On March 19, 2003, the invasion of Iraq began. The war, waged over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, would ultimately result in the deaths of over 4,000 American troops and a price tag that could rise as high as $6 trillion. On this tenth anniversary, a number of prominent voices who backed the war in 2003 are reflecting on whether they made the right decision. Here’s what they’re saying, in descending order of regret.
Joshua Foust (foreign-policy writer who was a college student at the time, so his support for the war didn’t matter at all, but):
Today is the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. And I was wrong … I was wrong in 2003, and I can understand someone else for being wrong then too. It does not make the war right but I can at least understand it. I cannot understand continuing to think the war was good, or that it helped anyone (least of all Iraq), or that we are somehow better off for it. Those people, who push that foul lie, need to be excluded from public life and ridiculed endlessly.
I remember reassuring a non-political skeptic the following (same paraphrase) on the eve of the war: You wait. We’ll find bunkers crammed with chemical weapons and possibly nuclear weapons that could end up in al Qaeda’s hands and in our cities. I promise you they’re there …. I’m not excusing my confirmation bias, my broad brush against opponents of the war (although I refuse to accept that they were all skeptical of the WMDs’ existence; many were just anti-Bush and anti-war), or my violation of just war doctrine. But the truth is: 9/11 worked. It terrorized me and it terrorized a lot of people. When you are in a state of terror, the odds of future terror seem much greater and the risks of inaction graver. Yes, I was excitable and over-reacted. The only solace is that I was a pillar of calm and prudence compared with the people running the country.
David Frum (Bush’s speechwriter at the time):
I could have set myself on fire in protest on the White House lawn and the war would have proceeded without me. And yet … all of us who advocated for the war have had to do some reckoning …. Those of us who were involved—in whatever way—bear the responsibility.
“I think our error, which I do regret, is that we moved to quickly.”
Richard Perle (neo-con at the American Enterprise Institute):
“I think the decision that was made to remove Saddam was right. The only way to judge a decision of that sort is in the context of the situation that existed at the time. You can’t go back and say, ‘I don’t like the way it came out,’ and then say you are against. It was all about managing risk. I stand by the decision.”
Danielle Pletka (neo-con at the American Enterprise Institute):
“Ask the people who lived under Saddam Hussein whether they regret the war. People have forgotten what happened when you disagreed with Saddam. You had your tongue cut out if you were lucky. People have forgotten what totalitarianism looks like, because they became obsessed with George W. Bush. There is a lot of bad stuff in Iraq today. Had President Obama chosen not to withdraw from Iraq, it would be a different picture there. We made a lot of mistakes, though.”
Kanan Makiya (Iraqi exile and author who was a prominent advocate for the war):
“I said at the time and still believe that if there’s a 5 percent chance of Iraq becoming a democracy, we have to do it. Under Saddam it was zero percent.”
“When people say to me, ‘do you regret removing him’, my answer is ‘no - how can you regret removing somebody who was a monster, who created enormous carnage - not just amongst his own people but amongst the people of the region.’”