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Alterman writes: "One could go on and on (and on and on and on) about the awful judgment - the arrogance, the corruption, the ideological obsession and the purposeful ignorance - by the Bush Administration that led to the current catastrophe."

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. (photo: Getty Images)
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. (photo: Getty Images)


Neocons' Stunning Iraq Revisionism: Why They're Still Divorced From Reality

By Eric Alterman, Moyers & Company

21 June 14

 

n a column entitled “Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq,” terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes about the origins of ISIS, “the brutal insurgent/terrorist group formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Bergen notes that, “One of George W. Bush’s most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship. If this wasn’t so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein’s men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war.”

There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”

The Bush Administration fought to quash its conclusions during the two years that the report was in the works. Mazetti reported, “Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.” Apparently, these were dropped from the final document, though the reference to jihadists using their training for the purpose of “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies” as in say, Syria, remained.

At the beginning of 2005, Mazetti notes, another official US government body, the National Intelligence Council, “released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.”

On the one hand, it is impressive how well our intelligence agencies were able to predict the likely outcome of the Bush Administration’s foolhardy obsession with invading Iraq. On the other, it is beyond depressing how little these assessments have come to matter in the discussion and debate over US foreign policy.

As we know, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the other architects of the war did everything possible to intimidate, and when necessary, discredit those in the intelligence agencies who warned of the predictable consequences of war. Cheney and his deputies made repeated trips to Langley to challenge professional intelligence work and used pliant members of the media — including Robert Novak of The Washington Post and Judith Miller of The New York Times, among many, many others — to undermine the integrity of people like Joseph P. Wilson and Valerie Plame lest the truth about the administration’s lies come out. Rather incredibly, they even went so far as to ignore the incredibly detailed planning documents, created over a period of a year at a cost of $5 million by the State Department, that had a chance of providing Iraq with a stable postwar environment. Instead, they insisted on creating an occupation that generated nothing but chaos, mass murder and the terrorist victories of today.

One of the many horrific results was the decision to support Nouri al-Maliki as a potential leader of the nation. Maliki’s sectarian attacks on Sunni Muslims on behalf of his Shiite allies are the immediate cause of the current murderous situation. And his placement in that job, as Fareed Zakaria aptly notes, “was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called ‘the worst war plan in American history’ — the administration needed to find local allies.”

One could go on and on (and on and on and on) about the awful judgment — the arrogance, the corruption, the ideological obsession and the purposeful ignorance — by the Bush Administration that led to the current catastrophe. As Ezra Klein recently noted, “All this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.” And this is to say nothing of the destruction of our civil liberties and poisoning of our political discourse at home and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died, the millions of refugees created, the hatred inspired in the world toward the United States.

But to focus exclusively on the administration begs an obvious question. How did they get away with it? Where were the watchdogs of the press?

Much has been written on this topic. No one denies that the truth was available at the time. Not all of it, of course, but enough to know that certain catastrophe lay down the road the administration chose to travel at 100 miles per hour. Top journalists, like those who ran the Times and The Washington Post, chose to ignore the reporting they read in their own papers.

As the Post itself later reported, its veteran intelligence reporter Walter Pincus authored a compelling story that undermined the Bush administration’s claim to have proof that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. It only made the paper at all because Bob Woodward, who was researching a book, talked his editors into it. And even then, it ran on page A17, where it was immediately forgotten.

As former Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks later explained, “Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: ‘Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?” The New York Times ran similarly regretful stories and its editors noted to its readers that the paper had been “perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.” (Bill Moyers’ documentary special “Buying the War: How Big Media Failed Us tells the story, and in conjunction with that Moyers report, you can find an Interactive Timeline as well as post-March 2003 coverage of Iraq.)

Many in the mainstream media came clean, relatively speaking, about the cause of their mistakes when it turned out that they had been conduits for the Bush administration lies that led to catastrophe. But what they haven’t done, apparently, is change their ways.

As my “Altercation” colleague Reed Richardson notes, the very same people who sold us the war are today trying to resell us the same damaged goods: “On MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ this past Monday, there was Paul Bremer, the man who summarily disbanded the Iraqi Army in 2003 in one of the biggest strategic blunders of the war, happily holding court and advocating for ‘boots on the ground.’” Not to be outdone, POLITICO had the temerity to quote Doug Feith blithely lecturing Obama about how to execute foreign policy. Don’t forget the throwback stylings of torture apologist Marc Thiessen either, who was writing speeches for Rumsfeld during the run-up to the Iraq War. On Monday, he, too, weighed in with an op-ed in the Washington Post unironically entitled “Obama’s Iraq Disaster.”

Among the most egregious examples of this tendency has been rehabilitation of neoconservative thinker Robert Kagan and his frequent writing partner, the pundit and policy entrepreneur William Kristol. Back in April 2002, the two argued that “the road that leads to real security and peace” is “the road that runs through Baghdad.” In an article entitled “What to Do About Iraq,” they added that not only was it silly to believe that “American ground forces in significant number are likely to be required for success in Iraq” but also that they found it “almost impossible to imagine any outcome for the world both plausible and worse than the disease of Saddam with weapons of mass destruction. A fractured Iraq? An unsettled Kurdish situation? A difficult transition in Baghdad? These may be problems, but they are far preferable to leaving Saddam in power with his nukes, VX, and anthrax.”

Both men made this argument over and over, and especially in Kristol’s case, often in McCarthyite terms designed to cast aspersions on the motives and patriotism of their opponents and those in the media. For his spectacular wrongness Kristol has been punished by being given columns in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Time magazine, not to mention a regular slot on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” (These appointments came in addition to a $250,000 award from the right-wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; an occasion that inspired this collection of a just a few of his greatest hits.)

Recently, Kristol could be heard on ABC’s idiotically named “Powerhouse Roundtable” explaining that the problem in Iraq today was caused not by the lousy decisions for which he argued so vociferously but “by our ridiculous and total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.” (Surprise, surprise, he did not mention that our 2011 withdrawal from Iraq was the product of the 2008 “Status of Forces” agreement negotiated by none other than President George W. Bush.)

Similarly, last month, Kagan was given 12,700 words for a cover essay in the (still hawkish) New Republic entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” which he used to make many of the same sorts of unsupported assertions that underlay his original misguided advice. As a result, he found himself not only celebrated in a profile in The New York Times that all but glossed over his past record, but also called in for consultations by the current President of the United States.

One often reads analyses these days that grant the no-longer ignorable fact that American conservatives, especially those in control of the Republican Party, have become so obsessed by right-wing ideology and beholden to corporate cash that they have entirely lost touch both with reality and with the views of most Americans. As the famed Brookings Institution analyst Thomas Mann recently wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, “Republicans have become a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition.”

This tendency was the focus of the coverage of the shocking defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his local primary by a man with no political experience and little money, who attributed his victory to “God act[ing] through people on my behalf,” and warns that unless more Americans heed the lessons of Jesus — as he interprets them — a new Hitler could rise again “quite easily.” These right-wing extremists have repeatedly demonstrated their contempt for the views of most Americans whether it be on economic issues, environmental issues, issues of personal, religious and sexual freedom or immigration, to name just a few, and Americans are moving away from them as a result.

This is no less true, it turns out, with regard to the proposed adventurism in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East by those who sold us the first false bill of goods back in 2003. A strong majority of Americans now agree that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was not worth the trillions of dollars and lives lost. Barely one in six want to go back in. There is also strong opposition to military intervention in neighboring Syria. And yet not only do the same armchair warriors continue in their demands for more blood and treasure to be sacrificed on the altar of their ideological obsession with no regard whatever for Americans’ desire to do the exact opposite, they remain revered by the same mainstream media that allowed them to get away with it the first time.

The conservative foreign policy establishment, it needs to be said, is no less out to touch with reality — and democracy — than the tea party fanatics who control the Republican domestic agenda (and are fueled by the cash of the Koch Brothers and other billionaires who stand to profit from their victories). That so many in the media pretend otherwise, after all this time, all this death and all this money wasted, demonstrates not only contempt for their audience but utter disdain for knowledge itself.

