The Iraq war and me

After losing another friend to the war back home, my friend and colleague Zeyad, the Iraqi blogger now in New York at CUNY, writes with devastating directness on his blog: “I now officially regret supporting this war back in 2003. The guilt is too much for me to handle.”

I do not pretend for a second that anyone should care what I think or write about Iraq. But I when I wrote about politics and news more than media, I wrote about the Iraq war in terms not unlike Zeyad’s in 2003. Lately, I have been dancing around the necessity of writing my own, less eloquent post on the Iraq war and me. I should. So here it is.

I had separated intent of the war from its execution. In 2003, I believed the intent was proper. I followed a path that Tom Friedman has since abandoned if not recanted: that this war was not and should not have been about WMDs but was instead about bringing freedom, democracy, and opportunity to a part of the world whose primary export is becoming anger. Not unlike Peter Beinart, I saw a liberal justification to the war: antitotalitarianism, freeing people from tyranny, supporting freedom and choice, as well as coming to rescue the people we had abandoned in the first Iraq war and its aftermath. I saw a humanitarian cause.

But the execution, I saw too late after our “victory,” was hopeless and shameful. And, of course, it has only gotten worse as it has gotten more stubborn.

How do I think it should end? How should we fix this? I do not know and I am afraid I don’t see anyone today who does. I will still say — as I did in the Guardian’s Comment is Free some months ago and as the paper’s Mideast editor said more intelligently than I — that we on the left have a responsibility not to abandon the people of Iraq and to have a plan, not just for leaving but for finding some path to peace. That the White House is now apparently considering recruiting Syria, occupier of Lebanon, and Iran, who too recently was at war with Iraq, to get them out of the mess they made is either painfully ironic or just pathetic. But I won’t presume to understand the politics of the region sufficiently to prescribe a path myself. I just wish our leaders on any side would and could.

So which do I regret? The war or its execution? I fear it doesn’t matter anymore. Wishing and what-iffing that things had been done differently does no good for the people who have lost their lives there. I wish that the people of Iraq were both free and living in peace. I wish that there were a thriving example of democracy in the Arab Middle East. I wish the hate-mongers had been put in their place, on the fringe of civilization. Of course, I wish that all these lives had not been lost. So I regret much, and especially regret what we have brought Iraq to and that we still do not know where to go.

I can predict that at least one of you will seize on this opportunity to nya-nya me about my early views on the war in Iraq. Fine, if that’s your sport. But right now, what I wish most is that there can be a substantive and constructive effort to find a way to end this hell.

So no more friends are lost.

  • Robert Banghart

    Thanks for the “mistakes were made” and “other people made them too” defense.

    Toss in a priest, a check-into a re-hab center, and a golden parachute and you’ll be totally absolved and ready to move on to the next big thing.

    You’ll get no nya-nya from me. If I were motivated by the same good good itentions you profess, I would probably send in a Stryker team to liberate you and send you to one of our “democracy, and opportunity” re-education through torture camps without benefit of habeus corpus.

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » The Iraq war and me()

  • Too late, mate.

    “But I won’t presume to understand the politics of the region sufficiently to prescribe a path myself.” Quite obvious, that you don’t and retreat to “I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish.” You’ve got nothing to loose, arm chair opinion.

  • There is no need for schadenfreude. May I suggest, however, that we open our eyes to a possibility that some of us have been refusing to contemplate? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the objective in Iraq was always oil, (… and the issue here is not possession, but CONTROL).

    I realize this is a remarkable statement because it suggests that WMD and Democracy were all pretexts; in short, we have been taken for a ride by our government. But look at the evidence and arrive at your own conclusion, beginning with this: A top-level United States policy document has emerged that explicitly confirms the Defence Department’s readiness to fight an oil war. According to the report, Strategic Assessment 1999, prepared for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defence, “energy and resource issues will continue to shape international security”. Oil conflicts over production facilities and transport routes, particularly in the Persian Gulf and Caspian regions, are specifically envisaged.(

    Now fast-forward to October of 2006 and read this:

    “I see very strong interest from U.S. energy companies in Iraq,” Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida’ie told Dow Jones Newswires after a speech in Houston. The companies “have visited me at the embassy and expressed that interest,” while “waiting for things to be put in place,” he said. The passage of a new investment law in the next two or three weeks and a new hydrocarbons law “within this year” will create the right conditions for major U.S. investments, he said.(

    I’ll leave you to connect the dots; but please note that neither of the above are “fringe” left-wing or “jihadist” sources.

  • digitallantern

    How should it end? It could have ended a couple of times.

    When Afghanistan was taken, extra force could have been calculated to capture Osama bin Laden – root cause. And we work with Muslim leaders to restore a Caliph (not caliphate) to mend and police the faith as the Pope leads Catholics.

    When the invasion occurred, destroying the Iraqi army with lighting speed, no WMD found, we could have reported “Mission Accomplished” with a complete withdrawal as the cessation of hostilities.

    When a country is fundamentally in civil war, as Vietnam was for decades, even a made up reason for invasion (Tonkin in 1964) goes nowhere. Inevitably you have to leave the country. For the US in April 1975, some consider “the Fall of Saigon” cut and run. But we left. What happened? The nation “equalized” and is a trading partner today.

    There is no dishonor in restoring all armed forces to their home bases so they can prepare and reform a national military posture. The honor comes from acknowledging the truth and contriving as much care in your media blitz as when you started the thing.

  • Jeff,

    It’s a wretched mess over there now, and it makes me sick to think about it. I feel terrible for all the death, injury, and misery our actions have caused for our own citizens, and for Iraq’s, and we have a responsibility to make amends as effectively as we can.

    George McGovern just wrote a book called “Out of Iraq.” Have’t read it yet, but I plan to. You might want to check it out.

  • Mitch

    Dr. Mathews said: “…the objective in Iraq was always oil”

    What utter nonsense. If it had ever been about oil we would have succeeded.

  • A lot of people say they’re not ready for Democracy in Iraq. For instance, Kim Jong Il would probably be elected if North Korea was a democracy because they all think he’s a god. I don’t think you can win a war unless the people buy into our ideals first. Bush failed to make America look like something the world should emulate.

  • “Mitch” might want to read the report entitled Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century (take note of the date, too):

    Here is a synopsis:

    It is a document that fundamentally questions the motives behind the Bush administration’s desire to take out Saddam Hussein and go to war with Iraq. Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century describes how America is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history. It targets Saddam as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommends the use of ‘military intervention’ as a means to fix the US energy crisis. The report is linked to a veritable who’s who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs. It was commissioned by James Baker, the former US Secretary of State under George Bush Snr, and submitted to Vice-President Dick Cheney in April 2001 — a full five months before September 11. Yet it advocates a policy of using military force against an enemy such as Iraq to secure US access to, and control of, Middle Eastern oil fields. (

    If it was the sun, it would have burned you to a cinder.

  • Jimmy

    I’m no longer sure I can accept the idea of anti-totalitarianism as an excuse to invade countries and impose our will on their people. No matter the righteousness of that will this is no longer our place, or any country’s place, anymore. If America is going to be the beacon of freedom in this crazy world we first need to fix some of our own very “un-freedom-like” actions at home and then look for ways to fix others problems without war. War, as Iraq has shown, will not win the hearts and minds of a people. Not when tens of thousands have them have been maimed or killed. That being said, we cannot, of course, abandon Iraq; nor should we be thinking of turning to extremist governments like Syria or Iran. We made this mess, and somehow — somehow! — we have to figure out how to fix it. Sadly, until George W. Bush and his neo-con lot are out of office, I don’t think that sort of imaginative thinking will prevail. Will Dems be in any better. Honestly, I’m not sure, but can they do any worse?

