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George Will: Dick Cheney Owes Apology for Iraq War

My local ABC affiliate decided to preempt “This Week” yesterday morning so they could spend the hour discussing the fact that it had rained really hard the day before and some tree limbs were down. So I missed George Will criticizing Dick Cheney for what’s not in his new book:

Five hundred and sixty five pages and a simple apology would have been in order in some of them. Which is to say, the great fact of those eight years is we went to war—big war, costly war—under false pretenses. And…to write a memoir in which you say essentially nothing seriously went wrong…if I wrote a memoir of my last week, I would have things to apologize for.

This prompts C&L’s Nicole Belle to snark, “This is just another example of the after-the-fact tacit admissions of the right wing–who spent the entire decade castigating and criticizing the left for questioning why we were in Iraq, mind you–that the Bush administration did lie us into a war of choice against a nation that posed no threat. But where’s the apology for that from George Will, huh?”

Actually, like myself, Will has been questioning the Iraq War and the neocons since 2003 and pretty steadily since. He was ahead of me in saying, years ago, that the Iraq War wasn’t worth the price paid.

The notion that Cheney owes us an apology is interesting. It depends entirely on whether the Bush administration took us to war knowing Saddam did not have a nuclear weapons program or simply dowmplayed evidence casting doubt in order to make the case for war they genuinely believed was necessary.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. It depends entirely on whether the Bush administration took us to war knowing Saddam did not have a nuclear weapons program or simply dowmplayed evidence casting doubt in order to make the case for war they genuinely believed was necessary.

    Does it, really? Surely, if there was evidence that the nation had been lied to in order to justify war that would be a national scandal of historical proportions, but is it really any worse than if what actually happened is that the Bush Administration, led by Cheney and Rumsfeld, was so eager to turn their attention to Iraq that they turned a blind eye to any evidence that questioned the reliability of the intelligence they were using to justify war? The second alternative lacks the conscious intent of the first, but it’s no less of a mistake.

    And the flimsy justification for the war was only one of the Bush Administrations mistakes regarding Iraq. There was also little planning for the post-war situation, which made the rise of the insurgency and the events of the subsequent years possible.

    So, either Cheney (and Bush) apologizes for lying, or they apologize for incompetence. In either case, an apology is in order.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think Doug has it right. At the very least invading Iraq was the result of a monumental screwup. Why not apologize?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. john personna says:

    You know, I occasionally say “never forget the Downing Street Memo.” They told us early, but we didn’t want to believe. It was too painful that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed [by the U.S.] around the policy” of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

    But … it’s still hard to remember, isn’t it? Even though everything after has been consistent with it. It all lines up, the creation of the Office of Special Plans to provide the “right” intelligence, stacking Colin Powell’s briefing papers, and all the rest.

    I think you are in denial James, even now, with this:

    It depends entirely on whether the Bush administration took us to war knowing Saddam did not have a nuclear weapons program or simply dowmplayed evidence casting doubt in order to make the case for war they genuinely believed was necessary.

    We know now, it’s just a question of whether we are strong enough to believe what we know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. jukeboxgrad says:

    Will has been questioning the Iraq War and the neocons since 2003

    Will deserves credit for what he said against the war, but let’s not forget how he boosted the war when it really mattered: before it started. Notice what he wrote on 10/3/02:

    Hitler found “Lord Haw Haw”–William Joyce, who broadcast German propaganda to Britain during the Second World War–in the dregs of British extremism. But Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats.

    Not since Jane Fonda posed for photographers at a Hanoi antiaircraft gun has there been anything like Rep. Jim McDermott … saying Americans should take Saddam Hussein at his word, but should not take President Bush at his. McDermott … said Iraqi officials promised him … that weapons inspectors would be “allowed to look anywhere.”

    Bonior … said sources … told them that inspectors will have an “unrestricted ability to go where they want.” McDermott said: “I think you have to take the Iraqis on their value–at their face value.” And: “I think the president would mislead the American people.”

    … Parroting Saddam’s line to perfection, he said “Iraq did not drive the inspectors out, we”–actually, the U.N.–“took them out [in 1998]. So they should be given a chance.” His implication is that America, not Iraq, foiled inspections.

    … McDermott’s accusation that the president–presumably with Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and others as accomplices–would use deceit to satisfy his craving to send young Americans into an unnecessary war is a slander …

    Gore and many other Democrats who supported the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, with which the Clinton administration endorsed regime change, are now engaged in moral infantilism–willing the end but refusing to will any realistic means to that end. …

    McDermott’s and Bonior’s espousal of Saddam’s line, and of Gore’s subtext (and Barbra Streisand’s libretto), signals the recrudescence of the dogmatic distrust of U.S. power that virtually disqualified the Democratic Party from presidential politics for a generation. It gives the benefits of all doubts to America’s enemies and reduces policy debates to accusations about the motives of Americans who would project U.S. power in the world. Conservative isolationism–America is too good for the world–is long dead. Liberal isolationism–the world is too good for America–is flourishing.