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-42 # Roland 2014-06-21 17:14
Typical.
He brings up the leaked part of the report, that wound up in the NYT. He omits the rest of the report that Bush released after the leak because without the rest of the report, people would have an incomplete picture. The report went on to say that, should we leave Iraq at that time we would create more jihadists. They would consider it a victory and more would join the cause. Let’s not forget, leaving at that time before the surge, was supported by Obama and Hillary. Hillary later admitting to Obama that her position was political. Don’t take my word— look it up. So could it be that our eventual departure helped to create more jihadists?
And he leaves out that there were contacts between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. As the 9/11 commission report later stated, the ties were non collaborative. But, we didn’t know that then.
Yes, Bush made many errors in conducting the war.
But, the author blames Bush that we couldn’t leave troops behind because of a lack of a Status of Forces agreement. Did Obama aggressively try to negotiate one? He didn’t want to leave troops there. He has announced that we are leaving Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to leave them there, why would one assume he tried to leave theme in Iraq?
 
 
+15 # munza1 2014-06-22 00:06
Do you believe Roland that the invasion was a mistake?
 
 
-10 # Roland 2014-06-22 09:36
Yes and no. To ignore the warnings we had at the time would have been irresponsible. In hind site we went with bad info. , but remember the Duelfer Report said it was only a matter of time until Saddam could reconstitute as he pleased, since the sanctions were falling apart. Saddam, if still in power, would be in a nuclear arms race with Iran and we would not have the moral authority to stop him since we aren’t stopping Iran.
 
 
+5 # Activista 2014-06-22 12:09
Do you believe Roland that we should invade Iran?
 
 
-8 # Roland 2014-06-22 15:54
Do you mean now? If the govt. asks four our help, I don't think you call it an invasion.
And if you mean now it depends on a few things. Have we waited too long? Is Iran too established. Will we tell our enemies when we plan to leave, so as to keep the political fall out here, to a minimum. I believe we can do a lot with few people on the ground and air support.
 
 
+5 # dsepeczi 2014-06-23 08:37
Quoting Roland:
Do you mean now? If the govt. asks four our help, I don't think you call it an invasion.
And if you mean now it depends on a few things. Have we waited too long? Is Iran too established. Will we tell our enemies when we plan to leave, so as to keep the political fall out here, to a minimum. I believe we can do a lot with few people on the ground and air support.


I believe you're a hopeless MIC shill, 100% brainwashed to believe that America could and should fix every other country in the world, ignoring the fact that we can't even run our own country right.
 
 
+18 # Texas Aggie 2014-06-22 06:18
The most contrary-to-fac t statement that you made was that there were contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the invasion. The only contacts that existed were that any al Qaedist that Saddam got his hands on ended up dead. The only al Qaeda presence in the whole country prior to the invasion was in the no fly zone where US forces prevented Iraq from going after them. That was reported before the invasion even began.

But you made a number of erroneous statements. "Yes, Bush made many errors in conducting the war." He made nothing BUT errors. His biggest error was starting it in the first place knowing full well that planning was slipshod and that there was no legitimate excuse to invade in the first place. Then he screwed up time and time and time again. Can you think of anything that he did that was NOT an error? Falujah, destroying the infrastructure, imposing his own government without the advice and consent of the Iraqis, decommissioning the military and civil service, no bid cost plus contracts for all his buddies, and so on and so on. The only things that he did that might be called not totally FUBAR were those things that he was forced to do by such people as al Sistani.
 
 
-11 # Roland 2014-06-22 10:06
I stand behind the facts in my original post. If you sere so inclined you could have looked them up and you would have found them to be true. Denying them is the only way you can keep your level of hate and disgust.
Read the 9/11 commissions report. It mentions the contacts between as-Qaeda and Iraq existed before the invasion, as I said. I also said the report found them to be non collaborative.
You have got to be kidding with your comment about al-Qaeda not being in Iraq before our invasion. Don’t you remember Zarqawi? He was in northern Iraq and had set up sleeper cells in Bagdad. Now, before anyone criticizes me, please look it up. Just google “al-Qaeda in Iraq before invasion”. I am sure you will find acceptable sources.
 
 
+12 # ericlipps 2014-06-22 10:04
Of course, should we not have left, THAT would "create more jihadists." Bush maneuvered this country into a position where no matter what we did, the terrorists would benefit. Ordinarily, we'd expect that of an enemy of this nation, not its chief executive.
 
 
-15 # Roland 2014-06-22 10:48
Remember when Biden said the Iraq would be one of this administrations greatest achievements? Bush had turned the situation around in Iraq. Obama left Iraq and now look at the mess.
 
