In an epic column that might leave you cheering, Paul Krugman brings the Iraq war debate back around to sanity this morning.
For weeks now, ever since the re-emergence of Judith Miller, members of both parties who supported the war (and the media which wrongly sold it to us) have argued that they made the best decision they could with the intelligence before them. That was Jeb Bush's original line when he first stumbled over the question with Megyn Kelly -- and a variation of this spin was offered on the Sunday shows yesterday by Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.
The trouble is, it's not true.
As Krugman lays out, we know now that we were lied into war. "The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that."
This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That’s because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That’s because the war party didn’t want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army’s chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.
Why did they want a war? That’s a harder question to answer. Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.