So now Jeb Bush has admitted that when it came to his brother’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, “mistakes were made.” It must have been hard throwing his brother under the bus like that.

But as Josh Marshall writes, Republicans are now spinning the fiasco as simply a good faith mistake, rather than a deliberate effort by the Bush administration and its cronies to lie their way into war.

As the GOP has quickly settled into a new consensus that the decision to invade Iraq was – at least in retrospect – a mistake, it has come with a willful amnesia bordering on a whole new generation of deceit about exactly what happened in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. To hear Republican presidential candidates tell it, Americans believed Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction which justified and necessitated the invasion. Since he didn’t, there was no reason to invade. The carnage and collateral effects we’ve seen over the last dozen years only drives home the point: knowing what we know now, the invasion was a mistake. We wouldn’t do it again.

While it’s welcome to see the would-be heirs of President Bush, including his own brother, acknowledging the obvious, this history is such a staggering crock that it’s critical to go back and review what actually happened. Some of this was obvious to anyone who was paying attention. Some was only obvious to reporters covering the story who were steeped in the details. And some was only obvious to government officials who in the nature of things controlled access to information. But in the tightest concentric circle of information, at the White House, it was obviously all a crock at the time.

After summarizing the lies claiming that Saddam possessed a stockpile of nuclear weapons and that he was behind the 9/11 attacks, Marshall writes:

There you have the two pillars of the grand deception: Saddam with nuclear warheads and in active alliance with the reviled figure who had just pulled off a brutal and devastating terror attack on one of America’s biggest cities. Now that both 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq 18 months later have receded somewhat into history and we can see the events of that time with some distance and perspective, it’s no mystery that connecting these two dots would prime the country for almost anything. After all who would want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud?

It is very important to remember that before we invaded, Saddam Hussein actually did allow inspectors back into the country, thus undermining the key argument for following through with the threat of invasion in the first place. But the critical point is that we didn’t invade Iraq because we had “faulty” intelligence that Iraq still had stockpiles of sarin gas. The invasion was justified and sold to the American public on the twin frauds of the Iraq-al Qaeda alliance and the Saddam’s supposedly hidden nuclear program. As much as the White House and the key administration war hawks like Vice President Cheney tried to get the Intelligence Community to buy into these theories, they never did. And to anyone paying attention, certainly anyone reporting on these matters at the time, it was clear at the time this was nonsense and a willful deception.

There was of course still more involved. The White House insisted – over the vociferous disagreement of the Pentagon’s uniformed leadership – that the occupation would be quick and could be managed with a light force. We would, as the painful cliche had it, be greeted as liberators. It is probably true that if the insurgency had never happened and Iraq had become a stable and strong US ally, as predicted, the collapse of the original premise for the invasion would have been largely forgotten. It is the mix of immense costs of the invasion (human and financial) and the chaos in Iraq we are still wrestling with today combined with the collapse of any clear rationale for the invasion in the first place that explains why it remains such a charged and explosive issue even today.

The story we’re hearing today is: Yes, it was a mistake. We wouldn’t do it again knowing what we know now. But we acted on information that just turned out to be wrong. But that is quite simply a crock. The Bush administration was at best in deep denial about the true costs of the invasion. And it lead the country to war based on claims that were quite simply willful deceptions – lies. It may be too much to say that it was obvious to everyone at the time. But to reporters working the story and certainly anyone in the government, it was clear that the White House was involved in a mammoth exaggeration. Only later did it emerge that there was even more willful deception than those following closely realized at the time. Looking back and looking at the time it has always been somewhat difficult to find the bright line where flagrant lying met willful self-deception. But the truth is painful and clear: Iraq wasn’t a good faith mistake. It was a calamity based on lies and willful deceptions. Much of that was clear at the time. It’s all clear now.

And let’s remember that among Jeb Bush’s 21 foreign policy advisors, 17 worked in his brother’s administration, including such stalwart “thinkers” as Paul Wolfowitz, who was wrong about virtually everything having to do with Iraq. These people need to be called out. They were a disaster for the country and the Middle East. Yes, mistakes were made.

In a follow-up post, Marshall, who was closely reporting on the lead-up to the war back in 2002-3, delves further into the Bush administration’s motivations. Just why would they lie their way into war?

