Marco Rubio Fumbles The Iraq War Question

Marco Rubio is the latest Republican Presidential candidate to have a problem giving a coherent answer to a few simple questions about the Iraq War.

Marco Rubio 2

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the latest Republican candidate for President who seems to be struggling to give a coherent answer to questions about the Iraq War:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida struggled on Sunday to give clear answers about whether it was a mistake for the United States to go to war against Iraq in 2003, becoming the latest Republican presidential candidate to trip on the wisdom of the military invasion.

Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time.

“It’s not a mistake — I still say it was not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.”

A moment later, as Mr. Wallace tried to pin him down on his view, Mr. Rubio began to reply, “Based on what we know now, I think everyone agrees — — ” but Mr. Wallace cut him off before he finished the thought.

“So was it a mistake now?” Mr. Wallace asked.

“I don’t understand the question you’re asking,” Mr. Rubio said.

At one point Mr. Rubio, in discussing the importance of hindsight on the Iraq war, raised a recent boxing fight to make a point. “Based on what we know, a lot of things — based on what we know now, I wouldn’t have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat, uh, in that fight a couple weeks ago — — ” Mr. Rubio said before Mr. Wallace interrupted.

The back-and-forth resulted in a three-minute video clip that Republican opponents could use against Mr. Rubio in the future, given that he came across as a politician used to debating fine points and nuances in the United States Senate — a problem that then-Senator John Kerry faced in his presidential run in 2004 — rather than as a seasoned leader used to giving clear statements. Mr. Rubio’s readiness for the presidency has been questioned among some Republican voters, given than he is a 43-year-old first-term senator, and moments like the boxing reference seemed discordant on a subject like the Iraq war.

Here’s the video:

This isn’t the first statement that Rubio has made about the Iraq War that was, to put it charitably, questionable at best. Last week, while his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush was withering under media attention that began when he was first asked the question by Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, Rubio said that he believed the decision to invade was the correct one to make at the time given the intelligence available at the time. He then went on to say that, given what we know know, it’s clear that the decision was incorrect and that even Former President Bush himself agreed on that point. That last point actually turned out to be incorrect, because, as Daniel Strauss noted, George W. Bush has said on several occasions that he continues to believe that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct notwithstanding thse fact that the intelligence was wrong, and that he would not have made that decision differently even if he’d known the intelligence was wrong.  On some level, it’s not even clear why Rubio felt the need to add in that line about Bush to his own comments, except perhaps to make it clear to the foreign policy hawks in the GOP that he is quite obviously courting that he didn’t mean his remarks to be a repudiation of the foreign policy legacy of the Bush Administration. Whatever the reason, it just served to make Rubio’s already incoherent response even more incoherent.

As I’ve noted before, how potential candidates respond to this question is important not so much because it tells us what they think about a foreign policy decision that was made twelve years ago that continues to have repercussions today, but what it says about how they might approach foreign policy decisions generally. While largely incoherent, Rubio’s response to the “Iraq War Question” as it’s now being called does tell us that he continues to believe that the initial decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct. This is something that every Republican candidate that has spoken out about the issue agrees with him with the exception of Senator Rand Paul,who has suggested in the past that removing Saddam Hussein from power was a mistake and said today that the issues raised by the question are important for future potential scenarios.

It’s easy for Republicans like Rubio and Bush to say that they wouldn’t support invading Iraq based on what we know today. Twelve years of hindsight regarding not only the mistaken nature of the intelligence that the Bush Administration used to justify the war but also the consequences of war itself are so so overwhelming, in fact, that one would have to question the sanity of someone who said the opposite. The real question is whether they show any willingness to revisit the question of whether the decision that the Bush Administration, supported by a bipartisan Congress, made in 2003 was correct given the information available then. The fact that, so far, only Senator Paul seems to be willing to say something like that speaks volumes.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Iraq War, National Security, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    What Josh Marshall said:

    Marco Rubio just doesn’t seem like the most cognitively dexterous contender for the Republican nomination.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think it’s a lack of IQ that is Mr. Rubio’s problem, he has a reality problem. The GOP is not partaking of consensual reality. The GOP lives in the echo chamber where they have a completely different reality unaffected by actual facts.

    In order to get nominated Mr. Rubio has to play along with the mass delusion. But in order to get elected in a general election he’ll have to get beyond his own crazy 40% or so and get to 51%. So he’s struggling to split the difference between the alternate Republican reality and actual reality.

    That’s not easy to do.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    “A mistake! Not a mistake! A mistake! Not a mistake! My sister! My daughter! My sister! My daughter!”

  4. DrDaveT says:

    That last point actually turned out to be incorrect, because, as Daniel Strauss noted, George W. Bush has said on several occasions that he continues to believe that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct

    Rubio, like every other Republican candidate, brings his own personal set of facts to bear on every issue. Why should this be different?

  5. Matt Parker says:

    I think this might be THE fundamental question for Republicans (and hawkish Democrats) for years to come. But it’s going to become a gotcha. But, I think it’s a fundamental question that we really need to grapple with in several parts.