  • Jeff, where’s the mea culpa? You were one of the big moderate voices pushing the war, you were among the big “war-bloggers.” You marched in the feeds with right-wingers like Glenn Reynolds. The failure of the execution was seeded by the false reasons for going to war. Nowhere in this post do you mention 9/11 – clearly your very personal experience on that horrible date was a huge factor in backing the war. Why not admit that? It’s true for a lot of people…

  • Ed


    It’s easy to feel conflicted when all you have in front of you are the realities of centuries of sectarian hate now spewing to the surface in Iraq. But forgive those who feel no conflict, as Americans, that this war was launched. Because:

    1)Saddam can no longer invade, without provocation, countries like Kuwait, Israel and Saudi Arabia;
    2)There no longer is a dictator in the Middle East threatening us with WMD programs – no matter what he had or didn’t have in the bullet chambers. When a half-ounce of baby powder in an envelope could shut down entire NYC blocks, Saddam needed to come clean. He refused;
    3)Saddam offered Osama bin Laden sanctuary. Think about that for a minute.
    4) The world tried to do it the easy way with Saddam, and use sanctions instead of war. Saddam chose to starve Iraqi children and bribe corrupt businessmen to keep his mayhem capabilities in line.
    5) Ten million Iraqis voted for a constitution and a government, in the face of thuggish death threats. They risked their lives to give democracy a chance. Democracy isn’t all goodness and spice all the time. We had our own civil war once, and lost 1 million men in the process. Brothers killed brothers. Don’t judge a democracy in what happens during a year or two;
    6) Our fighting men and women have killed 4,000 foreign al Qaeda fighters in Iraq. That’s al Qaeda’s own estimate. Think about that: 4,000 Mohammed Atta wannabes are now pushing up daisies because our brave men and women had the stones to fight for what they know is the right thing.

    War isn’t an Audie Murphy movie. And this war won’t have closing credits. Zayed might have his regrets. But as a post 9/11 American, nobody has yet convinced me that we’re not safer for the sacrifices of our brave men and women.

  • Franky

    There were people who sincerely believed in the war, but struggled with it much more than you did. These were people who knew the costs of war, but still grudgingly came to believe that it was the only solution. I don’t know many who have gloated over their change of heart.

    Then there were others like yourself who never seemed to have any concept of what we would be unleashing on another country’s citizens and on ourselves, just blithely saying it needed to be done. The history of the region didn’t matter – just shout freedom. How will be it to occupy a hostile country – scream liberty.

    And now, with a plan you pushed as much as you could in your own way, now you don’t want to have the responsibility of your mistakes, instead its on all our shoulders.

    Look, in a polite way: there’s no way to uncrap this bed.
    There is no magic solution here. We’re just going to have to deal with the prospect of an out-of-control Iraq, the fact that potentialy dangerous countries (North Korea and Iran) are now-emboldened by our massive screw-up and that we’re tied down in Iraq and now Afghanistan (because we didn’t finish that job), and the fact that militant Islam is on the rise across the world precisely because of this war of choice, and that the rest of the world in its entirety has lost respect for us and will not believe us for who knows how long.

    We opposed the war precisely because we are patriotic and we feared this result for our country.

  • global yokel


    I don’t have any interest in beating up on you for your pro-war stance, and I welcome your conversion on the Iraq question. But I do have an interest in trying to figure out why someone with your capacity for thinking got it so wrong, when the issues were so crystal-clear to some of us.

    Why wasn’t it apparent to you that whatever the pros and cons of assaulting Iraq, the Bush administration was utterly incapable of prosecuting the war honestly and competently? All one had to do was take a look at the assortment of dim bulbs and rigid ideologues that Bush had installed in policy positions; a survey of that cast of characters should have led you to the conclusion that there was no chance that Iraq would be handled effectively and intelligently.

    There is also the question of pre-emptive war– Since when is it acceptable foreign policy for one nation to make war on another without provocation?

    Would it be OK in your view for India to nuke Pakistan because it perceives itself to be threatened? How about Israel/Iran? Once you open the Pandora’s Box of pre-emptive war, there is no end to the potential atrocities.

    Our dismissal of the United Nations and its protocols should have been another warning to you that Bush was out of control regarding Iraq. A terrible precedent was set when the USA decided to attack Iraq without an international consensus. Our reputation in the community of nations has been severely damaged, and we won’t get it back anytime soon.

    Again, I’m not interested in making you feel lousy about your position on Iraq– I’m just trying to figure out how and why otherwise sensible people can get it so wrong on an issue that was so clear to so many of us?

  • penny

    I wish that there were a thriving example of democracy in the Arab Middle East.

    Maybe because there are too many whiners like Zayed in the ME that naively think that democracy requires no sacrifice, that it will somehow come effortlessly in the mail for them. How absolutely naive and decadent an attitude coming from someone from the most despotic area on the globe. Zayed would whine if Saddam and Sons had a few more decades to stomp on his neck too. Or would he? He can’t have it both ways.

    Was Zayed appalled at the casualties of the unnnecessary Iran-Iraq War, maybe a million wasted young men, which make present casualties in Iraq seem incidental? Was he appalled by the Kurdish genocides? Appalled at the retribution on the Shiia by Saddam after the first Gulf War?

    How does anyone in their right mind think that the Arab world with its despotic regimes is going to be liberated without casualties and sacrifice on the part of its residents? The Syrias, the Irans, the whole bunch of thugs aren’t going to be whined and willed away. Whine all you want, Zayed. Your blog isn’t the only story of the will and insights of Iraqis.

    Do some of these numbskull commentators really think that the British would have given us our independence without force on our part? That the 50,000 dead at Gettysburg, in three days, died for no cause?

  • Maybe you should admit that you’re not really as ‘liberal’ as you think you are.

  • Joseph

    The comment by Ed above makes a lot of good points. The Iraq war was a calculated risk that has not paid off so far in the way that was hoped. But for many of the reasons that Ed expounded on above, we would most likely have been involved with a war in Iraq at some point anyway. And if that war had come later rather than when it did there would probably have been far more casualties than we have seen now both in Iraq and possibly within our borders as well.

    Iraq is a war that began for strategic rather than defensive reasons. And, unfortunately, history tells us that wars that begin for those reasons, that don’t end quickly, seldom end well.

    But what we have to keep in mind is what would the world have been like today if Saddam Hussein had been allowed to remain in power? How much more unstable would the region be today if Saddam Hussein had been able to wait out the rest of the world until it relented on sanctions and become an even greater hero to the more militant Islamists for defying the U.S.? How much more risk would this have posed to Saudi Arabia, the flow of oil to the rest of the world from the region, and the consequent economic stability of the world? Or what if one of Saddam’s unstable sons had come to power? How much more risk would this have posed to Israel? And wouldn’t Saddam have eventually found an ally in the more militant Islamic groups for his defiance? And if that had occurred how much more unstable would the region have become and how much greater would the threats to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc. have been? And if that had occurred how much more risk would we have faced from new terrorist attacks from a newly emboldened and empowered enemy?

