invading, conquering, and occupying a country in the middle of the middle east--when it was unprovoked.

To paraphrase Count Basie, if it sounds crazy, it probably is crazy.

Posted by: JJ on January 16, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK


What is the magic number of murders that makes a dictator eligible for the "interventions for genocide" exemption to your moral code.

Posted by: asshat on January 16, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?

I see Pennypacker's already answered this but stepping into a fight when someone is kicking the shit out of someone else is different than going up to someone and bopping them in the nose cause you think that someday they might think to bop you first. I realize this may be an intellectual jump for minion but...

Also,I have yet to see a convincing argument as to why the USA should have special war-making privileges not permitted to any other nation, which seems to be the heart of the Bush Doctrine.

or special nuclear-weapon testing privileges or... - admittedly a banal answer but because you think you can. One of the considerable advantages of coming from a small nation is that such displays of hubris are ridiculous from the git-go.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

the surge might be working already:

That story is ridiculously uninformed, btw.

American commanders in Iraq themselves have been saying that a problem with implementing a surge in Baghdad is that fighters on all sides can simply take a vacation in other parts of the country until we're forced by necessity to draw down.

I would say that is a fatal flaw in the plan. . . Matthew.

So if in fact Al Qaeda is departing the capital -- all thirty of them I'm sure -- it is to be expected. And don't they know that this "surge" doesn't even bring us up to troop levels of 2004?

Posted by: Windhorse on January 16, 2007 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

What is the magic number of murders

There is no magic number, asshat (as apt a monicker as I've seen). It's a judgement call made in context. (Do you do everything by ABC's?)

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK


I don’t think this is a fair retelling of history. I also think you should go back and reread TPM during the run up to the war.

At that moment in History everyone (almost everyone except doves) was behind the invasion of Afghanistan. And everyone in the US was behind disarming Iraq. We were determined to go country by country, across the globe and shut down countries that wanted to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction. We were willing to use hard and soft power to disarm Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

America was at the height of its political, economic and hard power. We’d just won a war and were prepared for another if anyone resisted our demands for disarming. We all sat and watched the process of the UN racing across the sands of Iraq to make sure they’d disarmed. And it was beginning to look as though Iraq hand none.


About a month before the invasion it became clear that we weren’t planning to disarm Saddam. We were going to invade no matter what happened. That’s when Bush lost a lot of people. And you can see it in Josh Marshals blog as well. There was a collective gasp, when Hawkish Dems all realized that we were not busy protecting America from WMD after all. We were simply going to kill some Sand Niggers to so the son could atone for the sins of the father.

Anyway, that’s how I remember it.

Posted by: troll_bait on January 16, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, by your definition all war is preventive because you never know.

Iraq was not a risk to attack the United States in the foreseeable future when Bush attacked.

There is no evidence Saddam Hussein had this intent. There is ample evidence he lacked the capability. And it would have been suicidal.

This was my point. Even if Iraq had everything the Bushies claimed, Iraq still wasn't a threat.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on January 16, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

What is the magic number of murders that makes a dictator eligible for the "interventions for genocide" exemption to your moral code.

It wasn't a question of numbers, it was a question of whether there was a crisis going on at that very moment in which people were dying.

Yes, I know Saddam murdered thousands of people in the '80s. It would've been nice if we could've intervened on their behalf at that time, rather than sending Donald Rumsfeld as a Special Envoy to assure Saddam that we would look the other way while selling him weapons. But you know, those were different times under a different Bush.

I'm raising your asshat to a fuckwit.

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?

This strawman has been adequately answered by others, but it bears pointing out that Clinton dithered over Bosnia until the Iranians started to arm their co-religionists there.

Finally stepping in to stop the Serbs from slaughtering the Bosnians was the (belated) right thing for Clinton to do, but I suspect that his reasons had more to do with preempting the Iranians.

Posted by: Disputo on January 16, 2007 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure it's been said many times already but I just want to pile on.

- WMD claims were weak, (chemical at best.)
- Claimed links with Al Qaeda were laughable.
- We had other more important things to do; ask Zinni.
- The Bush administration was clearly lying-- that makes the whole endeavor suspect.

Lies: 1) WMD, 2) Al Qaeda, 3) to instill Democracy (only if his name is Chalabi, and by-the-way this cabal's last last choice in Iraq was Saddam), 4) to defend the UN (except they couldn't get a UN mandate.) And, 5) because of human rights abuses-- some of which *they* participated in during Reagan's years.

- Bush et al were more interested in tax cuts and sweet-heart contracts for their cronies.
- Bush was a well-known fuck-up even then, and he has always been surrounded by zealots with no respect for facts. How could we trust them to execute?
- Iraq was no threat.

Sorry Kevin. There were so many reasons. So, though while I agree it would be nice for a united western liberal civilization to cleanly take out bad actors and apply some focused attention to solve a worst-first world problem this was never going to happen while modern-day Republicans were in charge of the US. Honorable goals were too compromised by their greed, arrogance, and ignorance.

Posted by: dennisS on January 16, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

I clearly remember why I opposed the war back in 2002:

1. Saddam was plainly NOT an ally of bin Laden
2. If Saddam had WMD Hans Blix would find them
3. The sectarian fissures that are dominating the present-day politics of Iraq were plain to see even then.

The issue of "pre-emption" wasn't really all that interesting.

Posted by: Chloe on January 16, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps if you had paid better attention to the arguments against war at the time (you know, when it actually mattered), your memory of said arguments would be better. What Atrios is saying is that American exceptionalism does not give America the moral authority to project our values onto Iraq via military force. The war has been from the beginning, and remains now, fundamentally immoral and wrong, no matter how competently or incompetently the war's strategy has been implemented.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on January 16, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kos and Tapped seem to have lost their archives from that far back.

Not at all. Here's the first post from Kos. That's Day One. Just keep hitting next page until you see what you are looking for.

Posted by: Kiril on January 16, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

thanks Kiril. Some selected Kos postings from five days in February 2003

February 15, 2003 - Millions say "no" to war
February 14, 2003 - Our nation's real enemy still exists
February 14, 2003 - Everyone needs to chill
February 14, 2003 - Hans Blix: Inspections working
February 12, 2003 - One war scenario
February 12, 2003 - Fools in the desert
February 11, 2003 - OBL hates Saddam; Powell loses cred

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Whether you call it "pre-emptive" or "preventative", this kind of war is as bad an idea as "pre-emptive" or "preventative" amputation.

Only monsters advocate it.

Posted by: sidewinder on January 16, 2007 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Keep up the good fight guys. I have an 8:00 a.m. class, so I'll leave you to it. Goodnight.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 16, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the war from the start because:

1) It was clear from the shifting rationales which were each quickly debunked that the Bush admin were lying about whatever the real reasons were.

2) Preventive war is clearly against international law. At the Nuremburg trials, this was called War of Aggression.

3) The principle that when war can be avoided, it should be, and nothing had sounded even vaguely convincing that there was no way out of this one. (See 1 and 2 above)

I was rather disappointed that, in general, people are "for the war" if it seems like it's going to "go well" for the US, and oppose it if it seems like it's "going badly" for the US. This is not a principled position.

Posted by: thump on January 16, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush re-defined the historical meaning of "preemmptive war," he did so openly and cnadidly. He specifically stated that we needed to make war on Iraq before they developed a nuclear arsenal. To wait for an imminent attack would be too late, he said, because once they had nukes, we would be unable to attack them.

I always thought liberals were forward-looking. Instead I see a bunch of complaints that Bush didn't follow the traditional approach to preemptive wars that applied when the Gattling gun was the height of technology.

In 2002 there was a danger that Iraq would develop nukes and us them as a threat to keep us out of the way, while they took over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. That threat is now gone. In response to Saddam's overthrow, Libya discontinued its nuclear program.

I'm very sorry that the Bush team botched the occupation, leading to the deaths of many innocent people. But, I'm glad Saddam was overthrown.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 16, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

What cannot be emphasized enough is that during the leadup to the war, there was literally only one anti-war voice that was heard on the corporate airwaves. For whatever reasons that this war was conducted, and they were many, they could not be refuted in that area where most Americans receive their news and that is television. The odds were so stacked against the doves that they had no chance against the hawks that were circling all around them and who were enabled by our compliant media.

Posted by: Erroll on January 16, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

In 2002 there was a danger that Iraq would develop nukes and us them as a threat to keep us out of the way, while they took over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

If you believe that, then you might as well believe anything. Wal-Mart might develop nukes and use them as a threat to take over Target and Costco. The Teletubbies might develop a hydrogen bomb and take out Sesame Street.

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 16, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

thump wrote:

"1) It was clear from the shifting rationales which were each quickly debunked that the Bush admin were lying about whatever the real reasons were."

That alone was enough for me to oppose the war. It all smelled like lies from the get-go, and it still does.

Posted by: Hal Grossman on January 16, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

In 2002 there was a danger that Iraq would develop nukes and us them as a threat to keep us out of the way, while they took over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. That threat is now gone.

There was no evidence - none - that Saddam had an active nuclear program and plently of circumstantial evidence that he didn't. As it turns out, much of the program had been buried in one scientist's back garden for ten years. Of course in a world where absence of evidence is not evidence of absence... Frankly ex-thinker, you write as if the world outside the US is a mystery to you - and apparently it is. I feel sorry for those of your countrymates who are not so blithefully unaware.

And Libya's response was well underway long before any moves against Iraq. (I hope, I pray you're a customer some day).

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Now that we're arguing about the argument against the War, which seems kind of ridiculous at this point, let's put this nonsense to rest. Like this:

"After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it."

Really. So we needed George W. Bush to try it before we figured out preventive war was a bad idea. If we look back, when would it have been a good idea? Hasn't this already been tried before? Vietnam was supposed to be about preventing all those falling dominos, right?

Further, one can claim that pre-emption, or whatever you want to call it, wasn't brought up enough by the anti-war Left, but face it, no one was listening anyway. And now we're discussing whether bloggers brought it up enough? How about the mainstream media?

Face it Kevin, a big part of this argument has to do with who had any voice at all in opposing this war. They fired Phil Donahue from MSNBC for even having guests on that might question it.

Now on to this:

"But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately."

Let's retrace some of our steps here. It wasn't the anti-war Left who convinced Colin Powell to demand that Cheney go to the U.N. and ask for inspectors. The anti-war Left didn't believe what we were being told. Here's the simplest piece of forgotten history: had Cheney let the weapons investigators finish their job, we all would have known that Iraq had no WMD, and was therefore no threat to anyone, least of all the U.S. As we all should know by now, Cheney pulled them out before the job was done.

The anti-war Left in the U.S. doesn't need U.N. approval to go to war, just some very good reasons and solid evidence that someone is a threat. I'm sad that Kevin, Josh, and Matt were for the war because I respect all of their opinions.

The tip off for me was when the American public was being treated like an American Idol audience in selling the war on TV. That worked like a charm, even with Democrats. Funny how perspectives change after all the hype dies down.

Posted by: FuzzFinger on January 16, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the war from the start, was a local elected official who publicly opposed the invasion (serving on both City Council and County Board), am a liberal and remember our/my arguments well:

- It would make us less safe. "like putting out fire with gasoline" was my favorite line.
- They didn't attack us on 9/11. See the people of the country to the South (Saudia Arabia)
- There was no imminent threat. The weapons were not found. Every claim was shown to be bullshit. (Aluminum tubes? Why is your evidence of mobile chemical weapons labs and mateurish drawing? )
- We could contain Saddam under the existing, and more intrusive, weapons inspections regime.
- you don't fix things by just bombing shit.
- Where's Osama?
- Like that.,

This claim that Saddam with nukes or chemical weapons wouldn't be a problem is misstated. it was a) let's find any WMD claimed to exist and b) let's then destroy them.

Posted by: AndyO on January 16, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it? Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately.
—Kevin Drum

I would point out that this sentiment reads as an attempt to weasel out of an initially unworthy, uninformed, and ultimately undefendable position. A few liberal war-whores have offered some mealy-mouthed mea culpas, and have subsequently whined why no one on the left takes their apologies sincerely.

Bullshit like this posting is why.

If I was as atrociously wrong about something as this and had any sort of pulpit, I would find it a moral duty to rectify the situation by convincing the still-deluded, and holding the war criminals responsible. But this is not my sandbox. ... and I wasn't wrong.

Posted by: Nads on January 16, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

Is this true?

You are such a fucking retard, Kevin.

Posted by: Gwem on January 16, 2007 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

shorter Kevin Drum:
Hey, you can't justify to me why you were right and I was wrong, and I could have been right, therefore I was right.

Whatever helps you sleep at night, baby.

Posted by: doofus on January 16, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

I was anti-this-war
when being anti-this-war
wasn't cool.

Posted by: BigDuck on January 16, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

2. If Saddam had WMD Hans Blix would find them

And its corollary: if Saddam had nukes El Baradei would certainly find them. The IAEA's ability to detect nuclear materials is and was highly technical and extremely thorough. And nukes and bio are really the only WMD that could be a real threat to the US.

All of the impartial actors were saying there was nothing. Our so-called experts were citing evidence like the aluminum "centrifuge" tubes and mobile "biological laboratories" and being debunked within days.

When you support a war that is based on obvious lies, what do you expect to get except more lies?

I was against the war (while on active duty) because I thought it was clear they were positioning that convicted bank swindler Chalabi as the next head of state. Why kill a large number of people just to have a new dictator?

Posted by: Wapiti on January 16, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK


When you write

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success. But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?
it is as if you are failing to consider that the failure to get UN support, the opposition from the anti-war left, and the overall failure of the mission are all related to the fact that there was no substantial reason to believe, at the time or since, that Iraq posed any short-term threat to America. To get broad international support for one nation to invade another, there needs to be some substantial evidence that the second nation is a threat. If enough such evidence exists prior to the invasion, then there is very, very little chance that it will all turn out to be false. In which case with the invasion underway the threat will become more clear, not vanish, and the mission will be more likely to succeed.

Let me clarify the last bit. When you say

...it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it
I don't see these as the only two possibilities. A third possibility is that nation building requires that the invading force actually have a legitimate reason for invading. In the success stories over the past century or so success does seem to go with having a legitimate reason for invading. Even in our most recent exercises Afghanistan moved much more slowly to collapse than did Iraq. In this view, Bush's primary incompetence was invading a nation with no good reason for doing so. I think that was the position of the anti-war left and that they are being proved right.

Posted by: MSR on January 16, 2007 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. I like your blog. But this is very confused. There are two major reasons why the failure in Iraq IS a demonstration of the dangerous foolhardiness of preventive warmaking, and both were indeed among the central reasons why doves opposed the war.

1. INTERNATIONAL PERCEPTION OF BEING AN AGGRESSOR STATE. When you are the one who invades, many people will view you as the aggressor, not the other guy. (Opinions will differ on whether or not the other guy deserved it. You have to have a crystal clear provocation or threat to avoid such a perception; in Iraq no such provocation or threat existed.) The international perception of the US as an aggressor state has immeasurably worsened the problem of anti-American violence and hatred, both inside Iraq, across the Muslim world, and across the world at large. It has also itself been a major contributing factor to the failure of the US's project within Iraq. To say "it would have been OK if the UN had approved it" is pure question-begging: we couldn't get UN approval because there was no clear provocation or threat, which is why doves argued the war was an awful idea.

2. DOWNSIDE RISK. Wars are incredibly risky. They turn sour. The benefits promised fail to materialize; threats unforeseen and foreseen multiply. The only sure thing about war is that many people get killed. Doves weren't sure exactly what harms might develop in the aftermath of invading Iraq, but we knew huge risks were there, and we did hypothesize some of them. And many of them did in fact materialize.

But the point here is the same as Atrios's. This is an argument about risk, and risk calculations involve questions of certainty. The argument made by war hawks was that the fanciful and hypothetical calculation that Saddam MIGHT have WMDs and MIGHT give them to terrorists justified DEFINITE killing by US troops, as well as whatever downside risk MIGHT develop from a US invasion. To "reject pre-emptive war", as Atrios says, is to say that my claim that you might attack me does not justify me definitely attacking you. THAT is what the Iraq war opposition was about.

