Aside from Bush and Cheney, Who's Most Responsible for Iraq?Historians in the News
tags: George W. Bush, foreign policy, Dick Cheney, Iraq War, militarism
Much has been said about the Iraq war and its failures over the last 20 years, including the roles of key decision makers like President Bush and Vice President Cheney. But what is perhaps not as well known is just how many people were involved in making it a reality. From White House staffers and senior officials, to allied think tank “experts” and prominent media figures, the Iraq war had many, many authors.
We asked nearly two dozen experts, journalists, former government officials, and others, which individual — outside of Bush or Cheney — was the underrated architect and promoter of the war in Iraq, and why. It’s important that we understand just how this country could end up on such a disastrous course by chronicling the widespread enthusiasm for in Washington and beyond.
Jim Antle, Andrew Bacevich, Medea Benjamin, James Carden, Bob Dreyfuss, Dan DePetris, Jacob Heilbrunn, Scott Horton, Karen Kwiatkowski, Daniel Larison, Jim Lobe, Lora Lumpe, John Mearsheimer, Robert Merry, John Mueller, Christopher Preble, Assal Rad, Barbara Slavin, Craig Unger, Katrina vanden Heuvel, John Walcott, Stephen Walt, Sarah Leah Whitson
Jim Antle, politics editor at The Washington Examiner — Joe Biden
The men who were president and vice president 20 years ago are the most responsible for the Iraq war. But a subsequent vice president, the man who is president right now, played an underrated role.
Joe Biden repeated most of the talking points that became indispensable to the push for war — Saddam Hussein as a menace beyond his borders, the need for regime change in Baghdad to be an American policy and priority, existence of weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility of WMD being transferred to terrorist groups like the one that attacked us on 9/11.
Mainstream Democrats repeating those warmed over neoconservative talking points — establishment types with the right committee assignments, liberal but not quite of the Left — kept the case for the Iraq war from being ghettoized in conservative circles.
Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University and Chair of the Board of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft — Colin Powell
Only one person in the innermost circle of the Bush administration could have dissuaded President Bush from invading Iraq. That person was Secretary of State Colin Powell, a seasoned soldier-statesman who had an inkling of the risks that war was likely to involve. Quiet opposition by Powell did not suffice to sway the president, however. The clamor from other senior officials and from media warmongers was too great. But just imagine if two or three weeks before the invasion, Powell had resigned in protest. Imagine if he had then made a series of presentations arguing against the prospective war on political, strategic, and moral terms. Maybe, just maybe, he might have averted the debacle that ensued.
Robert Merry, author of “Where they Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians” — Woodrow Wilson
The philosophical progenitor of the Iraq folly was Woodrow Wilson, that fuzzy-headed idealist who donated his name to the idea that great powers such as the United States can wander the world, planting seeds of good intention that will grow into mighty oaks of democratic enlightenment and civic stability. Some 80 years after that idea came a cropper at Versailles, George W. and his people embraced it as their key to success in Iraq. Their rationale of necessity was Saddam’s presumed weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be bogus. But the rationale of ultimate success was gauzy Wilsonism — -the idea that the U.S. wouldn’t get bogged down in the Middle East because the Wilsonian ethos would make it all come out just fine, with the peoples of Iraq and beyond pulling to their bosoms all the hallowed principles of American democracy and thus eradicating tyranny for all time. Beware the siren song of Wilsonism.