 
+3 # dsepeczi 2014-06-23 08:35
Quoting Roland:

So could it be that our eventual departure helped to create more jihadists?
And he leaves out that there were contacts between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. As the 9/11 commission report later stated, the ties were non collaborative. But, we didn’t know that then.
Yes, Bush made many errors in conducting the war.
But, the author blames Bush that we couldn’t leave troops behind because of a lack of a Status of Forces agreement. Did Obama aggressively try to negotiate one? He didn’t want to leave troops there. He has announced that we are leaving Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to leave them there, why would one assume he tried to leave theme in Iraq?


So, Roland, in your opinion ... how long should we leave troops in Iraq ? 10 years ? 100 years ? 1000 years ? We didn't create terrorists by leaving. We created terrorists by entering Iraq in the first place. Civil War in Iraq begins the very day we leave even if we stay there 10,000 years. Sunnis and Shia have been killing each other since before the US was born. It is not our war to fight.
 
 
+38 # Archie1954 2014-06-21 23:12
I remember well in 2002 and 2003 before the Iraqi invasion that there were many critics of such a move, who did not believe one word of the WMD story and who presented intelligence information that showed the decision to make war was a political and imperial one and had nothing to do with WMDs, real or imaginary. The belief then as it is now, was this war was over oil and the ability to usurp the natural resources of Iraq for American companies. Bush is a monster and Cheney is even worse. How they managed to escape justice is a testament to the degradation and degeneracy of American democracy and rule of law.
 
 
+30 # dyannne 2014-06-22 00:30
One of the critics that I listened to all the time was Phil Donahue. He disagreed with the Bush/Cheney Badministration and had lots of supremely credible people on who did. That could not stand and he lost his show.
 
 
+18 # babalu 2014-06-22 05:27
His network tried to keep him on as a counter-voice to the administration spin, but the Administration could not tolerate even that!
Now we have the whiny baby Cheneys and their apologists insisting on air time - they are asking for MORE than they gave. PLUS the airways were already full of Neocons now, so they are redundant! Papa Cheney must think the wing nut welfare currently available for his daughter is not rich enough, so he is on the fund-raising trail at the same time.
 
 
+26 # motamanx 2014-06-22 01:41
Yes, but It wasn't only "... how impressively our intelligence agencies were able to predict the likely outcome of the Bush Administration’ s foolhardy obsession with invading Iraq". There were untold millions all over the world who marched against the war. Never in history of the planet has a greater number of citizens from so many countries had a similar thought, and a desire for peace. Bush scarcely noticed; and so, in a fundamental overturning of the very basis of democracy, he began the shock and awe that fostered the Iraq catastrophe.
THAT was the divorce from reality. And not one thing has gone right in the region since.
 
 
+4 # Activista 2014-06-22 12:14
Bush Administration' s reasons for war were "oil and Israel."
 
 
+22 # geraldom 2014-06-22 00:06
In Eric Alterman's title for this article, he states that the neocons still remain divorced from reality. This implies that they actually and sincerely believe what they are saying even when its not true. But, the neocons know that they are lying, just like they lied when coming up with some phony justification for attacking Iraq for it energy resources in 2003.

The title should not imply that they continue to delude themselves about what really happened, but that they continue to lie through their teeth about what really happened.
 
 
+7 # RMDC 2014-06-22 06:59
"the National Intelligence Council, “released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.”

This has been exactly the CIA's goal for many years. It created this proxy army of mercenaries and terrorists to destabilize governments from Central Asia to Morocco -- the entire Muslim world. We can't forget that Osama and al Qaeda fought in Bosnia on behalf of Muslims at the CIA's request in the 1990s.

Alterman is trying to remain blind in assuming that the US is opposed to terrorism. He knows this pretense is the requirement for mainstream journalism. If he were to write the truth that the CIA organizes 99% of the terrorism in the middle east and has controlled al Qaeda and all of its offshoots, he'd be out of a job. Mass media is not about the truth. It is about giving americans little false stories to talk about all the time. It is about distractions.
 
 
+11 # Neptune 2014-06-22 08:38
The reason these criminals continue to spew their toxic lies is because they never paid any price for lying us into this war in the first place. The smartest thing that Obama could have done upon taking office was to set up a Truth Commission to investigate the myriad crimes of the Bush Administration. Clinton should have done the same thing in 1992 after Bush I lost. It would have rocked the GOP and set them back on their heels. That way, Obama and the Dems could have forced the Repugs to play defense and would have changed the whole dynamic of the Obama presidency. I hope future Democratic presidents learn from Obama's mistakes!
 