This may sound like a question that's peripheral to the political clashes of the Bush years; but it's not. The whole modus operandi of the Bush regime, like that of every jingoistic fascist regime, is to pervert evidence in the construction of fantastical bogeymen, to twist evidence and bias risk calculations in the service of its own political interests and allies. The Republican war on science and the Republican war on Iraq came from the same place. To launch a pre-emptive/preventive war is to arrogate to oneself a kind of certainty about the world which no one has the right to claim. The WMD issue and the pre-emption issue go together because they're both about certainty, risk, and the different ways in which different people will perceive the same action. These things are all intimately connected; it's silly to say "Well if everyone had agreed that Saddam had been a threat, pre-emption would have been okay." They didn't agree because there was no provocation, which is why it was pre-emption -- hence the risk.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 16, 2007 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, let me make it as clear as I can.




Posted by: Repack Rider on January 16, 2007 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but uncertain future attack.

Actually, that kind of war is called "kicking ass because you can."

That is what the United States did, Kevin.

How does it feel to belong to a country that just "kicked another country's ass"? Does it feel good? Feel better about the oil supply? Feel a bit safer knowing that Saddam isn't going to nuke your grandkid?


Now ask yourself how the families of the Iraqis we killed feel. Go ahead, Kevin. Stop playing the pointy-headed fuckup and ask yourself how those people feel.

Then ponder your answers to the previous questions I asked.

Posted by: Gwem on January 16, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Jordan's comment (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_01/010569.php#1034819), the international relations scholars who came out against the war before the war started (26 September 2002) look pretty smart now.

Check out their ad: http://www.bear-left.com/archive/2002/OP-Ed.pdf

So, why aren't they on the TV all the time now? (Yes, I can understand why Professors Mearsheimer and Walt might be too hot for some outlets now. That leaves only 31 other choices, one of them a recent Nobel laureate.)

Posted by: Tim Francis-Wright on January 16, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK


The anti-war left doesn't get respect because they don't deserve it?

The mere possession of WMDs would not have justified this war.

Possession of WMDs was never proven by any reasonable definition of the term. Asserted and presumed, perhaps, but never proven.

There was no imminent threat. There wasn't even a long-term threat.

The predictions of probable outcomes bordered on the fantastic. They were obviously sales pitches, not sober analyses, and were obviously being used as the basis for planning. That should have told anyone "serious" about foreign policy that the risks of going forward were grave.

While I don't have a foreign policy pedigree and didn't write publicly at the time, all of this was obvious to me. It was not obvious to the hawks who got more respect then and get more respect now.

But the "doves" haven't earned your respect. Because while all of that turned out to be right, but you can't remember it.

Let me put it another way.

If you undertake or advocate a war of choice, you have to be certain of success. You have to be certain, at least beyond reasonable doubt, that the war is justified. You have to be certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the war can and will be prosecuted effectively. If you're not certain, you shouldn't advocate or start a war. Doing so would be completely irresponsible.

Those who were certain of these issues before this war have been proven dead wrong. Their judgement has been shown to be deficient.

They should at least have the humility not to insult those who were right.

Posted by: Bob on January 16, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK


It is odd that so many bloggers have amnesia on this point. The strongest arguments against the war were twofold as I recall: 1) There was no demonstrable "imminent" threat from Saddam. He may have been a threat but since the war was elective, why could it not wait? The answer of course was that the decision had been made and the materiel committed months before. But that is not what was said. And 2} The evidence was suspect at best. Colin Powell's performance at the UN was perhaps the necessary piece to convince a wavering public. But the yellowcake story was a clear fraud from the get go as were all attempts by the Administration to link Saddam to al Queda. What was obvious was that the Administration was desperate to take out Saddam and was using all of its resources to force the issue.

If that now proven supposition is not enough to say the left was correct in opposing this insanity, then what would be?

Posted by: Martin on January 16, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Weak sauce dude, and sour grapes to boot. You clearly don't want to find what you're looking for. Kos archives are available at dailykos.net. There's also this wonderful thing called archive.org that lets you peer back in time at various websites. The truth is (and was) out there for anyone who cared to put down their GI Joes and think about reality.

I'll be the first to admin my own anti-war arguments were slightly off the mark -- I didn't predict the strategic decision to effectively not resist invasion, but I did essentially call "don't start up with that urban guerilla warfare stuff" correctly -- but really overall it's what Atrios said. Anyone who was paying attention could see the case for this war was a sham.

Drones? Come the fuck on. They were always reaching, and it was motherfucking obvious.

There was never any urgency for invasion, and the way they stomped on inspections and stovepiped the intel was shameless. It was a war of choice through and through, not even "preventative" (at least in effect). It was a pure neo-imperial gambit, and they sold it like a used car.

Many many people understood this. This is likely a primary reason why other nations weren't too keen on sending their own young into the meat-grinder. The fact that you and Joe Kelin and anyone who mattered in the Democratic party went along for the ride meant that, hey, we're stuck with fucking ANSWER because they got the permits, but come the fuck on man.

The vast majority of people who opposed this are thinking people with more sensitivity to the value of human life and a less sophomoric idea of American power and responsibility.

Better luck next time.

Posted by: Outlandish Josh on January 16, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

The inspectors found NO weapons. Hans Blix and Scott Ritter both said that Iraq was clean. It was certainly not a pre-emptive war - Iraq was not about to attack the U.S. Al-Quaeda - who did attack the U.S. was in fact the sworn enemy of secular Iraq.
Since there were no weapons found, it was NOT a preventive war - it was and is an AGGRESSIVE war - defined at Nuremberg as a "crime against humanity". By this standard, Bush & Rumsfeld and Cheney ARE war criminals.

Posted by: Ed on January 16, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not. "

Spend about five minutes Googling and you will find out you fucking moron! It's not like it's classified information or something. Most of what has transpired was predicted about the time you thought it was a dandy idea. So stop trying to cover your sorry ass now.

Posted by: Ba'al on January 16, 2007 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State wrote: "Why the hell is it incumbent upon us to explain ourselves, when we were the ones who were right?"

While I understand and sympathize with the sentiment, I think it actually is valid to review the reasons for the opposition to the war. Some who opposed the war were only right by accident rather than by thoughtful analysis.

Consider, for example, our old friend Chuckles' prediction about the 2004 election. His analysis was not only laughably shallow, it was flatly wrong in some key details (e.g., contending that Clinton's impeachment had occurred during his first term in office). Nonetheless, Chuckles actually did come fairly close to the number of votes that Bush eventually got and Chuckles repeatedly trumpeted his predictive prowess as a result. That still doesn't change the fact that his analysis was hilariously idiotic and that it was correct only by accident.

Moreover, few who opposed the war got everything right, e.g., the predictions from some that Iraq would be overwhelmed by a refugee crisis or that U.S. forces would be exposed to WMDs. And I don't think that very many of us figured out that Bush's prosecution of the war would be so thoroughly and completely inept.

In my own case, I remember quite clearly writing a post in late 2002 that asked two questions:

Why Iraq? (as compared to other countries in the region)

Why now? (what the hell was the hurry)

Neither of those questions was ever answered to my satisfaction and, hence, I opposed the war.

Posted by: PaulB on January 16, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of

Not this dove.

desperately trying to communicate

Civil war would be the outcome of a US invasion and overthrow of Saddam. It does not matter to the decision makers. They, their benefactors and geo-political allies received their payoff regardless of the outcome.

Iraq is a clusterfuck

All I see are dead people. I am pretty upset about that. Things look black for the near future, especially if Iran is attacked.

Posted by: Brojo on January 16, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Is this true? Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

Principled opposition to the war refused to address the question of whether it would go badly or not. The administration never made a convincing case for the war. It was the equivalent of walking across the playground and shooting a kid for looking at you in the wrong way--or, more like shooting a kid for looking like he might look at you the wrong way. I was arguing against shooting the kid rather than warning the shooter that his attack might go badly.

If any of you folks who supported the war grow tired of waking up every morning to find more blood on your hands, you are going to have to dig deeper, below calculations of success, and nurture within yourselves a reluctance to unleash havoc.

Posted by: clem on January 16, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Preemptive war doesn't work if you are wrong that you are about to be attacked, either imminently or not. Iraq represented no threat to the US whatsoever, therefore attacking them was pointless, and immoral. Amoral actually. And here's a news flash, the so-called Gulf War in 1991 was equally reprehensible and immoral, except we had the good sense to limit our killings to teenagers in the desert, instead of whole populations of cities (Fallujah anyone?).

Posted by: Mr Blifil on January 16, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe @ 10.48. As usual, un uncanny ability to cut to the chase. Superb.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 16, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Some self-satisfied pseudo intellectual said:

There is no serious argument made against preemptive war. The "pure" deontological argument against preventive war remains much the same as in 2002, with no additional buttressing. The pragmatic argument aainst preventive war is somewhat buttressed by the results of the Iraq campaign. Sophisticated arguments like those applying Just War doctrine which involves both deontological elements and pragmatic elements balancing of benefits and costs, are likewise buttressed by the results of the Iraq War.

Shut up, asshole.

Posted by: porgy tirebiter on January 16, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

This is what I said in March 2003, published in the New Bern, NC Sun-Journal

Any reasonable person having read the history of the region now generally known as Iraq must conclude that the idea of a successful “democracy” there in the near term, say two to three hundred years, is absurd.

There are more clans, tribes, and religious sects in that region than any other region of the world defined as a country. It has been ruled by Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites, Hittites, Kassites, Assyrians, Mittani, Elamites, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turkomen, and British, to name a few. In addition to the remnants of these people, there are substantial numbers of Kurds and Armenians who never ruled the area but are there, nonetheless. The earliest human civilization started there and the three great monotheistic religions of our times, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, attribute their source to Abraham, who left the area about 2000-1544BC according to biblical scholars.

In all this time there has never been a “democracy”. Only kingdoms, dictatorships, or anarchy. Some of the kingdoms and dictatorships have been benevolent – Hammurabi and Harun ar Raschid come to mind. Most have been cruel and vicious – Genghis Kahn and Tamerlane make Saddam Husayn look like Mother Teresa. For countless generations the people we now call Iraqis have lived under authoritative rule and have no experience with or traditions of anything else. Collectively an intelligent and industrious population, the people reached great heights of accomplishment in their long history. For instance, the intellectual and cultural attainments of Baghdad under Harun ar Raschid around 800AD contributed greatly to the emergence of Europe from the Dark Ages.

The recent Bush administration announcement of a “post-war” plan to install a democracy in Iraq is an invitation to disaster. George Bush may wind up in a list of prestigious conquerors that includes Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Kahn, Tamerlane, Elisabeth II, among others, who left many dead behind them and didn’t change much. But the plan will not work and will surely end in an ignominious withdrawal.

There is no doubt that removing Saddam Husayn from power and neutralizing WMD in Iraq should be a high priority item in our near-east foreign policy (but not necessarily the highest). The President thinks there is only one way to accomplish this – invasion and occupation. Most of the world population any many of its leaders do not agree. I do not agree.

The Bush administration is showing itself to be so chauvinistic, so loaded with hubris and overweening chutzpah, as to be an outright challenge to the progress of civilization.


Posted by: Robert A. Hawkins on January 16, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

I was a liberal against the war from the Start. I was posting on these blogs, I went to marches, and I even engaged the opposite side (at that time, Tacitus).

I think preventive war is probably almost always a bad idea, but honestly, skepticism of ideology at that time meant I wasn't developing solid rules like that. I opposed the war because:
1) There were clearly only going to be mustard gas chemical weapons and nothing really threatening (or unusual). See Ritter.
2) Nation Building is really hard. They estimated a need for far more troops than were available, based on Kosovo. In Kosovo, the Kosovars begged us to get involved. In Iraq, there were a few wealthy dissidents but little evidence of broad support for American attack and much evidence against.
3) Iraq was clearly arabic for "Yugoslavia". It was obvious that Iraq was a tinderbox waiting to explode. Juan Cole really provided me with useful knowledge on this, though I did not adopt his reasining.
4) The Administration had failed to build broad international support.

Please note - I never formed a real opinion on the possibility of an internationally-backed war with 500,000 troops and an American military of sufficient size. The inability of the Bush administration to achieve these goals did not inspire confidence in their ability to tackle Iraq.

Liberal anti-war people rejected the War we were faced with, based on the reality we saw (which was mostly accurate). Why we were supposed to have a broad ideological opinion when the administration clearly had no empirical grasp on the situation is beyond me.

Posted by: MDtoMN on January 16, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Hate to be the drunken guy rambling at the bar, but the reasons others and I didn't support the war back in '02. 2 reasons: 1. All the reasons given for the war at the time (WMDs, 9/11, dictatorship) could be greater applied to several other countries. 2. If he was serious about justice, then he would have his daddy, Rummy, and others in jail for supporting Hussein back in 80s.
And now that we know none of the reasons for war were legit (other than dictator and that still is small compared to more modern dictators), the worse part of it all goes back to reason #1. What are we going to do about the next threat that is legit and actually has WMDS, and we have difficulty controlling the country w/o WMDs.

Posted by: AF on January 16, 2007 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of

Brojo: Not this dove.

Not this dove neither.

As others here have stated it was pretty easy to determine just from following the news that the WMD claims were bogus. And anyone with a basic knowledge of Iraqi society could and did predict the civil war and urban warfare; that one was a gimme.

But back in 2002-03 few were listening. 9/11 gave us the right to turn the entire Middle East into a glass parking lot, remember? "Fuck those Ay-rabs."

I have to admit that I underestimated the tragically huge number of Iraqis that would die directly or indirectly as a cause of the war, however, and I did not foresee the complete near complete destruction of their country's infrastructure. Some of our allies did, though, and strangely even some who worked in the Pentagon, but their warnings were ignored.

This has been the administration of ignored warnings.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 16, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

As an anti-war lefter, I could not believe that folks were serious about supporting war with Iraq back in the fall of 2002. The US had successfully contained Saddam for over a decade, so was surprised how successfully Bush pushed the fear button.

My anti-war belief was strengthened when the UN inspectors found nothing - you can nitpick that there were some missiles that violated a technical requirement and some unaccounted for Chemical & Biological Weapons but those were clearly no threat to us. I could understand if Bush had stated "allow in UN inspectors again or we go to war", but once the inspectors were there why go to war?

On top of Saddam being no immediate threat, another strong argument against the war was the need to nation build in Afghanistan. Nation building requires incredible resources when done correctly, so starting a second war when the rebuilding in Afghanistan had just begun made no sense.

If you go to war then you have to have a damn good reason and that damn good reason did not exist.

Posted by: tarylcabot on January 16, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

One argument I made back then was that no country is going to attack America, because we will wipe them off the face of the earth. Or as the kids say we'll turn them into a glass parking lot.

We have proved we have no problem dropping a nuke or two on our enemies. Attacking America would be, and will be mass suicide for the Country that tries it.

Another argument was that history has shown these type of wars just aren't winnable no matter how many times it's tried.

Posted by: AkaDad on January 16, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

I looked at the various ways of making fissionables, subtracted the ones that were for-sure detectable by our national technical means (such as spy satellites) and yet had not been observed (reactor production of PU-239,gaseous diffusion plants). I then looked at the cost and technical expertise required to make fissionables using centrifuge isotope separation: it looked impossible, given Iraqi resources.

I saw no evidence that Saddam had anything to do with Al-Qaeda or 9-11, and plenty of evidence that Saddam was an _enemy_ of bin Laden.

Late in the game, the fact that none of our tips to the UN inspectors panned out strongly suggested that our 'intelligence' was all bullshit.

I thought that the idea that democcracy would make the Arabs like us (and like Israel too, forsooth !) was ridiculous. I thought the notion that we could successfully impose some form of ordered liberty on Iraq was one of the stupidest ideas anyone ever had: virtually everything about Iraq made that unlikely: massive illiteracy, an economy based on oil rather than on the middle class, no positive political traditions, deep ethnic fissures, and of course a natural hatred of foreign invaders. Did I forget to mention our complete ignorance of their language and culture ?

After this and a few other similar conclusions, it was obvious that the Administration was lying and/or bloody stupid.

