Ten years ago this week, the United States pre-emptively attacked Iraq igniting a war that would last for eight years, claiming an estimated 189,000 lives, costing over $2 trillion and causing untold economic and emotional devastation for the Iraqi people.
Despite these horrific outcomes, the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion passed with little fanfare in the nation’s capitol. As Peter Baker writes in today’s New York Times, Tuesday came and went “with barely passing notice in a town once consumed by it” in what amounts to a “conspiracy of silence.”
Neither party had much interest in revisiting what succeeded and what failed, who was right and who was wrong. The bipartisan consensus underscored the broader national mood: after 10 years, America seems happy to wash its hands of Iraq. …
President Obama, who rose to political heights on the strength of his opposition to the war, made no mention of it in appearances on Tuesday. Instead, he issued a written statement saluting “the courage and resolve” of the 1.5 million Americans who served during eight years in Iraq and honoring the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans “who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
On the other hand, a few members of the Bush White House that led us to war have been talking this week angering some with their comments as they looked back at the actions they took a decade ago. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started a virtual firefight with a tweet he (or his office) sent out yesterday afternoon.
10 yrs ago began the long, difficult work of liberating 25 mil Iraqis. All who played a role in history deserve our respect & appreciation.
— Donald Rumsfeld (@RumsfeldOffice) March 19, 2013
Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board — and one of the war’s most outspoken champions — told NPR’s Rene Montagne this morning that “it was not a reasonable question” to ask whether the Iraq War was worth it. Here’s the exchange:
MONTAGNE: …There’s no question you were a great proponent of going into Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Ten years later, nearly 5,000 Americans troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded; when you think about this, was it worth it?
PERLE: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.
Huffington Post political writer Amanda Terkel notes that politicians aren’t the only ones reticent to revisit the roles they played in the war effort. She points out that The Washington Post‘s editorial page — which in the months leading up to the war ran 27 editorials in its favor — have yet to print anything about the invasion so far this week. Terkel reports that Fred Hiatt, then and now the Post’s editorial page editor, wrote her an email saying there will be a “couple of pieces coming this week.”
One came three hours ago in the form of a mea culpa from Washington Post foreign affairs columnist, David Ignatius. “I owe readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense,” he said:
Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history. We’ll never know whether the story might have been different if better planning had been done for “the day after,” or the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, or several other “ifs.” But the abiding truth is that America shouldn’t have rolled the dice this way on a war of choice.
Earlier today, HuffPost Live hosted an interesting video discussion with journalists Richard Engel of NBC and NPR’s Tom Bowman as well as two public affairs officers from the Pentagon, talking about who shaped the news before, during and after the invasion of Iraq, and what they would have done differently.
Big media’s culpability in the run-up to the war was explored in a documentary that originally aired on Bill Moyers Journal in 2007. Buying the War investigated the media’s pro-war cheerleading in the months preceding the March 19, 2003, invasion. Watch it now: