When Glenn Beck announced earlier this week that liberals were right to have opposed the Iraq war back in 2003 and that conservatives like himself had been wrong, it was quite an admission coming from a guy who got rich in the last decade engaging in the kind of ideological bombast that justified the human carnage and $2 trillion folly of that war.
Mr. Beck is an outlier, of course. There aren’t a lot of conservatives -- or misguided pro-war liberals for that matter -- who can scrape together the intellectual integrity it takes to admit how badly they blew it a decade ago when the difference between being right or wrong about the cost of a war mattered more than it had in any other time in our recent history.
As Iraq collapses, many conservatives have adopted the insane talking point that America had “won” militarily thanks to the surge and the “Sunni Awakening,” but that the Obama administration had squandered that definitive victory by bringing the troops home and leaving the Iraqi government and military to fend for itself. Apparently, perpetual war and foreign occupation is a reasonable price to pay for the full blooming of Jeffersonian democracy in the Tigris Valley 1,000 years from now.
Old warhorses like Sen. John McCain and shameless chicken-hawks like Sen. Lindsey Graham bray into every open microphone about the thousands of Americans who gave their lives to secure what was an illusory peace at best, completely oblivious to the tragic circularity of their argument.
Forget the questionable morality of invading Iraq in the first place. According to Senators McCain and Graham, the U.S. is morally obligated to return to the scene of the crime because so much American blood has already been shed propping up a corrupt and untenable status quo. They argue that it somehow makes sense to put even more Americans at risk because only we can referee a Sunni-Shiite civil war precipitated by our 2003 invasion.
Until this week, I didn’t realize how much I resented the fact that the then-Democratic-controlled Congress failed to hold hearings on the Iraq war during the first two years of the Obama presidency. Along with this administration’s reluctance to prosecute a single Wall Street figure for the near-collapse of the American economy, the failure to get sworn testimonies of the architects of the Iraq war on the record constitutes Mr. Obama’s biggest failure.
That‘s why it’s possible for so many former Bush administration officials with blood on their hands to go on political talk shows in recent weeks to chide the Obama administration for diplomatic and military malpractice in Iraq. Instead of Skyping from a federal prison, these characters are sought out for “expert commentary” on the war they initiated and botched.
While President George W. Bush is ultimately responsible for the prosecution of the war under his watch, Vice President Dick Cheney was the manipulative Darth Vader to Mr. Bush’s Emperor Palpatine. There’s a line from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Mr. Cheney and his daughter Liz criticizing Mr. Obama that will cause heads to explode for years: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Typically, Mr. Cheney is allowed to get away with nonsense like this. That‘’s why I was floored by an interview conducted by Megyn Kelly of Fox News Wednesday night in which she reminded Mr. Cheney that he got everything about Iraq wrong long before Mr. Obama did:
“You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You said the Iraq insurgency was in its last throes back in 2005. And you said that [with] our intervention, extremists would have to rethink their strategy of jihad,” Ms. Kelly said to the scowling partisan who must have wondered if he’d accidentally wandered onto the set of “The Rachel Maddow Show” at MSNBC.
After sputtering that after 9/11 “it would have been irresponsible for us not to act,” Mr. Cheney seemed to deflate under the weight of his own mendacity. Whatever her intentions, Ms. Kelly effortlessly dispatched the biggest bully in American politics with cool efficiency. It was a beautiful thing to behold. As much as it kills me as a liberal, all I can say is: God bless Megyn Kelly and Glenn Beck, the new gold standard of American journalism.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1631 or on Twitter @TonyNormanPG.