Nailing down the narrative of failure in Iraq

David French at National Review makes some of the same points I did the other day, about how the new “everyone who supported the Iraq war needs to shut up now” narrative assumes an idyllic alternate timeline where the lovable Saddam Hussein behaved himself after being left alone by the United States.  Why, that sweet old man would never have dreamed of using the WMD stockpiles our friends on the Left insist do not exist, even though ISIS found them in less than two weeks.  

French, who served in Iraq, has some tough criticisms about the early stages of the Iraq operation, but notes that the same could be said of just about any war, and the improvements made by the time he shipped home in 2008 were astounding.  He therefore has little patience for watching the people who wanted defeat in Iraq taking a victory lap and telling everyone else to shut up:

We are all responsible for our words and actions. Even though my influence is minimal (especially compared to my colleagues posting here on NRO and syndicated nationally) I sometimes agonize over individual words in blog posts. And I still think every day about the choices I made in Iraq. But if I’m responsible — as a supporter of the war from the beginning and a veteran of that same conflict — for what I say and do, so are the victory lappers. And I would not trade places with a group that helped manufacture the “war weariness” that gripped an American public that has, apart from a tiny minority, sacrificed nothing for this conflict and would continue to sacrifice nothing even if we maintained the small force in Iraq necessary to secure our gains. 

You helped America leave, and in so doing, you helped waste the sacrifice of those few who served.

Your moral superiority is misplaced.

Your victory lap is grotesque. 

As I said the other day, pointing out that eminent voices in the failure caucus, such as Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, strongly supported going into Iraq is about more than pointing out their hypocrisy.  It’s about trying to remember what the situation was like, at the time the decision was made.  Because we live in one of the possible futures radiating from that moment, it doesn’t follow that our younger selves were wrong to worry about the others.

And as French points out, the people screaming that it’s all Bush’s fault today actively worked to secure defeat in Iraq for their own political and ideological purposes.  Rush Limbaugh noted last week that for the likes of Barack Obama, the most important task with respect to Iraq is nailing down the narrative that the whole thing was an absolute mistake and disaster, from beginning to end, so that today’s anti-Bush crowd can feel validated.  (And make no mistake, they’re anti-Bush, not “anti-war” – they were quiet as church mice when Obama showed that what a real unilateral headlong rush to war looks like in Libya, which turned into a bona fide disaster area ten minutes after Obama was finished with it.)  

The vast majority of Iraq war supporters, in 2002 and today, are not “pro-war” bloodthirsty types.  Many of them went to Iraq and served, but like the majority of soldiers, war was not their preferred solution to international problems.  The narrative anti-Bush types have been trying to scribble across the pages of history with magic markers assumes that only fools and psychopaths ever supported the invasion of Iraq, and the Democrats who signed on were either hypnotized by Bush’s evil powers, or bullied into it by polls that showed enormous support from a nation of fools and psychopaths.  But as even Barack Obama himself said – back when he was taking credit for the American withdrawal that he now blames entirely on the Iraqi government – something real and valuable was achieved after Saddam was knocked off his throne of bones.  

That achievement is in mortal peril right now, it might already be damaged beyond complete repair, and we could lose it completely.  I’m not inclined to tell anyone to shut up, but I must admit that I’m not terribly interested in advice from the people who wanted to fail in Iraq, and won’t exactly be upset if the whole thing ends with a Saigon-style helicopter evacuation of the US Embassy in Baghdad.