    Iraq may not be coming to a happy conclusion…yet…and it may never come to a happy conclusion now because of its length (that is often the risk you take with a strategic war) but the results that would likely have come from inaction on the part of the U.S., even with the obvious mismanagement of the conflict after the overthrow of Saddam, in my humble opinion, would very likely have been far worse than what we are now seeing.

  • “antitotalitarianism, freeing people from tyranny, supporting freedom and choice”

    This right here sums up why the Iraqi War was doomed to fail from day one. Never, in the entire history of mankind has a goverment forced on the people, not chosen by the people, been accepted. This is one of many many reasons why the wars of the last 100 plus years have been fought. It was what our entire anti-Russian policy was about, to stop the forceful spread of communism. Its was why Reagan and co. put Osama and Saddamm in power to begin with (people seem to forget that for some reason).

    Democracy has only succeeded when the people themselves have asked for it, then demanded it, and then fought for it. Do you think the freedoms this country once had would have existed if some other country conquered us and “gave” it to us? I seriously doubt it. Just look at the Iraqi constitution that “we” wrote for Iraq rather then iraq writing for itself. Most of the rights we take for granted are not even there. For someone reason instead of copying our great consitution, the powers that be decided to write a new one that took a great deal of liberties when it cames to rights and democracy. Even after attempting to force democracy, we can’t even give them a constiution that embraces it.

    Any idea of spreading democracy at the end of the gun will fail. It doesn’t matter how much money, resources or people you throw at it. You cannot force democracy, it must be earned.

  • As one who has been thru two African wars, could I suggest the problem was not the war to overthrow Saddam, but the hatred in the hearts of men?
    The murders are not because the Americans are there, but because too many wish power at the point of a gun, and are willing to kill innocent civilians to obtain power.
    And now, those who would prefer to be peaceful are extracting revenge, often on others who may or may not be guilty.
    The answer?
    Stop blaming the US and the war, and look into your own souls. You see, if it wasn’t the US liberating Iraq, this civil conflict would have flamed out when Saddam died, similar to the civil war in Bosnia after Tito died.
    Yet the peaceful revolutions of Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and South Africa prove that religious leaders can promote peace and forgiveness.

  • Pingback: The Shape of Days()

  • drlivipr

    If dissenting voices are allowed…
    I too have regrets about the war. I regret with all my heart that it was not undertaken in March 1991. Saddam had already violated enough of the cease-fire agreement to render resumption of hositilities necessary.
    Oslo hadn’t happened yet…Without Saddam paying his bills, Arafat might have been forced to honor his commitments. The suicide bomber families were only paid $5,300 by the Saudis, but drew $25,000 from Saddam. How many lives were squandered there?
    Mogadishu hadn’t happened yet…Our failure to respond in Somalia convinced OBL that we would not respond. Embassies in Tanzaniya and Kenya might not have been bombed. How many lives squandered there?
    Khobar Towers hadn’t happened yet…and might not have, if we’d finished the job in ’91 and been out of Saudi Arabia. We don’t have to count their lives, they were military.
    The attack on the Cole hadn’t happened yet…Perhaps the Yemeni goverment would have been less willing to attack us with the removal of Saddam as their example.
    Our post-attack execution has not been stellar. We have ignored the activities of governments who desire to see us fail (and whose continued existance depends on our failure). We have ignored or discounted the actions of others who simply do not wish us to succeed (failure is not required).
    I would like to extend my condolences to Zeyed for his loss. We have both lost friends in this war. I hope he may learn to understand that support for the greater good will never be cheap.

  • “But right now, what I wish most is that there can be a substantive and constructive effort to find a way to end this hell.”

    it’s funny how you can pump the “concept” of conversations online, but miss out entirely that the conversation itself is responsible for shifting attitudes; individual attitudes, corporate perceptions of the masses (of individuals) and, eventually, our leadership being forced to respond to the reality of a situation.

    talk about coming late to a conversation… jeesh.

  • Poring over the “what if’s” is usually a futile exercise as far as history is concerned. Looking to the future is what is recommended at this juncture. We are truly at a crossroads. As Immanuel Wallerstein predicts (

    Withdrawal from Iraq will … be even more traumatic than the flight from Saigon in 1975. Two defeats will be devastating and also persuasive of the real limits of U.S. power.

    There are really only two possibilities at that point. One possibility is that there occurs a sort of profound soul-searching which would lead the United States to reevaluate its self-image, its sense of what is possible in the world-system now and in the future, and what kind of values it really believes in. (…)

    But of course there is a second possibility. It is that the nation is overcome with deep anger about the “loss” of its primacy, will seek scapegoats (and find them), and eventually move in the direction of gutting the U.S. Constitution and the liberties it presumes to defend. Something like that happened in Weimar Germany. And while the situation is different in many respects, and while I am not predicting in any sense the emergence of a Nazi party, nonetheless it will be a grievous disaster for the United States and the world if the United States moves to any significant degree in this direction.

    I can’t agree more with that last statement.

  • ben

    I think it’s great to hear you reevaluate your stance on this issue, as it is to hear anyone reevaluate a previously strong-held opinion because in my mind that reflects a concern about the ethics of the situation, rather than an ‘I’m right and everything-else-be-damned’ attitude.

    The issue that this about-face stems from, I feel, is that in the entire mess of politics and society in general we cannot base our opinions on the information we get from the media because there is no way to have any confidence whatsoever in that information. In this situation, either the current administration is in a perpetual circle of lies or is woefully misinformed.

    Either way, we cannot trust the information they give us. How can a ‘democratic’ society (and I use the word democratic loosely here) hope to make educated decisions about the future of our country when all the information we have is either horribly flawed or simply dishonest? We cannot solve the problems presened with the situation in Iraq by fixing Iraq. We can only solve these problems by fixing America, fixing the system which created Iraq. Iraq is an effect of a corrupt, murky, and untrustworthy system. And even this administration is simply an effect of that same system. A new administration or new political party in power will fail to solve the issues as well, because they are still participants in a flawed, untrustworthy system.

    And that system must be changed on a base level, on the level of the individual who works and lives everyday within the system, supporting it with his and her effort and passion. Every dollar each of us sends off to the government, whether it be through our income taxes, sales tax, tolls, etc. strengthens the flawed system unless we demand that those dollars be used wisely, ethically, honestly. I pay taxes. The government my taxes support currently tortures human beings, strips rights from all individuals not born within a line drawn on a map, even rights of those born within those lines, kidnaps, assasinates, mutilates, drugs, etc., etc.

    Until we can hold those people who decide how to spend our dollars accountable, we cannot change anything. I think what Jeff Jarvis says in the above-quoted post is a major aspect of moving towards a better, more honest system. But will enough people see the value of such a system before we destroy ourselves…?

  • It takes special character for a person to reconsider their publicly announced views. So many people we rely on to make good decisions for the welfare of this country are unable to follow your example, to all our loses. I salute your ability to change your mind when new data dictated such a change.

  • penny

    Never, in the entire history of mankind has a goverment forced on the people, not chosen by the people, been accepted.

    What crap. Look no further then Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan. You really, really think they wanted the the Allies’ post-war constitutions that were put upon them? I would also add the Confederate Southern states after the Civil War. The common thread is that total defeat and occupation advanced democratic futures.

    Stop blaming the US and the war, and look into your own souls. You see, if it wasn’t the US liberating Iraq, this civil conflict would have flamed out when Saddam died, similar to the civil war in Bosnia after Tito died.

    More crap. No comparison. Saddam had two, not one, despotic sons groomed to reign, not so different from Syria, Jordan, or the entrenched Saudi extended family despots. Like change for the better has ever come through attrition in the ME!

