You would think that after promoting and cheerleading for the Iraq War and the politicians who pushed that failed policy, that conservatives would have found some humility or honesty about the topic along the way. You would be wrong.
The conservative movement and the Republican Party are still lying to themselves and everyone else about the Iraq War: The reasons we went to war, the support for the war, and what role the war played in American history.
Here are some of their false assertions about the war they built, prosecuted, lost and covered up.
Conservatives: The Iraq War was a good idea.
The Iraq War was one of the worst foreign policy ideas ever put forth in American history. The war was a war of choice, completely and wholly unnecessary. In engaging in the Iraq War, thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily – American soldiers and innocent Iraqis.
There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to produce such weapons, nor was he hiding any such weapons. The assertions that he had this power were false.
Hussein was contained. Hussein was a thuggish dictator who posed no threat to anyone in the region besides his own people, and even then his powers were limited. The no-fly zone prevented him from having any tactical edge, while combined with international sanctions, limited his ability to do harm. His neighbors in the region faced no threat from him – not Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel.
Invading Iraq opened Pandora ’s Box in the region, and much of the chaos we see today is a result of those actions.
Conservatives: Everybody supported invading Iraq.
This is false. While both Democrats and Republicans voted to invade Iraq, support for invading Iraq ranks among the least supported wars – from the start – in American history. Many polls in the run-up to the war supported combat only conditionally – seeking aid and sanction from the international community.
Support was so weak for the war that the Bush administration contemplated going in under the original war authorization from the first Gulf War. They also planned to go back to the United Nations after their first attempt at garnering UN support (like George HW Bush did) faltered.
Liberals always opposed invading Iraq. Many did so out of a doctrinaire opposition to war, while others didn’t trust the Bush administration. A majority of House Democrats voted against invading Iraq, including people like Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
I personally opposed the war, despite supporting the invasion of Afghanistan, because the administration failed to make the case that there was any real connection between Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime. I was very open to a persuasive case for why invading and occupying Iraq had anything to do with fighting against terrorism, and specifically the Al Qaeda network. After Colin Powell’s presentation at the United Nations, I was dismayed. How could we go to war based on such a weak, flimsy case? They went ahead with it anyways.
Conservatives: Both Democrats and Republicans went to war in Iraq.
Only one person in the United States made the final decision to go to war in Iraq: Republican President George W. Bush.
Conservatives act as if the authorization to invade Iraq which passed Congress forced Bush to invade. It did no such thing, and in fact the authorization was used in the 2002 midterm elections as a campaign platform for the Republicans – successfully.
Democrats were definitely wrong to give Bush this power, and many people like myself said so at the time. The bloodshed in Iraq will eternally be on their hands as well. No amount of apologies or recriminations can change that.
But after Congress voted to give Bush these powers, he could have exercised leadership and choose not to invade. Based on the intelligence we now know he had available to him, along with the primary mission at the time – preventing terrorism and getting Bin Laden and his network – the right and moral thing would have been to decide against invading and occupying Iraq.
Bush chose otherwise. Bush, as he noted, was “the decider.” As Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. military, he made the final decision to invade and occupy Iraq and the cascade of blunders that followed.
Conservatives: But Bill Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act.
Yes, President Clinton endorsed regime change in Iraq. He signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, and put into place policies which would take out Hussein.
But he did not invade and occupy Iraq. Unlike Bush, Clinton did not send Americans to die by the thousands in Iraq. If anything, his administration – like the ones preceding it and now – showed a judicious use of American military power, with clearly defined missions that minimized the loss of American and foreign lives.
Bill Clinton didn’t choose to invade Iraq. George W. Bush did.
Conservatives: Current and former members of the Obama administration voted for war in Iraq.
Yes, they did. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry all voted to invade Iraq. They also all have repudiated that vote in no uncertain terms.
They also served under a President who opposed that war. In 2002, Barack Obama said he was not opposed to all wars, but opposed to a “dumb war,” which is how he accurately characterized the push to invade Iraq. His opposition to invading Iraq was a key factor in his success in earning the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 over Hillary Clinton.
Conservatives: People die in war all the time. You can’t blame Bush.
You bet I can blame Bush. We went into Iraq unprepared and with bad leadership in place. Before the invasion, experts inside and outside the military and government urged that if we pursued this strategy, we had to have a clearly defined mission with overwhelming force in place.
Bush, as Commander-In-Chief, disregarded these warnings. He, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, made the strategic decision to go into Iraq on the cheap.
They went in without enough soldiers, with the idea that they could quickly topple Hussein and put in place Iraqi exiles who had helped the administration make the fraudulent case for the war in the press.
None of that worked. We failed to secure key Iraqi targets, focusing instead on things like oil fields. We failed to prepare for the insurgency. We failed to even have the right armor in place for our soldiers in the field. We failed to correct the strategy in Iraq, for years and years. Instead of adjusting to the reality on the ground, Bush prosecuted the strategy he himself described as “stay the course.”
As a result, THOUSANDS of American military died. Thousands. For no reason other than a President’s vanity. This wasn’t soldiers dying in Europe in 1944 in order to save the world, doing the best they could with generals and secretaries trying their best to strategize to win the war.
This was Bush and his cronies exploiting fear, designing a backdrop for his 2004 re-election campaign and disregarding American lives over the Republican party’s political fortunes.
The deaths are on his hands, and on the idiot he kept in place as Secretary of Defense because to relieve Rumsfeld of his duties was to admit political defeat. It wasn’t until Bush suffered his first political setback – the 2006 midterm election – that he finally let Rumsfeld go. Thousands of lives had been lost at that point, simply out of mendacity and stubbornness.
Conservatives: The media opposed the war.
Outside of fellow Republicans, the media was probably the best ally the Bush administration had for the Iraq War.
The media froze out anti-war voices, ignored war protests, and even fired television hosts who even tepidly questioned the war.
The media – particularly the so called “liberal” New York Times – gave front page coverage to false stories about weapons of mass destruction, helping the Bush administration to propagandize the case for war better than the administration’s own press secretary.
Once the war was underway, the media repeatedly gave the Bush administration’s assertions of success the benefit of the doubt, and portrayed people opposed to the war – even someone as high ranking as former Vice President Al Gore – as way out of touch with the American people.
The media didn’t begin to give a voice to those opposed to the war until the tide of public opinion turned against it. Suddenly the press realized the voices that had been out there all along. Thousands of Americans and Iraqis were dead in the ground before the press woke up, and they had to play catch-up.
Conservatives and Republicans have received the benefit of the doubt from the media that they reject the Iraq War. But they have done no such thing at any level. The last two Republican presidential nominees – John McCain and Mitt Romney – supported the war and opposed Obama in withdrawing troops from the region.
To this day, conservatives and Republicans continue to defend the reasons we went to war and the prosecution of the war. Unlike the Democrats who voted for it then repudiated their vote, Republicans have largely done no such thing.
It was always their war, and they still own it and all the death and destruction it unleashed on the world.