Several years into the Iraq War, I attended a briefing Condoleezza Rice gave at the State Department. By that time, the worst elements of the Iraq fiasco were accepted facts: The lies, the intelligence failures, the lack of planning for the occupation, Abu Ghraib, the Sunni-Shiite civil war, the Iranian allies holding power in Baghdad. At that point even Rice wasn’t pretending there was a clean victory in sight.
Also by that time, George W. Bush had been elected president, and Rice had been kicked upstairs. She had failed spectacularly as National Security Adviser, the position most responsible for sorting through conflicting intelligence and agency agendas, weighing probable outcomes and delivering the most informed policy options to the president. Now she had been confirmed as Secretary of State.
We pressed her on Iraq and she deflected every criticism with an icy shrug. It didn’t matter if there were no WMD, no ties to al-Qaida, no planning and poor execution. “The bottom line,” she said, “is that the time had come to take Saddam Hussein down.”
The invasion of Iraq was launched 10 years ago Tuesday with “shock and awe:” an intense assault that was supposed to frighten the Iraqi people into handing up Hussein. What were they thinking? That demoralization by bombing worked for Hitler in London and Nixon in Hanoi?
But there were so many stupid moves committed in Iraq, that in my column today, I didn’t have room for it. Or for Abu Ghraib, or the “groupthink” the Senate Intelligence Committee discovered, or for the cowards in Congress, or for most of the details behind the lies told in the run-up to war. (For those interested in that story, Rachel Maddow and David Corn pull it together well in “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” , which will be rebroadcast March 22.)
Over 10 years, memories fade and outrage cools. Mine was revived by watching 11 minutes of Bush’s State of the Union speech in the weeks before the war here.
Ten years later, I’m still shocked by the stupidity and awed by the arrogance of the quartet pictured above and all their many enablers.