    1. Given the publicly promoted intelligence (WMD, greeted as liberators), would you have gone to war?
    2. Knowing what intelligence data was manipulated, would you have gone to war?
    3. Knowing what we know now JUST ABOUT THE INTELLIGENCE, would you have gone to war?
    4. Knowing what we know now about both the pre-war intelligence and the consequences of the war, would you have gone to war?
    5. EVEN ASSUMING the pre-war intelligence was correct, but knowing the consequences would you have gone to war?

  6. M. Bouffant says:

    Remember, this is Marco “New American Century” (Where’ve I heard that before?) Rubio.

    Who reminds us the 20th century is over by wanting to continue the last 50 yrs. of absurd policy against Cuba, because of the “Communists”.

    I suppose Bush’s & Rubio’s flip-flops & dancing around the question are all a plot of the liberal media to destroy the only G.O.P. candidates who might have some appeal to Hispanics. Although if neither of the two nor their hired guns realized the question would be asked, & that some sort of response beyond “Huh? I didn’t hear you.” &/or flailing about would be necessary, I’m not sure we could trust either to run a business, let alone lead the Free World.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    I knew Bush43 would ruin Jeb’s chances…I didn’t think he was going to run the entire clown car into a ditch. What fun!!!!
    Republicans just cannot reconcile their ideology with the real world. It will continue to be a problem. Not just on Iraq but the economy, Obamacare…pretty much everything.

  8. Mu says:

    Stop with the softball crap. Based on the intelligence available to Bush he should have never gone other then for “I want a quick “mission accomplished” war, and Afghanistan doesn’t fit the profile. Even if they pretended to have different intelligence, there’s just no way of making this pile of excrement smell good. If a candidate can’t say it was a mistake then and a mistake today they really shouldn’t be trusted with running a kindergarten, not talking a nation.

  9. ernieyeball says:

    @Rafer Janders:..My sister! My daughter! My sister! My daughter!”

    Just maybe when these Commander in Chief wannabes are asked what they would have done in 2003 about Iraq they might answer “as little as possible”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uSz0mEtEsQ

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Mu:

    I think this is a point many liberals miss. They argue over the intel, but the intel was just a pretext. The goal was a transformative war, which would have been a very high-difficulty level piece of work requiring many more men, much more initial violence, a willingness to take the Viceroy role seriously, and a long-term commitment.

    So it’s not just that Mr. Bush lied about the intel – which he clearly did. And it’s not just that he lied about his goal – which he clearly did. It’s also and much more that he followed it all up with a display of incompetence I don’t think we’ve seen equalled in modern American history.

    If you’re going to bullsh!t people into war – which Mr. Roosevelt did for years before the Japanese decided to cut their own throats at Pearl Harbor – then the only way out is to actually prevail and reach your goal. No one today faults FDR for lying because in the end he pulled it off. Mr. Bush needed to pull it off and he failed miserably.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time.

    Is it reasonable to assume that Chris Wallace “ambushed” Senator Rubio?

  12. Argon says:

    @michael reynolds: Bingo!

    It was pretty clear that the drumbeat for war with Iraq began long before the half-assed “intelligence” was in. It was obvious to me at the time that the administration was headed to conflict in Iraq and that they were just hunting for any justification to get what they wanted. There was never a clear and present danger nor was there any sort of “existential threat”.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    As a meta-question, what do these Fox News interviewers think they are doing when they ask this question? I’d love to think they’re doing actual journalism, but I’d need a lot more evidence than what I’ve seen so far.

    The only other real possibility is that they think they’re tossing a softball that the candidate can use to rally the base behind him. Which would imply that the answer they’re expecting is “Hell yes, it was justified then and it’s justified now!”.

    That can’t possibly be what’s happening, can it?

  14. Argon says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Is it reasonable to assume that Chris Wallace “ambushed” Senator Rubio?

    I’m sure it will be spun that way though what sort of person gets ambushed when they witnessed the very same ‘trap’ catch another candidate a week before on the same network? We’re looking at a Palin-level lack of preparation here.

  15. Mu says:

    @Argon: Stop insulting Palin!

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Heck, the question I want the reporters to ask is: “given what you know now, if you were POTUS would you declare war against Iran?”

    I’m not so worried about the cluster-Fs we had in the past as about those we’ll get into in the future.

  17. Scott says:

    @Mu: I remember very clearly the lead up to the war. Regardless of the intelligence, there was no need to go to war. We had a complete air cap in the north and a complete air cap in the south. Saddam’s every move was monitored. We had him locked down.

    I remember some of the rationale for changing that situation. ” The American people were getting tired”. ” it was costing us too much to maintain that status.” etc.

    No, it would’ve cost us a lot less than the 4000 American lives (to say nothing of Iraqi lives) and thousands more injured for life.

    I live in San Antonio. I see every day the amputees and burn victims trying to put their lives back together. I don’t and won’t forget.

