Michael: Reflecting On IraqI'm currently reading Assassin's Gate (as you can see on the sidebar). So far I'm finding it an excellent book. The first part is about the ideological and political manuevering that formed the trigger pull to launch the war. I am finding this part challenging to my world-view. Packer so eloquently describes some of the noble aspirations of many who supported the war, that I often find my self in sympathy with pro-war views.
I never opposed the war because I was afraid of using American power for a noble cause. Nor because freeing Iraq from Saddam and the Baathists wasn't a noble cause. Nor even out of some general pacifism. The reason I opposed the war was because I firmly believed that nothing that the Bush regime wanted to do could possibly be any good for Americans - or for Iraqis, in fact. Knee-jerk Bush-hating? Perhaps. I prefer to think of it like a dog who knows when he sniffs you whether you're a son-of-a-bitch or not.
I believed there was insufficient cause for war, and that inspections and international cooperation could achieve the desired ends. I also believed that the Iraqi people would not see us as liberators and that we stood a reasonable chance of getting entangled in something much more costly and protracted than we were being promised. But more than either of these reasons I simply suspected that the Bush regime would screw it all up somehow.
I wish I could point to a more principled reason, and if I tried I could certainly dress it up some, but it really never was more than complete and utter skepticism about the Bush regimes' motives and competence. I just didn't trust Bush and his pack of cronies to be able to competently manage the whole thing and bring it off with a reasonable degree of simple competence. Their numerous inept and transparent lies and distortions, obvious even then to people such as myself with access only to open sources, and widely recognized as lies and distortions now, simply cemented my profound reservations about the whole venture.
I've never viewed those who supported the war as much worse than gullible and, quite possibly, fatally reactionary due to 9/11. I think that that was the plan for selling the war domestically - idealism and fear in equal measure.
I did not suspect at the time that our national honor would be so brutally sacrificed on the neoconservatives' altar to Pollyanna. Secret detentions, torture, violations of the Geneva Conventions, mass civilian casualties, use of chemical weapons on combatants and civilians alike. These atrocities only begin to plumb the depths to which this inept regime has dragged America's honor in pursuit of a bright and noble dream. Whatever else it may be, or someday become, the Iraq war has been a tragedy classical tradition - hubris, a fatal flaw, and an ironical and terrible fate foretold.