    The level of historic ignorance is amazing on this board.

  • Penny

    Once again you spew your hatred toward those that disagree with you.

    I was against this war from the beginning because I feared that we would end up seeing what we see now. We have a country of 20 million. Different groups that, in a vacuum of power, could easily end up against one another.

    Yes, I think it is very inspirational to see Iraqis vote. Yes, I hated Saddam and celebrated his capture. But I didn’t then and still today don’t see how one country can transform another from a totalitarian dictaorship to a peaceful democracy where freedom rings.

    Our post-war plans were horrendous, which is why it really isn’t ‘post-war’. Hence we’re in deeper shit than we were before we went in.

  • Jeff, thanks for having the guts to be transparent about where you are at now on the Iraq war. You had reasons for why you supported the war then, and you have reasons to regret it now. A lot of us are regretting supporting the President and the pre-emptive war on Iraq. Now is our chance to do better, to hope for better, to vote for better in Washington, D.C.

  • Zayed wrote:

    My brother, Nabil, witnesses another terrible murder, this time of a hairdresser. She was dragged out of her taxi by 4 gunmen, a sack was put on her head and then they opened fire. Her corpse was left on the street for over 3 hours because no one dared to go near it. The worst was when Iraqi troops arrived at night to pick up the corpse. They had to shoot it several times to ensure it wasn’t booby-trapped with explosives, something that is becoming more and more common in our area of Baghdad.

    and Penny writes:

    Maybe because there are too many whiners like Zayed in the ME that naively think that democracy requires no sacrifice, that it will somehow come effortlessly in the mail for them.

    Hey Penny, what type of human being are you? Do you have no heart? Do you see the tragedy in this woman’s death? And they way the security forces are now having to react? Can’t you see that Zayed’s country is falling apart?

  • Lone

    It would great if one of these tortured, weak mea culpa’s simply stated “I was a goddamn idiot”.

    I say this because the lack of consequences for all the hacks that supported this war enrages me.

  • cranky yankee


    You indicate that you believed the “intent of the war was proper.” Perhaps you have conveniently forgotten that the rationale for the war provided by the Bush administration was that Saddam had the ability to strike with WMD’s. That was the sole reason given to justify our attack on Iraq; the happy talk about bringing “freedom, democracy, and opportunity” didn’t appear until after it was proven that all of the administrations’ intelligence about WMD’s was either wrong or intentionally fabricated.

    It is amazing how many war supporters maintained their support for Bush even after the original rationale for the war was discredited. Once it was revealed that there were no WMD’s, no mobile biological weapons labs, no uranium from Niger, and no Saddam/Al Queda connection, the war supporters started hyping the democracy-freedom-liberation nonsense as an alternative justification for invading Iraq.

    I can forgive anyone for being taken in by the bogus intelligence that led us to believe that Saddam indeed possessed WMD’s. But I have nothing but contempt for those who continued to support the war even after they learned that the admistration had deceived us.

  • bittorent

    I always think ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ should begin at home. Check out voting machines. It really is true that Americans have no sense of irony! A President who stole the election, spreading ‘democracy’? It’s laughable.

    The World just looks on and shakes its head. And now, several years after numerous people who knew the region and history (such as the British Foreign Office) predicted it would all end up exactly this way, we have to listen to the same flag wavers who were in favour of ‘spreading freedom’ saying it couldn’t have been foreseen.

    The World could see exactly what George Bush and Co were like, years ago. BBC Newsnight and Greg Palast did an item about the election being stolen. What does it take for the American people to wake up and smell the coffee?

  • kat

    (BBC Newsnight and Greg Palast did an item about the election being stolenWhat does it take for the American people to wake up and smell the coffee?)–A belief in leftist conspiracy theorists??????? BBC just admitted they are biased–why would anyone but a fool believe them when it comes to Bush?

  • Iraq is only the latest in a series of actions by the US since the end of WWII designed to ensure a continual supply of raw materials and finished goods to the US under favorable (to us) conditions.

    The US public broadly supports this sort of foreign policy. There is no fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans over the need for a strong “defense”. In fact the DoD is actually the department of offense, that is the old War Department. When we were actually attacked we need to create the Department of Homeland Security to defend us.

    Why the need for such a forceful foreign policy? To support the standard of living we insist on – SUV’s, McMansions in the exurbs and 50 inch plasma TV’s. The chain of causality is clear:
    SUV -> demands for fuel -> strong military -> your choice (Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, etc.)

    To sell this selfish, greedy lifestyle to ourselves the government(s) have provided a number of socially acceptable cover stories. Starting with the domino theories, the containment of communism, to WMD and the need to bring Democracy to the heathens. Each of us picks the one which salves our own conscience. Jeff, having been directly traumatized by 9/11, was more open to adopting some of these themes than he might have been otherwise.

    So, we are all responsible for the state we are in. Even those of us who were against the war from the start have done little to alter the self-centered, materialistic path we are on.

    As Pogo famously said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    If you don’t want to see more and more strife in the world caused by more and more people chasing after diminishing natural resources than it is time to open a national dialogue on how to transition to a sustainable society, one not based upon the impossible dream of never ending growth.

    My 2 cents on the issue here:
    Planning For a Steady State
    (No Growth) Society

  • Hollister


    ” The guilt is too much for me to handle … I believed the intent was proper… I saw a humanitarian cause… But the execution.. was hopeless and shameful… How should we fix this? I do not know and I am afraid … I wish the hate-mongers had been put in their place… what I wish most is .. a way to end this hell… So no more friends are lost. ”


    …and still very much in denial.

    Thousands of Americans & hundreds of thousands Iraqi dead — and your primary concern is still yourself and your friends.

    The ‘hate-mongers’ responsible for this horror must be found and ‘put in their place’ … right — and O.J. swore to track down the ‘real killers’.

    Reliance on 9/11 emotion, rather than facts & reason brought you to this situation.
    Nothing has changed… other than an emotional sidestep from fear & anger — to guilt & self-pity (…caused by a painful dose of factual reality).


    ” Those who find no difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led. ”

    (– Eric Hoffer)


  • Ed

    Just curious:

    Can anyone make the argument that Americans aren’t safer with Saddam and his regime out of power, and 4,000 foreign al Qaeda fighters dead in Iraq?

    War is inherently conflicting, emotionally and mentally. But would we be safer if Saddam, Uday and Qusai were still running a post-sanctions Iraq, and 4,000 more of bin Laden’s followers were still plotting the deaths of American civilians?

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

  • ben

    I believe it is impossible to say if the world is more or less safe at any given moment. Saying the world is safer because Saddam is not in power or that the world is less safe as long as bin Laden is at large is an extremely linear argument.

    The safety of the world is a systematic issue, not linear, thus the removal of one element of the system (Saddam) doesn’t explicitly change the safety of anyone anywhere. There are effects of his removal, but to say we are safer is a statement that is fundamentally impossible to either defend or refute. It’s rhetoric – unproveable and unmeasurable.

    If you assume stability in the Middle East will lead to a safer America, then no, we not safer. But if you beleive that Saddam posed a direct threat to the US, then perhaps we are safer. Either way, we have absolutely no data on either of those stances, so how can we be sure of either argument?

