[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]
There have been a number of good articles and retrospectives on the 10th anniversary of the invasion over the past few days. Here are a few.
John Judis has a good piece in TNR, on “What it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003.” This passage is noteworthy
I found fellow dissenters to the war in two curious places: the CIA and the military intelligentsia. That fall, I got an invitation to participate in a seminar at the Central Intelligence Agency on what the world would be like in fifteen or twenty years. I went out of curiosity—I don’t like this kind of speculation—but as it turned out, much of the discussion was about the pending invasion of Iraq. Except for me and the chairman, who was a thinktank person, the participants were professors of international relations. And almost all of them were opposed to invading Iraq.
In early 2003, I was invited to another CIA event: the annual conference on foreign policy in Wilmington. At that conference, one of the agency officials pulled me aside and explained that the purpose of the seminar was actually to try to convince the White House not to invade Iraq. They didn’t think they could do that directly, but hoped to convey their reservations by issuing a study based on our seminar. He said I had been invited because of my columns in The American Prospect, which was where, at the time, I made known my views opposing an invasion. When Spencer Ackerman and I later did an article on the CIA’s role in justifying the invasion, we discovered that there was a kind of pro-invasion “B Team” that CIA Director George Tenet encouraged, but what I discovered from my brief experience at the CIA was that most of the analysts were opposed to an invasion. (After Spencer’s and my article appeared, I received no more invitations for seminars or conferences.)
Judis’s last bit here reminds me of a well-known political science academic MENA/IR specialist, who had been frequently solicited in Washington over the years—and who happened to be a registered Republican—, telling me in the fall of 2002 that when his opposition to an invasion of Iraq became known, he stopped receiving phone calls from his contacts in official Washington. His explanation: “I wasn’t telling them what they wanted to hear” (I remember his precise words).
I found this retrospective by David Frum—who was one of Bush’s speechwriters at the time (“Axis of Evil” etc) and not exactly an opponent of the war—to be interesting and worth reading. One important observation he makes—and which has been largely overlooked—is the central role played by Tony Blair and Ahmed Chalabi in winning over Democrats and liberals to the pro-war cause. This was before many of Blair’s early admirers had become cynical about him, so he had a lot of cred at the time in center-left circles. (Quant à moi, I remember listening live on the BBC World Service to Blair’s September 2002 House of Commons speech attacking Saddam Hussein and liking it, though he wasn’t overtly advocating war at the time).
Mother Jones’s David Corn has a good piece on “Iraq 10 Years Later: The Deadly Consequences of Spin.” And then there’s this MSNBC commentary from last night by the always excellent Rachel Maddow, on how the “Architects of [the] Iraq disaster [are] still running from history.” Please take 7 minutes and 56 seconds of your time to watch it. You won’t be disappointed.
Entre autres, Rachel M. examines the American Enterprise Institute’s current spin on the war. A bunch of pathetic SOBs they are. À propos, I note that The Weekly Standard and National Review Online have had nothing on the 10th anniversary. Nor has the prolific blogger and geopolitist Walter Russell Mead, who was a war cheerleader and Dick Cheney fan back then. Radio silence.
In thinking about that miserable time, I am reminded of the line attributed to Condoleezza Rice in the spring of 2003, “Forgive Russia, ignore Germany, punish France.” And of Bush displaying the New York Post’s infamous cover of the “Axis of weasels” (France and Germany) on his Oval Office desk. What a bunch of arrogant a-holes. Who do these people think they are? And to speak of a great nation and one far older than America—and that has always stood with America in its real hours of need—in this way? France was right to tell the Bush-Cheney administration to f— off.
University of Chicago historian Orit Bashkin has a good article in the lefty academic webzine Jadaliyya on “The Forgotten Protagonists: The Invasion and the Historian,” in which she discusses advances in the historiographical knowledge of Iraq over the past decade but also of what has been irretrievably lost with the looting and destruction of Iraq’s archives (National Library etc) and architectural patrimony (and which happened under the US’s watch).
On present-day Iraq the FT’s Roula Khalaf has a lengthy article on “Iraq: 10 years later.” And here’s a 23 minute report on Al Jazeera English on “The Green Train: A journey through the heart of modern Iraq – a country struggling to put itself back together.”
UPDATE: The Nation has two not bad articles: “The American Legacy in Iraq” by Patrick Cockburn, who was one of the best informed journalists reporting from Iraq over the past decade, and “The Iraq Invasion, Ten Years Later” by Jonathan Schell.
2nd UPDATE: Here’s a short, very good commentary by Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker, on “How we forgot Iraq.”
3rd UPDATE: Mark Lynch has a good piece in FP on “What’s missing from the Iraq debate.” Answer: Iraqis.
4th UPDATE: The Boston Globe has a portrait of Kanan Makiya, who “has no regret about pressing the war in Iraq” (his views influenced those of certain liberal hawks). I was an admirer of Makiya’s books Republic of Fear and Cruelty and Silence, but wasn’t on board with him in his 2003 war cheerleading.
5th UPDATE: Kathleen Geier of The National Memo has a very good article dated March 22nd—and praised by Paul Krugman—, “The Siren Song Of War: Why Pundits Beat The Drums For Iraq,” in which she skewers some people who richly deserve to be skewered.