And I also thought there was a pretty good chance of a low-intensity guerrilla war that would drag on indefintely, which would cause us to eventually get sick of it and quit. And that this invasion would utterly trash all the goodwill we'd ever built up in the world.

Posted by: gcochran on January 16, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

There was a logical reason to force weapons inspectors back into Iraq to determine whether a preventive war was necessary.
It was, categorically, not necessary. Iraq was neither preemptive or preventive. There was no demonstrable reason to go to war. Period. It was a certainty that Iraq was not capable of mounting any sort of attack on the United States.
Bush-Cheney prevented nothing, nor did they preempt anything.
This was a war of choice prompted by overwrought emotions, willful ignorance and false assumptions.

Posted by: secularhuman on January 16, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Preemptive war is the same excuse bullies use to beat up smaller children. Preemptive war has no use as a national security strategy.

Preventive war is anther cover for making war against the weak. So-called belligerant states having nuclear weapons is no reason to start wars. Iran is only being targeted because of some other political and natural resource issues. Pakistan and North Korea lack something and are seemingly safe to produce nuclear weapons and distribute them.

Iraq and Saddam were never a threat to the national security of the US after the Gulf War. Its invasion and occupation were only rationalized with talk of strategic war prevention, that sadly fascinated the press and opinion making class. Whether these lies to invade Iraq resonated with a magical belief in the power of the US military or a hysterical reaction to 9/11 or both does not matter. War against Iraq was wrong, not just because of the civil war it would start, but because there were just no good motives for the US occupying Iraq. The immediate construction of permanent bases belied everything W. Bush said and our so-called American values.

Posted by: Brojo on January 16, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

you fool.

Posted by: o on January 16, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Atrios was spot on about why he opposed the war, but I also think he exaggerates the prescience of many opponents. In particular, too many oppponents accepted that the existence of WMD justified war. This is absurd . Lots of nations have WMD which is entirely separate from whether such nations had enough of a beef to want to use them against us, whether they had the means to use them against us, or would be foolish enough to do so, and risk the consequences. We (the opponents) only dodged the bullet because it turned out there were no WMD.

BTW, I knew it was illegal and immoral to go to war, and predicted the outcome (and have the electronic "archives" to support that contention) and my entire understanding came from reading the NY Times for 40 years and having a modest understanding of history and a dash of common sense. I didn't need a think tank or a professor to (mis)lead me and I never heard of a blog before 2004.

Posted by: kit on January 16, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

What a ridiculous post, Kevin! I agree with Cranky. There was much reason to doubt the administration's claims concerning Iraqi WMD, which WAS the original justification for the invasion. I can still remember Bush's scary tone in the 2003 SOTU, "...we have been told that Iraq has attempted to buy uranium from Niger..." (paraphrased). For anyone who's worth his salt as a 'googler' there was abundant info available on the web that contradicted administration claims. I was 99% sure that my info was correct. The remaining 1% was worrisome but hardly convincing enough to support an invasion. And anyway, just using a bit of common sense would tell you that this was really all about oil. There are excellent pieces in the Asia Times, Tom Paine and the Tehran Times today that eloquently describe the Iraq War as the first of what will be more frequent wars to secure and protect diminishing oil reserves. I strongly encourage all of you to take a look at these for a glimpse into what the US is really 'up to.'

Posted by: nepeta on January 16, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a real-time argument: http://whatcheer.net/archive/pro-war.html sandwiched in between two accounts of anti-war marches in DC and New York at http://whatcheer.net/archive/

And here's my question: why are people not taken seriously if they have recognized the limits of violence? Obviously there are limits to non-violence, too, but you can still appear serious by discarding that option out of hand, no matter what the situation. But people who observe that an honest assessment is that quite a lot violence *doesn't seem to work* are castigated as loons or softies or worse.

I remember watching my school's two biggest bullies fight each other when I was 12 or so. They got as far as pulling each other's hair out in fistfuls before anyone could stop them. So far as I remember, all either one got was bloody, and then they had to fight again about two weeks later. The fights went on regularly until one of them was pulled from school by indulgent (and wealthy) parents and sent to a boarding school somewhere far away. Perhaps some of us learned from lessons like that that there are other ways to get what we need and keep ourselves safe. Why should that be an object for scorn from liberal hawks or anyone else?

Posted by: editor on January 16, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

it was pretty easy to determine just from following the news that the WMD claims were bogus.

I read an article exposing the bogus yellow cake claim long before the invasion, Powell's lies at the UN, and Bush's mendacious state of the union speech. All the lies were exposed well before the propaganda machine started to whip up war hopes. The propaganda machine is quite powerful. People like my folks and many well-meaning editorialists think those in the government make decsions based on secret information for our well being. It is not true. If there is secret information, it is usually used to game a market. When it comes to war, the information is a lie.

Posted by: Brojo on January 16, 2007 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Whether preemptive or preventive war is a good idea (it's not) is kind of irrelevant, because it was just one of the many false justifications held up by the administration, and Iraq was not really a preventive or a preemptive war.

Iraq was war as performance art, a metaphor for how many of us felt, a fantasy not meant to be acted on, but which the vast majority of Americans were too immature to resist doing. Invading Iraq expressed how these people felt about 9/11, just the way a car or other product can be marketed to you as an expression of your feelings. The idea that it was a preemptive or preventive war was just one of the many rationalizations desperately put forth as a figleaf for its true, unjustifiable nature.

Posted by: DanM on January 16, 2007 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Been a long time since I wasted any precious seconds at this idiot's blog.

I immediately remembered why...

Posted by: dave™© on January 16, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

steve simels nails it:

...it's very simple -- the reason to have opposed the war from day one is because anybody with an IQ above that of a garden slug knew that the Bushies were lying amoral bastards who say and do anything to advance whatever the hell they wanted to advance. This was not a secret. They stole a fucking election plain sight, for crying out loud, and then governed as if they had a mandate. Nothing they said or did should have been allowed to stand, let alone something as important as going to war.

They are lying amoral bastards. Who goes to war on the word of lying amoral bastards?

Posted by: dave on January 16, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Mr. President, we need an honest assessment of the commitment required of America. If the right way to address this threat is through internationally-supported military action in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's regime falls, we will need to take action to ensure stability in Iraq. This could be very costly and time consuming, could involve the occupation -- the occupation, Mr. President, of a Middle Eastern country. Now, this is not a small matter. The American occupation of a Middle Eastern country. Consider the regional implications of that scenario, the unrest in moderate states that calls for action against American interests, the difficulty of bringing stability to Iraq so we can extricate ourselves in the midst of regional turmoil. Mr. President, we need much more information about how we propose to proceed so that we can weigh the costs and benefits to our national security."

Russ Feingold - October 9, 2002


Posted by: Becca on January 16, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Link to Feingold's speech:


Posted by: Becca on January 16, 2007 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Back in 2002, I and many fellow Iraq war critics said BushCo was overhyping the Iraq threat, that invading and occupying Iraq would cause thousands of American deaths and years of bloody conflict, and that such a move would greatly magnify anti-American sentiments worldwide and become a gigantic recruiting poster for the global jihad.

We were right on all counts.

Posted by: Alan on January 16, 2007 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is just silly revisionism, Kevin. Have a look at the archives at e.g. Democratic Underground for the reasons that were really at work.

It was really pretty simple. The liberal bloc agreed that (a) Saddam Hussein was a bad person, obnoxious to American power, and a relic of the Stalinist dictator alliance the Soviet Union created around its borders. But that was far outweighed by that (b) the Bush people had no clue about Iraq, no demonstrated competence, and no plan for dealing with the mess once they'd toppled Hussein. And that WMDs, if any, were no significant threat to us or our real interests. Ted Kennedy articulated this view a couple of times in the fall and winter of 2002, and no one who agreed- and there was almost immediate consensus- with him had much to add or correct about it. That's why blogs only listed fragments of the Kennedy critique and considered the internal view too obvious to write out. Atrios reiterates that argument and view, btw.

The classical Left saw a Bush Administration that was out on a big power grab for the American Right and itself, and, well, kneejerked. Kneejerking may be wrong in nuanced situation, but in this case it was right. A few elements of this crowd came up with an apologetics for Hussein, but it was silly.

Moderate Democrats bought into the arguments for war- that the WMDs Hussein still supposedly had threatened our interests (or at least those of Israel and Saudi Arabia), and that there was a sufficient level of offense to American ego emanating from Hussein to kill some people in order to topple him. Whether these people bought into the Hussein-Al Qaeda "link" isn't too clear. But as soon as it was clear, in April 2003, that Hussein was toppled and there were no WMDs, this crowd (e.g. you, KD) gave up on Team Bush.

The rest of the political spectrum...well, it doesn't have a problem with people getting killed in 'defense' of American ego or whatever. (On the farthest edge of the Right, killing the people they hate is the central political view, even if it is suppressed much of the time.) There was also the Gulf of Tonkin syndrome- a foolish urge for a distraction imagined to be important, to materially fight a palpable opponent out of frustration at one too elusive/dangerous and psychologically powerful to fight directly.

About "preemptive" and "preventive" war...everything depends on the worth of the people who start and run such a war. This crew was too stupid to be trusted with any form of war, and we (well, Liberals) knew it. Franks's Iraq war plan nearly failed outright- he had to get bailed out by other generals and air power-, for Afghanistan the reason it worked that was that they used Sandy Berger's plan, and the War On Terror is only the 'success' it is because Musharraf's secret police is efficient- the American end of it is a moral and material debacle. And we all know about the followup.

As for the "elite" that created all this crap, it's bizarre that the 'elite' Beltway punditry sticks with them and the elderly WASPy (or WASP-assimilated) "moderate" politicians that want to carry on the silliness with less initiative. I chalk it up to ethnocultural/generational affinity, and a subscription to the same obsolete world view.

Posted by: jillian on January 16, 2007 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

" Nothing they said or did should have been allowed to stand, let alone something as important as going to war." - Dave??


What worries me about your comment, and many of the other comments, is why, if we were so smart (and we were apparently), did so many of our Dem Senators vote 'aye' on the war resolution. It causes me to worry that a centrist Dem Administration will bow to the military/industrial/energy complex and try to dupe the American people as surely as Republicans. We're into national security here a couple levels up from the usual public debate. I wrote my Senator (Hillary), as I'm sure thousands of others did, tons of e-mail and hard-copy letters as well as phone calls trying to warn her of the illegitimacy of this war but to no avail. I think I would have great trouble in voting for her again. She had to have known the truth.

Posted by: nepeta on January 17, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

"If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it."

Let's sharpen this up a bit, like so: "Since anti-war liberals are doves, they will never get any respect from liberal hawks. They shouldn't expect that respect, and they shouldn't want it. Because hawks despise them. I, Kevin Drum, am a hawk, and so I despise them. They've earned this and they deserve it, because of what they believe in and who they are."

Posted by: alabama on January 17, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Drum:

I opposed the war because I was convinced, as early as September of 2002, that the Bush Administration was LYING about WMD, lying about Iraq-Al Queda ties, and wanted a war in Iraq (no matter what the U.N. weapons inspectors said or Saddam did in response to Bush's demands) to fulfill a preplanned neo-con/oil grabbing agenda. Also, I knew that tens of thousands of innocents would die as a result of such a deceitful and immoral war.

That is what I and others like me, as members of the anti-war left, were thinking and saying (to anyone that would listen) back then.

Why weren't YOU paying attention to me and to others like me back then, such that I have to reiterate it all for you now? Or does a feigned stupidity and denseness go along with the job description of being a writer/blogger for TWM?

BTW, why anyone takes you seriously as a "liberal" or progressive blogger is beyond me. In a lot of ways, you are the "Joe Klein" of the blogosphere.

Posted by: Sperm Donor on January 17, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Not for the reasons the doves warned of"? Get off that Orange County crack, Kevin. Your memory may not extend to what the "liberal doves" were saying in 2002, but my memory of what you were saying; that the war was a great idea, isn't. The fact of that matter is the both conservative (Scott Ritter, antiwar.com) and liberal (Max Sawicky, Juan Cole, etc, etc.) were right about pretty much EVERY SINGLE THING that was said back then. The liberal hawks, pretty much every major pundit and most especially the administration have been and continue to be wrong about almost everything. Everyone with any sense on the right or left, knew this war was a stupid idea that didn't seem to address any foreign policy need of the U.S. Find those archives. Read what we said. Better yet, we'll just keep telling you again and again and again until you join us in reality.

Posted by: Jake on January 17, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

In case anyone has forgotten, here is a list of the heros who voted 'nay' on H.J.Res. 114, Oct 11, 2002:

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chafee (R-RI)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (D-FL)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Wyden (D-OR)

Posted by: nepeta on January 17, 2007 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with "preventative war" is that there are almost always better options given the high cost and risk of war. That was certainly the case in Iraq. People who opposed the war realized that and they were right. People who supported the war did not or wanted to go to war for other reasons. They were wrong. End of story.

Posted by: david1234 on January 17, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

There are plenty of traces of the various arguments against the invasion. If you can't be bothered to turn them up in print media (The Nation? New York Review? etc) and insist on something text-searchable there's always bulletin boards. In January 2003 I wrote this, for example:

Subject: Come on!
From: Qohelleth
Date: Jan 29 2003 7:38PM

I said it wasn't a war for oil. It is most certainly a war about oil. It is a war is about controlling Mesopotamia, the great prize--as Winston Churchill saw in 1912 (I believe) when, foreseeing the demise of coal, he rammed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company through Parliament. Two decades later petroleum was discovered in Iraq in even greater quantities, and soon afterwards in Saudi Arabia in profusion. By that time the Brits had their mitts on all three, one way or another. Winston knew the score.

America experimented with the Saudis as our strategic pivot, particularly after the Gulf War when we openly proposed to become (at the price of billions of dollars in useless military equipment and somewhat more useful geological consulting) their security force, but that proved unagreeable after 9-11. So we're moving on to the next plan.

This is a war for strategic supremacy, nothing more, nothing less, and all of the humanitarian bullshit is truly hollow in the face of that. The French know it, the Germans know it, the Russians know it, the Japanese know it, the Turks know it, and I can assure you that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and all the other people who feted themselves in Saddam's Iraq circa 1988 have even better intelligence on the matter. The fact that they choose to sell this thing with Bush's rhetorical flourishes the epochal threat of Saddam Hussein to human civilization is an embarassment, and anyone who laps up that pabulum to be ashamed of himself.

I think that pretty much sums up my position and many other people's. Such opinions are not very hard to find. And yes, I think you ought to be ashamed of yourself for lapping up the pabulum.

Posted by: Qohelleth on January 17, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Moral objections can never be falsified. If I oppose you killing my brother, and you do it without being brought to justice, does that mean I was wrong? For some reason Drum thinks he's being shrewd here. He only demonstrates all over again why he was one of the smarter idiots who supported the war in the first place.

As I said at the time to anyone who would listen, even IF all the other reasons for opposing the war were negated, I'd STILL oppose it for the simple reason that Bush is going to fuck it up, like he did everything else on the way to becoming President.

Where's my op-ed slot on the NYT?

Posted by: TK on January 17, 2007 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

This is a subject that casts Kevin in a mediocre light.

Too bad.

Posted by: obscure on January 17, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Um, I was against the war from day one because everything about it was a lie and that any reading of history showed that it would not serve America's interests and could very well hard them. Oh, did I mentioned the lies? What the fuck is so hard to understand about that, Kevin?

Jesus H. Christ.


Posted by: Hank Essay on January 17, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

"does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?"

That is the wrong question, and is typical of the type of asinine things that passed for "debate" in the run up to the war.

How about this? If the war was a good idea, would the UN have authorized it? Probably.

Would France and Germany have gotten our backs? I don't see why not.

But why would the UN have passed off on such a transparently absurd enterprise?

Posted by: justaguy on January 17, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

"does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it? Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view."

This makes no sense whatsoever. The problem with the war is that there was no reason good enough to justify it. There would have been no reason good enough to justify it even if the whole UN had been persuaded by Powell. The point of requiring multilateral support for pre-emptive war is not that it will magically *create* reasons for the war, but that it will be less likely that *unjustified* wars will be initiated.

