Friday, December 08, 2006

They Told You So


Shortly after U.S. forces marched into Baghdad in 2003, The Weekly Standard published a jeering article titled, “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers.” Among those the article mocked was a “war novelist” named James Webb, who is now the senator-elect from Virginia.

The article’s title was more revealing than its authors knew. People forget the nature of Cassandra’s curse: although nobody would believe her, all her prophecies came true. And so it was with those who warned against invading Iraq. At best, they were ignored. A recent article in The Washington Post ruefully conceded that the paper’s account of the debate in the House of Representatives over the resolution authorizing the Iraq war — a resolution opposed by a majority of the Democrats — gave no coverage at all to those antiwar arguments that now seem prescient.

At worst, those who were skeptical about the case for war had their patriotism and/or their sanity questioned. The New Republic now says that it “deeply regrets its early support for this war.” Does it also deeply regret accusing those who opposed rushing into war of “abject pacifism?”

Now, only a few neocon dead-enders still believe that this war was anything but a vast exercise in folly. And those who braved political pressure and ridicule to oppose what Al Gore has rightly called “the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States” deserve some credit.

Unlike The Weekly Standard, which singled out those it thought had been proved wrong, I’d like to offer some praise to those who got it right. Here’s a partial honor roll:

Former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, explaining in 1998 why they didn’t go on to Baghdad in 1991: “Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

Representative Ike Skelton, September 2002: “I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq’s forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.”

Al Gore, September 2002: “I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Representative John Spratt, October 2002: “The outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: “When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited.”

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: “I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. … When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives.”

Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: “I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. … Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.”

We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage. We should also ask why anyone who didn’t raise questions about the war — or, at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly — should be taken seriously when he or she talks about matters of national security.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It's so hard to read your page, due to the black background and indistinct white font, that I had to copy paste it into a word document on my local to actually be able to see it. Just a vote for visibility online...

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no trouble reading it - the white typing wasn't indistinct at all to my eyes. Thank you for posting this column by Krugman. I agree with his sentiments.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Tennessean said...

Many hundreds of Thousands of us marched in the streets of Washington DC several times between October 2002 and September 2005 to protest what was obviously an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign country that never threatened to attack the United States. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzales are war criminals who should be arrested and tried for their crimes. We were vilified--even those of us who are veterans of previous wars--as "traitors" by our own government. I demand accountability for these war criminals.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...

Wow, I finally disagree with Feingold on something: "...the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives."

In retrospect, what was troubling was that too few questioned his motives.

Of course, Feingold was just being polite. What he meant was that it was troubling that they should question Bush's motives.

And as Krugman points out, it's troubling that the punditocracy won't admit it was wrong, and that next time it better listen to the Feingolds. They won't, because nuance isn't as much fun as bombs bursting in air, and statemanship isn't as much fun as soundbites.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Please tell me you got permission to post this in its entirety. If you didn't, you're stealing this.

10:36 AM  
Blogger darrelplant said...

How about George McGovern, from a week after Colin Powell's UN speech on CNN's "Inside Politics":

"MCGOVERN: You know, I think most people would agree that had it not been for that 9/11 attack, we wouldn't even be here talking about Saddam Hussein. The irony of that is that he had nothing to do that with that attack. Iraq had nothing to do with it. This was Osama bin Laden's. He was the mastermind. He planned it, and his al Qaeda network, that little band of desert radical young men that he's assembled. So I don't see the connect between that and this march to war in Iraq. And I disagree with the president. I don't think Iraq is a threat to the most mighty military power in the history of the world."

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list. Hope you can add to it, as there are quite a few more who we all should remember.

Ditto the comments about the white on black: more difficult to read, adds nothing. First time reader, I'm going to bookmark the page, but probably won't come that often if I have to struggle to read every post.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Realist said...

It's a lot easier to read if you kick up the text size. If you're using FireFox or a version of Internet Explorer prior to 7, click View and then Text Size. If you're using IE7, click Page and then Text Size. Doesn't work on every page, but it works on this one.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Yo Rick,

There are only about 100 sites around the web that have copied this article.

Get to work.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Krugman,

I generally agree with most of your columns but your column today had a most glaring omission. You write about those who counselled against the War in Iraq before its commencement. And somehow you failed to mention General Wesley Clark. I know that the mainstream media chooses to focus on the fad candidate du jour and has generally ignored General Clark but I expected more of you.
General Clark has been most forthright about his
opposition to the War before it began and has consistently criticized the lack of planning and the lack of a diplomatic effort and the misuse of American
military power to resolve what is a political conflict.

I would suggest you familiarize yourself with his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee
alongwith Richard Perle on September 26, 2002
[H.A.S.C. No. 107–46]







SEPTEMBER 26, 2002

Some highlights of his very prescient testimony

1. "The President and his national security team must deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in crafting UN engagement. In the near term, time is on our side, and we should endeavor to use the UN if at all
possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or even the development of a more
intrusive inspection program, if necessary backed by force. This is foremost an effort to gain world-wide legitimacy for US concerns and possible later action,
but it may also impede Saddam's weapons programs and further constrain his freedom of action. Yes, there is a risk that inspections would fail to provide the evidence of his weapons programs, but the difficulties
of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by opportunity to gain allies and support in the campaign against Saddam. "

2. "Force should be used as the last resort; after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless
information indicates that further delay would present an immediate risk to the assembled forces and
organizations. This action should not be categorized as "preemptive."