  18. Davebo says:

    Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News

    I couldn’t stop laughing enough to keep reading after that! Chris Wallace is the new Katie Couric!!

  19. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The GOP lives in the echo chamber where they have a completely different reality unaffected by actual facts.

    Yup. The sad part about this is that in a modern, mature country the GOP should be just a fringe party like UKIP in England. Instead it has Congress , a majority of the governships and legislatures and a fighting chance to win the Presidency. Where have the sensible people of America gone wrong? Sometimes I think WE are the ones who are out of touch with reality.
    Is the country really prepared to make President someone who believes, like Rubio , that we should have committed what we now know was a major foreign policy blunder? Are the yahoos that numerous?

  20. Robert in SF says:

    @Matt Parker:
    Here’s what I don’t understand about these type of “hypothetical” questions, those along the lines of, “If you knew then what you know now…”:

    Is the goal to figure out if they will recognize new data and reassess their assumptions and decisions? Can some Republicans even conceive of that possibility?

    Is the goal to figure out what factors a candidate will weigh when determining if they want to send others to die in a war?

    Sometimes, it comes off as an academic discussion of philosophy, “If….would…”, when what we need to know are “What lessons did you learn from how we ended up in Iraq, and what will you be doing to apply those lessons?”

    But I am not up to date on the facts of what we knew when, what info we trusted when, and what we knew about what they ‘knew’ when…

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    Look at the overlap between the more primitive iterations of Christianity and the GOP. People capable of believing in the literal truth of the Bible are well-prepped for swallowing nonsense.

    Roger Ailes figured out that even in the internet age you could get older, less educated people raised on nonsense to transfer that credulity to politics. Not the “Big Lie” we associate with Hitler, but the ideologically-driven series of little lies we associate with Pravda in its heyday.

  22. Matt Parker says:

    @Robert in SF: I think what’s we have now is a clear demonstrable case of the law of unintended consequences. I want someone in the Republican party to say “War is shitty and we fucked the last one up. We’re going to be damn sure we’re right to do it the next time.” There’s a reason why no one says, given what we know now, would you have bombed Serbia. The Iraq war is shorthand for a war with poor pre-war intelligence and poor post-war planning. The Republican that owns that and says true strength comes from learning from and owning your mistakes will innoculate the party from the debacle.

    Bottom line for me is it’s not throwing Bush/Cheney under the bus to say “These guys made a series of mistakes that I as president will have to deal with. Here’s how I”m going to be more successful than they were.”

  23. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    They argue over the intel, but the intel was just a pretext.

    I would say that the WMD intel was the selling point. It was not the reason for the war. It was an awfully good selling point. It was a reason the the American public could understand and would buy. Listen to the talking heads and the candidates talk about the war today. No WMD, ergo, no war. It was the sole reason for the war. Not a single person can come up with any other reason for the war.

  24. Hal_10000 says:

    The Republicans are stumbling over one of the basic problems in politics: admitting that you or your party got it wrong; admitting that your supposedly fantastic idea was a colossal failure. This goes on with policy after policy: we weren’t committed enough, we were given bad information, it wasn’t really a failure, we were undermined by the other party. It will probably be another ten years before they’re willing to admit it was a huge mistake.

  25. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m going to going to do like lots of leftists do and say, “I blame Obama”

    In particular, I blame him for the “turn the page” approach when he started in 2009. He should have held hearings on both the Iraq War and financial crisis. He should have made damned sure that EVERYONE knew that Iraq War wasn’t a result of innocent miscalculation, and the 2008 financial crisis didn’t “just happen” but occurred because of regulatory malfeasance by folks in thrall to an economic theory that was as detached from reality as literal Bible interpretation.Note too, that the folks who screwed up weren’t the yahoos you and I like to laugh at, but Ivy League graduates wearing bespoke suits. Note, finally, everyone pretty much got away with it. There were no perp walks for torturers or bankers who played roulette with people’s pensions.
    Had Obama came in busting heads and taking names, the Republicans IMO would not have been able to pretend as they did in 2010 that they had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis and the real problem was the crazy Kenyan Muslim in the White House who was taking folks’ hard earned Medicare money and giving it to “his” people through his satanic Obamacare program.
    Obama simply came in thinking that everyone had learned their lesson and that it was time to move on and reconcile. He should have made sure that everyone DID learn their lesson, before he did the reconciliation stuff.

  26. the Q says:

    “Faulty intelligence” is the new “states rights” caused the Civil War not slavery; that FDR was responsible for Pearl Harbor because of “the oil embargo”; that “racism is over because we elected Obama”; there’s a “war on Christians” and Nixon was unfairly ousted by the liberal media.

    The wingnuts always need their own fantasy version of reality to justify their insanity.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:
    I think that is absolutely right. The fatal weakness of Democrats is that we think it’s all about who is right. Republicans don’t care who’s right, they are all id, no superego. They want what they want, period, facts be damned, justice be damned.