It's like complaining when a single dictator condemns an innocent man for a crime. We say, now this is a good reason for a jury system. Oh, you say, so it would have been all right to convict the innocent man through a jury?

Posted by: mapantsula on January 17, 2007 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the so called liberals who supported the war did so because they feared Karl Rove more than they feared sending our troops to war in Iraq. They knew Bush had the votes to get his war with or without their support and they were afraid he'd conduct a quick successful war and that issue would be there to haunt them in the 04 election. Gutless fools, what more can you say about them. Bush and co. lied us into the war. The war became a product and they marketed it like a box of new improved Cheerios (you know, the ones that prevent heart attacks). If a catch phrase worked they kept using it, starting with WMD. Only nukes can be defined as WMDs--gas and germs are capable of producing mass casualties, but have limited destructive power and require sophisticated delivery systems in order to be effective. Nukes require an even more sophisticated delivery system and even if Saddam was within a few years of producing a nuke it would have been a primative nuke, large and bulky and not the suitcase variety which is much more technically challenging. There's a lot more to being a credible nuclear threat than simply being able to conduct a test explosion (that, after all is step one in the process). Developing a long range delivery system is much more challenging since directions for creating a nuclear explosion can be found on the internet if you look hard enough (Don't look unless you want Alberto opening your mail for the rest of your life) and this is not the case for long range precision missiles. In short, anyone who gave any serious thought to the WMD claims should have realized that they were all bullshit. Surely those liberal politicians (conservatives too) were bright enough to realize this, but they didn't have the nerve to stand up and say 'NO. NO. NO.' I was in the early opposition, wrote congressmen, joined the demos, and questioned the upcoming war on every blog I could find. No use--too many people don't remember Vietnam and those of us who do are old fogies now. Ah, but we old fogies vote and we don't forget when someone lets us down--are you listening Hillary?

Posted by: Sparky on January 17, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Would France and Germany have gotten our backs? I don't see why not.

Well, we - Canada - have gotten your backs in Afghanistan. To the point where we have taken a higher percentage of casualties to population than any other country except Afghanistan (with which it is churlish to even make a comparison).

And Germany and France are in Afghanistan too. Iraq was completely unjustified before the fact which is why we are in Afghanistan but not part of the clusterfuck. And your leaping to Iraq made things a whole lot worse in Afghanistan.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 17, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum is a clever fraud--clever enough to be afraid of Atrios, who happens to tell the truth. And clever enough to blur the truth that Atrios tells the truth. It's not a matter of self-deception or delusion on Drum's part, just a matter of bad faith--the quick twitches of a bully who has excellent reasons to feel uneasy about his place in the scheme of things.

I haven't logged on to Drum in over two years, and did so tonight only because of the link at Eschaton. I hope Atrios doesn't feel the need to drag me back here any time soon. It's not a good place to be.

Posted by: alabama on January 17, 2007 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum is a clever fraud--clever enough to be afraid of Atrios, who happens to tell the truth. And clever enough to blur the truth that Atrios tells the truth. It's not a matter of self-deception or delusion on Drum's part, just a matter of bad faith--the quick twitches of a bully who has excellent reasons to feel uneasy about his place in the scheme of things.

That's absurd.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 17, 2007 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

*ALL* of these reasons feed into each other, so where do you start? No, Kevin, it would NOT have been all right if the U.N. had been fully supportive, although that would have made it slightly less bad.

But the absolutely core reason those of us who opposed the war from the get-go opposed it was because we didn't think Iraq, wmd or no wmd, was in any way a threat to the U.S. I thought the only circumstances under which he might actually use those wmds we all thought he had was if he was attacked by the U.S. So the whole pro-war argument was completely circular, as far as I was concerned.

Posted by: gyrfalcon on January 17, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive [sic] war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right.

It is of a piece.

The fact that we have lost our moral authority, moral voice, and moral leadership in the world is part of what demonstrates that preventive war is wrong.

But the fact that the war is a clusterfuck demonstrates part of the reason that preventive wars are wrong. Wars are dangerous and violent and unpredictable. They are therefore to be avoided where possible. Preventive wars by definition are avoidable -- just don't start them.

Preventive war is wrong because war is a bad thing. Sometimes all the alternatives are worse. But if you have lost sight of the fact that people killing each other is to be avoided whenever possible, you have lost your moral compass.

War is only to be contemplated or considered when we are at utter last resort, i.e. when the consequence of not going to war is clearly worse than the consequence of going to war.

I opposed the war because no case was made that even remotely reached the point of thinking that not going to war was worse than going to war. War is bad. War may be necessary if the alternative to war is worse than war. Rational people support necessary wars. But it required a peculiar sort of insanity (which in fairness was widespread at the time) to think this war was necessary. And I think too many people forgot that war is hell.

Posted by: eyelessgame on January 17, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Having extensively engaged in the debates at dKos, Atrios and other left-wing sites prior to March 2003 (including this site), my recollection of liberal anti-war objections is that there were many. WMDs (or lack of satisfactory evidence thereof) was part of it, but other reasons included, in no particular order:
(1) it was all about oil and capitalistic greed, therefore our stated reasons were illegitimate,
(2) it was too early for an invasion, so let Blix finish his job and try to get more support in the meantime,
(3) lack of support from the UN and insufficient support from the international community,
(4) it was illegal,
(5) tens of thousands of US soldiers would die and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would be killed because of our invasion,
(6) our invasion would set off a chemical-biological counterstrike by Saddam, endangering hundreds of thousands and maybe millions
(7) our invasion would turn the Muslim world against the US, it would make al Qaeda larger and even more dangerous, it may escalate into an even larger war involving other Middle Eastern countries and Israel,
(8) Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, so an invasion would take our eye off the terrorist ball,
(9) Bush was too stupid or incompetent or fascist to handle it,
(10) lots of heated discussions about the PNAC agenda, neocons' ambitions, Jewish influence, US imperialism, US unilateralism, and how the Patriot Act and other Bush actions would shred the Constitution,
(11) Bush and his supporters were moronic brownshirt fucks, so why even deign to engage with them.

Those are the first eleven that I could think of, and I'm sure there are more. As I remember, there were some objections relating to WMDs but most folks thought Saddam had bio and chem weapons, and that he would develop nuclear capabilities if he had the chance. There was little discussion about the post-war situation and post-war planning and reconstruction, which was a shortcoming on both left and right. There was little discussion about the Sunni-Shiite-Kurd dynamics and the potential for sectarian violence (and there may not have been this violence had we handled the post-war situation with any semblance of effectiveness). There were also objections from the Left about the kind of government to be established in Iraq; many thought that Saddam would be replaced by another dictator, except that this new dictator (probably Chalabi) would be our lackey and do our bidding. I don't remember an extensive amount of talk about Bush & Co. being liars, but there was some.

Unfortunately, I don't have any specific recollections or cites, but that's what I remember.

Posted by: Charles Bird on January 17, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

"does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it? Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view."

The question smells of someone trying very hard to prove the anti-war liberals wrong, at least in a hypothetical scenario if not in the real one.

We can have general discussion of what kind of wars anti-liberals would support, but to start such a discussion with this kind of loaded question does not make any sense.

Posted by: gregor on January 17, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK


Late to the party, but you're off base here.

The issue of preemption/prevention comes down to this: this war is referred to derisively as a war of choice. We weren't immediately (or not-so-immediately) threatened by Iraq. War always comes with enormous risks and consequences -- and a war involving regime change even more so -- which is partly we we don't just attack everybody who looks at us crosseyed.

Look at Afghanistan. It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't gone swimmingly. But they were harboring a terrorist organization that had just attacked us and was planning to do so again. Clearly, this is unacceptable, and in that case, it's entirely warranted to take on the risks of war and the difficult task of rebuilding.

On the other hand, take the Soviet Union. There were people convinced that eventual war with the USSR was a certainty, and we should strike first. Obviously, this didn't happen, and war was unnecessary. Lacking a compelling reason such as an imminent threat, such a war would have been extremely foolish.

If Saddam had nuclear weapons and was planning to use them against us, then it would have made sense to invade, no matter how awful the aftermath of the war would have been. But he wasn't. He wasn't much of a threat at all. Containment was working. We could have waited five years, ten years, a hundred years. If the situation ever deteriorated, we could have always invaded with little to no additional risk. And it's possible that future events could have made war unnecessary.

It's amazing that it has to be said, especially four years into this stupid war, but I'll say it: It's a bad idea to leap into the deadly consequences of war with no good, compelling, immediate reason. And THAT'S the problem with preventive wars.

As to UN approval, it would have helped a little. It would have added legitimacy, resources, and our allies' common sense. I doubt any of this would have been enough to make Iraq a cakewalk or remove our current difficulties. But no, having UN approval wouldn't have made this war a good idea, even if it would have made it marginally less atrocious.

The bigger point is that UN approval would have meant that the rest of the world didn't think we were completely nuts. If you're embarking on a path and everyone around you is shouting, "Don't do it!", well, it's a good idea to at least listen to their cause of concern. There are times when a nation must act unilaterally, but a nation should always do so with great pause. The lack of multilateral support wasn't so much an obstacle as it was a sign.

To sum up, you don't go to war unless the consequences of not going to war are more dire than the consequences of going to war. There will always be differing opinions on the weighing of those respective costs, and in this situation, it was the anti-war analysis (Saddam posed little risk; rebuilding would be extremely difficult) was much more accurate than the pro-war side (Saddam was a growing, gathering, immediate threat, and rebuilding would be easy.)

Posted by: Royko on January 17, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

To answer Kevin's question about what antiwar liberals were saying, you could read, e.g. Molly Ivins. Here's one of her columns:

Posted by: Doofus on January 17, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

In addition to the "anti-war liberals," maybe you could ask the more than 180 Democratic Representatives and the 21 Democratic Senators why they didn't vote for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002. Maybe they have a few reasons why they didn't support the war. As a matter of fact, five of the nine Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted not to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. Maybe they were right for the wrong reasons, too.

Posted by: darrelplant on January 17, 2007 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Typo in my previous post, that should be "more than 120 Representatives," not 180.

Posted by: darrelplant on January 17, 2007 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

A "pre-emptive" war is a war that one chooses, one without a true causus belli. In such a war one is doubly responsible for the outcome. In a truly provoked war, one is justified in focusing solely on "victory" i.e. defeating one's enemy. One is not obliged to worry about the consequences of defeat for that enemy. In a pre-emptive, elective war, however, one is, to a far greater degree, obliged to consider the possible consequences.

In brief, if the Iraq war had been provoked -- if , say, Iraq had been behind 9/11 -- there would be less justification for faulting the Bush administration on its lack of foresight about the consequences of the war. As it is, however, since they/we elected to go to war, we are very responsible for the consequences for Iraq, the region, and the world.

Of course, a truly wise and responsible power will *always* consider the consequences of its policies, both if they succeed, and if they miscarry.

Posted by: t hodgekiss on January 17, 2007 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

Here is part of what I wrote in Feb/March 2003:

...U.S. taking of Iraq does not appear to be the end of the imperial designs of U.S. planners. An extended, dangerous period of escalation of application of U.S. power in an attempt to hold and control its expanding spoils of war can be expected. Despite their arrogance and hubris, Bush and his team should not have much confidence that the chaos of the post-invasion period can be kept benign.There is great uncertainty about the controllability of forces that could be unleashed as America commits to new global management requirements far beyond its present substantial deployments. Current U.S. planning envisions a three-phase transition of Iraq from American military administration to some form of American-style government led by current Iraqi exiles. This process will be highly problematic and will probably require considerable force to pacify the disparate populations within Iraq.

Posted by: Owl on January 17, 2007 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth (nothing) my principle reason for opposing the invasion was the fear that it would lead to a civil war.


"post Saddam Hussein Iraq is likely to be horrible. My fear is civil war not pitched battles but guerrilla and urban guerrilla warfare.
I honestly think it could be worse that Iraq with Saddam Hussein. I would not be surprised to see (on TV) Iraqi’s dancing in the street, if Saddam Hussein is overthrown. I remember seeing live on TV Zairians dancing in the street when Mobuto Sese Seko was overthrown and seeing film of Vietnamese dancing in the street when Ngo Dinh Diem was overthrown. These memories make me less enthusiastic than I would otherwise be about dancing in the street."

I would say that I opposed the war for what turns out ex post to have been the right reason.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on January 17, 2007 at 4:29 AM | PERMALINK

Bottom Line -- and I've been saying this since 2002 -- we have lots of enemies out there, and given that Saddam was contained more or less effectively by the No-Fly Zone and everything else that was in place at the time, we could not afford to devote such a huge percentage of our military to him. I think that history has proven this out.

Posted by: Barry R. on January 17, 2007 at 4:30 AM | PERMALINK

I support the idea premptive war and might support a preventive war depending on the circumstances. I did not support this war however. Military intervention may be the best course on rare occasions and may be the least bad choice in other situations. I think Kevin was trying to argue that if you are a complete pacifist you will be proved correct when a war goes horribly wrong eventhough you may no judgement on the particular war in question. This logic seems right to me but reading through the comments I don't see alot of Quakers. Many comments are to the effect - if you are going to start a war the case must be incredibly solid and the strategy/plan nearly foolproof. A healthy scepticism on the efficacy of war/force to achieve political goals is certainly more realistic then the transformation dreams of neo-conservatives or liberal hawks.

Posted by: the phrase WMD was a tell on January 17, 2007 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Iraq was a preventive war"

Is that when you start a war to prevent a war from starting?

How wonderfully idiotically insane.

Posted by: sean on January 17, 2007 at 5:24 AM | PERMALINK

Softly, softly catchee monkey is what was forgotten, you don't crack a walnut with a sledge hammer. A complete stuff up from start to finish as foreseen by many and now all the proponents are heading for cover and obfuscating their previous positions. America needs a reboot you have gone sadly wrong. Wake up. Worst still I suspect greed was behind it all, hence the failure.

Posted by: zqwerty on January 17, 2007 at 5:30 AM | PERMALINK


While some of my opposition to the war was that I believed at that time the incompetence of the Bush administration as evidenced by decisions made at Tora Bora and the tossing aside of proven military doctrines to experiment, I'm not sure that's germane to your question, and it's probably less important.

The greater prewar failure was the inability of the Bush administration to engage the international community and the almost perverse desire to go it alone. the American people are simply more predisposed to accepting such adventurism, which was sold as preemptive but was really preventive, than the rest of the world, especially at that time with 9/11 so fresh in their minds.

This forced us to act pretty much unilaterally. Remember the coalition of the willing. That joke of group was virtually bereft of international power, and more importantly, cash to pay for the fiasco. They were just a bunch of toadies willing to put their name on the list.

I just really don't think you can pull off an Iraq sized project anymore without a greater degree of international participation.

Posted by: Phlip on January 17, 2007 at 5:40 AM | PERMALINK

Arrggh. I'm extremely late to this party and didn't have the patience to read the comments, so please forgive me if I'm going to state stuff that's been stated time and again here. This is such a goddamned no-brainer that it's one of the very few Kevin posts that has completely exasperated me into wanting to friggin' scream ...

I didn't post on blogs in the Fall of '02; I posted on the NYT A Nation Challenged forum. Same diff, but it became apparent after about two weeks where I was willing to give the WMD case consideration, that the entire thing was bullshit. The antiwarriors were providing better links closer to the ground in Iraq and the region; the warhawks were chanting slogans and fearmongering. Didn't take a rocket scientist ...

Here are the reasons laid out systematically -- if you really need the flippin' obvious belabored for you:

1) Preventive war isn't even the point -- although nobody can make a case against pre-emption per se, as you started to note. But even leaving aside the moral objections to preventive war -- it is absolutely conditioned on having *good intelligence.* If your intelligence is iffy, if it's equivocal (and it always was, even in the height of war fever after Powell's speech), then you can't launch a preventive war, PERIOD. Iffy intelligence would mean you'd have to launch preventive wars continually -- because there's *always* iffy intelligence coming over the transom about this or that threat. You need a solid case built on irrefutable substance and a clear pattern of behavior to demonstrate that kind of threat to the level that would justify an invasion. It just wasn't there -- hence the so-called 1% Doctrine.