3."Force should not be used until the personnel and organizations to be involved in post-conflict Iraq are identified and readied to assume their responsibilities. This includes requirements for
humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance, and preparations for a transitional
governing body and eventual elections, perhaps including a new constitution. Ideally, international and multinational organizations will participate in
the readying of such post-conflict operations, including the UN, NATO, and other regional and Islamic organizations."

4. "The war is unpredictable. It could be difficult and costly. And, what is at risk in the aftermath is an open-ended American ground commitment in Iraq and an even deeper sense of humiliation in the Arab world,
which could intensify our problems in the region and elsewhere."

5."And one of the things we have seen is that when you put American forces into a region, we tend to be a lightning rod. In the case of Kosovo, we are the strongest element there, and the Albanians looked to us for protection. In the case of Iraq, we are going
to be infidels in a Muslim land. And one of the things that is going to happen when you break the authority of Saddam Hussein is that you are going to have a
resurgence of support for Muslims in the region by the
radical elements of both Wahabi and Shia, and they will be in there and they will be preaching

and my personal favorite from that testimony - the
following paragraph

"Since then we have encouraged Saddam Hussein and supported him as he attacked against Iran in an effort to prevent Iranian destabilization of the Gulf. That
came back and bit us when Saddam Hussein then moved against Kuwait. We encouraged the Saudis and the
Pakistanis to work with the Afghans and build an Army
of God, the Mujahedin, to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan. Now we have released tens of thousands of
these holy warriors, some of whom have turned against us and formed al Qaeda.

My French friends constantly remind me that these are
problems that we had a hand in creating. So when it comes to creating another strategy which is built around the intrusion into the region by U.S. forces, all the warning signs should be flashing. There are unintended consequences when force is used. Use it as
a last resort. Use it multilaterally if you can. Use
it unilaterally only if you must."

When I heard the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, they frankly sounded like a composite of
most of the speeches, lectures and Op-Ed pieces General Clark has written since 2003 - get regional
dialogue going with Syria and Iran, get the Saudi's involved, etc. It seems like he was the ghost writer for the ISG. General Clark himself always talks about
how what is important is getting your ideas adopted and it looks like he may be succeeding. However as a supporter of his Presidential candidacy in 2004 and hopefully in 2008, I would like to see the media
accurately reflect what this man has said and written.

If you were one of my medical students or interns or residents and this was a case you were presenting, I'd give you an incomplete because you missed some
historical information.

You let me down today, Dr Krugman.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let’s not forget a very brave Senator:

“In his speech to the Senate, Wellstone said he supported renewed efforts to disarm Iraq through unfettered U.N. inspections and opposed what he called a ‘preemptive, go-it-alone strategy’ that could result in thousands of deaths and jeopardize the broader war on terrorism. ‘The United States should unite the world against Saddam and not allow him to unite forces against us,’ Wellstone said. ‘Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam while preserving our war on terror, is likely to succeed.’

In an earlier interview, Wellstone said analysts may be right in warning he could lose independent-minded suburbanites and other largely moderate swing voters by opposing Bush, who is as popular in Minnesota as he is in the rest of the country, according to recent polls.

. . . .

In addition to believing that voters will not fault him for standing by his beliefs, Wellstone said he thinks many Minnesotans share his doubts about whether the United States should attack Iraq.

‘I know the conventional wisdom among Republicans is that this is the issue that will do him in,’ Wellstone said, speaking of himself. ‘But I think people want you to do what you think is right. I think people want to support the president, but they're very worried about doing it alone . . . I think people in Minnesota have the same concerns that I have.’”

7:17 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Dr. Krugman's Honor Roll article needs more prominent circulation, with somewhat greater contextual notes. It needs to be published where it will be read by college and high school students.

Nations such as Germany and Japan have schooled their children on their terrible mistakes of the past. America's mistaken venture in Iraq has the potential to generate a regional maelstrom.

Political, financial and military corrections for this egregious error will take long to begin and will extend for decades.

But now is the time to begin correcting America's culture of intellectual laziness and of the elevation of ideology over intelligence and expertise.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kent Conrad, Senator (D) from red state North Dakota, 10/11/02, before the AUMF vote:

"...Let me be clear. I do not oppose the use of force against this lawless and dangerous tyrant. But I cannot support the resolution before us as it stands. It is too broad and open-ended, and I do not believe that it is in the national security interest of the United States.
In my judgment, an invasion of Iraq at this time would make the United States less secure rather than more secure. It would make a dangerous world even more dangerous.

...Fourth, a unilateral attack by the United States could destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, and inflame anti-American interests around the globe. An American invasion could doubtless impact the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The backlash in Arab nations could further energize and deepen anti-American sentiment. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups could gain more willing suicide bombers, and raise even greater financial resources from the wealthy nations of the region.

...Which brings me to my final point. If our goal is to topple Saddam, what is our responsibility for the regime that follows?

Forming a new government in Iraq is far from simple. There is no clear successor to Saddam. Iraq is a country filled with competing ethnic groups, religious and tribal factions, with no history of democracy.
I do not want to see our forces mired in a long occupation, in dangerous territory, in a destabilized region, subject to violence within Iraq. I do not want to see the United States responsible for the stability of Iraq, the economy of Iraq, and the political future of that nation."

Thanks, Senator Conrad. If every politician had your guts and integrity, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NO ONE!! IN EITHER the HOUSE or SENATE! has spoken out against this war more fervently than Dennis Kucinich(D-OH) He hasn't wavered, waffled or flip flopped. Hopefully his concern for the country and impoverished will be heard in the new Congress. I doubt it. He has no corporate sponsers.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous juslin said...

thanks paul krugman for listing these real patriots! this past election showed we're sick of all false patriots and their ass-kissing of bushco!

2:15 AM  

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