  • NYNick


    It’s at least a start. As someone who was vocally against this war from the beginning, I will refrain from the usual “I was right, you were wrong” stuff. That being said, it is important to remember how we got here. It seems clear to me at least that the only way forward is to come together and define a strategy to clean up the mess and leave Iraq in a position where they at least stand a fighting chance to save their country from total anarchy or from becoming a puppet of the Iranian Mullahs. But how? Put another way, John Murtha and Dick Cheney would need to sit down and work out a strategy. And there is the rub isn’t it? Anyway, there in lies a solution. Fat chance we’ll get there unless there is some serious change in the tone and climate of our body politic.

    Ed writes:

    “Saddam offered Osama bin Laden sanctuary. Think about that for a minute.”

    That’s just simply not true. Give us a source for this statement other than the wingnut press.

    Ed Asks:

    “Can anyone make the argument that Americans aren’t safer with Saddam and his regime out of power, and 4,000 foreign al Qaeda fighters dead in Iraq?”

    Yes, Saddam may have been a evil dictator but the end result of our adventure in Iraq will almost certainly leave Iran the winner. Iranian support for terror goes beyond anything Saddam had ever dreamed of, they are close to having a nuclear weapon and there is not a credible plan to stop or even slow down that outcome and they will have solidified their position within the greater Muslim world at our considerable expense.

  • Ed

    Ben, you sound like a perfect example of someone who is smart, who is over-thinking this war.

    The Middle East was not exactly the model of stability with Saddam in power.

    But now a bloodthirsty, psychopathic dictator who attacked Israel and Saudi Arabia without provocation, and invaded Kuwait without provocation, and warred with Iran for a decade is gone. So, yeah, a ruthless, warmongering, anti-Semite is out of the picture. There’s violence now, yes, but it’s regional, factional and non-Global. That’s a problem that Iraq’s democratically elected government is tasked with solving.

    Al Qaeda itself says we killed 4,000 of its terrorists in Iraq. How that can be viewed as anything but a zippity-doo-dah great thing is beyond me. Instead of 4,000 maniacs strapping knap-sack bombs onto their shoulders and running into our subway systems and airports, they’re out of commission. Want ’em back? I don’t.

    Are there still terrorists? Yes. But they’re scattered, disorganized, and without international financing and leadership. They have no safe haven, not even Iraq. That wasn’t going to happen without sacrifice, or without brave men and women of the U.S. military standing up, being counted and doing the right thing.

    We’re better off as Americans for having done the right thing in Iraq and it’s not even a close call.

  • nynick


    Saddam attacked Israel and Saudi Arabia? I don’t recall that. My assumption is something like that would have made the papers. If you’re alluding to Saddam’s support for suicide bombers, then every major muslim country in the region is guilty, the Saudi’s included. They held telethons for the families of suicide bombers.

  • Take up the White Man’s burden–
    And reap his old reward:
    The blame of those ye better,
    The hate of those ye guard–
    The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
    “Why brought he us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?”

  • Pingback: Jarvis on Zeyad and Iraq « The Generalist()

  • ben

    Ed, my friend, I do agree with you to a great extent, but to say we are safer seems to me to be a statement that can neither be refuted or supported. Tomorrow a terrorist acting alone could blow up a plane or leave a home-made biological bomb at Grand Central. Would that have happend with Saddam in power? We have no way of knowing. Did the removal of Saddam prevent a forthcoming attack? Again, no way to know that either. I simply can’t support either side of that statement because it is too linear in nature. I believe the removal of Saddam has definately shifted some of the variables in the system, but has not changed our state of security. But then again, I sure do hope you’re right!

    • Barry_D

      ” Did the removal of Saddam prevent a forthcoming attack? Again, no way to know that either.”

      We do know that if there was any evidence at *all* that it did, no matter how sketchy, Bush/Cheney would have hyped it.

  • OK, Ed, I’ll take you on.

    And Robert, you’re ‘blame Americans first’ rhetoric is why liberals have lost so much over the past thirty years.


    The sanctions regime of Saddam Hussein was largely toothless and contained. It didn’t have control over two-thirds of its air space and it knew that we’d nail them whenever they’d viiolate it. Saddam as we now find out had gotten rid of his WMD in the late 1990’s. Only he was too stupid and stubborn to admit it.

    His being in power was less of a threat because his ability to create havoc had been greatly diminished after the Gulf War. Like nynick, I don’t seem to recall that he attacked Israel or Saudi Arabia, but if you’re talking supporting some random terrorist attacks, then you seem to be saying that this whole effort is worth it because he’s sent a few people to commit atacks in other countires. The security of Israel and the stability of Saudi Arabia may be important, may be desirable, but they aren’t vital enough to the US to have us invade Iraq.

    You mention 4000 dead members of al Queda. OK, it’s great that they’re dead. Fine. I’m with you there. But it isn’t as if they were sitting around in al Queda army barracks with nothing to do when suddenly they were called to duty in Iraq once we took out Saddam. How many of those 4000 became inspired to go to terrorist training camps after we invaded? Could it be that many of those that we are killing are post-invasion recruits?

    Now we’ve got a very week central government, one that has Shiite death squads being run out of the Ministry of Interior. We got that pro-Iranian and radical Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, gaining control in key areas. We’ve got other areas in the south that he’s now losing control…to Shiite militias battleing one and kinapping one another. We’ve got the military saying that western Iraq is a lost cause. We’ve got the US military leaders saying that Baghdad is going much worse than hoped. We’ve got Sunni insurgents running wild. We’ve got a radial Shiite and Persian Iran next door gaining significant influence. We’ve got top Iraqi government leaders blaming Jews and Zionists for the sectrian violence.

    We’ve gotten rid of one horrendous government and it’s been replaced by a weak, ineffective regime. The real power in Iraq now is being wielded by sectarian militias and insurgents groups…and their client states like Iran or radical Sunnis Wahhabists from Saudi.


    The fact that people decide to live in a larger house or purchase a sports untility van to drive around the kids and the dog doesn’t specifically make them greedy or materialsitic. If they have the money, they’ve often earned it and they can spend it the way they want. While it would be great if we all examined how our combined choices effect larger and greater issues.

    We haven’t invaded Nigeria or Venezuela. Vietnam was not about oil.

    What are you suggesting? That the government mandate only smaller cars be purchased? And that homes be limited to a certain size?

    As much as I hve been against the waer, the percentage of blame the average US citizen bears is tiny compared to the evil dictators we’ve taken on.

  • How about we just agree on this.

    The people primarily responsible for both selling the war and it’s execution be PUNISHED by losing their ability to prevent their screw ups from being investigated, and their continuing screw ups from being enacted.

    Bush must be punished for bad policies and execution, it is the way a democracy should act.

    Don’t love the Democrats, find them not as full of hubris as the GOP, find they got bullied into going along…fine…but can they possibly eff-up any more than the Bush Administration and it’s GOP enabers?

  • I greatly respect your opinion on Iraq. But I think it’s impossible to separate how this war was prosecuted from how we went to war in the first place. If the Bush administration had attempted to justify this war based on humanitarian causes alone, it wouldn’t have worked, and there would have been no war. In fact, they were not interested in the humanitarian aspects of this war; if they had been, they would’ve planned for being there longer than the six months it would take to prop up a government friendly to us and pull most of our troops out. I’m sorry, but intent cannot be separated from execution, because the true motives of the men who led us to war are revealed by both.

  • Ed

    Jonathan and NYNick:

    Saddam attacked Saudi Arabia and Israel with missiles during the Gulf War, even though the Saudis and Israelis posed absolutely no threat to Iraq. In fact, Israel didn’t even retaliate against Saddam’s missiles when the U.S. and its allies asked, fearing an expansion of the hostilities.