2) We have a totally shitty understanding of the region -- conditioned by our unnaturally close relationship to two non-representative cohorts: the Saudi princes and the Israelis. We don't really understand the Sunni / Shi'ite rivalry and we haven't much of a clue about Iran, either. IMHO we wasted a golden opportunity to forge a strategic alliance with Iran after 9/11 against Sunni extremism -- which is, for reasons I've explained in depth elsewhere, a tad more dangerous than Shi'ite extremism, but we missed it.

3) The war was never about nation-building. You got this sense from Rumsfeld's simultaneous intent to re-configure the military in the midst of a full ground invasion. GMAFB! It took only a tiny little bit of cynical extrapolation (since proven dead-on correct) that the Bush ideologues in charge of this thing were simply going to wipe away the state apparatus and reboot Iraq as some kind of John Locke / Milton Friedman State of Nature Free Market paradise. Jesus fucking christ.

4) The tinfoil hat explanation -- that it's all about dealing with Peak Oil -- just didn't go away. As much as I tried to soberly evaluate the case on its own terms, it was impossible to dismiss Cheney's relationship with Halliburton and the Bush people's deep connections to the oil industry. Sometimes Occam's Razor validates conspiracy theories instead of the other way around.

5) The toxic political climate, which had taken this joke of a president previously known for taking the longest vacation in presidential history in August '01, now had elevated him into the nation's savior and spokesman for the deep trauma of 9/11. All that goodwill heaped on a guy that *I* knew damn well was a putz's putz in '00 -- totally beholden to Christianist ideologues. Is he going to somehow dignify that goodwill -- treat it with respect, rise above circumstance and who he is at core -- what kind of a naive cretin do you take me for? It was simply impossible for Bush not to do the politically expedient thing and merge his ignorance of the region ("They attacked us!") with the Zeitgeist to launch a nifty Crusade on behalf of filling his empty inner core while winning GOP votes.

6) Saddam was contained in his box. His atrocity days were substantially over; he was busy writing romance novels now. His military was toothless and demoralized. And while it was au courant to shudder at the psychopathy of his heirs apparent, neither Uday nor Qsay had demonstrated what it took for Saddam to claw his way to the top and stay there. They were decadent, sadistic playboys -- the product of nepotism who wouldn't have lasted two weeks before a military coup. And at that time, maybe there'd be a world outcry to do something about it; I was never seriously worried about either of them taking power.

7) The sanctions were horrible for the Iraqi people, but the US had the UNSC veto to keep them in place. Sure, not a great outcome -- but better in humanitarian terms than goddamned shock and awe.

And on ... and on ... and on.

Now lemme see how many other folks said substantially the same thing. I'd bet a lot.


Posted by: rmck1 on January 17, 2007 at 7:17 AM | PERMALINK

I remember sitting in a bar with two other new professors in 2002-2003 (Mahoney's in Cedar Rapids) outlining all of the reasons not to go to war. We all assumed Saddam had WMDs, by the way, but we thought--as was borne ought by administration claims immediately after the invasion--that invasion was a perfect motive and opportunity to (1) use them; (2) disperse them; (3) give them to worse actors; (4) make common cause with natural enemies and attack us with them here. And this was only the first of many reasons not to go to war.

Posted by: jcasey on January 17, 2007 at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK

Some time ago I went back to the low profile, but very longstanding, group blog (we didn't call it that, that's how old it is) and checked the archives to see what those of us who had opposed the war were saying.

What we had right was that there was no Iraqi threat to the US. The WMD claims were treated as plausible before the inspectors went in, but after the inspections started and nothing was found, that WMD justification was looked at with growing suspicion. When the inspectors made their report in early March 2003, it was both absolutely clear that there were no al qaeda links, no nukes, no nuke program, no WMD found in the places where Cheney had said they were sure to be found, a very good chance that there were none be found at all, and, most important, that Iraq posed absolutely no threat to the US or the region.

Two of us, myself and a Green Kiwi living in France, even figured out what had happened sometime in early May--that Saddam had been trying to leave the impression he had WMD when he didn't, because he wanted internal enemies and neighbors to fear him.

What we did not get right was we expected strong opposition in Baghdad during "major combat operations." The speed with which Baghdad fell took us by surprise. I still am agnostic on whether this was by design or an indication of just how much Saddam was despised. If the latter is true, then the liberal hawks have something of a case in saying that the occupation was managed jawdroppingly badly.

But there was never any reason for military intervention, and that was absolutely clear in early March 2003. In fact, it's my opinion that the reason the war was started before the troops that were supposed to enter Iraq from the north, through Turkey, having been denied access by the Turkish government, was because the administration saw their pretexts were being exposed. Waiting another 4 to 6 weeks would have led to more analysis of the inspectors' results, and made it harder to keep the story going.

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 17, 2007 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin must be kidding me...

The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right.

Kevin demonstrates the exact problem with the entire Administration and most of the country.


No matter how you sugarcoat it, there is no basis for attacking other sovereign nations on a hunch. This should not even be open for debate, but yet we have average Americann who now think that a country that senses danger has a right to attack another.

This is insanity, and if this war didn't prove it, I guess Kevin wants to live in a 24-Jack Bauer-Fictional world...

Posted by: justmy2 on January 17, 2007 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK


"What if Saddam really did have WMD?"

a) he didn't
b) we knew he didn't (haven't you read the Risen book yet?)
c) even if one were to stipulate that he had WMDs, which he didn't, invading a country that has no power to threaten us is breathtakingly immoral
d) when there is so much information out there that the WMD story was just an excuse to invade, why are you invoking it? Even the people who made the argument in the first place have admitted it was a lie.

In the run-up to the war, the US government was taking all the steps it could to ensure that the question of whether Iraq had WMDs or not was not resolved peacefully. Didn't you notice all of that? We had weapons inspectors in Iraq on and off from 1991 through 2003. The net effect of these various inspections was...the WMD programs were shut down!

If you cannot face this fact, you really have no business being a "pundit". You really have a fetish for trying to turn this discussion into something far more abstract than it deserves, in a desperate attempt to give the pro-war crowd at least a sliver of respectability. I really don't get it. They were wrong about everything, and indeed, many of them were dishonest to boot. In a just society, all of the sabre-rattlers from 2002-2003 would be picking potatoes somewhere by now. Why is "being completely wrong" not subject to any kind of market forces in punditry?

Posted by: RickD on January 17, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Iraq was an AGGRESSIVE war.

We attacked them. They posed no threat to us.

forget pre-emptive, preventive, progressive, pre-natal, etc.

the word you want is AGGRESSIVE

Posted by: mightymouse on January 17, 2007 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, as others have said, it was a preventive war, and preventive wars are illegal. And the fact that our attack on Iraq was considered illegitimate and illegal did contribute to the failure, 1. because of the lack of broad international support. 2. The Iraqi people PERCEIVED this lack of legitimacy, and this made them more likely to support the insurgency, and less likely to support any government we helped set up. 3. Other Muslims around the world PERCEIVED this lack of legitimacy and this made them more likely to aid any insurgency with money/arms/etc. The incompetence of the rebuilding made things even worse, but there would have been an insurgency regardless.
However, above and beyond these practical and legalistic reasons, it is morally wrong to attack a nation without provocation. I learned the basic principle behind this in kindergarden. I cannot believe Drum has not absorbed this lesson yet.

Posted by: Karin on January 17, 2007 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Why bring this fight up now, at a time when pretty much everybody agrees that the war was a bad idea? It seems an academic exercise that we could get to later, after we stop the war.

Posted by: J.D. Rhoades on January 17, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

My main internet sources at the time were the sites Common Dreams, Counterpunch and ZNet. You're right, 2002 was a pre-blog era. Commentary was mostly found on scattered sources.
My main problem with preventive war was that there were no real standards for it. The go/no go decision was based on fuzzy criteria. When you wait for the "bad guy" to actually do something, you have a clear and indisputable criteria that folks can't really argue with.
Prreventive war is just "Well, I thought there was good reason to go for it."

Posted by: Rich on January 17, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin. Here's what I wrote in my blog on February 12, 2003:

GULLIBLE'S TRAVAILS: Well, we cynics saw this coming from several miles away.

"Iraqi opposition leaders said on Wednesday they feared Washington was trying to sideline them by planning a two-year military occupation of Iraq after any war to topple President Saddam Hussein.

Saddam's opponents are trying to bury their bitter feuds before a U.S. attack to ensure they have a role in post-war Iraq, but U.S. officials dented their hopes on Tuesday, saying a military occupation could last two years before power was handed back to Iraqis.

"There are some worrying signs," admitted Hoshiyar Zebari, a senior official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which runs the western half of the Kurdish breakaway region in north Iraq."

It it weren't so pathetic and disguting, it would be funny.

The United States is going to experience what the British already knew from their disasterous Palestinian Mandate period.

Want to bet this dumb idea is Dick Cheney's?"

Look up the British mandate in Palestine and you will see that I was predicting sectarian civil strife and terrorist bombings.

Posted by: Hesiod on January 17, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

"There were lots of reasons for opposing the war. In this post, I'm only reponding to the particular argument that Atrios made."

Dude, that's slippery of you. You start the post by saying that the left doesn't deserve any respect because they're reasons for opposing the war were wrong, and then you hold up Atrios's post as the only example you can find of how the left was "using the wrong reasons". As many other commenters above have pointed out, there were plenty of historical resources you could have referenced to efute your point. Lazy.

Posted by: casey on January 17, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I was opposed to the iraq War from the start and marched in the NYC protest pre-invasion. My reasons then and now were/are:

- pre-emptive wars based on 'national security' rationales are the hallmark of dictatorships - not the United States. They are illegal under international law for all the right reasons.

- There was insufficient evidence of WMD's. My chief source at the time was Scott Ritter and transcripts of intel interviews w/ high-ranking Iraqi military defectors

- Total distraction from extant counterterrorism efforts. There were no plausible links to Al Qaeda and Bush and Blair admitted - televised and on background - that there was no link to the 9/11 hijackers pre-invasion.

- you cannot bestow democracy on a country that has no tradition of democratic institutions and expect success anymore than you can give a child a shotgun and expect them to defend themself. The path to democracy starts from within and Iraq IMHO are not there just yet.

Given the ample amount of readily available contrary information at the time, I feel that anybody that supported this war - even briefly - were quite simply failed by their capacity for critical thought. Anyone who still supports it is IMHO willfully ignorant and probably shouldn't be allowed to drive a car, operate heavy machinery or be left alone with impressionable minds......

Posted by: iconoclast on January 17, 2007 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The idea of preemptive war assumes that Iraq was a threat! Maybe in the minds of the bedwetters crying for GWB to save them from the "scary terrorists" but facts are facts. It was well known for any one not sniffing the Presidents back side Iraq was no threat to the U.S. Isreal maybe, Kuwait Iran and the Saudis perhaps.

The idea of Saddam providing WMD to terrorists is idiotic. If you need an excuse for your youthful indiscretions fine. But don't try to drag the rest of us into your cesspool of lies and deceptions.

Posted by: mel on January 17, 2007 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Nice try, Kev. When events prove you were dead wrong, you assuage your guilt by questioning the logic of those who were dead right. Problem is, 3000 of the troops you helped send, are just plain dead.

It's time to admit you aren't any good at this and resign. You can purge your guilt by visiting the families of the soldiers you help send on a fraudulent campaign.

Posted by: Sad man on January 17, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The case for Saddam WMDs was circumstantial and very weak; the administrations BIG pieces of evidence were proved wrong before the war started; Saddam was no threat to us - even if HAD WMDs; Saddam had let the weapons inspectors back in.

What the admin. didn't say- the pressure to lift the sanctions was increasing, and new weapons inspections that showed no weapons would really ratchet it up. That would leave Saddam as a legitimized power who did all of his oil dealing with France and Russia.

Posted by: RNinTN on January 17, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: But what if Saddam really did have WMD? Then would there have been something to preempt?


Why is this so difficult to understand. A country that is not an imminent threat can and should not be invaded. If the last 4 years have not been enough to make you realize this, there is nothing that we can do bring you back into the reality of civilized society.

North Korea has nuclear weapons...should we
preemptively attack them???? Why not?

This is idiotic and I am befuddled as to why this is even still a question in people's mind.

Posted by: justmy2 on January 17, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

The WMDs were always a horror-flick stand in for the concept of "threat to America" (sometimes = "threat to Israel"). But anyone who saw the U.S. military decimate Iraq when it was still a quasi-industrial power -- and never mind the ensuing decade of grinding sanctions and inspections -- had to laugh at the very idea, mustard gas or no. Not laughing at that idea makes you not credible on foreign policy, period.

Moreover, though it wasn't a complete given that the adventure would be a total fuck-up, the plausible best-case scenario would have been a secular strongman. Well, you already had a secular strongman. In those situations, smart empires make deals, not war.

Posted by: Smeghead on January 17, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

OUTRAGEOUS AND RIDICULOUS is this whole discussion.
Afghanistan - sure, we had to clean up that mess - 99% agreed
Iraq - No - We said that inspections were indeed ongoing (bush pulled them out). We said we would not be welcome in a foreign (especially Muslim) land. We said that saddam did not present such a "clear and present danger" as to be that big of priority. We said we can annihilate Iraq at any point due to our massive military and their eroded one.
And on and on and on - We were right about virtually all of it. The liberal hawks are hawks and fools.
I remember Vietnam well - my two best fiends from my youth came back in body bags. Is that a reason not to fight - No, but use your fucking head.
Anyone with any sense (and maybe the years to remember) knew where this would go.
Please send abuse to me personally - and by the way, if you supported this war go fuck yourself, and hand the bills to your children. My son will not go to your silly macho war - over my cold dead body (chuck heston would be proud). Think i'm wrong? "bring it on" (another quote from an idiot)

Posted by: rik @ work on January 17, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

"After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it."


It failed because it was a preemptive war BASED ON A PACK OF LIES. It failed because it was a violation of the NUREMBERG PRINCIPLES, and while they may be quaint for you, THEY ARE NOT FOR ME.
It failed because it had no international support or A SHRED OF LEGITIMACY.


Posted by: Susan - NC on January 17, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin is really on to something here. It was clear from almost the get go that many on the anti-war left wanted the US to fail in Iraq principally to teach the lesson that "preemtive war=bad". This flows from the unforunate pacifist tendency of a large block of the democratic party. This has lead to the even more unfortunate phonomeon of a.) blaming Bush (and by extension the US) for the violence in Iraq right now, because, you know, Bush is making those Shia death squads committ genecide, and b) saying that anyone who didn't oppose the war from the start should "purge your guilt by visiting the families of the soldiers you help send on a fraudulent campaign."

If the world were as many in the Anti-War camp envisioned, then there would be no need for preemptive war (or nuclear weapons for that matter.) but the world is not as they see it. We are unique in that we view peaceful coexistance as the natural order of the universe, whereas the rest of the world views peace as something that occurs only after they have prevailed in battle. We can either fight or accept whatever type of peace our enemies dictate to us. I know what side i'm on, but i'm not too sure about our anti-war friends.

Posted by: bjs on January 17, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

We who were right all along don't require the "respect" of those who were deeply wrong. We're not asking for anything from you, since "sorry" doesn't bring 3000 troops back to life. Next time (see: Iran), maybe study U.S. History a little harder and learn something before you go supporting something stupid.

Posted by: Christian in NYC on January 17, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

The liberal hawks (and the conservatives too) are making a weird and dopey point to cover their sorry asses. Brazillions of critics of the war move warned of exactly what would go wrong: No WMD really there, not getting enough World participation, sectarian strife, abandoning Afghanistan, poor preparation like not having enough Arabic translators (and suppressing some of the few we had because they were gay, etc.), incompetence of the Administration effort, etc. It was well described. They are shameless.

Posted by: Neil B. on January 17, 2007 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Drum! You should be ashamed to admit that either you FORGOT the tsunami of protests both in the streets and in the netroots, the precient and dead-on objections to it, etc. etc., or simply WERE NOT ON THE SCENE at the time. I have dozens of articles and essays archived myself. You, as a professional(?) pundit, should have even more than I. What in God's name have you been smoking?