    The thing I worry about is that the country may prefer ranting childish id accompanied by a fantasy world over the rather more dull reality that we peddle.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    Of course WMD itself is a meaningless term as used by the Bush administration. Nuclear and biological weapons are very big deals. Chemical weapons are popguns by comparison and no more “mass” in their destruction than good old high explosives.

    The conflation suited Mr. Bush’s ambitions because he was pretty sure he’d find mustang gas at the very least. I mean, we knew for a fact that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iran. So he keeps saying WMD knowing that we’re all thinking nukes, and he figures some nerve gas shells will substitute nicely.

    But the obsession with the intel is a red herring in that it obscures the fact that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had a completely different objective in mind and were not just lying about WMD but were lying about their true goals. And all of it obscures the essential fact that Mr. Bush failed.

  29. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had a completely different objective in mind and were not just lying about WMD but were lying about their true goals.

    Their true goal was to eliminate Saddam Hussein. They had had it with him, and the Clintons had also had it with him even before Bush. Lots of people had had it with Hussein. It was the 9/11 attack that put the country in the frame of mind to act. That afforded Bush the opportunity to move to remove Hussein, even though his ties to terrorists were extremely thin.

    The problem was that Bush acted awkwardly, didn’t understand the Iraqi people, and didn’t understand Islam. Once Bush started nation building and promoting democracy in Iraq, he substituted a pipe dream for reality. The war turned into a cluster in short order. You cannot ad lib a war. I think finally we have figured that out.

    The next war will simply be to destroy.

  30. Davebo says:

    @Another Mike:

    Another excuse.

    The problem was that Bush acted awkwardly, didn’t understand the Iraqi people, and didn’t understand Islam. Once Bush started nation building and promoting democracy in Iraq, he substituted a pipe dream for reality. The war turned into a cluster in short order. You cannot ad lib a war. I think finally we have figured that out.

    That wasn’t the problem at all and this perfectly represents the inane excuse that those who fervently supported the war now are trotting out.

    The problem wasn’t that “Bush acted awkwardly” as so many now delude themselves into believing. It was that the United States, as a country, acted at all.

    Sleep well Mike. I’m not sure I could.

  31. Tillman says:

    @Davebo: Now to be fair, they did eff up the occupation. If the occupation had been a better-administered affair, liberals would be complaining about the intelligence failures and the rationale for war without quite the clusterfuck to impress the American public into believing them.

    It’s probably not a counterfactual a historian would attempt right now, but my opinion remains the divisions in Iraq were not destined to lead to insurgency and war as they did. At least not as damn fast as they did.

  32. wr says:

    What I don’t understand is how none of these morons is prepared for this question. With Bush — he’s had to know for years that the second he started to run this would be the first question he’s be asked. So instead of pretending to wait for permission from his family, he should have been spending every minute workshopping an answer. At least Sarah Palin could claim to be surprised by the Katie Couric softball — it was such an idiot question that no one would expect a real journalist to ask it. (Also, any normal human being wouldn’t need to prepare an answer to that…) To be surprised by the one question everyone knows you’ll be asked — what does that say for your forethought?

    And then Rubio. For God’s sake, everyone writes about Bush and Rubio as friends, as rivals, as fellow Floridians — basically as a pair. So once Bush whiffed this, his people had to know this was coming for him — and that stumbling through a lot of non-answers as Bush did would be a disaster.

    I get annoyed when politicians are overly rehearsed and scripted. But if this is the alternative… bring on the teleprompters!

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    Oh, please, this was all irritation at Saddam? Then why not a decapitation strike? Why not leave once we’d dug him out of his hole?

    Mr. Bush and the neocons wanted a war of transformation. I thought it was obvious from the start and I gave nervous and partial support to the idea. This was not about one tin-pot dictator, nor was it about WMD, it was an attempt to completely redraw the landscape of the middle east. It was bold and dishonest, followed up by deluded and incompetent.

    Mr. Bush was not awkward, he was a hopeless fwck up, just as he had been his entire life. He’s a loser. He’s a non-entity that stumbled into the White House because Americans thought he seemed nice and we were at peace, so who cared if we elected a moron? That didn’t surprise me, what surprised me was that two experienced old hands like Cheney and Rumsfeld were if anything even more incompetent.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:

    They are trapped between the drivel their Foxbot supporters believe, and reality. Hard to square that circle.

  35. Franklin says:

    @Argon:

    There was never a clear and present danger nor was there any sort of “existential threat”.

    I just wanted to highlight what Argon said. Although most people are jabbering about whether the intel was right or wrong or a “good selling point”, the fact is: we went to war without there being any imminent threat to us – EVEN IF THE INTEL WAS RIGHT. That is simply an unjust war.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    Lots of people had had it with Hussein.

    Indeed…including Iran, which was strengthened by his ouster…heck of a job Bushie…

    …even though his ties to terrorists were extremely thin.

    Ties to the 9/11 hijackers? Try nonexistent…

  37. jd says:

    What happened to the trolls? There’s hardly a downvote on this thread. You’d think it was a liberal blog.

  38. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No one today faults FDR for lying because in the end he pulled it off.