    I’m just not buying into the “we never should have attacked Iraq because it made the Islamists MAD at us, so now they’re terrorists” argument. When we didn’t kill terrorists – after the Khobar Towers, the African embassy attacks, the Cole, etc. – they were mad at us too. But now they’ve lost 4,000 fighters and they’re no longer a unified, global terror organization.

    Iraq’s democratically elected government is the organization in charge of pulling it together and stopping the sectarian violence. Nobody is saying that will happen overnight. If Zeyad is angry, he’s got a democracy now that he can get involved in to fix it. If Iraqis want these thugs to stop blowing up buses, they’ve got to stand up and be counted.

    Under Saddam, they couldn’t. Now they can.

  • Ed

    To me, those that stand up in that type of situation end up dead on a sidewalk in the middle of the night, just like that young hairdresser did.

    The situatioin is beyond out of control and will take years to fix…if it is fixable.

    And your correct about those missles in the first Gulf War that were shot into Israel.

  • Prospector

    War is immoral. There is no moral stance on war. Regarding Iraq: those who opposed the invasion made the immoral decision to allow tyranny to persist and in Saddam’s case, with an endless supply of oil and crony-nations, to thrive; those who favored the invasion made the immoral decision to kill as many people as required to finally defeat the tyrant. Now let’s talk about honour. Which was the honourable course?

  • Sorry still seems to be the hardest word…

    Here’s one solution for a quick end to the war in Iraq: we convene an urgent summit of all militia and religious leaders, and we get them all to agree to lay down arms while new elections are held under a UN or Arab Leage mandate.

    In return, we offer them Bush, Blair, Howard, and all the other vocal public cheerleaders of the war (Jarvis and his friends among them), shackled and hooded, to do with as they will.

    Maybe a little water-boarding would be enough to drag the word “Sorry” from the war-mongers’ putrid mouths?

    Don’t like the idea, Jarvis? What??? Is it, the intent or the execution that bothers you???

    Well, maybe it’s time to admit: VIOLENCE IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS WRONG.

  • Prospector

    Ghandi launched a movement that led to the deaths of over a million people, the break-up of a nation, and an ongoing border war (India/Pakistan). Brilliant!!! His peace movement has only worked in a nation with almost two hundred years of democratic government and a civil war to test the strength of its Constitution. Talkin’ bout Dr. King and the U.S. civil rights movement.

  • Prospector,

    Talkin’ bout misguided ad hominem attacks! I’ll let you in on a little secret, buddy: I am not the real Mahatma.

    But of course you are right, in any case. Gandhi was clearly an evil, evil man… and everything that ever happened in or to India is clearly his own stupid fault. His calls for peace were obviously code for violent attacks. Just like Bush’s…

  • mateo


    As one of the many who, upon actual evaluation in 2003 of the war plan and is executors, found the notion of invading Iraq to be utterly absurd, it’s more than slightly maddening to have to put up with these sorts of mea culpas from those who insulted our intelligence at the time. We should have no reason to either accept an apology (not that you really offered one), or be nice about accepting it if we do – after all, no such courtesy was extended to us, and I consider this a fight of real enough importance to not necessarily forgive and forget.

    But I can be pursuaded.

    The condition: no one who supported the war, and was a prick to those of us who opposed it on legitimate grounds, should be able to have a say in what happens next. Frankly, once you’ve admitted some semblance of guilt, I think you should be banned from the conversation altogether: the fundamentals of your judgment are so clearly a hazard to everyone around you that I wouldn’t trust you to participate in the next steps conversation. Plus, there needs to be a real consequence for your recklessness, and there’s no reason to forgive you quickly.

    Short of shutting up and letting the adults make some decisions for a while, I think you will not learn your lesson, and next time the nice man with the candy dangles a sugar-coated liberation plan in front of you, you’ll lick it up just like the last time.

    The world can not withstand any more of this kind of Pavlovian b.s. from the ra-ra-war-is-good-when-we-say-so crowd. Go finish up a 12-step program, find some support among other clueless idiots, and then maybe we can talk.

    But posting fake “I was sorta wrong but not really” apologies is just asking for a fight.

  • Jeff,

    I don’t see any point in rubbing your nose in this. Everyone makes mistakes, and no one likes to admit them. It’s good that you did. You were part, unfortunately, of something that has had horrific consequences. Perhaps it is some consolation to recognize that you were only a small part of it. Bush’s invasion of Iraq would undoubtedly have happened whether you supported it or not.

    It is, however, worth your while to do more than simply offer a mea culpa. When the New Republic realized that it had erred in allowing Stephen Glass to publish his fabrications, the magazine made a point of systematically reviewing every article he had written to determine which statements were fabricated and which were verifiable, and they then published a full accounting of their findings. I’m not suggesting that you should feel obligated to engage in a similar public self-criticism, but you may learn some valuable lessons for yourself by privately re-reading your past writings about Iraq and doing some thoughtful soul-searching.

    One of the things I think you’ll discover if you do so is a tone of hostility and an attitude of superiority toward the anti-war camp with which you disagreed, which accounts for some of the suspicion and hostility with which some people are now greeting your concession. Juan Cole, for example, did not deserve to be called “pond scum,” but it’s never too late to mend fences.

    A bright spot in all of this, of course, is your friendship with Zeyad, who is indeed a thoughtful, interesting and intelligent writer. I thought, for example, that his recent commentary on the Lancet study was one of the best things I’ve read on the topic. Rather than treat the study as an opportunity to flog a pre-determined conclusion, he admits what he knows and what he doesn’t know, adding insights based on his own firsthand observations that we couldn’t have gotten from anyone else.

    Finally, I think you (and all of us) have a moral obligation to continue thinking about and writing about Iraq. However painful it may be to contemplate the reality that America helped create there, we have to face that reality and continue looking for solutions.

  • Jeff: Thanks for the intellectual honesty in this post. I wonder if you’d agree that a factor in supporting what you now regret was that you mistakenly thought the Bush crowd was reality-based. Or that you didn’t realize how unempirical they were (intentionally) being. Possible?

    But the execution, I saw too late after our “victory,” was hopeless and shameful.

    No. I think you are still kidding yourself here.

    If you actually prevent people in the government from undertaking any serious planning for post-war Iraq, because you buy Rumsfeld’s fantasy of American forces in and out in three months, would that be a mistake in “execution?” I don’t think so. They intended to go forward with no plan to win the peace. It wasn’t an oversight, Jeff. They intended to marginalize, silence or ignore anyone with facts on the ground to report. That’s not sloppy execution. That’s not even incompetence. That’s something else you haven’t grappled with yet.

    Of course you’re not alone in that. Hardly anyone expected a flight from empiricism in the conduct of war and peace because it’s such a bizarre development in our politics.

  • Jeff,

    Do you have any view on the reporting or lack of it about the possibility that there was a policy to bomb the offices of al-Jazeera?

    The general point seems to me to be that Arab media should be listened to. Some sort of dialogue could contribut at any time.

    There is a trial pending in the Uk under the Official Secrets Act. This is even less reported in the UK than in the US as far as I can tell.

    Is this the sort of issue Buzzmnachine should cover?

