Remember when cheney would leak bullshit to your paper and then cite your paper as justification https://t.co/Ag6ZGogR3j
— Atrios (@Atrios) March 20, 2023
A lot of Iraq war retrospectives on the 20th Anniversary. Here is one that I think is one of the best piece of blogging ever done, Operation Desert Snipe from April of 2003:
The Snipe Hunt is an American folk tradition, a rite of passage for the novice outdoorsman … an elaborate practical joke which ends with the initiate crouching alone in the woods, in the dark, literally “holding the bag”, waiting for the nonexistent Snipe.
What if we sift through all the sand in Iraq without finding WMDs? (That means hundreds of tons, as advertised … not lab samples, training rounds or inventory strays.) We’re alone in the woods, in the dark, holding the bag. Paraphrasing NYT’s Tom Friedman, we will have gone to war on the wings of a snipe.
Too early to call it a night. It’s a big desert, our last candle hasn’t flickered out, and the mocking call of the snipe still echoes hauntingly in the distance, but … the original standard WMD thesis is strictly defunct.
Saddam Hussein had extensive, active, advanced, clandestine chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. UN inspectors couldn’t find WMDs because they were inept, or corrupt, or because Saddam played the shell game so masterfully. US intelligence pinpointed dozens of high-value target sites, hundreds of intermediate-value sites and thousands of low-value sites. Chemical and perhaps biological weapons were deployed to commanders in the field, who had orders to use them against invading Coalition forces. Special Forces teams were dropping in to secure and neutralize high-value sites in advance of the ground assault, with high-tech analytic Mobile Exploitation Teams (MET’s) close on their heels.
Six weeks ago, it was beyond the pale to suggest otherwise. Today the man in the street doesn’t exactly care much about WMD’s … but he’s curious. The men in the hawk’s nest — and some of their media enablers — care a lot. Alternative explanations are being spun out so rapidly, they’re not even kept on the same page.
In public, Bush and Blair — as they must — still insist WMDs will turn up. Behind closed doors, staff are obliquely, deniably huffing into trial balloons, testing branches of the contingency that never earned a spot of Rumsfeld’s contingency sheet. What if there are no WMDs?
A Washington Post embed reports analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list … strategy is shifting from the rapid “exploitation” of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads.
Come what may later on, Blair’s dossiers, Powell’s “solid intelligence”, and Rumsfeld’s “bulletproof evidence” are dead letters. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.
Operation Desert Snipe is a marvelous case study in one of CP’s pet themes — collective self-deception. The plot spoilers were there all the time. “Everybody” was so sure, and so wrong. Down the page, we’ll retrace the divergent arcs of evidence and attitude that brought us to this pass, and we’ll sample some of the surviving alternative theses … but first, a rundown of Truth or Consequences.
Second, my retrospective from 2008. Nothing has changed:
I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:
And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything.
I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.
I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD.
I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections.
I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections.
I was wrong about the containment sanctions.
I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East.
I was wrong about this making us more safe.
I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq.
I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath.
I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps.
I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East.
I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army.
I was wrong about the looting being unimportant.
I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent.
I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators.
I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protestors.
I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies
Although it should be noted Scott Ritter is a fucking scumbag piece of shit kid touching Putin apparatchik. But other than that, it holds up.