Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Assuming Responsibility

Ten years ago this day, portions of the US government committed ordinance, materiel, and most importantly, people to a military action that lasted, by all accounts, at least a dozen times longer than its inventors envisioned.

This military action was, by most after-the-fact accounts, based not so much on a wealth of credible evidence of clear and present danger to the United States, but rather on a clear and present wish on the part of numerous officials, both publicly-elected and not elected. That wish was the desire to go to war.

Political and military intelligence was misread or ignored. Historical and demographic information about the region in question was not considered or in some cases even known. All in the effort to justify the desire to go to war.

Weapons of mass destruction? No, said the international agency whose purpose it was to recognize such things. Connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attackers? No, since Al Qaeda was a global Islamist organization with a corresponding religious affiliation, and Saddam was firmly against such things as religion (no dictator wants anyone thinking of a high power than himself, eh?). Who lives in Iraq? Sunni? Shia? What’s the difference? Is there a difference? Why should we care? Do we care enough to research that question before we go to war?

In this space some time ago, I noted that President George W. Bush, in his post-presidency memoir “Decision Points”, insisted that he did (and, reportedly, still does) have a “sickening feeling” about the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq – one of several rotating justifications for going to war. I also noted that his sickening feeling probably didn’t compare to the sickening feeling of those Americans who lost family members, or to the sickening feeling of Iraqis who lost family members or whole neighborhoods to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The ultimate results of that Operation, in spite of a few public officials’ continuing insistence that the effort was worthwhile, are these: the physical and political wrecking of one nation and the international shaming of another one.

Evidence has piled up, and continues to emerge, pointing to the whole operation as being fraudulently conceived, poorly (or non-existently) prepared, and (at best) clumsily executed. It has cost the United States, by some estimates, $2.2 trillion dollars – money that could have been sent to far more deserving places in the world, or even within our very States, to do good works. And yet, not one of the elected or appointed officials who should bear responsibility for the resulting foreign-policy catastrophe and humanitarian disaster – both of which will have repercussions far into the future, both for nations and individuals – have been called to account. At least, beyond the occasional feeble attempt at cross-examination by a corporately-sponsored press full of people who can barely claim the title of “journalists”. Such cross-examination surely was not conducted in the run-up to the war, at least by journalists well-funded enough to be visible to the majority of Americans at the time.

(The estimable Charlie Pierce wrote a piece yesterday on his political blog about this facet of the story. It’s short, to the point, punchy, and dead-on.)


Not only has none of those elected or appointed officials been prosecuted in any civil or criminal court, domestic or international – but not a single main character in this tragedy has even come close to admitting responsibility.

Never mind the Paul Wolfowitzes, the Richard Perles, the Colin Powells, the Lawrence Wilkersons, the John Boltons, etc., of this story – the supporting players. Most statements about the Iraq War from the four figures in the iconic Crawford, TX ranch photograph – the former Secretary of State (then the National Security Adviser), the former Vice President, the former President, and the former Secretary of Defense – betray no evidence of having learned anything. The President and Vice President in particular have been shown – in interviews included in MSNBC’s recent documentary “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” – to say that, knowing what they know now, and given the same set of circumstances, they would not act any differently. And they say such things with an air of utter confidence and unshakable belief. In the documentary, the former President’s attitude edges close to flippant (as has become familiar over the years); the former Vice President’s is much more dogged, serious, even foreboding (as has also been his wont). Remarks from each man come off (to this eye) as callous at best. No genuine admission of mistakes; no hint of atonement; no apologies; no assumption of responsibility for any of it.

Nearly four-and-a-half thousand Americans lost their lives in the Iraq War. Tens of thousands of American servicemen and -women have returned home as damaged goods, physically or psychologically or both. And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were sacrificed, in the service of the geopolitical aims and (arguably) the psychological needs of a scant few very powerful and in some cases unaccountable people.

These people either have no soul, or they have successfully compartmentalized their consciences to the point where those consciences will never again see the light of day.

Why are these people still asked for their opinions about foreign policy?

Why are these people still treated as honored guests on television chat programs?

Why are these people allowed to make money writing books and making speeches?

Why are these people not in jail?



P.S. I have included a link to Charlie Pierce’s article where it’s mentioned above, so that you may properly click it and give him the Internet hits he richly deserves. But I think it bears re-printing here. It’s great, and damning, and angry, and a must-read.


by Charlie Pierce / Esquire.com

The ‘public editor’ of The New York Times tells us today that the paper’s coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War is likely to be less of a hoot than back in the drum-banging days when Judy Miller was standing atop a great pile of stove-piped bullsh*t while Bill Keller threw roses at her feet.

I asked Dean Baquet, a managing editor, about the low-key approach. He said that while a few stories are planned, editors did not see a need for a major project or special section, as they did with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. ‘The war itself has been dissected to a tremendous degree,’ he told me. ‘You have to have something new or fresh to say.’ He would not provide specifics about the articles that are planned, but said there might be one or two that would make their way onto the front page this week … Is The Times’s own role in the run-up to the war a part of this relative reticence, as some readers have suggested to me? Is there reluctance to revisit a painful period in the paper’s history? Mr. Baquet said that’s not a factor. ‘The Times has probably acknowledged its own mistakes from that period more than anyone,’ he said. ‘We certainly haven’t been shy about doing that. We’re doing the stories that make sense to us and that offer our readers something worthwhile.’

That is, of course, all bollocks. Keller still writes a column. The Times is playing this on the downlow precisely because it never truly has atoned for its role in a fiasco. The op-ed page still welcomes submissions from people whose work on this most grotesque foreign-policy blunder should have been as definitive a career-killer as were Joe Hazlewood’s navigational abilities.

I can hardly wait for this week to end. If it’s not Dean Baquet, copping a cheap alibi for his newspaper’s unforgivable malpractice, it’s Richard Perle. who should be displayed in a pillory outside Walter Reed for the next 10 years, being allowed to vomit blood all over the op-ed section of USA Today.

Many commentaries on the Iraq War, including the one to which this is a response, show little understanding of what it means to manage risk. We do not normally consider it to have been foolish to pay for fire insurance when the house does not burn down – or particularly clever to have done so when it does. When thousands of American lives are at stake, insurance, sometimes pre-emptive military action, is not cheap.

And precisely what risk did you ‘manage’? What chance did you take? You gambled with other people’s children in a game you’d helped rig. What cost was exacted from you, sitting your fat ass in a swivel chair at a wingnut intellectual chop-shop while kids are still staggering around the wards without legs and arms, or the cognitive functions to get them through the day? What price did you pay? You have to send out for lunch one day? Show me the butcher’s bill for the Perle household, you vampire son of a bitch.

And let us not forget Perle’s onetime co-author, David Frum, who’s mysteriously been allowed through the tradesmen’s entrance back into the discourse conducted by decent people. It should be recalled, before we all start doing that which Winston Wolf cautioned us not to do, that Frum did a lot more than write one speech in 2002. Two years later, he also wrote a discreetly McCarthyite book with the aforementioned Perle called An End To Evil. If we’d found a single cache of biotoxins anywhere in Iraq, Frum would have been waving his warrior dick at CPAC last weekend. Instead, we hear about Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair, and how really sorry David Frum is for the hand he played in the deaths of so many people who are not named David Frum.

Shut up, all of you. Go away. You are complicit in one way or another in a giant crime containing many great crimes. Atone in secret. Wash the blood off your hands in private. Because there were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shiseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week. Go to hell, the rest of you, and go there in silence and in shame.”

This article copyright © 2013 Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


March 20, 2013 Posted by | government, journalism, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment