Obama Was Right About Iraq

Glenn Greenwald highlights this strange article by the NYTimes John Burns:

Hindsight is a powerful thing, and there have been plenty of voices amid the tragedy that has unfolded since the invasion to say, in effect, “I told you so.” But among that band of reporters — men and women who thought we knew something about Iraq, and for the most part sympathized with the joy Iraqis felt at what many were unashamed then to call their “liberation” — there were few, if any, who foresaw the extent of the violence that would follow or the political convulsion it would cause in Iraq, America and elsewhere. We could not know then, though if we had been wiser we might have guessed[.]

(Emphasis supplied.) Foresight is a more powerful thing than hindsight. And many, many, many people had the foresight and wisdom that people like John Burns (and more importantly, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz) lacked. Of course, as my headline indicates, our current President was one of them. But so did many other people - including Speaker Pelosi, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and hundreds of other Democrats (and also Ron Paul), who voted against the Iraq Debacle.

It is a strange thing when an allegedly objective reporter sets aside the record - in this case, the Congressional Record - in defending his own myopia. John Burns blew it. So did a lot of people. But John Burns needs to stop pretending "nobody could have known" - because the record is clear - many, many, many people did know and said so and voted so at the time.

Speaking for me only

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    I remember thinking (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by MKS on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 06:40:56 PM EST
    in the run up to the war that the UN Inspectors had not found anything--after Saddam Hussein stopped giving them the runaround.

    The UN Inspectors were conducting surprise and random inspections without any interference and still were not finding anything.....

    That is what I recall.....  

    That is what I recall too, MKS (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by christinep on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 06:58:27 PM EST
    And also: I recall each of the TV anchors praising Colin Powell's aggressive approach; and, then, I recall almost the entire press corps trying to drown out those of us with the audacity to oppose this ill-begotten war.

    It was eerie (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by MKS on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:05:33 PM EST
    Everyone was later hopped up on "Shock and Awe."

    It took a long, long time for it to sink in that there was no WMD....

    And the evidence was there for all to see, staring everyone in the face....THE expert who had done the inspections said no WMD.....

    But what do facts matter?  It was panic after 9/11....blind rage.....


    Who was that primetime (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:21:13 PM EST
    host of the political show on Msnbc, the one with the highest ratings on the network, who essentially got fired for being anti-Iraq War?

    And to really rub it in before firing him, the network execs forced him during any Iraq discussions to have 2, and even 3 pro-war guests on to "balance" every anti-war guest.

    Ugly time of McCarthyesque political speech suppression in 2002-3 in the corp media.


    Phil Donahue (none / 0) (#17)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:01:40 PM EST
    Not just your average talk show host.

    Right, Phil. (none / 0) (#26)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:26:01 PM EST

    Iirc, Tweety also made an appearance late in PD's tenure, a one-on-one sit down that I recall as a rather testy exchange on the subject of Iraq, and that even though Tweety was technically against the war.

    I think Matthews didn't agree with going in, but also didn't like the fact that he was finding himself on the same side as an increasingly embattled talk show host at his network who he might have heard was being ousted.  Tweety probably wanted to show the bosses how tough he could be on antiwar libs and remind them that he wouldn't push his own position too much on his own show.  


    Don't remember that, but (none / 0) (#31)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:57:20 PM EST
    you could well be right.  It's pretty much impossible, though, to put Tweety's opinions and motivations and politics into consistent categories.

    He was more than "technically" against the war, for one thing.  He started out questioning it, and over time became more and more vehemently and outspokenly opposed to it at a time when it still must have caused some problems for him at the network and when as far as I know literally no other major mainstream media figure was willing to voice questions and objections.

    At the same time, his purely political instincts (grossly faulty as they are) could make him swoon over the effect he thought GWB in his flight suit would have on the public.  People like Matthews (and he ain't alone) imagine they're really good at channeling the reactions of us great unwashed to stuff they reassure themselves they're too smart to actually fall for.

    I don't give Matthews credit for much, but I do give him credit on Iraq.


    I recall Matthews (none / 0) (#37)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:59:00 PM EST
    during the AUMF vote and later invasion mostly soft-pedalling his actual position as he had on mostly hawkish backers of the war in the early going, and didn't offer them much resistance but instead almost a clear platform to spout their nonsense.  That's what I was referring to with his "technically" against war attitude.  

    Later on of course, especially 2005-6, when things turned really bad over there, and the pro-war position wasn't quite as popular in the land, we heard more from Chris about his initial non-support of the war.

    I don't find Chris's early anti-war stance particularly heroic given that he really didn't stand by it consistently enough and since his guest list didn't reflect it nearly enough.  Pat Buchanan, also on Msnbc, also was against the war.  Not really much of a big deal in either case.  Just interesting technical media footnotes in what was overwhelmingly a solidly pro-war MSM atmosphere in 2002-3.


    Agreed (none / 0) (#44)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 11:14:35 PM EST
    I don't find Matthews's stance "heroic," either.  But unless you watched him every day during that whole period, which I did involuntarily for reasons too complicated to go into, it can be hard to get a grasp on where he was and how it evolved.

    In the early going, he wasn't sure, and he had a lot of war supporters on the show (since virtually everybody on his regular guest list of D.C. insiders was a war supporter, that's hardly a surprise) and spent a fair amount of time probing them for their views and making them lay out their justifications in some detail.

    Domestic politics is his deal, not foreign policy and certainly not wars, so he didn't come shooting out of the box in opposition.  He did, actually, what I wish more pundit types would do when they're out of their depth, which is to take some time, ask a lot of questions and test their tentative conclusions against people holding the opposite view.

    I could go on about the fact that Matthews is a Catholic Baby Boomer from a very conservative family who clearly had and still has a lot of "issues" with the anti-war left of his youth, and his instinct is to be knee-jerk in the other direction.  The fact that he ultimately overcame that when we got to Iraq I think is to his credit, actually.

    I have A LOT of problems with Chris Matthews, but his position on the war and how it evolved isn't one of them.  He's a much more complex (and to me fascinating, by which I definitely don't mean admirable) character than he's portrayed, especially by folks on the left.

    I've watched him evolve from the most loathesome character imaginable during the Clinton years to where he is today, which is a very different place.  He got a very serious comeuppance on the HRC stuff, almost certainly including by his much adored and very strong wife, and he actually (gasp!) seems to have done some introspection and soul searching and learned from that.  That's hard to do.

    No biggie, I'm just arguing for a somewhat more nuanced view of Matthews than he usually gets because it's more interesting than the caricatures!


    I should add that (none / 0) (#32)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:00:12 PM EST
    although I absolutely adore Phil Donahue, he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  He's a totally knee-jerk liberal, bless his heart, and I can certainly see that annoying the heck out of Matthews, even if they ended up taking the same position on it.

    He's more of a showman than an intellectual (none / 0) (#45)
    by Harry Saxon on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 11:24:42 PM EST
    true but he is informed about the issues he talks about, his career made Oprah possible because he took his audience of housewives and other daytime views seriously, and I've never gotten the impression that he takes himself too seriously.

    He's married to Marlow Thomas, who to her great credit follows the legacy of her father as National Outreach Director of St. Jude's Hospital(Danny Thomas, for all you folks under 50),and I suppose their relationship is one where they both are free to be you and me.

    Click Me


    Here is the Wikipedia (none / 0) (#3)
    by MKS on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 06:50:32 PM EST

    The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) found no evidence of WMD, but was not able to verify the accuracy of Iraq's disarmament and would have required additional months of inspections to do that.[51][52][53][54] Lead weapons inspector Hans Blix advised the UN Security Council that while Iraq was cooperating in terms of access, Iraq's declarations with regards to WMD could not be verified at the time, but the confirmation of disarmament through inspections could be achieved within "months".[51][55]

    Here is the text of footnotes 51 and 55 referred to in the above quote:


    51. ^ a b c d Blix, H. (March 7, 2003) "Transcript of Blix's U.N. presentation" CNN.com.


      55.   a b In his remarks to the UN Security Council on 14.2.2003 Hans Blix said on cooperation that "In my 27 January update to the Council, I said that it seemed from our experience that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on process, most importantly prompt access to all sites and assistance to UNMOVIC in the establishment of the necessary infrastructure. This impression remains and we note that access to sites has so far been without problems." On time remaining until the confirmation of disarmament he said "the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short if immediate, active and unconditional cooperation with UNMOVIC and IAEA were to be forthcoming." United Nations Security Council: 4707th meeting. Friday, 14 February 2003, 10 a.m., New York, New York, USA.

    The cite is to Blix's own contemporary testimony before the UN.  No one was listening....


