I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our wise national security guardians

(updated below)

Once the U.S. invaded Iraq and realized that (a) the WMDs that "justified" the war didn't actually exist and (b) we were completely unprepared to fight the well-armed and well-planned insurgency, we had ample opportunity to adjust, change course, alter our objectives, or leave.

The reason we didn't is because the country was continuously lied to by the most morally depraved people one can fathom, who were so afraid of admitting error regarding the wisdom of the invasion that they kept insisting to Americans that things were going great and that everything would be fixed very soon. That, far more than the original decision to invade Iraq, is the real crime here. And many of them continue to do it, some with more brazenness than ever before.

Mark Steyn is the revered foreign policy genius-analyst of the neoconservative warmongers and the right blogosphere. This is what he said in an interview with Right Wing News on June 29, 2005 about Iraq:

John Hawkins: Take a look at Iraq and tell me how you think we've handled it up to this point and look ahead one year to June of 2006, just a few months before the mid-term elections in the US, and tell me where you see things going.

Mark Steyn: I think Iraq is on the wane as a domestic policy issue in the US. American troops will be there for some time, but increasingly in a supporting role to the new Iraqi forces. I was interested to see, for example, that it was the Iraqi army which rescued the Australian hostage Douglas Wood. A year ago, this would almost certainly have been a western Special Forces operation.

So, although there will be many terrible individual atrocities in the days ahead, there’s no strategic purpose to them other than to drive a weak-willed US Congress into cutting and running. My bet is that enough of the American people are made of sterner stuff, and that Democrats who continue to argue for retreat – and thus defeat - will find the anti-Iraq drum has less and less resonance.

There’ll be other changes with the Iraqis in the driving seat, rather than a Bush Administration that has to keep one eye out on whether Dick Durbin’s going to blubber all over the Senate floor again. Baghdad is likely to be far less squeamish about its enemies than Washington is.

I don't just mean in the sense of that TV show they have over there, the one where they broadcast the interrogations of captured insurgents, which is the only reality TV show I enjoy watching. I'm also thinking of the Syrian border, where Iraqi troops are much more likely to exercise their right of hot pursuit than the Americans are. This time next year, it could be Iraq destabilizing Syria rather than the other way around.

Is it even possible to be more wrong than that? And that's why we stayed, doing what we were doing. Because the self-serving propagandists like Mark Steyn paraded around as experts -- and were hailed as such -- and kept telling Americans that the Iraqi Army was almost self-sufficient . . . just a little bit longer because we're making really great progress . . . . those who keep telling you that violence is escalating and we're not making progress are cut-and-run cowards who hate America and want us to lose. . . . ignore the reports from the Bush-hating media because they are inventing stories about violence . . . Churchill would stay and so should we.

After Steyn gave that indescribably false and dishonest answer, the question Hawkins asked next was this: "Why do you think the American left has become so incapable of dealing with foreign policy threats?" That's from the architects and cheerleaders and implementors of the invasion of Iraq, the greatest strategic disaster in our country's history and one of its most disgraceful acts. "Why do think the American left has become so incapable of dealing with foreign policy threats?" (Steyn's answer was as trite as it is empty: "the complete evaporation of the moderate credible foreign policy Scoop Jackson Democrats" -- meaning: "not enough Joe Liebermans who endorse mindless neoconservative warmongering").

As a comparison, read these two analytically superb posts from Swopa, detailing why it has been clear not for months, but for years, that this sectarian war was not only inevitable but also that the U.S. had no power to stop it. That is the most tragic part about what is happening in Iraq. None of it was unforeseeable. To the contrary, it was all not only foreseeable, but foreseen and warned about -- by the unserious, frivolous, America-hating crazies who were demonized and laughed at (and unbelievably, still are) by the warmongers (in both parties) and their mindless allies in the press.

I know I've written about this several times before, but it is truly unfathomable that the people who are responsible for this disaster -- not just the ones who advocated it in the beginning, but much worse, the ones who continued to insist that things were going well and that everything was progressing nicely and that reports to the contrary should be dismissed and ignored -- continue to be accorded respect and treated as though they have great credibility. Why is that?

And conversely, why are those who were so right and prescient and wise in their counsel treated as though they are lightweight, laughable morons who can't be "trusted with national security"? Why is it that when one watches news programs, one still encounters all of those smug, all-knowing little sneers whenever there is a reference to Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi and national security, whereas John McCain and Charles Krauthammer and Robert Kagan and Lawrence Kaplan -- Iraq War lovers all -- are addressed with whispered reverence as we wait for their wise and weighty pronouncements about What We Should Do Next?

It's like watching a patient who has lost limbs and organs due to a surgeon's gross malpractice continue to return to that same surgeon for the next operation, while scoffing at the doctors who warned of the dangers. Iraq is far too intense of an ongoing tragedy to be engaging in blame-assigning vendettas just for fun. The point is that with regard not only to Iraq -- but also Iran and North Korea and every other foreign policy problem -- we need to figure out who we should be listening to and who we should be ignoring, and it really isn't that hard to figure out. At least it shouldn't be.

UPDATE: Think Progress notes the attempt today by a pro-war blogger to equate Philadelphia and Baghdad in terms of violence (h/t Atrios) -- a truly disgusting comparison first promoted by Glenn Reynolds when he oh-so-hilariously joked about the war that his readers have been told for three years is going so great: "A PHILADELPHIA QUAGMIRE? Stop the killing. U.S. out of Philadelphia now!" And, of course, he added: "Yes, by historical standards the war in Iraq isn't terribly bloody, which does tend to get lost in the media coverage."

Speaking of national security frauds posing as experts, National Review's Rich Lowry has a surprisingly insightful refutation of the numerous myths taking root with regard to the midterm elections.

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