    I have written about this for OhmyNews based in Korea

    I would like to hear your views on this



  • If you look carefully you will notice that what Jeff is saying closely mirrors what the Bush Team is still saying: “we did the right thing for the right reasons, we’ve just made a few little mistakes along the way… ”

    No, you did the WRONG thing, guys. You deliberately manipulated intelligence to gain public support for a war you had already decided upon, you deliberately by-passed the UN and frightened it’s Weapon Inspectors out of Iraq before they could finish their job, you deliberately breached the Geneva Conventions, you deliberately targetted civilians with your shock and awe attacks and your shoot-to-kill policies and your White Phosphorous and your Abu Ghraib torture chambers…

    The truth will out and justice will be done.

  • kat

    We should just have done what we did in Rwanda and are doing in Darfur.The following, according to the State Department report, were routine in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule:
    Medical experimentation
    Hammering nails into the fingers and hands
    Amputating sex organs or breasts with an electric carving knife
    Spraying insecticides into a victim’s eyes
    Branding with a hot iron

    Committing rape while the victim’s spouse is forced to watch
    Pouring boiling water into the victim’s rectum
    Nailing the tongue to a wooden board
    Extracting teeth with pliers
    Using bees and scorpions to sting naked children in front of their parents
    Saddam Hussein was also the first leader to use chemical weapons against his own population, silencing more than 60 villages and 30,000 citizens with poisonous gas. Between 1983 and 1988 alone, he murdered more than 30,000 Iraqi citizens with mustard gas and nerve agents. Several international organizations claim that he killed more than 60,000 Iraqi citizens with chemicals, including large numbers of women and children.
    Yes, it was wrong to get rid of this nice man. Stupid Bush. The Iraqis deserved what they got under Saddam–just like the Jews deserved the Nazis–War is wrong.

  • Suggested improvement to bittorent, respectfully.

    What does it take for the American people to wake up and smell the coffin?

  • “Yes, it was wrong to get rid of this nice man.” Who suggested that? You are quoting someone? Who? Or just making up an attitude you can mock? I don’t get it. You sound unhinged. The Iraqis deserved what they got under Saddam, and the Jews deserved what they got too? Is that an actual attitude anyone in the world–or on this comment board–holds? How did you get there?

    It’s like looking at a schizophrenic’s drawings and trying to figure them out. You are just yelling at your own fantasies, but in public. Weird.

  • In response to Penny (Oct. 22 at 4:03 PM): Whine all you want, Zayed. Your blog isn’t the only story of the will and insights of Iraqis.

    O.K. …

    If you REALLY are, as you imply, interested in the will and insights of other Iraqi bloggers, then you might check out a survey of Iraqi bloggers at (

  • payitallback

    jeff i think you should use your media presence to say loudly that the war is wrong and the troops must come home. if you don’t do this then all your words will mean nothing. put your money where your mouth is or shut the &%$# up!.

  • Dalibor Topic

    Getting out is easy.

    1) Move all US & occupation coalition troops out of Iraq.
    2) Pay Iraq reparations for the 600 000 dead, and the destroyed infrastructure.
    3) Punish those responsible for this genocide and related crimes against humanity at a public tribunal. The civilian leaders,the military leaders, the propagandists & apologists, the soldiers on the ground, etc.
    4) Declare all economic exploitation arrangements forced upon Iraq as null and void.
    5) Constrain the US military forces for the next 50 years to defensive duties on US soil only.

    Piece of cake, really.

  • Max Sitting

    Will you also attempt a comprehensive critical review of the reasons for your change of judgement?
    Will you also offer an apology to those critics of the war you visciously smeared?

    Can you explain why it took so long to recognize your intellectual shallowness whenever you mouthed opinions on Iraq or the middle east for the last three years?

    Will you cease offering opinions about Iraq now that you’ve made the first step in acknowleging that you don’t know anything about Iraq: not the culture, not the language, not the history. Nothing.

    Can you face your own intellectual shortcomings by at least admitting that you are more passionately interested in your own ideological narrative of events than on the acutuality of the events?

  • Do you have anything to say about your verbal abuse of the people who were prematurely right?


  • Leo Brux

    One one hand: Learning is good, to admit mistakes is good. Modesty is good. It must have been difficult to write what you wrote, Jeff.
    On the other hand: Would you say: Yes, I am co-responsible for the mess in Iraq, for the death of maybe half a million people up to now, for the recovery of Al Qaida, for the creating of a hot recruitment motive and vast training area for terrorists, for damaging US reputation all over the world … ?
    Others had it right from the beginning. They KNEW that this adventure would fail. WHY did they know? HOW could they know? Maybe in some cases that had to do with REALISM. And with KNOWLEDGE about Iraq. And with a preference of sober knowledge over moralism and idealism.

    Al Qaida bosts of 4000 killed AlQaida fighters in Iraq. Al Qaida is PROUD to present 4000 martyrs!
    Weird to see how some people here interpret that as a defeat. The more martyrs AlQaida can announce the better for the organization. It shows their strength.
    Iraq is the perfect recrutement area for AlQaida terrorists. With every fighter killed they can hire two or three more rookies.
    Their death toll shows: They are really fighting! They really sacrifice their lives! They are ardent idealists, and that attracts all those young Arab men who are humiliated again and again by Israel, by US “shock and awe” methods of fighting, by Arabs who behave like US puppets, by the weak performance of moderate Arabs.

    How to defeat these fanatics?
    Take away their motivation! Stop giving these people and their supporters and adorers their reason to fight!
    Withdraw from Iraq. Force Israel out of the occupied territories in Palestine. Rebuild America’s soft power = reputation and appeal.
    — I know, for macho brains that is a no-brainer.
    So I assume: The USA will go on with counterproductive politics. With self-destructive politics. And you, Jeff, will continue to support this suicidal line?

  • > Yes, it was wrong to get rid of this nice man. Stupid Bush.

    Kat doesn’t seem to notice that a few people who are not named Saddam have been killed and tortured, and a few more people who are not named Saddam Hussein are going to be killed and tortured in the years ahead because of this little adventure. This is a pretty obvious point, but what arguments does a war supporter have to offer this many years into Operation Iraqi Freedom? That the war isn’t a disaster? That less people are killed every day in Iraq than in 2002? That America is stronger? That our leaders spoke the truth in 2003?

  • TakeResponsibility

    You helped kill people. You need to admit that.

    Your choice, and your voice, supported a policy that’s left thousands upon thousands dead.

    Live with that.

  • julie

    I do not think it is nya nya to point out you were part of a formidable propaganda machine which acted to make those concerned abot the running of the occupation apear to be part of the left wing nuttiness. There were chances at refiorm, many problems which have now blossumed were in seedling form over 3 years ago, they could have been addressed.

    You helped silence the middle and the “establishment” of traditional American foreign and military policy. Labelling individuals like Zinni and Scowcroft defeatists and appeasers was a policy of the machine you joined. You and Rush had your fun mocking and now you want to be considered something besides a traitor who energetically worked to sabatoge any chance of success by believing faith based reality would substitute for the real thing.

  • Bill

    While supporting the Iraq War, you attacked those who knew a great deal more than you did about Iraq (as well as the Middle East in general). It is hard to believe that reviewing television shows does not qualify you as an expert in the Middle East. (To think you watched all those episodes of “I Love Lucy” for nothing.)

  • Chris Pierson


    Maybe you should just admit you don’t have and never did have and probably never will have the knowledge or wisdom to know what the US should have done or should do in Iraq. And maybe you should acknowledge that, whether or not you knew what you were doing at the time you gave your full-throated support to a war in a country against a people you didn’t really understand, your ignorant position was, as was that of so many others’ with similarly disproportionately large megaphones, very much responsible for the contentless “debate” that briefly preceded the war and promptly got us into the intractable mess we’re in now.