On the chaos that engulfed the country not long after the invasion, I think this was much more a matter of extreme negligence and self-deception – but with one exception. The architects of the war knew that equipping the invasion and occupation in a way that would ultimately prove necessary would dramatically up the costs of the endeavor and make it a much tougher sell. So let’s chalk this up to self-interested self-deception and culpable negligence. The key was to get in and make it happen, create a fait accompli. Once that happened there’d be no easy getting out. So the key was simply to get it, create a fact on the ground.

So why did they want to do it? At some level I think it had simply become an idee fixe for many of these people. Because for many of them, when I would have frank conversations with them, they had a difficult time getting past the rationales, even in what I think were off-the-record and unguarded conversations. The real underlying reason, to the extent there was one, was the notion of creating a transformative event, a democratizing wave in the region that would get away from managing and on to ‘solving’ deep and lingering obstacles to American power.

In this sense, chaos wasn’t a problem. It was actually the goal. They just ended up getting a very different kind of chaos from what they expected – not a wave of destabilization pushing out from Iraq and crashing over enemy states in Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia but one crashing in on the architects and the US and its military itself. I explored the idea in some depth in this 2003 article in The Washington Monthly, ‘Practice to Deceive’.

  1. meursault1942 says:

    It’s been pretty amazing to watch Gooper after Gooper shit the bed on the Iraq question (I love Wonkette’s headline: Marco Rubio gets his chance to flub Iraq question, nails it). It’s a total softball question! It couldn’t be easier! Everybody knows Iraq was a colossal fuckup, so just say so! They’re even giving you the “knowing what we know now” out, for fuck’s sake. But small wonder that the people who thought “what newspapers do you read?” was the most evil, vicious, and vile of gotcha questions can’t handle the Iraq question. They’re all such delicate little flowers, that if you take them out of the greenhouse, the wilt and die immediately. The only thing that frightens these oh-so-tough guys more than having to answer an easy question is the terrifying entity known as George Stephanopoulos. Pretty pathetic stuff.

    • And remember, Rubio wants to be known as the right’s foreign policy expert. Good grief. The only thing missing from that interview was him reaching for a bottle of water.

      But just remember: The Republican bench is deep.

  2. rustybrown2012 says:

    “The Republican bench is deep” –so is the hole in an outhouse.

    The Republicans inability to handle an easily predictable question speaks volumes about their ineptitude and duplicity, and it’s not going unnoticed by the voting public. It just tickles my very soul that the main thing we’re talking about on the campaign trail is the clusterfuck of the Iraq war while Hillary just walks on by. Having admitted it was a mistake a long time ago, she’s not only rightly absolved of the shellacking Repubs are taking but is also clearly perceived as more honest and straightforward on the issue as well. GWB–the gift that keeps on giving. And justly so–you don’t get to commit one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history without it poisoning your party brand for decades after. Life is good.

  3. 02casper says:

    This story blows me away. It’s sad that the guy had to get sick to see the light.

  4. rustybrown2012 says:

    Noonan’s latest post: “The Iraq War Was Not a Mistake”.
    Way to tap into the gestalt of the American public Noonan! Spread the word and keep up the good work!

    • Good grief. Only the most apologetic of Bush apologists would continue to insist that the United States was right in invading Iraq in 2003. Then he says, “The victory was thrown away by our current President, but that doesn’t make Bush’s decision wrong, nor the sacrifices of our military in vain” I don’t even know where to begin; his denial is deep and unshakable.

      • meursault1942 says:

        Holy crap. Sure, Noonan’s entire impetus for being a political blogger in the first place was to fellate Bush as hungrily and frequently as possible, but still clinging to the notion that the Iraq invasion was a good idea and “victorious”? Wow. That’s just cartoonishly absurd. I’ve stated before that while Noonan has a propensity to say stupid things, he’s not actually stupid the way, for example, our old buddy tiredoflibbs is. I’m starting to think I was giving Noonan too much credit in that estimation.

  5. clark kent says:

    Have any of you checked out Neo’s “blog” recently? Today the feces eating moron was claiming that the Biker shootout in Waco is really a coverup of a government conspiracy!

  6. rustybrown2012 says:

    Cluster: “Have you noticed how the administration, specifically Marie Harf has been saying that the battle with ISIL will be a long and difficult battle with many setbacks? It seems to me that someone else said those exact words about 13 years ago. If not for one political party exploiting this issue for political gain, we would be seeing a much different world than the one we are faced with now.”