    …and because everyone realizes it was absolutely f***ing necessary.

  39. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yeah, that definitely helps.

  40. c.red says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A War of Transformation is buying what happened in Iraq too highly. There were lots of reasons in the administration; all of them petty. Rumsfeld wanted to be the “Greatest Military Mind Ever” and a third world trophy from Afghanistan wasn’t going to cut it. Rove wanted a permanent Republican majority and Iraq was an acceptable sacrifice. Cheney wanted to outright loot Iraq with his Halliburton buddies and when there wasn’t enough he went on to scam the everyone involved. All W wanted was to outshine his Daddy by getting the bad man Bush Senior didn’t.

    Just my opinion, but it would take a lot to convince me any of the prime movers had anything else on their minds.

  41. Rick DeMent says:

    @Argon:

    It was pretty clear that the drumbeat for war with Iraq began long before the half-assed “intelligence” was in. It was obvious to me at the time that the administration was headed to conflict in Iraq and that they were just hunting for any justification to get what they wanted.

    I’m not so sure about this. Before 9/11 the Bush administration was angling to reimpose the inspection regime and go all in on working with Saddam Hussein on developing the oil fields that way. There was the CFR energy report which laid out that plan, and even Cheney’s task force was looking at that option. There were statements made by both Powell and Rice during the summer downplaying the threat of Hussein suggesting he could be contained.

    I think the problem was after 9/11 they started acting like they had been given a gift and instead of dealing with the job in Afghanistan, they got greedy.

  42. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Ok, I get that you really, really do not like Bush, but here is a more level-headed analysis of the war aims by Victor Davis Hanson.

    “Again, the vast majority of these “whereas” clauses had nothing to do with WMD, but sought, in a post-9/11 landscape, to reify Bill Clinton’s Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Clinton’s neoconservative resolution had made it the official policy of the United States to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime and promote a democratic replacement.

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418538/were-we-right-take-out-saddam-victor-davis-hanson

  43. Argon says:

    @Rick DeMent: I agree that the Bush administration went ‘all in’ on Iraq after 9/11. That event gave them the (false) pretext for the invasion. But it was pretty obvious that post-9/11 the administration was railroading the US for war.

  44. EddieInCA says:

    @Another Mike:

    Ok, I get that you really, really do not like Bush, but here is a more level-headed analysis of the war aims by Victor Davis Hanson.

    One can stop reading right there.

    Anyone who can claim that Victor Davis Hanson is capapbe of a “level-headed analysis” has the definitions of “level-headed analysis” seriously wrong. VDH is now, and has always been, a partisian.

  45. Another Mike says:

    @EddieInCA:

    VDH is now, and has always been, a partisian.

    Everyone who reports on the news and current events, or comments on the same, is a partisan. Everyone is working some angle or another. If everything needed to be bias free to be of value, this blog might as well shut down. For sure the comments should be shut down.

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Another Mike:

    “Again, the vast majority of these “whereas” clauses had nothing to do with WMD, but sought, in a post-9/11 landscape, to reify Bill Clinton’s Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.

    Mike, you could stop right there. What did Rummy say on 9/12? Oh yeah, “How can we tie this to Iraq?” or something to that effect. They were angling for war since the day after the Supreme Courts non-ruling.

  47. @michael reynolds:

    Oh, I think Nazi Germany is the apt comparison:

    “I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.” -William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

  48. EddieInCA says:

    @Another Mike:

    Point taken.

    Let me rephrase.

    VDH is now, and has always been, a partisian hack with no intellectual honesty.

    It’s quite possible to be a partisan and still be intellectually honest. On the GOP side, one can look to Bruce Bartlett or Matthew Dowd, who have no problems pointing out where the GOP screws up.

    On the left, one can look to a Bill Maher or Jonathan Turley, who have no problems pointing out where Dems screw up. There are other examples as well, but those four popped into my head first.

    VDH has never found a policy that he can’t spin into GOP=Good, Dems=Bad. Hence, he’s a hack and shouldn’t be used as any example of honest analysis.

  49. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another Mike:

    Everyone who reports on the news and current events, or comments on the same, is a partisan.

    I don’t object to Hanson because he’s “a partisan.” I object to him because he’s a worthless lying hack. Example.

    Bill Clinton’s Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 … Clinton’s neoconservative resolution had made it the official policy of the United States to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime

    Another nice example of Hanson hackery. Clinton’s Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (link) called for support to “Iraqi democratic opposition organizations,” via a limited amount of money, training and equipment. It specifically indicated we should have no military role beyond that: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.”

    So invoking this Act to justify Bush’s invasion is another instance of Hanson rewriting history, which is what he does for a living.

  50. Another Mike says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Yes, it is always the same old story. My guys got it right. Your guy is a hack. It means nothing, except to establish your bias. I actually do not think you have ever read anything Hanson has written.

  51. jukeboxgrad says:

    Your guy is a hack.

    I didn’t just assert “your guy is a hack.” I showed proof. You ignoring that proof means you’re also a hack.