    I think you misread his sentence (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 06:47:37 PM EST
    which says that journalists are stupid.

    That is true.

    Very few had any courage to vote no (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Saul on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:27:09 PM EST
    for fear of their political life.  So what would have happened if the resolution to go to war with Iraq had not passed?

    Did we attack N. Korea which did have N Weapons?  No
    Did we attack Iran No
    Did we attack Syria who decided to give up NO

    What makes you think that Saddam would not have negotiated a deal with no shots fired.

    Those that voted yes have to live with these question especially all the lives and billions they could have saved.

    There were plenty of Army War College (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:28:07 PM EST
    papers written about what would happen, from best- to worst-case scenario. Over many years. What a crock to say  that "nobody knew." The Condoleeza Rice defense is an emperor with no clothes.

    "among that band of reporters " (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:04:16 PM EST
    is the key phrase in the posted excerpt.

    Yes. (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:08:11 PM EST
    See comment #2.

    Weird that no one else reads that.


    those reporters wattho cover (none / 0) (#22)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:16:42 PM EST
    the Pentagon had access to AWC white papers. These are public documents unless classified. FOIA...

    Bullspit by reporters saying they had no knowlege is just that. No excuse.

    God. The X files... the truth was out there. However, people chose to not pay attention to the truth, or those who spoke it. Or they were discredited, possibly by any means necessary. To wit, Scott Ritter.


    The lies were published on page 1 (none / 0) (#24)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:24:43 PM EST
    The truth was buried on page A18.

    Of course, but (none / 0) (#27)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:29:39 PM EST
    that would be an appropriate response to something other than what was written.  And going beyond what was written underestimates the self-selection of the personality types that go into journalism:  boosterish sorts who so just want to believe.

    Who was the first president (none / 0) (#30)
    by Rojas on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:43:15 PM EST
    that worked to discredit Scott Ritter?

    Anyone who did not know then (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by MO Blue on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:31:16 PM EST
    chose not to know. They chose to completely disregard the facts on the ground and chose to drown out any and all opposing facts or opinions.

    No foresight for warmongers (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by pluege2 on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:00:18 PM EST
    Those who get a rush from death and destruction, who are so insecure that they need to feel important by violently dominating people; those people will NEVER have foresight when it comes to deciding whether or not to start or maintain a war. They will ALWAYS rationalize why war is a good and right thing. They will ALWAYS be wrong.  

    Even the old soldiers knew (5.00 / 5) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:54:21 PM EST
    Shinseki was fired for saying so, Colin Powell was harshly rapped on the knuckles for talking about the Pottery Barn.  And usually page 13 of the New York Times knew too even when the front page refused to know.

    I remember also after the first six months in, reading all of the sociologists who kept requesting that moderate Muslim mosques become a focal point for interaction and that we stock them with food and all manner of needs for the people.  It would empower the moderates who had become a core of Iraqi culture and it would honor the mosque social networking that was an important component of Iraq culture.

    Nothing of the sort was done though.  It was an insulting way to go about things to the Bush administration.  If someone gave them a lick of trouble guns blazed to tamp down problems in order to "process the oil" until the whole the country was on fire.  Water, power, shelter, food....everything was destroyed to varying degrees in various areas at various times.  And torture came along, and then no sociologists would work with the Bush administration and people died and died and died.  At one point the military was literally on its knees begging for professional help in that area and still no takers.  Nobody wanted the blood on their hands, and the only people who made out were contractors building things that often never worked or were ever completed.  Cash evaporated into thin air.

    I don't want to remember any of this stuff either, but it happened and I will probably always remember it all.

    Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by lentinel on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 02:01:38 AM EST
    Obama was right about Iraq.
    So was I.
    I called my Senators.
    I wrote letters.
    He made one speech at an antiwar rally.

    I was really disappointed (none / 0) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:17:51 PM EST
     with J. Burns's reporting during the war. He appeared often on Charlie Rose's program, and, at first, he seemed to be anti-war, apparently to curry favor with Rose, who hung on Burn's words like they belonged to Moses....so solemn, so insightful, so sensitive.

    Then I caught Burns on another program (can't remember which one, but it was right-leaning for sure) and you couldn't believe it was the same person talking. Talk about a duplicitous gung-ho warrior!

    Those Timesmen are clever (none / 0) (#13)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:11:40 PM EST
    and slick, and can easily fool you about their attitudes if you don't know the full history.