    Is he actually implying it was neocons and the Bush administration that were the voices of reason in 2002? Good Christ, Cluster is so enmeshed in the right wing echo chamber he can’t even remember the most basic history from several years ago. That is just a frighteningly delusional statement. The reality is the only voices of caution and sanity back then were coming from Democrats, particularly the most liberal ones (although I seem to remember Colin Powell saying something about ‘if you break it, you own it’–an opinion that nearly got him booted from the white house until he clammed up and fell in line). Cluster can keep his head up his own ass and enjoy the view; the American people know the real score. Just to refresh our memories, here’s what conservatives and stupid assholes like Cluster were saying back then:

    Why, it’s almost as delusional as thinking the Democratic brand is in trouble and any of the insane Republican bozos running for President will be a serious threat to Hillary.

    • 02casper says:

      “Why, it’s almost as delusional as thinking the Democratic brand is in trouble and any of the insane Republican bozos running for President will be a serious threat to Hillary.”

      They seem to enjoy their delusions. In their world the economy is tanking, the Middle East is on fire (when hasn’t it been), climate change isn’t real, and the world is ending because a black man is president.

    • Meanwhile, it will be well over 100 degrees in Cluster’s backyard next week. And it’s not even June.

      • rustybrown2012 says:

        Cluster links to a bogus article about sea ice that’s making the rounds with the mouth breathing crowd these days. It’s written by James Taylor, an oil industry hack who’s been discredited numerous times and is discredited yet again. Taylor makes good money packaging lies and selling them to gullible rubes like Cluster:

        “…look at an OpEd in Forbes magazine written by Heartland Institute’s James Taylor (yes, that Heartland Institute). Taylor has a history of cherry-picking and distorting results from real climate scientists, and he’s doing the same thing here.

        In the OpEd, he claims that global warming has not caused global sea ice retreat. This is a gross distortion of reality. The truth is that in the arctic we’re seeing record low levels of sea ice year after year, including just this year, when in March the north pole saw the lowest maximum ice extent on record.

        It takes a very twisted view of the world to claim global warming isn’t doing anything to polar ice not two months after that record was broken. And as we know very, very well, Arctic sea ice is on a long, drastic decline that does not show any signs of recovery at all.

        But note how Taylor phrases it, using “global” ice. That includes Antarctic sea ice, but as I have written about over and over again, that is really unfair. Antarctic sea ice is very different than at the north pole; Antarctica is a continent and conditions there are literally polar opposites. The southern sea ice fluctuates quite a bit year to year, and in fact wind-driven snow can be increased by global warming (warmer air can hold more moisture), so glossing over local conditions the way Taylor does is at best misleading.

        And in actual fact, land ice in Antarctica is melting away extremely rapidly, and worldwide we’re losing 450 billion tons of land ice every year.

        That doesn’t sound at all like what Taylor is claiming, does it? I guess he doesn’t know (or doesn’t say) that his corporate sponsors are using the ongoing decrease in arctic ice as a reason to explore more drilling sites in north polar waters.

        I’ll also note Taylor links to some satellite data from the University of Illinois Polar Research Group to make his claim… and that same group has issued a rebuttal saying Taylor cherry-picked his data and refutes his claim. Oops.”

      • meursault1942 says:

        Speaking of that shithole of a failing state where Cluster lives, it is reaping the “benefits” of teabaggery with a $1 billion budget shortfall. Conservatism strikes again! And how is it going to close that gap? Why, by kicking the filthy, mooching poors who are living a life of luxury, of course! It’s exactly what you would expect from people motivated by hatred and spite, ensconced in ignorance, and utterly convinced that poor people have too much money and rich people don’t have enough.

      • meursault1942 says:

        “and that same group has issued a rebuttal saying Taylor cherry-picked his data and refutes his claim. Oops”

        Isn’t it amazing how every time wingnuts seize upon a study that “disproves” climate change, the people who did the study immediately state that wingnuts are lying about what the study says? It’s almost as though wingnuts are just inveterate liars who don’t know the first thing about science but certainly know how to parrot talking points. But that can’t be true…can it?

      • rustybrown2012 says:

        Inveterate liars or dumbasses, maybe both. It’s the eternal question. What can you say about a person who has been shown how something is a falsehood yet continues to fall for the same lie repeatedly? That’s literally classified as retardation.

      • Ya do have to wonder about Cluster’s motivations. I mean, James Taylor’s motivations are pretty clear: He’s getting paid to lie and obfuscate. But Cluster? If I had to guess, I’d say he has an inferiority complex. He probably didn’t go to college–and if he did, he went to a J.C. and never finished–and now he tries to make up for his feeling inferior to people that do have college degrees. At least, that’s the way he comes off.