Posted by: John on January 17, 2007 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Geezus Kevin, I can't believe you proposed this "discussion". Plenty of other commenters covered most of the bases AFAIC. Aside from fact that, outside of the neocons, the idea of invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 never occurred to anybody
(Really!!!),..., you say:

Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent(...)

Incompetant is not even peripherally comprehenisve in describing the entire process. To put it more succinctly, your description is entirely w/out context & ignores massive evidence of GWB & Co's ulterior motives which were far removed from their stated purpose.

After 6 months of GWB's presidency... "No child left behind" (a pharce) & 1st round of tax cuts... he was floundering. I recall, right after the towers went down, Bush saying: "Fighting global terrorism is going to become the central focus of this administration."

That scared the beegeezus out of me... an idiot, with no common sense, who through the election recount absurdities had demonstrated a cold blooded, ruthless determination to circumvent any sense of propriety, not to mention all the thugs he surrounded employed and rewarded in the service of shutting down that election....

Bush had already begun undermining decades of environmental progress by appointing industry cads to policy positions. He and his admin stonewalled 9/11 investigations & accountability (why was Andrew's AFB on stand-down that day?) as if the American public had no right to know what the US government was doing that day. Then the silencing of the NJ air traffic controllers (and subsequent "accidental" erasing of tapes of their conversations). Then we have Wolfowitz & company moving to the center stage... neocons whose history should've scare the shit out of anyone with a thread of sober thought.

Etched in my mind was Bush's taped message, played over the loudspeakers of the World Series 1st game in Arizona, with Bush's references to "The Evil One" (OBL) with the crowd cheering wildly... I know a feeding frenzy when I see it, and Bush fed that one for all it was worth.

Then the carefully crafted image of Bush's "moral clarity" in the matter, force fed through MSM w/out any substantiating evidence, and used by Rove to drown out any other subject while Junior's administration moved one after another edict through congress in the dead of night, out of public sight, w/so many nefarious purposes it makes one's head spin.

Then there was news that GWB admin was setting up GITMO... off shore, out of sight, untouchable by US legal system... stark reminders of all I mention above (and much more) that spoke loud and clear that "Bad Stuff" was going to come of this.

There was, by the time Bush decided "Sadam has to go", convincing iron clad context that these guys had unspoken ambitions, dark and nefarious, out of which no good could come.

And lets not forget, prior to invasion, GWB's "Roadmap to Peace" which more or less was a green light to Sharon's Temple Mount chest thumping moment announcing massive expansion of settlements in the territories. This, right on the cusp of a near realization of Oslo with partitioning of Jerusalem being the primary unsolved issue. And don't forget, the "deciders" in Bush's admin who put this "policy" together... Pearle, Wolfowistz, Ledeen and all the rest of the AIPAC crazies, had a track record consistent with results produced in Iraq.

I mention all this because, as you said, your recollection of left/liberal/progressive opposition to "the war" was a bit blurry and you didn't have time to do a review. The context surrounding and preceeding declaration of W's Iraq ambitions was a very, very accurate predicator of exactly what has happened.

you continue:

(...)Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

It's moral to the extent that the "preemter's" motives are stated honestly. GWB's were not.

AFAIC Atrios' comments are right on the money, as he assumes a little knowledge of context at the time... something you seem to have forgotten.

Posted by: jdmckay on January 17, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

wow Kevin,

this is the stupidest shit I have read in a long time.

i must say,

swho cares whether you used pre-emptive or preventative...or whether you say escalation or augmentation

jesus kevin, please take your meds

Posted by: maccabee on January 17, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that Kevin is conflating objections to the causa belli of the Iraq War (made by anti-war liberals in 2002), with the strategic failures in the war's execution.

Of COURSE the anti-war left did not take issue with the strategic failures of the Iraq War, because (at that time) nobody was sure how it would be executed and would tactical decisions would be made.

That doesn't make the anti-war left "wrong" however, and I suggest that a war which is illegitimate to begin with can never achieve strategic success. History bears me out on this, I believe.

Posted by: Ken on January 17, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

The only possible justification was WMD.

Given all the info that came out from January - March 2003, it was obvious that Bush was lying about WMD. But Bush wouldn't lie about WMD if he didn't have to.

Therefore, there was no sufficient cause to invade Iraq

Therefore I opposed the invasion of Iraq.


How difficult is that, really?

Posted by: The Fool on January 17, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

check digby

Posted by: Brad on January 17, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. These guys pegged it pretty well.

Posted by: Hesiod on January 17, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

What a bunch of crap!Many of us who opposed the war from the get go actually paid attention to ALL the information available.We didn't buy that Saddam was supportive of Bin laden and his efforts.We thought a connection between a secular dictator and a movement to establish Islamic goevernments in the Middle East was highly unlikely.We actually read Joe Wilson's op-ed piece eviserating the yellowcake fable.We felt the real war to be fought was and continues to be in Afghanistan.Kevin-just because you were a fool doesn't make those who disagreed with you fools.On the contrary don't you think?

Posted by: Thomas Baumann on January 17, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Get Your War On was a pretty good indication of what a lot of us were thinking at the time.

Posted by: Pooleside on January 17, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Did Jonah Goldberg write this post?

I'm not sure I see it. The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right.


Posted by: naked lunch on January 17, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I was very opposed to the Iraq war from the start.
I added up the population figures, and felt that if
1% of the Iraqi population were willing to die
in attacks on our forces, we would face a force of
400,000 suicide bombers.

Given the number of bombings, i think I was in the right

It's sad that only Sen Byrd stood up to oppose the war.

Posted by: anonymous on January 17, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Besides opposing war on principle, to which I plead guilty, how about having opposed war on Iraq because we could already see how badly Afghanistan was going? (But none are so blind..) It was already apparent in 2002 that this lot of incompetents had no follow thru with that war, and that the consequences to a failed Iraq would be a lot more dire.

That was at the top of my list back then, but the list was already pretty long. Of course I was dismissed as a mere Bush hater, which I was, and which every patriotic American with a scintilla of awareness should have been, and should be now. Nothing that has happened since Dec 8, 2000 has surprised me in the least. Not Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, 9-11 (shocking, but not surprising at all), "free speech zones", domestic spying on political enemies - nothing.

And I predict it will get a lot worse before it gets better (if we ever live to see better). These folks are dangerous and will stop at nothing to have their way. And America still has not woken up to that realization yet, dismal though their poll numbers be.

Posted by: jussumbody on January 17, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

You are full of shit Kevin.

You were back then in your Calpundit days, and you still are today, even in the details about the record. As was noted above, Kos maintains archives all the way back to day one, and even the comments, except for a few months well after the start of the war where Haloscan was used and the comments were lost (but not the stories).

Check Billmmon here: http://www.dailykos.net/archives/001844.html

They are simple enough to find. Are you a liar? You sure aren't very careful with your facts. Oliver North had a memory recollection problem too. Seems to be a hint about your true nature.

As if to underscore, your own Calpundit comments are no longer available.

I wonder why that might be. Regardless, it sure helps you un-remember what those of us who opposed the war were telling you back then.

Posted by: M Aurelius on January 17, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Go back to Howard Dean and what he said in 2003 and try to tell me that he didn't know why it was going to be a big screw up.

This is a bunch of crap. Hawks - liberal and otherwise, were wrong, Wrong, WRONG from day one, and we were right.

Trying to put any other spin on it is weak.

Posted by: InsultComicDog on January 17, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Go back to Howard Dean and what he said in 2003 and try to tell me that he didn't know why it was going to be a big screw up.

This is a bunch of crap. Hawks - liberal and otherwise, were wrong, Wrong, WRONG from day one, and we were right.

Trying to put any other spin on it is weak.

Posted by: InsultComicDog on January 17, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I am just chiming in as yet ANOTHER person who, having a standard-issue bullshit detector and an above-6th-grade-reading comprehension-level, understood that the neocons (and MSM) were selling this war of choice on colossally false evidence.

In addition, anyone who's been paying attention to politics since the 70's would have seen the absolute BONER guys like Cheney and Rumsfeld had for their post-Nixonian, neocon, authoritarian-military dominance fantasies.

The fact that all the ensuing domestic "terra" and spying shit comes directly from every MORON who voted for a party (Repukes) one of whose big claims was to make government small--small enough to "drown in a bathtub".

A small, easily maneuvered government is just what an authoritarian dictator needs. Like it or not, America's slow-moving democracy is that way--by design--to disallow authoritarians like Bushco from moving the government around, for reasons of personal whim and gain, too quickly.

Posted by: jesus h democrat on January 17, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Should have looked at the blogs that were, you know, actually around at the time, Calpundit:

Avedon Carol, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden,
Nathan Newman, Max Sawicky, Atrios, Shadow of the Hegemon, myself, all blogs still existing and with still existing archives.

All of which told you, at the time, that the war was going to be bad, was illegal and immoral and that Kenneth Fucking Pollack being an idiot.

None of which actually though UN approval was sufficient to go to war, rather than, at best, one of the conditions that needed to be fulfilled to be able to support the war.

Of course the war has vindicated us, as none of the publically stated reasons for it, whether by useful idiots like yourself or the administration itself turned out to be true and everything we warned about turned out to happen.

Moreover, even the concept of "pre-emptive war" was a smokescreen: the Bushies wanted war with Iraq and used that concept to get it, rather than the other way around. It was just a thing to get liberal hawks on board.

Finally, 650,000 dead Iraqis, some 3,000 dead US soldiers (and many more disabled for life), plus some hundreds of other coalition deaths, pretty conclusively prove the moral cause against pre-emptive war.


Posted by: Martin Wisse on January 17, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Let me help your memory, Kevin. Go to TomTomorrow. After a little looking, you'll find one of his cartoons from early 2003. Then go to Digby and you will find a reposting of one of his/her commentaries from late 2002.

As a member of the "focus group", I participated in the street discussions of the antiwar demonstrations (and I guess you didn't). I just want you to know -

we got it right.

Get used to it.

Posted by: dcnataro on January 17, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

yet another late two cents:

to me as well, with no source but an Internet connection, it was clear that:

1) the evidence Iraq had WMD was very far from convincing;

1a) Powell's UN presentation was weak and was debunked practically in real time;
1b) the 'aluminum tube' story was weak and was debunked quickly;
1c) the yellowcake stuff in the SOTU was already known to be bad intel at the time of the SOTU

-- all of this meaning that the Bush admin was obviously and deliberately being misleading and overhyping a weak case, so that it was clear they were pursuing this for other reasons and were not to be trusted;

2) the claims of a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and between Iraq and 9/11, were bullshit;

3) the claims that the war would be fast, easy, cheap, low in destruction, and would not provide fodder to our enemies, and that the post-war scene would be an orderly transition to something like a liberal democracy, were obviously ridiculously optimisitc, based on ideology and wishful thinking rather than actual facts.

Posted by: averageguy on January 17, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, you were wrong and we were right, but some us may have been right for the wrong reasons. The anti-war crowd should hang their head in shame.

Posted by: number-six on January 17, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I was right, and I was right for the right reasons. My reward? I had my patriotism and my bona fides as an American questioned; not just by the NoeCon acolytes, but by centrists and Democrats as well, and that has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I will not apologize for being right. I will, however consider accepting apologies from liberals and conservatives alike who were 100% wrong but lamely try to qualify their wrongness by proclaiming that some of those who were right were right for the "wrong reasons" -

That is the lamest fucking thing I have ever heard in my entire life, and anyone seriously offering it should have angry cats thrown at them.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 17, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK
That is the lamest fucking thing I have ever heard in my entire life, and anyone seriously offering it should have angry cats thrown at them.

Hey! There is no call for abusing cats. Use weasels, instead.

Otherwise, I agree with you completely.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 17, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq was a preventive war.

1. No it wasn't.

2. Are you really sure there can be such a thing?

Posted by: Avedon on January 17, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

If a pundit is really, really wrong (like on this issue) then why should they continue to be employed? Obvious defense: Push a "you were right but for the "wrong reasons" bullshit.

Posted by: reality777 on January 17, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ho-hum. Another liberal writer who's answer to all problems is "Bush's Incompetence". Obviously, Mr. Drum dis-engaged thinking, while shifting into writing.

The Iraqi war was about Iraq complying with UN directives. The US intelligence was wrong, along with most of the world's... An astute writer would ask, "why was our intelligence wrong?" That might actually do some good in the future, but likely would take a vector into liberal politics, ie, Democrats, so the media doesn't want to go there.

Why do we stay? Because we are responsible. Hard for liberals to understand, but making mistakes does not relieve us of commitments undertaken due to own action.

Posted by: History guy on January 17, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Aargh. So silly Kevin.

Posted by: JM on January 17, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

OK, here's a Tom Tomorrow cartoon from 2003. He not only got it right on Iraq, he got it right on Iran!


Posted by: reality777 on January 17, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"History guy", you are so full of crap. Responsibility something that LIBERALS can't understand? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha .....

Posted by: reality777 on January 17, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I for one opposed the Iraq war because 1. I was believing the UN expert weapons inspectors on the ground rather than the hawkish Republican administration; 2. I realized that even if everything Saddam believed about his military capability was right, he didn't have the means to deliver a payload further than, say, Turkey; and 3. I realized that 9/11 justice meant toppling Osama and shattering al Qaeda, and that if we wanted that done and soon, we needed to devote all resources to toppling his shelterers and following his trail in Afghanistan, not dilute it with a second war in an unrelated country (which is technically number 4: I realized that Iraq, a secular nationalist state, was not connected to fundamentalist Saudi-founded al Qaeda).

Frankly, all these later reasons -- that there'd be massive collateral damage, that the locals would *not* welcome us with open arms (though the notion was just plain idiotic and egomaniacal from the start), that the sharply culturally divided country would fall into civil war, that we wouldn't be able to find a leader that could unite the country, that it would actually *introduce* al Qaeda into the country, that we'd take major casualties.... these are all ancillary and while they bolster anti-war sentiment, they are hardly good reasons to oppose or have opposed the war.

In fact, some of these play into the hands of the hawks, many of whom still do not really understand the opposition to the war, who felt vindicated against the war opponents when they thought the war was going well, living under a strange belief that anti-war sentiment revolved around a lack of confidence in US military power, when in fact, it feared the exact opposite. (They should respect human life enough to realize that rapid annihilation of a country full of people would not be a reason to celebrate and feel patriotic, unless you are a savage.)

If you oppose the war solely for such reasons, which is probably the case if you came to the party late, then I really don't think you get the reasoning behind being against the Iraq war. Probably, you're now against the war because you don't want to deal with the mess its become, and the further investment that may be applied to clean it up; not because it should never have happened in the first place. Unless for some reason all the clues you outright ignored or failed to seek out in the early years have suddenly become clear to you.

Posted by: K on January 17, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I opposed the invasion of Iraq, not because it was "preemtive" or "preventive", and certainly not because I thought it might fail.

I opposed it, and still oppose it, because it was, and is, a war of aggression, defined at Nuremberg tribunals as the "supreme international crime."

The invasion of Iraq would have been just as criminal, and just as wrong, if it had been "successful" in the eyes of its proponents. Perhaps more so, because it then would have enabled additional wars of aggression.

Posted by: grassroot on January 17, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Use weasels, instead."

So appropriate on *several* levels...

Posted by: Captain Goto on January 17, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I know _exactly_ what my objection to the war was, back in 2002. I even e-mailed the White House a note about it.

The war was *unnecessary* - just a distraction from the real work that needed to be done. Pure and simple. There wasn't a single good reason for it. Not one. Even when I heard Colin Powell's crap to the UN, it didn't in any way convince me the war was necessary, just that it was inevitable.

The note I sent to the White House: "Don't forget Afghanistan!" I went into detail about how we would only achieve our supposed goal of closing this harbor for terrorists if we followed through with a full Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. I warned them that it would be folly to turn our attention anywhere else until Afghanistan was a "garden spot".

The people of Afghanistan seemed quite willing to have roads, electricity, irrigation and stable governance. Then we screwed them over, so now it's back to warlords and opium for survival.


Posted by: Robespierrette on January 17, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

This is the stupidest post I've ever read on this thread. The argument was that a) a pre-emprive war would eliminate a deadly threat and b) a pre-emptive war would cause the U.S. to be greeted as liberators, spreading pro-U.S. love and democracy throughout the region.

No threat and no love, but the pre-emptive war idea isn't discredited at all?

People like me opposed the war because WARS ARE AWFUL AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED UNLESS NECESSARY! Normally mean unless you are attacked. Does Iraq prove that I was right? Hell yes.

Jeepers, I'm disappointed by this post. Pathetic.

Posted by: Bullsmith on January 17, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I fear that weasels might not render sufficient dermal damage, due to professional courtesy considerations.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 17, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you are such a fucking wanker. Now I remember why I took this blog off my favorites list.

I just checked my outbox. I sent over 30 emails to the president begging him not to go to war for no reason, and asking why he couldn't allow the weapons inspectors to finish their job. I also sent over 20 emails to Sec Powell, warning him that his entire career of service to his country would be forgotten if he didn't either stand up against the war or quit his post.

Posted by: johng on January 17, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK


This has to be one of the weakest arguments, from an intellectual perspective, that I have ever seen you put forth. And, a shameless attempt to justify your support of the war at the expense of someone, who, by your own admission was, right about it.

Whether you call it "preemptive" or "preventive", going to war with that rationale is immoral, and, in some cases, illegal. Period.

Any subsequent success that you might have militarily would have no impact on the morality or legality of the act. It's a simple concept that I would have expected you to understand.

With your logic, I could perceive a threat from my neighbor across the street, decide to murder him or her, and be vindicated merely if I was successful in pulling off the crime. That is simply foolish and self-serving logic.

There is just no relationship, in this case, between success and justification.

Posted by: redstateblue on January 17, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

>EDANTIC UPDATE: I've used the term "preemptive war" throughout this post, but it's worth noting that this is yet another case in which the Bush administration has twisted broadly-accepted language for its own >use. A preemptive war is one in which an attack is imminent and you decide to strike first rather than wait for a certain invasion. A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but >uncertain future attack. Iraq was a preventive war.

Good for you. Not sure if its where you got this from but Noam Chomsky made this exact point about a year ago. Do NOT let them redefine words as they please to make things look more credible. Do not let them get away with using terms that would justify their war under the UN charter. If they want to argue whether a preventive war was justified, fine, but with the understanding that, justified or not, it is illegal under the UN charter which we signed and ratified and therefor, illegal under US law as well.

As for people speaking against the war before hand, maybe not on moral grounds but, how about Scott Ritter. He said quite clearly "there are NO WMD's in Iraq" long before we invaded. Everyone called him a nutball or worse at he time but he was dead on the money.

Posted by: vividvew on January 17, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

The war was based on lies and intended to serve the political ends of a party of liars, child molesters, cheats and thieves. I have no doubt that these monsters would do anything, say anything, and kill anyone who got in between them and their doggy dish. They win whether we win or lose because they make money on both ends. They have made huge quantities of money, stolen America's future, squandered lives, equipment, and time, and given us nothing. Bush should be in Guantanamo with his cabinet wearing orange jumpsuits. If we ever have representative government again we need to investigate these crooks, including Lieberman, and extirpate them from the body politic.

Posted by: Biff Spaceman on January 17, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

ex-minion: If preemptive war is always wrong how come no one opposed Clinton in Bosnia or Kosovo, other than the paleocons?

probably because there were no dead americans and the cost was, compared to iraq...

extremely low..

lucky for bush defenders...

they got their wish..

there are plenty of both...


Posted by: mr. irony on January 17, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

I remember when the United States of America pushed for an honest, through war crimes trial at Nuremburg, to set a precedent for the future. I remember when the result of those trials was the principle, then fully supported by the USA, that war is inevitably so horrible that the worse war crime of all is launching an aggressive war -- the only exception being in the case of self-defense from an imminent attack from another country. (By "imminent" they didn't mean imagined weapons factories -- they meant troops massing at the border.)

I remember when the USA pushed for international ratification of the Geneva Conventions, particularly the 4th, and the UN Charter, both of which codified into law -- US law, because these treaties were ratified by the Senate -- that launching an aggressive war is illegal.

I consider everyone who contemplated supporting the war on Iraq as evil. That includes you, Kevin, and Josh and Matt. Yeah, you came to the other side eventually, but you were perfectly willing to have Bushco fry tens of thousands of innocent children on the grounds that Iraq might be making bio or chemical weapons. You are a sicko.

Posted by: Reality on January 17, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

As D Davies and "Frank" pointed out, if you have to lie about it, it's wrong.

Posted by: Mountech on January 17, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

To the approximately 7 responses that are anti-Dove or anti-Democratic or pro-Drum's point out of the over 500 responses here thoroughly schooling Drum:

Republican / pro-war / Drum's assertions before the war began:
'Despite conflicting evidence regarding WMD existence (especially the weapons inspectors who found no WMD), we should usurp Saddam anyway because he is a dictator who killed his people (using weapons we sold him) 20 years ago. Yes, I am ignoring logical, fact based evidence from a variety of sources that says his people won't be happy with us there, and that the invasion has as a very logical outcome the death of innocent civilians in numbers greater than those killed by Saddam. Yes, I am ignoring logical, fact based evidence from a variety of sources that says U.S. deaths could well exceed those killed in 9/11, that the resulting instability could produce more terrorists and reasons for terrorism against us and that the cost may be substantial which if we keep doing tax breaks is a really bad idea.'

Democratic / anti-war / anti-Drum responses before the war began:
'First, please base major decisions on unilaterally agreed upon evidence only or, in its absence, evidence that will lead to decisions that won't result in war (just to be safe). Second, what about the other dictators in the world, especially those we have also supported - are they to be disposed of too? Third, you are an idiot and shouldn't be in charge of anything.'

Republican / pro-war / Drum's assertions after the war began:
'Despite being proven wrong about the existence of WMD (proving the weapons inspectors I ignored even more correct), we STILL should have usurped Saddam anyway because he was a dictator who killed his people (using weapons we sold him) 20 years ago. Yes, I am now forced to partially accept evidence from a variety of sources (namely, the attacks against us) that says his former people aren't be happy with us there, and that the invasion has had as a very logical outcome the death of innocent civilians in numbers greater than those killed by Saddam. Yes, I am now forced to partially accept logical, fact based evidence from a variety of sources that says U.S. deaths have well exceeded those killed in 9/11 (not even counting seriously wounded), that the resulting instability has produced more terrorists and reasons for terrorism against us and that the cost has been substantial which since we kept doing tax breaks was a really bad idea (more so than could have been imagined). HOWEVER, the Left didn't predict each and every thing that has happened, so I will continue to ignore them and their damned logic. AND, Saddam was still a dictator who did evil things, and if you still oppose the war, you thus supported keeping him in place.'

Democratic / anti-war / anti-Drum responses after the war began:
'First, please base major decisions on unilaterally agreed upon evidence only or, in its absence, evidence that will lead to decisions that won't result in MORE war (just to be safe) - we know you still aren't doing this, but we will continue to hope you will start at some point because, really, how dumb can you be? Second, since you still haven't attempted to dispose of other currently murdering leaders/movements (READ: Darfur), and still continue to fund/support leadership around the world that are currently killing civilians (READ: Isreal, the puppet gov't in Iraq, etc.) it is getting beyond ludicrous to hear you bring up the Saddam-was-a-murderer argument. We are not the world police. The U.N. are. If you want to police the world, you need their support. If you want them to be more effective, you need to stop undercutting their power by brokering side deals and illegal behind the scenes shit. Third, you are still an idiot and still shouldn't be in charge of anything - but now it's to the Nth degree.'

Posted by: realitybased on January 17, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Most people who opposed the war did so because while bombing the shit out of a country is easy for the US, rebuilding and creating a democracy in an area full of ethnic tension is a hard task. It's harder when it's in a region filled with autocratic regimes, on top of a huge natural resource. Thats a recipe for chaos.

Sorry no one predicted to the hour exactly how the chaos would happen. That's sort of the problem with chaos.

Posted by: Dan on January 17, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

adding: normal, sane people have a presumption against war. when the reasons for war are bad, then you, duh, shouldn't go to war

Posted by: Dan on January 17, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

To add to whatever folks here have come up with (I sadly don't have time to read all the comments), Sam Seder of Air America recently read from the transcript of a prewar Hannity (and Colmes?) show where the antiwar guest listed many specific reasons not to go to war, accurately predicting most of what has come to pass. That expert was, yes, Janeane Garafolo (who really was just about the only antiwar spokesperson invited on TV in those awful days, as she's the first to admit). So yeah, in addition to the bogusness of the stated reasons (recognized by many as bogus at the time), experts and well-read amateurs were indeed saying then what they're saying they said now.

(Me, I had the misfortune of thinking the NYT was trustworthy; though by Feb of '03 it was clear even to me, given the Administration's cavalier response to all proposals for more time -- even by Canada -- that they weren't dealing in good faith and couldn't have cared less about WMD; I got smart just in time for "shock and awe"...)

Posted by: rj on January 17, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The run-up to the war is around when I started reading a lot of bloggers(slacktivist, billmon, jeanne d' arc, digby) who weren't very prominent then, but are now(or were before they quit, in some cases.) So, maybe we at least got it right in our little corner in that new voices who opposed the war for the right reasons did become prominent around then. I personally was very in favor of doing Afghanistan right, rebuilding it, and finally stabilizing the terrible mess that's been going on there for decades, which I thought would have the dual benefit of eliminating a known terrorist haven and redounding to our credit in a Marshall Plan sort of way. I thought the Iraq thing was a big distraction from that and from the fight against Al Qaeda in general, so I was predisposed against it already, and the evidence all along just felt really ad-hoc and ginned up. The fact that we were mobilizing tens of thousands of troops to Kuwait made me feel like it was a fait accompli by late in 2002, and I viewed everything after that... the SotU, Powells now-infamous Powerpoint presentation, the building of the Coalition of the Willing, etc, as an attempt to polish the turd we had already produced. I was kind of disappointed at the time that there weren't many voices out there taking a similar realpolitik/cynical view of the whole thing. On our side there were mostly the cautiously/contingently hawkish liberals, who I would normally be predisposed to side with, but who also weren't being nearly cautious/contingent enough for me that time around, and the usual "US out of everywhere / dirty hippie" stereotypes. Really the last weren't ever prominent or powerful, but if you went looking early for compatriots who opposed the war, that's mostly what you would find. I remember trying to get involved in the protests and the general growing movement against the war, and being frustrated with its lack of focus(the Free Mumia! factor), lack of media-savvy in terms of trying to appeal to ordinary Americans. The case was there to be made, but at the time it really lacked for anyone with the intelligence, dignity, and respect to make it. The few who did were mostly part of the religious left, which made me come to appreciate the power of a liberal/progressive Christianity a heckuva lot more than I did before. But obviously they were way outnumbered and outgunned in the religious world by the fundies, so nothing much could come of it.

Luckily, with more searching, I found others emerging with views more in line with mine, and those folks(billmon, jeanne, slack, digby, and later the obsidian wings crew, plus Dean and the MoveOn crowd on the political side) did a lot to help shape and flesh out my view of the war and this administration. So, people who opposed the war for good, well-thought-out, comprehensive reasons were around by late 2002 and early 2003, but not many of them were prominent yet, sadly. I'm not sure what that was a failure of. Imagination for one, but kind of in a bad way. We couldn't bring ourselves to believe that there weren't grownups still in charge of the levers of government, somewhere behind the curtain. It would take a lot of accumulated failure and disaster to make any of us appreciate just how bad things really were on that front. I'm not sure if we can be blamed for that or not. I know I wish I had realized just how bad this administration was from top to bottom at least a couple of years before I finally did, but adopting such a drastic belief sadly kind of requires concrete evidence.

Posted by: J. Dunn on January 17, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, you are a full-on dumb-ass. As if you ever understood why those of us who have some knowledge of other cultures opposed to war to begin with - which you quite clearly demonstrate that you do not. You're still stuck on the concept that Iraq could have been a necessary pre-emptive war. Its about IRAQ, idiot, not the 'concept' of pre-emptive war. If we really had actual, real, grown-up intelligence telling us that a madman had the bomb and was going to use it, there you go - justified pre-emptive war. Or at least some measure to stop them if all out war wasn't required. But, as all non-stupid people knew at the time, Saddam had no such weapons and posed no such threat. Therefore going to war and killing thousands and thousands of innocent people so we could talk about how manly we are was obviously wrong in every conceivable way to us. YOU may have believed Bush when he said there were unmanned aerial drones that could fly across the Atlantic and deliver nuclear payloads to the US, but nobody out here with a functioning brain bought it for a second. You may have believed Colin Powell's cartoon presentation to the UN, but nobody with a functioning brain, including Powell himself, actually believed it.

Face it, you're a sucker, and you should really stay out of the business of commenting on foreign policy - since you have so little understanding thereof.

Posted by: benj on January 17, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum needs to read some Edward Said. Especially 'Orientalism'. He is still stuck in a pretty much straight up colonial mindset. Non-Americans are "exotic" people to be played with like toys or chess pieces.

This thinking is behind anyone's ability to consider making war against a powerless Iraq a good idea and it needs to be stamped out - permanently.

Posted by: benj on January 17, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, since even the New York Times reported that recent documents show Saddam was within 2 years of a nuke, and even Joe Wilson said his folks were in Niger shopping for yellowcake...why exactly was the WMD thing a canard?

Posted by: ivanna on January 17, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, since the New York Times of the 21st century carries more water for BushCo than those magical brooms did for Mickey Mouse, I'm going to ignore whatever the heck they claim.

And really, this post is crazy. I don't know who Kevin Drum is and I don't want to anymore. He sounds like my 5 yr old when I've caught his hand in the cookie jar. 10,000 excuses without one admission that he was wrong or that he deserves some punishment.

I don't know who dispenses discipline to these people, but Kevin needs a swat on the butt and to be sent to his room without dinner. The adults want to talk, he's just making obnoxious noises in the background to get attention.

Posted by: zot23 on January 17, 2007 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Atrios still has his archives, but he didn't post obsessively about the war and didn't write the kind of essays where he explained his position in detail anyway."

Atrios never posted anything other that "Wanker of The Day" and "Go Torture Lou Dobbs."

Posted by: YetAnotherRick on January 17, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Liberal hawks are either lying or in denial.

Why are they trying to rewrite history just like the Bush administration?

Liberal hawks should quit channeling Lieberman and admit that their own failures, inadequacies, and biases were what drove them to support the war, not honest mistakes and that those who questioned the war did so for the right reasons, just as those who supported it did so for the wrong reasons.

Posted by: Google_This on January 17, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

There was never any reason to go to war because SADDAM HAD GIVEN INTO OUR DEMANDS. It was Bush, not Hussien, who stopped the inspections. The argument over what lefties believed is just another in a very long line of red herrings.

For what it's worth, I do remember reports that no MDS existed surfacing prior to the war. But, really, at that point, who actually knew for sure?

Posted by: Hieronymous Braintree on January 17, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Channeling Judith Miller, "I was proved fucking right". I was protesting this strategically and ethically bad idea in the cold in Feb 2003 with a placard the said: "Why Iraq?, Why war?, Why now?" It seemed to me that there were no good answers to those questions then and there are none now.

As I said to people at the time: I don't need a reason to be against starting a war... I need some bloody good reasons to support it and I wasn't getting them. That was enough. Before I knew all that I know now, I knew: 1) Iraq was a distraction from prosecuting the perpetrators of 9/11 -- OBL and al Qaeda, 2) the U.S. starting a war in the Middle East would not make the world a better place 3) there was no reason to rush. What was the hurry?

None of it passed the sniff test. I started doing research and everything I learned was consistent with BushCo, not just being wrong, but deliberately misleading and lying to us all. As most people have learned, when people lie about why they're doing something, they tend to be short of legitimate reasons.

Another fact which made me realize there was no validity to their claims of WMD was that if Saddam had had WMD, being the evil tyrant that he was and seeing that he was doomed, he would have used them. The fact that invaded the way they did indicated to me that BushCo was damned sure there weren't any WMD. WMD was just something to scare people into acquiescence.