    No thank you for your too late arousal from sleep, Jeff. No thank you for any more of your wisdom of the world.

  • glasnost

    Ready to apologize to Juan Cole yet?

    After all, you’re in an accountability mood at the moment.

    He was right, and you were wrong.

  • Toni

    Yes, it would be interesting to see you admit your abuse of Prof. Cole was wrong.

  • Ah, the cult of Cole arrives.

    Your man made unwarranted, false, and dangerous speculation about honorable men in Iraq that is why I most strongly criticized him. I still await his apology to them.

    I’m glad you live in such a neat world, where everything is right and wrong. Was it right to leave the people of Iraq suffering under a murderous tyrant? The cure was wrong or most certainly wrongly executed, I now fully concede. But the humanitarian crisis was still there. Should he have been deposed by the first Bush? Should he have been left in power? And what should be done now? Iraq had no easy fix before; that was the mistake of those who thought it did, as you point out. But it also has no easy fix now. And what I do not hear in the nya-nyaing is a humanitarian, a liberal concern for the Iraqi people and a discussion of what is best to do for them. As I said above, nya-nya all you want; knock yourselves out. But then return to reality. Through all this, one thing that has happened for me is that I have made friends in Iraq and they suffered before the war and they suffer now and no end of blog-and-comment blathering and bickering is going to fix that.

  • Leo Brux

    It is a matter of fact that people like Juan Cole had it right. How did they manage to be right? Has this to do with realism? Could be real knowledge of the country be one of the reasons? – If so: that would be a good reason to become a realist and a person who looks for expert knowledge – either on one’s own or in finding out who are the reliable experts. Jeff, whether you like him or not, Juan Cole has given proof to be a reliable expert.

    There was a dream mode going in the years round 2003: With your pure goodwill-power (backed by US fire-power) you thought you could impose the good on a tortured country like Iraq …

    It didn’t work. It made bad things worse.

    In politics, intentions do not count. The result counts. Nothing but the result. And your responsibility is in anticipating the probable result, not in having acted from good intentions.

    Everybody has good intentions … even Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are people who are convinced that their intentions are good.

    When you argue, Jeff, that your good intention was to free Iraq and the Iraqis from a mean cruel dictator – so what? It was also MY intention. Or Juan’s. But we politicians have to consider the real (= NOT the intended) RESULT of our actions (or the result of the actions we support). And toppling Saddam Hussein and replacing all Baath from power resulted in anarchy. This anarchy was easy to predict – for those who knew politics and history and were realist enough to take into account the realities of Iraq.

    By the way, who are these honorable men Cole falsly speculated about?

    What is best NOW for the Iraqis?
    I wonder.
    But I assume that a US occupation army is more part of the problem there than part of the solution.

    My suggestions:
    – strike a deal with Iran and negotiate with Iran about a stable solution for Iraq; bring all neigbors (Saudi-Arabia, etc., Syria included) to the conference hall …
    – impose a withdrawal of Israel to the borders of 1967
    – earmark 50 billion dollars for a reconstruction of Iraq after the end of anarchy – as a compensation for the damage done by the USA in Iraq

    I know, the USA will not do that. Neither with a Republican nor with a Democrat President. It would be a humiliation for the proud USA. You want to have a John-Wayne-solution. But world politics no longer is a “Western”!

  • It’s good that you are willing to announce your changed opinion.

    However, you didn’t need to be an expert on Iraq to be against the war from the beginning. There was plenty of evidence that Bush was incompetent, that the Republican party was off the charts–and by extension, any war they prosecuted would lead to failure, lives painfully lost.

    You didn’t just support the war. You couldn’t just support the war without also supporting the awful political leadership of that war. They’re not separate.

    Maybe your omission of mistake now is only your first step in a longer, harder process. I suggest you start by reading Siffried Sassoon.


    No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain

    Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.

    Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’ —

    These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.

    They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed

    Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—

    Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud

    Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…

    Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;

    Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

    Craiglockhart. October, 1917.

    © George Sassoon

  • Toni

    Jeff made friends! I guess it’s all worthwhile, then.

  • jerry

    You banned me then for using the word fuck, before you came to defend Howard Stern for using the word fuck.

    But you banned me not really for saying fuck but for saying you were wrong and asking how the war would make us safer when we were ignoring Bin Laden.

    You sir, are a fucktard, and you sir have the blood of Americans, Coalition Members and Iraqi civilians on your hands.

    And god forbid there is another attack from Osama, then you sir, have that blood on your hands as well, since it was your goal to suppress dissent and call dissenters traitors, when what we were trying to say is that we were losing focus.

    So sir, GO FUCK YOURSELF. And then die in a fire. But don’t give us any of your crap.

    Resign from blogging.

  • Jim Wallis

    If wishes were horses….You don’t know enough now to know what to do, but you knew enough then to create a few thousand corpses rotting in the sun for the glory of whatever precious illusion you harbored. Now that the corpses are in the tens of thousands, and that you know some of them, you feel a bit off your appetite for gore. “Help me out of this, please!” Time to grow up, take responsibility, and help find a solution.

  • Max Sitting

    JJ writes about Cole:

    Your man made unwarranted, false, and dangerous speculation about honorable men in Iraq that is why I most strongly criticized him.

    Unwarranted!!! False!!!! Dangerous!!! Honorable!!!

    Whew, I’m sweating!!

    Another mouthful of a meaningless generalization in which Jeffy J shows us he remains truly qualified to write with the soap bubble vocabulary of a 10th grade brain.

  • Jeff,

    Having wrongly supported the war, you are really in no position to demand to know from others what we should be doing now. The fact of the matter is that by being so incredibly horrifyingly wrong about the war, no one who wants to criticize you-even in the harshest terms possible-is under any obligation to offer their own little solution to what we should’ve done before, or should do now. The fact is there are no good answers, and that is precisely because people like you encouraged the drive to war without really having the last notion what you were talking about. Now people who are more clear-headed and reasonable must figure out what to do about the mess that people like you helped make, and at this point it would best if those who supported this war were simply quit talking, as their credibility is now lost.

  • james

    It’s a bunch of stupid lies. I was in the 101st airborne, 327th infantry regiment, as a grunt E-2. There is very little friendship between soldiers. Of course no one wants to see another soldier get killed. But it’s not like a big crying event if it happens. It’s just a fact that most soldiers are enemies of each other. My first enemy when going in the military was the military itself. I was more worried about getting shot in the back by another American soldier than getting killed by an enemy combatant. I’m happy I’m not in the Army anymore. It’s more probable you will get hurt by another american than a terrorist. When you see military people on the news saying “iraq is a going well, soldiers morale is high” don’t believe their lies! Most soldiers feel like they’er in OPERATION BABY SITTER over in Iraq.

  • The troops are not to blame here, like Vietnam, the governments of the time have covered up the real reasons they wanted to go to war.

    Any nation (if we can we can try to exclude nations that harbor terrorists), has the right to maintain their own political and leadership structure. Not to say Saddam was a nice guy, but a nice guy would not have kept some kind of law in Iraq for the period of his reign.

    WMD was not a real reason for this war, it was from a president that was blinded by rage, oil, misdirected revenge for 9/11 and revenge for Desert Storm.

  • Pingback: GITTERDUN « markbrand()