Discover more from Bernard Goldberg's Commentary
Iraq — The War Many Have Forgotten They Supported
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, when the United States and a coalition of allies began the Iraq invasion with a famous "shock and awe" bombing campaign. The mission was to remove Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, and neutralize the threat of what was believed (by a strong consensus of the intelligence community, our political leaders, and even the media) to be an active WMD program.
As it turned out, the intelligence community, our leaders, and the media were wrong. And though Hussein was justifiably removed and later executed for his crimes, the years of blood (over 4,000 U.S. deaths and 30,000 wounded) and treasure spent on the long, grueling work of trying to bring peace and stability to Iraq and the region have been deemed by a strong majority of Americans (and the world) not to have been worth the effort. In fact, many believe the Iraq War to be the most colossal foreign policy mistake in our country's history.
The Left turned on the war not long after it had begun. While the invasion proved easier than most people expected, the occupation ended up being far more difficult. And with George W. Bush at the helm, every mistake and setback was eagerly amplified by the media. By the start of the 2004 election cycle, prominent Democratic leaders (including eventual presidential nominee, John Kerry) were already walking back their support. Many Democrats hung the political albatross of Iraq around the necks of Bush and the Republican party, while pretending (somewhat successfully) that they themselves had played no role in it.
In reality, nearly half of the Democrats in Congress had voted to authorize the war, and according to polls taken at the time, most Democratic voters were in favor of the invasion.
Amusingly, more recent polls show that less than 20% of Democrats now claim to have ever supported the war.
Of course, revisionist history isn't all that uncommon in the wacky world of partisan politics. But as a conservative who was always upfront about his support of the war, it's particularly disheartening to see how many people on my side of the political divide have chosen to follow the Left's lead.
These days, it's actually quite common to see righties, who've either disavowed or outright denied their past position on the war, openly mock and censure those of us who've remained honest about where we stood. It used to be that names like "neocon" and "war-monger" were hurled at us almost exclusively by the anti-war left. Today, it comes mostly from the right — specifically from Trump-era Republicans who've added the term "globalist" to the mix.
Sure, a lot of the rancor comes from online lightweights — folks (many of them hiding behind anonymity) who spend countless hours on social media and in website comment sections. But we've also seen it over the past few years from prominent media-conservatives like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. Both supported the Iraq invasion, yet neither seem to have any problem taking shots at conservative Trump skeptics for having the gall to agree with their conclusions back then.
Here's a notable example from last year:
Of course, much of this trend stemmed from an inclination to prop up President Trump, who campaigned heavily on the notion that he had enough sense (unlike the GOP) to oppose the Iraq War from the beginning. Only, as Andrew Kaczynski discovered in 2016, that wasn't quite true. At the time, Trump was actually voicing tepid support for the invasion.
On a side note, many of these same Trump defenders have turned remarkably soft on Russia. While still mocking Obama's tone-deafness on Putin (including that snide "the 1980s are calling" comment directed at Mitt Romney during a 2012 election debate), they themselves downplay the significance of the Russian government's interference in our elections, evening rationalizing it at times by drawing moral equivalence between Russia and the United States. They also tend to get very defensive of Trump's weak (at times nonexistent) rhetoric on Russia, sometimes recycling the Left's old "What do you want us to do, go to war?" response whenever critics suggest that the president needs to send a firmer message.
It makes you wonder where these people's concerns about sabre-rattling were when Trump was literally threatening to nuke North Korea and few months ago.
Anyway, let's get back to Iraq...
People can obviously change their minds about whether or not they believe it was a good decision to go to war there. Hindsight is 20/20, and if individuals decide that they were wrong to support the effort back then, there's nothing wrong with them coming out and owning up to their mistake. But for goodness sake, spare us the holier-than-thou denunciations, and rants about "neocons" and "globalists." It's nothing but sanctimonious garbage.
The truth is that nearly everyone whose politics were right of center back in 2003 supported going to Iraq, including much of today's America-first/nationalist/MAGA crowd. The war was backed by a whopping 92% of Republicans. Heck, 72% of Americans in general supported it. Today's collective amnesia doesn't change the fact that going to Iraq was a wildly popular decision at the time.
So let's knock off the nonsense, consider that old proverb about glass houses and throwing stones, and perhaps work on preserving at least a tiny bit of humility when it comes to this topic. Okay?