  52. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Of course WMD itself is a meaningless term as used by the Bush administration. Nuclear and biological weapons are very big deals. Chemical weapons are popguns by comparison and no more “mass” in their destruction than good old high explosives.

    Actually, the official U. S. government classification of chemical weapons as WMD long predates the Bush administration. I first encountered it when I joined the Air Force in 1986 and it wasn’t new then.

    Chemical weapons do little damage to structures but can be deadlier to people in some contexts than explosives, due to their ability to penetrate fighting positions and covered areas that would normally protect from bombs or artillery. Fortunately, this requires means of employment that are too sophisticated for the garden-variety terrorist organization to achieve.

  53. Dmichaelwells says:

    Some commenters have referred to “gotcha” questions or being “ambushed” by a question. These are simply excuses for being embarrassed when confronted with previous contrary statements or a failure to prepare. How can a presidential candidate, whether JEB or Rubio not have anticipated questions about Iraq? “Gotcha,” “ambushed” should be tossed in the linguistic dust bin along with “playing the blame game.”

  54. grumpy realist says:

    By the way, it looks like the House Republicans are quite willing to hand over at least part of foreign economic policy to China…

    (In other words, get rid of one piece of government that actually works and has proven good for US companies trying to start up abroad.)

  55. EddieInCA says:

    @Another Mike:

    I was a paying subscriber to National Review from 1995-2004. I read plenty of VDH over the years.

    There are, and have been, some intellectually honest writers at National Review; Ramesh, David Frum, Dreher, Yuval Levin, to name a few.

    Those who aren’t include Hanson, Goldberg, Nordlinger, Williamson, Rich “Starbursts” Lowry, and too many others to list.

  56. the Q says:

    Quoting Hanson’s take on the Iraq war is like asking Tom Brady his opinion of Deflategate….not much bias there eh Mike?

  57. Davebo says:

    @Another Mike:

    We get it. You believe the war “was a good and worthwhile undertaking and was, on the whole, a laudable success”.

    So the question becomes, since you and VDH are convinced of this, why isn’t he writing now telling GOP candidates how to answer these inevitable questions about Iraq?

    The answer is simple. He may be a dishonest hack, and he most certainly is, but he isn’t an idiot.

  58. Another Mike says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I showed proof.

    No you didn’t. Regime change was the policy. Hanson cites the Iraq Liberation Act to say no more than that.

  59. Davebo says:

    @Another Mike:

    Surely you will agree that there is a large difference between commending a change of government in a distant country and overthrowing a regime by invasion right?

    Or do yo also advocate the invasion of Cuba, North Korea and dozens of other countries?

  60. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another Mike:

    Regime change was the policy. Hanson cites the Iraq Liberation Act to say no more than that.

    Consider these two things:

    A) Regime change without the use of American military force.
    B) Regime change through the use of American military force.

    You and Hanson are both pretending that the difference between A and B isn’t important. Explain why.

    I realize Davebo already asked you this question, in a different way.

    Also, I cited completely separate proof that Hanson is a hack, proof that you are still ignoring. Explain why.

  61. michael reynolds says:

    I think “regime change” is too small a phrase to describe their ambitions. That makes it seem this is about Saddam per se, and I don’t believe it. I think it was an effort to transform the middle east by creating a pluralist democracy.

    Unfortunately the effort was crippled from the start by Mr. Bush’s refusal to engage the American people, and by Republican ideology which favors gimmicks and magic over hard work. I think they thought all they had to do was knock off this one strong man and hey, presto: democracy and capitalism! They talked themselves into believing they could do it with a tiny army, no extra money and while lying to the American people about their purpose.

    One of the reasons liberal criticism doesn’t sting on the right is that the neocons understood what they were aiming for and think they just had a regrettable failure, undercut by domestic opposition, the media, Barack Obama, etc… (See: The stab in the back theory behind Naziism.) Liberals have focused all their attention on the dishonesty and none on the incompetence. Accusing a neocon of dishonesty is not going to hurt folks who believe they were on a holy crusade. The average Foxbot moron focuses on the intel and buys the “mistaken intel” theory but the core neocons know what they were about.

    There were layers of lies, not just a single lie. WMD was the pretext, not the goal. The intel, good, bad or indifferent was essentially irrelevant since it was only a tool to buttress the WMD pretext and allow this war of transformation. From the neocon perspective the whole intel debate is a sideshow.

  62. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The intel, good, bad or indifferent was essentially irrelevant since it was only a tool to buttress the WMD pretext and allow this war of transformation.

    It may have been irrelevant to the administration, but it was not irrelevant for the American public. It was what sold the public on the war.

    The layers of lies claim is false.

    “The view that hardliners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on WMD is just flat wrong,” he [CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell] writes. “No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.”

  63. jukeboxgrad says:

    The analysts were already there and they had been there for years

    If “there” is defined as ‘what Bush said,’ then “the analysts” were never “there,” because Bush made claims that went beyond what “the analysts” said.

