Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

They Told You So: Credibility on Foreign Policy

Bruce Prescott alerted me to a great column of quotes from people who opposed the invasion of Iraq ahead of time and predicted its disastrous consequences. This is not important for reasons of smug boasting (“HA! SEE!”), but because the voting public is asked to trust those in office and in other positions of influence about matters of life and death on foreign policy. In deciding who is worthy of that trust and who is not, a track record is important. So, who are the people, greatly ridiculed at the time, who predicted before the invasion of Iraq in 2002 that it would be a disaster that caused more harm than good? Well, not listed in the column are the many faith leaders who opposed the invasion, including Pope John Paul II, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and many others.

Also not listed in the column cited is Lt. Col. Scott Ritter, a U.S. Marine, highly decorated for the first Gulf War and the lead weapons inspector in Iraq during the ’90s. Ritter was ridiculed on all the news shows in the U.S. in 2002 and 2003 for claiming that Iraq was effectively disarmed of WMDs, but he was right and not one of the idiotic talking heads who trashed him then has apologized or invited him back since. If a Democrat wins the White House in ’08, he or she could do much worse than nominate Ritter for Secretary of Defense or for National Security Advisor. His judgment has been proven.

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst who now works for the Church of the Savior’s Tell the Word publishing arm, founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in 2002 composed of CIA, NSA, etc. analysts and other intelligence experts who correctly said that the alarmist predictions of this administration were bogus. McGovern exposed the tissue of lies that Colin Powell parrotted before the UN and no one has ever thanked him for it. McGovern would be another good choice for NSA Advisor if he could be coaxed out of his great ministry work.

Others not mentioned include Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), , and former Ambassador Carol Mosely. Sen Robert Byrd (D-WV) deserves special mention for insisting, against popular opinion, that, according to the Constitution, Congress had to formally declare war and not just “authorize the administration to use force.” Byrd also insisted that the Senate hold real hearings, not the rubber stamp they actually did in 2002. Then there’s Hans Blix, then the head weapons inspector for the UN, who bravely and repeatedly said what Bush & Co. didn’t want to hear: there was no evidence of WMDs in Iraq–they still had questions, but no justification for invasion existed. Also, it is worth mentioning that, unlike the Senate Democrats, most (145)of the Democrats in the House of Representatives in 2002 voted AGAINST authorizing the invasion–and the biggest opponents are going to be committee chairs in the 110th Congress!

Here are quotes from those who did speak out before the invasion that made it into the column:

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.” No mention of the many ways on the table in ’91 for removing Iraq from Kuwait WITHOUT war, but, at least Bush & Scowcroft understood the principle of limited war and the problem with toppling a regime willy-nilly.

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.” Great folk wisdom not heeded.

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.” Truer words have never been spoken. Please Al, run for ’08!

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.” Well, I oppose all wars, but I oppose dumb wars even more.
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.” Sigh! Russ why did you decide not to run for president in ’08? Hillary Clinton, who voted for the war AND STILL SUPPORTS IT, is considered the frontrunner, but a true progressive like Feingold is already sidelined. Sigh.

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.”

Now the administration is making the same kind of pre-invasion noises toward Iran that it made toward Iraq in 2001 and 2002. And it is resisting any calls for a change of direction in Iraq, even the muddle compromises of the Baker-Hamilton commission. So, whose voices will we hear now? Who has foreign policy credibility?? Our future may depend on remembering the recent past–something Americans are not known for doing. (Anyone remember that rightwing radio jockey Rush Limbaugh used to defend Saddam Hussein and called Democratic complaints about his gassing of the Kurds “lies meant to make President Reagan look bad?” The transcripts are available, but the gasbag has never admitted to being wrong.)


December 8, 2006 - Posted by | foreign policy

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