    How ironic. On 1/27/03, Blix said “Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field … access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect.” So McDermott was right: the inspectors were “allowed to look anywhere.” And then it was indeed the US that “foiled inspections” by calling for war and chasing the UN out. And now we have overwhelming evidence that Bush et al did “use deceit” to sell the war.

    So just about everything Will said here is wrong. Did he ever apologize for any of this? Not as far as I know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. Herb says:

    “It depends entirely”

    Nah, apologizing for screwing up in good faith is a sign of maturity.

    I find the apology thing strange for another reason though. If we were talking about Generic Vice President, sure, okay, you might see some apology or sense of regret in his memoir. But we’re talking about Dick “M’Fing” Cheney.

    That guy doesn’t do regret.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. jukeboxgrad says:

    doug:

    if there was evidence that the nation had been lied to in order to justify war that would be a national scandal of historical proportions, but is it really any worse than if what actually happened is that the Bush Administration, led by Cheney and Rumsfeld, was so eager to turn their attention to Iraq that they turned a blind eye to any evidence that questioned the reliability of the intelligence they were using to justify war?

    At this point there is indeed overwhelming “evidence that the nation had been lied to in order to justify war.” You can express doubt about this only if you have “turned a blind eye” to that overwhelming evidence. A good place to start is here:

    Bush [et al] … made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. … an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

    If you look at the evidence from a mile away (which of course is what the public and the press usually does) it’s possible to convince yourself that Bush et al were just misled by bad intel. But that alibi falls apart when you look at the evidence carefully.

    There are many examples. One important set of examples is regarding the aluminum tubes. I think it leaves no doubt that the lying was deliberate and systematic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  7. Tlaloc says:

    So, either Cheney (and Bush) apologizes for lying, or they apologize for incompetence. In either case, an apology is in order.

    agree with this, and frankly the evidence pretty clearly suggests it’s a case of both. Or as the kids say, embrace the power of “and.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  8. James in LA says:

    The former head of the previous criminal enterprise posing as a presidency admitted on national television that he gave the order to torture, and would do so again. Legal remedies begin with him.

    Is there not one U.S. attorney willing to seat grand juries to probe war crimes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. Nick says:

    On at least two occasions Hans Blix stated practically full cooperation by Saddam, no WMD, and stated he needed just a bit more time to complete the inspections. He was denied that time because the conspirators knew their case would fall as flat as it did (David Kaye said he knew within 2 days in Iraq there were no weapons).

    Any news or opinion source that supported the war should be viewed with suspicion, at the least, if not treated with contempt. They helped send our troops to their deaths based on obvious propaganda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  10. Lit3Bolt says:

    The apology will be forthcoming in case Cheney wants to cash in for another memoir before his ticker finally fails, just like Robert McNamara did with his memoir In Retrospect in 1995.

    In any case, the only forgiveness Cheney can find is that from a firing squad. Treasonous war criminals with delusions of empire seem to run the United States however.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  11. Nick says:

    Joe Scarborough mixes honesty with dishonesty:

    When the cost of victory is too high

    “The result of that intelligence blunder [WMD] was catastrophic….” [BULLSHIT. That was no blunder.]

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/62248.html#ixzz1WSD92fRF

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/62248_Page2.html#ixzz1WSCrMAH4

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  12. anjin-san says:

    On at least two occasions Hans Blix stated practically full cooperation by Saddam, no WMD, and stated he needed just a bit more time to complete the inspections.

    Sad but true. Saddam had been backed into a corner, and the inspection process was finally working. Problem was, the Bush administration did not want it to work. Next stop, thousands of US dead and wounded and a mind-boggling tab, which of course was kept off the books.

    And not a peep at the time from the “fiscal responsibility” crowd about the cooked books and deficit spending on an elective war…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  13. John Casales says:

    Will is wrong. The Iraq War was not started under “false pretenses.”

    Iraq did have WMD prior to the war. Iraq did not fufill the terms agreed to regarding inspections to determine if in fact it no longer had WMD. The only safe conclusion was that Iraq still had WMD, a conclusion reached by all Western intelligence agencies.

    Cheney could apologize perhaps for the adminstration’s handling of the situation after Iraq fell, but the idea that the we were lied into war is simply false.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  14. jukeboxgrad says:

    The only safe conclusion was that Iraq still had WMD, a conclusion reached by all Western intelligence agencies.

    Bush et al expressed “absolute certainty.” No “Western intelligence agencies,” including and especially our own, supported that position.

    You’re ignoring this and lots of other important facts that have already been cited.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0