Like I said, I was against the invasion for good reasons at the time. The fact that Kevin wasn't, probably just means that he was caught up in the fear-mongering along with so many others. He's probably embarrassed and (perhaps subconsciously) wishes he could justify his actions back then.

I resent his comment "It's because they don't deserve it". We do deserve it. We were proved fucking right... and not just the outcome (which as many have said is much worse then I would have predicted) but we were right for the right reasons. It's not the fact the the U.S. has lost this war that makes it wrong (that just compounds it). It was predictably (and predicted) wrong for the reasons I stated in Feb 2003 and it still is.

Posted by: Bill on January 17, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Liberal hawks, who were wrong about the war, don't want to respect anti-war liberals, who were totally right about the war. Then a liberal hawk tries to foist the argument that being anti-war in the first place automatically takes you out of the debate unless you can come up with some OTHER reason why it was wrong (fortunately it's not like there's any shortage.)


This is like saying that Noah didn't deserve to live through the flood because he had inside information.

Posted by: erica on January 17, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK
... since even the New York Times reported that recent documents show Saddam was within 2 years of a nuke, and even Joe Wilson said his folks were in Niger shopping for yellowcake... ivanna at 4:08 PM
Since Saddam had no active nuclear program, he Iraq was at no time "within 2 years" of a nuke. Please provide a citation for NY Times article because if it exists, it was in error. Also, Joe Wilson never said Saddam's people were shopping for yellowcake in Niger. Saddam had on hand over 500 tons of yellowcake that he had no use for because there was no nuclear program.

Baseless assertions like these are the very reason I opposed this war from the time they began to demagogue for it. Every claim that Bushistas made was quickly followed by someone pointing out that the claim was groundless, from yellowcake, to aluminum tubes, to mobile germ labs. If a nation has a real causi belli, it doesn't need to falsify. If it needs to make up reasons and demagogue for an attack, it has no real justification for war. Read some news before the attack on Grenada, the Panama War and others. In each, it was our government creating a pro-war hysteria.

Posted by: Mike on January 17, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

I remember this January 26, 2003 essay on preventative war by Terry Jones of Monty Python.

I'm losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: he's running out of patience. And so am I!

For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what. I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is.

As for Mr Patel, don't ask me how I know, I just know - from very good sources - that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one.

Some of my neighbours say, if I've got proof, why don't I go to the police? But that's simply ridiculous. The police will say that they need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbours.

They'll come up with endless red tape and quibbling about the rights and wrongs of a pre-emptive strike and all the while Mr Johnson will be finalising his plans to do terrible things to me, while Mr Patel will be secretly murdering people. Since I'm the only one in the street with a decent range of automatic firearms, I reckon it's up to me to keep the peace. But until recently that's been a little difficult. Now, however, George W. Bush has made it clear that all I need to do is run out of patience, and then I can wade in and do whatever I want!

And let's face it, Mr Bush's carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring about international peace and security. The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.

That's why I want to blow up Mr Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.

Mr Bush makes it clear that all he needs to know before bombing Iraq is that Saddam is a really nasty man and that he has weapons of mass destruction - even if no one can find them. I'm certain I've just as much justification for killing Mr Johnson's wife and children as Mr Bush has for bombing Iraq.

Mr Bush's long-term aim is to make the world a safer place by eliminating 'rogue states' and 'terrorism'. It's such a clever long-term aim because how can you ever know when you've achieved it? How will Mr Bush know when he's wiped out all terrorists? When every single terrorist is dead? But then a terrorist is only a terrorist once he's committed an act of terror. What about would-be terrorists? These are the ones you really want to eliminate, since most of the known terrorists, being suicide bombers, have already eliminated themselves.

Perhaps Mr Bush needs to wipe out everyone who could possibly be a future terrorist? Maybe he can't be sure he's achieved his objective until every Muslim fundamentalist is dead? But then some moderate Muslims might convert to fundamentalism. Maybe the only really safe thing to do would be for Mr Bush to eliminate all Muslims?

It's the same in my street. Mr Johnson and Mr Patel are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other people in the street who I don't like and who - quite frankly - look at me in odd ways. No one will be really safe until I've wiped them all out.

My wife says I might be going too far but I tell her I'm simply using the same logic as the President of the United States. That shuts her up.

Like Mr Bush, I've run out of patience, and if that's a good enough reason for the President, it's good enough for me. I'm going to give the whole street two weeks - no, 10 days - to come out in the open and hand over all aliens and interplanetary hijackers, galactic outlaws and interstellar terrorist masterminds, and if they don't hand them over nicely and say 'Thank you', I'm going to bomb the entire street to kingdom come.

It's just as sane as what George W. Bush is proposing - and, in contrast to what he's intending, my policy will destroy only one street.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 17, 2007 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

What I'm most pissed about in this argument is that it appears that those of us who opposed this war because we knew we were being lied to, aren't represented in the debate. It's also why I have a big problem with "liberal hawks" (what an Oxymoron that term is and just what Repug coined that idea?). All one has to do is go back over the selling of the war and you can see why it was so obvious that we opposed it! Wasn't being opposed to this war because we knew we were being lied to, sufficient justification? Why did we need to know or even state that it would be a Cluster Fuck? I'm angry at all the bull shit that's being pushed about the liberal left, etc as this just distracts from the basic argument that we were right and everyone else was wrong! "Liberal Hawks" are nothing more than warmongering apologists and I don't feel any need to justify my original or continuing opposition to this insanity.

Posted by: Ron Russell on January 17, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

the surge might be failing already:

true enough.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 17, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Somewhere up above blue girl, red state (aka Global Citizen) asked why the people who were right have to justify their arguments. It's because the same issues will arise when there is another threat and the nation has to decide whether to go to war.

1. Is the intelligence reliable?

2. Is the threat sufficiently imminent?

3. Will the war be long and costly?

4. Can the administration carry it out competently (or with sufficient competence)?

5. Does the war require the authority of the NATO or UN?

6. Does success in the war require international support?

7. Is combat already underway? (in Iraq the US/GB enforcement of the no fly zones resulted in occasional air-ground combat.)

8. Will the situation deteriorate in the absence of a successful military offensive?

9. Are the people giving advice and information consistent with their previous advice and information (this is a special case of #1).

10. Will a long post-war occupation be required?

11. Will other nations and agents join the war in opposition to us?

12. If Congress declares war, will the US fight to victory or impose limits (time, number of mistakes, US casualties, civilian casualties.)

And on and on. For Gulf War I, the war resolution had just a few Democrats in support. For Gulf War II, about half the Democratic senators voted in favor. Of those who voted both times, the case seemed to be stronger the second time around. This war will be in memory when the next decision has to be made. Say for the sake of argument that the proponent for using US force is President Kerry or President Clinton. We'll want to review their statements before their respective votes and evaluate their credibility. Say they cite evidence from a Democratically appointed CIA director: will he or she have more credibility than George Tenet in the run-up to OIF? What if a strong case for war is made by VP Barack Obama -- what has he said or done to give him more credibility than VP Cheney?

When the next threat appears (want to help out in Darfur? A Chinese threat against Taiwan? a Stalinist dictatorship in Venezuela?) all the issues will arise again, and it will be useful to review all the arguments leading up to OIF, and all the voices who made particular claims, and evaluate whom to believe. The situation will be incommensurable in at least some ways (the apples to oranges problem) but the issues will have a lot of commonality.

Right now, the people who were wrong about Iraq lack credibility when they support war against Iran. So who does have credibility? Obviously not Michael Ledeen, but John Kerry? Edward Kennedy? Al Gore? A.N.S.W.E.R.?

I don't think it's idle to consider who really was consistently right and who was adventitiously right (e.g. anybody who warned that American troops would fall in large numbers when Saddam used his chemical weapons in self-defense, or anyone who warned that there would be destabilizing revolutions in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.)

Posted by: calibantwo on January 17, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Memo to Kevin Drum: All you are doing here is tying yourself in verbal and semantic knots, while desperately fishing for some semblance of an argument for why anti-war folks the Iraq occupation is a big, expensive and embarassing disaster. This rather reminds me of the sort of quasi-legal BS that I have heard from my step-children as they vainly attempt to explain away their malfeasance. The eventual parental answer, of course, being "you did something wrong - stop BS'ing.". So...time for you to stand up and say "I was wrong". Anything else is simply BS and self-justificatory window-dressing.

Posted by: Graham Shevlin on January 18, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

PEDANTIC UPDATE: I've used the term "preemptive war" throughout this post, but it's worth noting that this is yet another case in which the Bush administration has twisted broadly-accepted language for its own use. A preemptive war is one in which an attack is imminent and you decide to strike first rather than wait for a certain invasion. A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but uncertain future attack. Iraq was a preventive war.


Hey, there's a chance the US will become an outright fascist nation and start conquering the world. If Kevin supports preventative war so much, perhaps he won't mind if Russia nukes the US now to prevent this from happening...

A pre-emptive war may be acceptable; we're inching towards the point where an Iranian attack on US forces might legitimately be called "pre-emptive". But "preventative war" is another way of saying "war of aggression".

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans on January 18, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Not really a formal argument, although I think I could make one if forced at gunpoint:

1. War is an inefficient means to an end compared to diplomacy or other means--almost always. It's the brutal nature of the thing and it practically defines excess. It's in the national interest to limit war to those that are provoked or limited situations requiring preemptive action. In the U.S. the burden of proof for going to war inheres in the Congress and the Executive--for all types of war.

2. Preemptive war is inapt. The nature of preemption is self-limiting. That's the why of preemption. So war in this sense is not war, unless we contemplate preemption in pursuit of widespread or total war. It's hard to think of a circumstance where that would be justified. It's semantics, but preemptive military action short of war is usually what we mean. Even if the nature of the threat leading to preemptive action requires quick response, the burden of proof still must be met. This only concerns our national interest if the action leads to widespread war or total war. More often, we won't even know the details of these kinds of acts until they are part of history.

3. Preventative war sounds like it is similar to preemptive war, but--and this is important--it's burden of proof is highest of all types of war. There is the evidence of threat predicating our aggression leading to an unknown outcome in the most de-stabling of human circumstance. This is unjust given the extreme nature of war but provides a veneer of morality to the aggressor. Whether your cause is just or whether you have committed a war crime remains to be seen. The evidence for preventative war must be that much more accurate, complete, and compelling than that for preemptive war.

3. In any event, prima facie evidence is not allowed in the central argument for aggression, war being the ultimate consequence. You still must prove your case.

I was alive at the time of the build-up to war and there is no dispute about who was the aggressor. If we have any chance of still being just and moral that leaves whether our action was preemptive or preventative. The central narrative was the U.N. speech by Colin Powell. You listened to it, I listened to it. Afterwards I thought is that all there is? I argue that their case for preemptive war was thin at best. They certainly weren't selling total or widespread war, but the plan went far beyond "Okay, maybe we should send some naval aircraft and bomb that fuzzy rectangle you call a weapons lab to hell." And then go home.

Was it preventative war? Even to a casual observer of news and events the evidence fell far short of the high burden of evidence in arguing for preventative war. It might not be widespread, but within theater we are now talking about total war. If we couldn't justify a more limited response to the threat, a wider response is out of the question.

Iraq is a clusterfuck. Trying to paint Iraq as a preventative war is an aggressor's rationalization of their moral weakness and hubris on this issue. I.e., "We don't want to cop to supporting a war of aggression, that's barbarous. Preemptive war is too narrow a circumstance to cover this one. So, it must be an earnestly waged preventative war that was just--well--miscalculated." But ignorance, faulty intelligence or "didn't know better at the time" or "everyone was doing it" are all compelling reasons to oppose such a war from the start, not acceptable mitigation ex post facto.

This is especially true of faulty intelligence. The reasons to go to war in our country are not allowed to be too secret for the public to know. And the published intelligence was devastating to the case for war--vague, contradictory, a conspiracy of foolishness. It was hard to miss.

Posted by: nocturnation on January 18, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Quoth the man who lit your baby on fire :

OK, fine. So I didn't give your kindergartner a kitten. I merely warmed your toddler.

Posted by: Pedantic Update on January 18, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know about Kevin in Orange County, but I'm in Seattle and most people here opposed the war in 2002-03, including both liberals and middle-of-the-road types. Almost everyone opposed the war because it was expected to make a mess of Iraq, not because they were pacifists who just oppose war per se. First, the justifications for the war were not very strong. Second, it was widely expected that our military would be able to take Baghdad, but it was also quite obvious that the administration had no idea what would happen after the invasion. I think the reasons for opposing the war were very quickly shown to be correct -- (1) no WMDs were found and we were not greeted as liberators and (2) the administration's lack of plans for the occupation were illustrated by chaos and the discharge of everyone who ran Iraq, including the entire army. No occupying power in history has done this from ancient times onward, except maybe the Tamerlane sort who just killed everyone. If it took anyone until 2004 or 2005 to see the whole thing was turning into a fiasco, they were simply not paying attention.

Posted by: Steve on January 18, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

Drum got his arse beat to hell in these comments.

Posted by: Bitchslap on January 18, 2007 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

Repeat after me: "I WAS WRONG." Is that so hard? In the meantime, I think its important for those who opposed the war from the start reiterate their very good reasons for their opposition-- this is not "gloating" as so many have been saying.

The whole problem with this is the way the question was posed as to why the US should be involved in this constrous crime.

Hawks on the left & the right asked "Give us a good reason NOT to go into Iraq."

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!!

The question should ALWAYS be: "Give us a good reason to go into Iraq."

And quite plainly, there were no good reasons. The burden of proof lies with the hawks. All they provided was sketchy & conflicting evidence of WMDs, bogus crap about a Saddam/OBL link (which was an absurd claim for various obvious reasons), etc etc. Oh and the other "reason" was "trust me." Heh.

The fact that the question was "Give us a good reason NOT to go to war" rather than "give us a reason to go to war" reveals a war-mongering attitude to begin with.

Shoot & ask questions later is a bad policy for detaining people indefinitely in Gitmo. On a larger scale, shooting first & asking questions later was a bad policy for Iraq. Its the same fucked up principle given on a larger scale.

We rushed into a war with sketchy reasons. And yet hawks forced the burden of proof on those who opposed this war from the start.

Sorry, dude-- you fucked up, plain & simple because you bought into sketchy intel & "trust me." So don't tie yourself up in knots with mental gymnastics.

Is it too much to ask for better evidence & GOOD SOLID REASONS to start a war? If you had asked for THAT instead, then you would have opposed this war from the start too.

You weren't duped-- you bought into a bullshit argument & scaremongering from Bush & Co. & all you had to do was ask for more solid evidence. I never got that from Bush & Co., so how could I support this war? Could not you & so many other Americans have asked that?

Posted by: kiwiwannabe on January 18, 2007 at 7:06 AM | PERMALINK

Followup: a lot of the commenters here misunderstood Kevin's point, I think. You thought he didn't get that many on "the left" were against the war for prescient reasons to begin with, when really his point was that they weren't gettting credit for that from the liberal hawks. Am I right?

Posted by: Neil B. on January 18, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

The points I made then are still valid. ANY preemptive war is utterly stupid because:

1. War is the biggest breeder of unforeseen consequences that there is. I could make a long list of armies of superior strength that were worn down, outlasted and finally defeated by a weaker but more determined foe.

2. Killing people never makes friends, only enemies. Especially in the Arab world, people nurse hatreds for generations. Unwarranted violent acts will definitely rear up and bite us from behind some time in the future.

3. Pressure, diplomacy, or simply keeping the lid on until the bad guy dies, will be far more successful in the long run. That’s how we treated the great Russian threat and what do you know, it evaporated without us dropping a single bomb. Actually, we only wage preemptive war against threats from small countries who (giant irony) can’t mount much of a threat.

4. It is impossible to have intelligence good enough to justify going to war without the evidence of a direct attack. Even if Saddam’s brother told us the dictator planned to send every American a dirty nuke by parcel post, he could still be feeding us false information for his own ends. (Chalabi, anyone?) Also, our paranoia strongly influences our information. If things are hot, the intelligence is guaranteed to be overraught.

I said it all then, I repeat. Preemptive war is for idiots.

Posted by: James of DC on January 18, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK



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