    Bush/Cheney said they knew with “absolute certainty” that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons. They said there was “no doubt.” Trouble is, there was plenty of doubt. Number of intelligence agencies that said what they were saying: zero. No intelligence agency expressed the level of certainty they expressed. When you pretend to know something for sure even though you don’t actually know it for sure, this is known as lying.

    The proof that Bush lied is not found in what we failed to find. The proof that Bush lied is found in comparing what the intel said with what he said the intel said. What he said the intel said is not what the intel said.

  64. Lenoxus says:

    “Knowing what you know today, would you still have answered questions about the Iraq War in the same way as you did?”

  65. Another Mike says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    The proof that Bush lied is found in comparing what the intel said with what he said the intel said. What he said the intel said is not what the intel said.

    Key congressional leaders saw the same intelligence data as Bush saw. They came to the same conclusion as Bush and voted for the use of force resolution.

    Democrats before Iraq War started …
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5p-qIq32m8&feature=youtu.be

    You have the facts, but your mind is set. Nothing new.

  66. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think it was an effort to transform the middle east by creating a pluralist democracy.

    We already had one; it was called “Turkey”. Of course, we managed to screw that up too…

  67. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another Mike:

    Key congressional leaders saw the same intelligence data as Bush saw.

    Yet another exceptionally popular right-wing lie. Link.

    Democrats before Iraq War started

    Another popular and superficial non-argument that has already been addressed. Link.

  68. David M says:

    It’s extraordinarily dishonest to compare the decision to invade in 2003 to the vote to authorize the inspections in 2002. In between those two events, there were inspectors in Iraq, so there was much less evidence in 2003. The vote is basically only problematic because of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. Without those bad actors, there is no war.

  69. Lenoxus says:

    A really charitable perspective might see Rubio and others as objecting to the whole concept of counterfactuals, especially when evaluating the moral value of actions. And in a sense there’s a point to that. Suppose my house were on fire, but I was somehow compelled to hallucinate that it was not, perhaps due to a philosophical demon. “Knowing what you know now, should you have called 911, or perhaps used a fire extinguisher?” What’s the point of the question — to pass judgement on myself, or to simply express a general point about the best possible outcome of a situation in retrospect?

    Since the point here is the latter (it’ not “George Bush good or George Bush bad?” but “Iraq good or Iraq bad?”) one way to avoid any wheedling would be to ask “Would things be better now if we hadn’t gone to war?” Of course, if we’re sticking to my “Rubio’s just being philosophical” bit of devil’s advocacy, he’s just quest the whole idea of changing the past — like, would it overwrite the existence of everyone who had been born since that moment? Mannn?

    Anyway, all this stuff about the intelligence being so compelling that we had no choice — that’s as much nonsense as the demon in my story. More so, since the point of the demon is that it has total control over your senses). Numerous inspections denied the WMD. The UN didn’t believe it. Are we supposed to treat all that as a wild coincidence? There’s this amazing desperation to insisting that all our best intelligence pointed to WMDs. Um… nope.

    stonetools:

    Had Obama came in busting heads and taking names, the Republicans IMO would not have been able to pretend as they did in 2010 that they had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis and the real problem was the crazy Kenyan Muslim in the White House who was taking folks’ hard earned Medicare money and giving it to “his” people through his satanic Obamacare program.

    I’m not sure. I think in a weird way that putting Republicans on the defensive like that would have made them look more sympathetic. Remember, a large majority of Americans supported the war in Iraq at the outset. Attacking the war’s engineers would feel like an attack on voters, if not expressed very carefully. And I feel like just saying “You were all mislead” doesn’t cut it. Not only does anyone like to think they can be fooled, but I think at some level we all smelled the BS even at the time, but we were in the throes of 9/11 and by God something had to be done. So we would still feel like we had to face that, and we’d just react with spite against Obama, and he’d seem even more Muslim and Kenyan.

    The bankers, though, I’ll give you that. Except that a variant of the same problem pops up again — this is a nation of temporarily embarrassed millionaires. If you prosecute someone for playing financial blackjack with my mortgage, then you prosecute my personal fantasy of being the guy who does that.

  70. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The Turks aren’t Arabs, they’re the former occupiers of Arab lands. Iraq is a distinctly Arab state which in theory would have by its example undermined the solidly rejectionist Arab line toward Israel which is what a lot of the neocon impulse was about.

  71. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    Well, golly, if you can’t trust the word of a CIA deputy director. . . Seriously? That’s your evidence? The word of a spy?

  72. Barry says:

    @DrDaveT: “The only other real possibility is that they think they’re tossing a softball that the candidate can use to rally the base behind him. Which would imply that the answer they’re expecting is “Hell yes, it was justified then and it’s justified now!”.”

    That’s what Megan’s question to Jeb was ‘…knowiing what you know now….’

  73. Barry says:

    @grumpy realist: “I’m not so worried about the cluster-Fs we had in the past as about those we’ll get into in the future.”

    It’s all the same – even now, we see the same warmongers who cheered the Iraq War cheerleading this war.