      • rustybrown2012 says:

        And right on cue, when Cluster learns that the article he presented is bullshit (because you know he’s reading this) does he defend it? Issue a retraction? No, he links to an even more inane article (he calls it “great”) from an even more biased source. This tripe reads like a third graders lesson on propaganda; the distortions and lies are so dense one would have to do a sentence by sentence analysis to unpack them. What an asshole.

      • meursault1942 says:

        Hahahaha, Wattsupwiththat. It’s the Newsmax of denialism!

  7. rustybrown2012 says:

    Memorial day. Let’s all remember our fallen soldiers and remember the political party that instigated their needless slaughter–Republican. Let’s honor our troops by sparing them from unnecessary wars in the future.

  8. rustybrown2012 says:

    Spook just can’t seem to escape the “coarsening of our culture” manifest in other people:

    “I’ve noticed a significant increase in incivility among other drivers in the last few years. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t flip me off for some perceived slight”

    Hardly a day! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t remember the last time I was flipped off. Maybe it’s because I’m not seething resentment, paranoia and aggrievement everywhere I go. Or maybe I’m just lucky. Reminds me of the saying, ‘If you run into an asshole in the morning, you’ve run into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day long, YOU’RE the asshole.”

    In other news, I see that whatever looney bin is housing Amazona has reinstated her computer privileges. Unfortunately, she shows no signs of improvement and is up to her same self-righteous, judgmental, persecution schtick. Look for her ward to be scaling back her computer time soon in favor of picture puzzles.

    • I saw that comment by Spook and thought the same thing. Hardly a day goes by! That is so funny, my wife over on the couch is asking me what I’m laughing about. It would take too long to explain.

      My other favorite Spook comment in that thread is where he explains to us that when a “leftist” tries to make a point to Spook in conversation, he just responds, “Bullshit!” and that is the end of the conversation. Well, duh. Spook, you get no response because it is obvious to the other party that you have no interest in having a conversation. I mean, how idiotic and childish can you get? And remember, folks, he was an intelligence analyst in his work life. Good God.

      And in response to Spook’s comment, Cluster chimes in with, “Progressives are emotionally immature and incapable of any civil dialogue.” Yes, this is his take on Spook ending conversations with “Bullshit!” We also learn that people Cluster doesn’t like are second class citizens, like that’s news. Oh well… I hope he’s enjoying the 106 degree weather on his front porch. lol

      • rustybrown2012 says:

        Yeah, that’s just Cluster pretending to be disengaged on principle rather than the fact that he gets his ass handed to him every time he tries to debate us.

  9. meursault1942 says:

    As I pointed out recently Mark Noonan said back in 2012 that Sam Brownback would turn Kansas into an “unanswerable argument” in favor of conservatism. As with most things, Noonan was deeply, profoundly wrong; in fact, the unanswerable argument is that conservatism is a tremendous failure.

    In 2013, Sam Brownback himself made a similar prediction. He said, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works,’ ” And yes, that red-state model has been a tremendous failure, as red state models pretty much always are (which, to conservatives, just means that you have to conservative even harder! Then it’ll work! Seriously!). But more than that, the red state model isn’t just a failure, it’s outright dangerous:

    This “real live experiment,” as Brownback once put it, has resulted in the pain and suffering of many Kansans. And yet, instead of acknowledging those consequences as a warning sign, the Republican presidential candidates have embraced them as a blueprint. It’s all part of the same GOP pattern — a continued retreat away from reason and toward a blind ideology — one that always comes with a body count.

    I’d say we should force Noonan, Cluster, Spook, etc. to account for this, to account for the unceasing, systemic, and inevitable failures of conservatism, and to account for conservatives’ insistence that failure is actually a success to be emulated. But if they’re too frightened to even acknowledge reality–and boy, do they spend every waking moment in mortal fear of reality–then they’re certainly too frightened to try to deal with it.

  10. jeez Rusy i have to give you credit for what you were articulating over at blogs for victory. Amazona is fucking idiot. When she starts to lose her cool she just rants and raves. At least mark was kind of articulating something. The war on woman is real. They will never figure out that more birth control equals less abortions. My wife was on an IUD for the first couple of years after our first son. got off of it and got pregnant instantly with our daughter. It was planned. The war on woman is real but they are ridiculous

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