    The late David Halberstam, especially during the latter stages of the VN War during Nixon and after his famous TB&TB book appeared, led plenty of liberals to think or assume he'd always been skeptical of US involvement in that war.  To the left, he was and still largely is, a hero.  

    But a check of the record of his earliest yrs in VN for the NYT (1962-4) discloses that while reporting negatively on the war, and prominently for the front page of his paper, he also believed US policy makers urgently needed to make a greater military commitment to the anti-communist struggle at that time.

    J. Burns like the young D. Halberstam were both early war hawks, and then later went about somewhat fudging or failing to fully disclose that fact depending on the political leanings of their audience.


    i remember during the 2008 primaries (none / 0) (#7)
    by The Addams Family on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 07:23:26 PM EST
    i was so heartened to hear Obama say we never should have gone in there

    he was right

    everything i have seen about him since then tells me he would have voted for the AUMF if he had been in the U.S. Senate at the time the vote came to the floor

    but he did say that on the campaign trail & i was grateful he did so w/out equivocating

    I thought it pretty obvious how phony (none / 0) (#12)
    by pluege2 on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:03:57 PM EST
    obama was during the campaign.

    obama DEFINITELY would have voted yes to invade.


    Thats all surmise, since noone will ever know (none / 0) (#16)
    by christinep on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:28:34 PM EST
    Agree. He's been (none / 0) (#14)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 08:16:34 PM EST
    quite the non-bold, mostly conventional wisdom-driven actor since taking the presidency, and his not having to actually vote on the AUMF in Iraq was one of several very lucky political breaks he got on the way to the 2008 nomination and election victory.

    Obviously, history in 2008 would have been written differently had Hillary somehow found the courage to vote differently.  


    Nah. She was not supposed to win (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:09:42 PM EST
    decreed Kennedy, Kerry, et al., so they just would have used something else to discredit her.

    As, of course, they also did.


    Disagree. The war vote (none / 0) (#23)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:19:02 PM EST
    was a huge albatross around her neck, and by itself discredited her with the elite progosphere.  It also badly undercut the opening she had to highlight Obama's rather thin major political experience.

    I even strongly doubt that O would have run had she voted differently.  Would have left him with a rather thin basis on which to appeal to the liberal left ...


    The rules changes (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:25:26 PM EST
    belie that.

    The rules changes happened (none / 0) (#33)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:03:29 PM EST
    long after her AUMF vote.

    Of course. (none / 0) (#35)
    by Cream City on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:40:52 PM EST
    But you're not seeing it.  Fine.  Whatever.

    That's right (none / 0) (#43)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 10:53:57 PM EST
    I'm not, at least not the early and hard-edged overwhelming anti-HRC conspiracy in the Dem. Party you seem to see.  And actually facts and timelines do help to sort out who did what to whom and why.

    Her handling of the war vote (none / 0) (#47)
    by Politalkix on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:52:49 PM EST
    and also her stubborn refusal to acknowledge that she made a mistake made many in the left see "shades of GWB" in her.

    Yep (none / 0) (#48)
    by Yman on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 09:14:46 AM EST
    ... and many people see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, among other things.

    Go figure.


    The sense of entitlement (none / 0) (#46)
    by Politalkix on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:29:59 PM EST
    Conspiracy theories are always fun to read. However, even if the theory is true, I would still have a question. Did you really expect Senator Kerry to cheer then Senator Clinton's candidacy from under the bus after she had kicked him there by piling on with the Republicans.
    Kerry was widely speculated to make a second run for the Presidency when the "you get stuck in Iraq" school incident happened.

    Well said BTD (none / 0) (#21)
    by ruffian on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:16:09 PM EST
    The fact that people like Burns take every milestone as a chance to repeat their same old excuses tells me they know darn well how badly they blew it.

    Let's be fair, (none / 0) (#29)
    by NYShooter on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 10:17:32 PM EST
    And if not fair, at least let's be realistic.

    I supported Hillary over Obama in the Primaries and I wish she hadn't voted for the  AUMF. But some of these comments, "bloodthirsty, warmonger, death & destruction," are a little over the top. These are politicians, after all, and unless you're stuck in the 4th. Grade, getting all tingly & teary about America's "specialness;" pragmatism, not patriotism usually rules the day.