    It’s like trying to find out if an applicant for a job was fired for lying, theft or fraud. The reason that you want to know is that the person will probably do it again.

  74. Barry says:

    @Another Mike: “The problem was that Bush acted awkwardly, didn’t understand the Iraqi people, and didn’t understand Islam. Once Bush started nation building and promoting democracy in Iraq, he substituted a pipe dream for reality. The war turned into a cluster in short order. You cannot ad lib a war. I think finally we have figured that out.”

    They never tried to ‘nation build’. The reason was that (a) they were incompetent and (b) they wanted a puppet state, not a country.

    What happened what that they laughably tried to install Chalabi as the new dictator (presumably after trying to get some of Saddam’s generals), then ran the place as a military dictatorship, and only allowed elections when Sistani told them he’d put every follower on the street in opposition to the US rule.

    In the mean time US forces smashed any rival attempts by Iraqis to build local governments, and then failed to provide one themselves. The result was a guerrilla paradise and h*ll on earth for everybody else.

  75. munchiest of boxes says:

    Asshat and junkie…the only liars are the people in the current administration..ie your idols.

    Zero’s Administration knew three months before the November 2012 presidential election of ISIS plans to establish a caliphate in Iraq …Zero’s Administration knew of arms being shipped from Benghazi to Syria

    .…and had been planned at least 10 days in advance.

  76. jukeboxgrad says:

    three months before the November 2012 presidential election

    That’s hilarious, because I can do a lot better than “three months before the November 2012 presidential election.” Smart people knew much earlier that the removal of Saddam would create “a situation that is inherently unstable”. One of those smart people was Dick Cheney; that’s what he said in 1991.

    Every good conservative knows that history began on 1/20/09.

  77. munchiest of boxes says:

    That still doesn’t change the fact that zero’s poor decision making has caused the current situation.

  78. oh the lies says:

    Oh and their lies

  79. jukeboxgrad says:

    zero’s poor decision making has caused the current situation

    By the way, are you in favor of higher taxes to pay for your never-ending war, or do you prefer the Bush approach of sending the bill to our kids? Just curious.

  80. oh the lies says:
  81. jukeboxgrad says:

    I’m already familiar with the worthless claims made by your worthless source, so you didn’t need to post the worthless link.

  82. junkbox the liar says:

    By the way, are you in favor of higher taxes to pay for your never-ending war, or do you prefer the Bush approach of sending the bill to our kids? Just curious.

    considering that zero has nearly doubled the current debt I don’t see what you are getting at?
    do you ever have a point troll?

    I’m already familiar with the worthless claims made by your worthless source, so you didn’t need to post the worthless link.

    you don’t like it when you are proven wrong again
    You lead a pitiful life don’t you?

  83. jukeboxgrad says:

    zero has nearly doubled the current debt

    Yet another popular right wing lie, and also a way to evade the question I asked you.

    I don’t see what you are getting at?

    You could have stopped after the first three words.

  84. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: I was, like you, briefly caught up by the NeoCon rhetoric of transfiguring the MidEast as Japan and Germany were transformed in the late 40s and 50s. I recall with embarrassment arguing that position at a gathering of friends; the 20-something son of a buddy of mine took the opposite position and damme if he didn’t turn out to be right and I was wrong.

    Then I learned that the Republican idea wasn’t that democracy and liberty (as we understand them–capitalism, property rights, due process) had to be achieved by hard work and long toil. They actually thought that what we call ‘democracy’ is a default setting. They filled the government offices in Baghdad with strangely limited people like Paul Brimmer. They staffed those offices with Heritage Foundation interns. They planned the future traffic patterns in Baghdad. They laid out a non-smoking campaign for the Iraqi people. They established a Baghdad stock exchange. But they did not collect all the explosive munitions they came across. They did not find a social role for the Iraqi army. They did not accept responsibility for keeping the electricity on, the water running, the markets operating.

    They don’t know that they failed. They’re not sure what went wrong, but it is not their fault!

    That is the quality of the so-called-conservatives who expect us to trust them in ’16. They actually do not realize that it is they who failed.

    It would be funny if it were not tragic, that America’s future could very possibly be in their hands again.

  85. Barry says:

    @JohnMcC: The Republican plan was not to establish a democratic nation, but a puppet state under US control. They simply failed so badly to do this…….

  86. Mannning says:

    Perhaps we have learned not to try nation building in such infertile grounds. Perhaps we have learned not to commit untold billions into the process of creating a false democracy. Perhaps we have learned to either flood the place with troops up front or stay out, which doesn’t seem to be the case now. Perhaps we should do what we do best, which is to fight, when fighting is needed. Perhaps we have learned just a tad more about Islam, Shiites, and Sunnis and a hundred more tribes, but still not enough. Perhaps we have learned how to win the hearts and minds of rather foreign peoples, but perhaps not. Perhaps we have learned how to negotiate with Muslims rather than fighting them, but it doesn’t look hopeful. Then, too, perhaps we have learned that we have a stake in the game no matter what. Perhaps…