 
+5 # Radscal 2014-06-22 12:58
Yes. If the Democratic National Committee was running an actual opposition party, then they would have instigated sincere investigations and prosecutions for the acts of treason, both domestic and foreign, carried out by the Republicans.

But they aren't, so they didn't. And that won't change in the future without refusing to vote for their evermore rightwing candidates.
 
 
+13 # Edwina 2014-06-22 09:38
The article is a good recap of the lead-up to the war, and its aftermath. The problem is that the Democrats went along with it. They had the Presidency, Senate and House in 2008, but rather than change course, they tried "damage control", when it was clear that our Middle East policy was a failure. "Looking forward" was a rhetorical device signalling Obama's willingness to work with "the-powers-tha t-be", as he saw them. The Neo-Con's did not elect him. If he had embraced his base, the people who elected him for "hope and change", we would be in a different place today.
 
 
+3 # motamanx 2014-06-22 11:11
Right on, Neptune!
Right on, Edwina!
 
 
+1 # Activista 2014-06-22 12:23
RT: The US President also stressed the Iraq crisis should be solved politically… Hasn't the situation already passed that point?

CM: Absolutely. The US is attempting to ferment a sectarian civil war throughout the Middle East and it is achieving it very effectively. The support for ISIS from Saudi Arabia, the fighting now between the ISIS and the Maliki government – this is exactly what the US wants. It wants no stable force in the Middle East, no opposition, no basis for anything that could become a stable economy, exporting oil and competing with the US on the world markets. This is the US getting exactly what it wants.
rt.com/op-edge/167304-iraq-usa-isis-sectarianism/
permanent civil war, breaking Iraq is EXACTLY what US/Israel want.
 
 
-4 # Roland 2014-06-22 16:19
Really. The author of the piece you just put up in your post is a member of the World Workers Party. According to Wikipedia— “Workers World Party (WWP) is a Marxist-Leninis t communist party.” Do you think someone in that party would make an outrageous comment in order to trash the US in the hopes some impressionable person would believe it? Of course. His article makes no sense. It is in the best interest of the US to have a stable Iraq.
 
 
+5 # RMDC 2014-06-22 20:07
Roland -- what planet are you from. Workers World and the International Action Center are very much American organizations. The International Action Center was started by former Attorney General under LBJ, Ramsey Clark. Clark comes from a long time Texan family.

I'd say both Workers World and IAC are quite credible, far more so that the WaPo or the NYT. Sure they are both against war and against US imperialism. but so are most Americans.

I think it is really sad that people don't trust organization when they are started by ordinary people who understand that unless they organize and mobilize they can't change anything. But if the group comes from some top down Koch Bros plan or from a right wing think tank, then the information produced is called trustworthy. Americans are just too addicted to accepting what their ruling class tells them is true. Americans need to break that habit.
 
 
-3 # Roland 2014-06-22 20:39
So your telling me that on your planet The WWP isn't what Wikipedia says it is.
Even this from the workersparty.or g website "Sam Marcy was the leader of a group of communists who formed Workers World
Party in 1959 in several cities in the United States." Yes ordinary comminists. Of course they would have our best interests at heart and would never put out false info for their benifit.
 
 
+2 # RMDC 2014-06-22 20:15
"The US President also stressed the Iraq crisis should be solved politically"

This is just diplomatic-spea k for "we think things are going just fine in Iraq and we are not going to do anything. ISIS can blow up all they want."

I don't know why anyone would expect the US to oppose ISIS. The US created ISIS and is funding and arming them right now. On TV ISIS can be seen driving Hummers and wearing US military uniforms. Sure they could have found this stuff just lying around, but more likely it was given to them by the US CIA.
 
 
+2 # Activista 2014-06-22 12:44
​RT office in Ramallah raided by IDF
Israeli forces have raided a building in Ramallah where the offices of several media outlets, including RT’s Arabic channel, are located."
RT must do something right ...
 
 
-2 # Jingze 2014-06-23 13:48
The truth is, in the USA, nobody cares.
 

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