    First of all, remember where the attacks occurred.......New York. The pressure on a NY Senator for revenge (and let's not forget, everybody knew GWB was going to war, resolution, or no resolution) Hillary's vote was a throw-a-way.

    Secondly, she was going to run for President and voting counter to the wishes of a majority of constituents (don't forget Chucky Schumer voted "aye") would be political suicide.

    Third, a majority of Democratic Senators voted for the resolution; the way Hillary, alone, was pilloried, you'd think she was the only D that voted for it.

    And, finally, let's not forget that Hillary wrote a lengthy explanation as to her reasoning, and gave a major speech to that effect. Yes, I realize one could say they were just weasel words, and they were, but at least it shows she had thought it through and had the courage to put it out there for all to criticize.

    What everybody forgets, too. (none / 0) (#34)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:08:34 PM EST
    is that she knew most or all of the scary intelligence stuff from her time in the Clinton administration, when it wasn't at all clear that Saddam had given up his toys.  (I know, she didn't have clearance, but no way BC wouldn't have told her most of it.)  So she had more reason than anybody else outside the Bush admin to worry that the intelligence he was citing might well be right.

    Worth remembering, too, that Big Dog himself supported the war.


    No question being (none / 0) (#36)
    by brodie on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:45:47 PM EST
    a US senator from NY, she was under a little more pressure to vote for it than your typical pol.  And there were those voices from Bill's admin saying that in the 90s they'd suspected Saddam was developing some wmd program.  

    But still, there were the counter arguments on the merits, plus the rather obvious political timing of the vote which should have caused more skepticism.  And in voting No she would have had some decent political cover with solid nat'l security types like Levin, Graham and Byrd among others.  Basically I wish she had cast sharper public doubt on the Bush admin's curious timing, just a few wks before midterms, and then put herself squarely in support of UN weapons inspectors going to Iraq and making a decision based on their findings, and no blank checks for that admin in advance.

    Plenty of well-meaning good peace-seeking senators went along with Lyndon's curious GoT Res even as they suspected he was not fully disclosing, and as they questioned that timing, in that presidential election year.  Solid anti-VN escalation senators like Mansfield and Fulbright felt an uneasiness about what was happening, but in the end went along with admin assurances that it was not a declaration of war.  40 yrs later it seems that similarly-inclined senators just didn't learn the lesson of that one, or didn't want to be reminded, finding the political risk of voting no too great to accept.


    you might, (none / 0) (#38)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 12:14:52 AM EST
    I don't want to remember any of this stuff either, but it happened and I will probably always remember it all.

    but i guarantee the "professional" press has already forgotten it, much as they've disappeared their shamefull activities during the 2000 election, which gave us mr. bush to begin with.

    oddly BTD, i don't recall "hundreds of democrats" being against the war in iraq. since there's only a total of 535, in both houses, and the dems were in the minority, where might these "hundreds" you recall have been?

    while the bush administration bears primary responsibility for both the afghanistan & iraq disasters, the "press" bears secondary responsibility. i expect the government to lie to me, it's the press's job to keep them honest. they failed miserably. no surprise really, they've been failing for the past 20 years, and making lots of money in the process.

    anyone who had the temerity to question the rationale, for both afghanistan & iraq, found themselves accused of treason by the administration, and raped & pillaged by the press. if they were lucky, they still had a job afterwards. this is how your "liberal" press has functioned, since at least 1992.

    i really, really wish there was an edit (1.00 / 1) (#39)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 12:19:08 AM EST
    function on this site!

    i neglected to add:

    obama may have been (very quietly) against the invasion of iraq, but only maybe 30 people were aware of it, those in the room when he mentioned it, in passing, during a speech. aside from that, the only reason 99.99999% of the population is aware of it, is because he mentioned it during the 2008 primaries and general election campaign.

    of course, mr. obama risked nothing by being against it, because he did so quietly, and wasn't actually forced to vote on the issue, not being in congress at the time.

    prove me wrong.


    And it doesn't matter anymore... (3.00 / 2) (#40)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 01:13:14 AM EST
    Obama has continued most of Bush's policies, including the really nasty ones like illegal surveillance.  None of the Bush cabal has been prosecuted.  Change?  Nothing's changed.

    perhaps I should (none / 0) (#42)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 09:30:21 AM EST
    forward Burns several thousand of my emails leading up the the war.

    the gratifying thing is that over the years several people have said.  you know what, you were right.

    well, I usually am but that felt particularly good.