Krugman: The Iraq war was worse than a mistake, it was a crime


The Beltway media villagers have all decided that the framing of the question — in order to extricate themselves from their own complicity — should be “would you have invaded Iraq, knowing what we know now?” The premise of the question presupposes that decisions were made in good faith based upon “faulty” intelligence. In other words, Iraq was a “mistake.”

That is complete bullshit. There was solid reporting at the time questioning and undermining the Bush administration’s case for war from McClatchy News and Scripps Howard, and numerous international news sources. There was solid evidence that the case for war was based upon fabricated “cooked” intelligence. The American people were being lied to, and it was reported at the time.

krugman.pngBut the so-called “gatekeepers” of the mainstream corporate news media all chose to ignore this countervailing reporting for the Bush administration’s narrative (see the New York Times’ Judith Miller, for example) because they made an editorial decision to cheer lead for a Neocon war of adventure in Iraq, the consequences of which we are still living with today.

Paul Krugman today in a must-read column destroys the media’s framing of the question. Errors and Lies:

Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.

But many influential people — not just Mr. Bush — would prefer that we not have that discussion. There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. 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. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

Still waiting to be held accountable pursuant to
a Nuremberg Principles War Crimes Tribunal.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] …sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.

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.

Whatever the precise motives, the result was a very dark chapter in American history. Once again: We were lied into war.

Now, you can understand why many political and media figures would prefer not to talk about any of this. Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn’t say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.

On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.

But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

Previous articleNo, it’s not about whether you have any Black friends
Next articleUpcoming Death Cafe
AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. When you sow the wind you reap the whirlwind. Its kind of biblical. So what are the republican candidates going to do about it? Calling President Obama names is not doing anything about it.

  2. What is truly tragic about America is that all the people who were so wrong about Iraq are still around and in power. John McCain is consistently wrong about most everything in foreign policy, yet he is on the Sunday talk shows just about more than anyone. Media folks from Meet the Press and others continue to take seriously the views of the neo-cons.
    While Judith Miller no longer writes for the New York Times, there are still lots of others in power there and also at the Washington Post who were so completely wrong about Iraq.
    These same folks now are pushing their bad ideas about both Iran and Ukraine. In what other business does being so wrong mean life time sinecures.

  3. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the Neo-Cons pushed for a war to practice remaking the Middle East in some imagine they had. War criminals. I don’t blame Bush as much, because he was and is 100 times dumber than those others.

Comments are closed.