In Course Pitch, Scooter and Wolfie Admit Iraq War Failures, But Make No Mention of Iraqi Casualties

While I was gone, the NeoCon Hertog Foundation announced an “advanced institute” featuring Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz describing the “unexpected events, rivalries, counter-moves, mistakes, and imperfect understandings” behind the Iraq War, which also appears to offer some second-guessing about how the Iraq War still made sense even in light of the catastrophe it wrought.

It seems Judy Miller is not the only Iraq Hawk trying to relitigate her Iraq failures (the timing may not be unrelated, as Roger Hertog, has funded all three Iraq Hawks, among others).

I’m particularly interested in this paragraph, seemingly admitting the failures of Iraq while weighing it against what is portrayed as the failure of the first Gulf War.

Twice in the last quarter century America has gone to war with Iraq, and the two were in a state of low-level conflict during the interim. Both times America went to war with Congressional authorization, at the head of an international coalition, and in support of U.N. Resolutions. The 1990–1 Persian Gulf War ended quickly with minimal U.S. casualties, but left a brutal dictator in place and American interests at risk. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 quickly removed the regime that had repeatedly defied America and gave Iraqis a chance to devise their own future. However, the war soon devolved into a messy combination of insurgency and sectarian fighting that brought thousands of U.S. casualties, sapped American will and credibility, and worked to the benefit of America’s other regional nemesis, Iran. These events occurred not in isolation, but against the backdrop of broader international developments, particularly the ending of the Cold War, the attacks of 9/11/2001, and the on-going U.S. confrontation with radical Islam.

Iraq War 2.0 removed the defiant Saddam, who purportedly threatened American interests — Scooter and Wolfie judge — but it helped out “America’s other regional nemesis,” Iran.

At least the Iraq War architects are willing to admit their blunders made Iran stronger.

But the assessment of the impact on Iraq is the signature here: America generously gifted Iraqis with “a chance to devise their own future” — Scooter and Wolfie judge, making no mention of America’s past role in Saddam’s rise and success against Iraq — but it brought a “messy combination of insurgency and sectarian fighting … and thousands of U.S. casualties [that] sapped American will and credibility,” as if American will and credibility should have any role in the matter of giving Iraqis a chance to devise their own future, which was only granted, according to this description, because America’s formerly favored dictator threatened its interests.

Not only does the passage make no sense, but it obscures the other horrible thing about Scooter and Wolfie’s legacy: half a million Iraqi dead, or more.

Twelve years after these policy makers brought us to war on a pack of lies, their conception of failures doesn’t even account for the hundreds of thousands of purportedly liberated Iraqis they killed.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

18 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Half a million dead and several million displaced. Apologies, aid not tied to American corporate profits? I didn’t think so. Thanks, Marcy, and welcome back.

  2. RUKidding says:

    Half a million Iraqi’s dead? Destruction of Iraqi property & resources?
    As that Dick Cheney would say: “SO?????”
    I mean, c’mon, why would any healthy red-blooded US citizen give a crap about about a bunch of __________________ (you fill in the blank) over there?? After all they’re Muslims = terrorisssss = heathens = better off dead anyway.
    Get with the program. Scooter & Wolfie certainly did.
    Thanks for the post. It’s insightful and worth noting. Nothing new here, sadly. That’s how these cretins roll. They don’t give a sh*t about a buncha dead Iraqi’s. Collateral damage; we were making US proles “safe;” yadda yadda lather rinse repeat.
    Welcome back. Glad you had a nice trip with your mother.

  3. Peterr says:

    Scooter and Wolfie: “The 1990–1 Persian Gulf War ended quickly with minimal U.S. casualties, but left a brutal dictator in place and American interests at risk.”
    So the error was Poppy Bush not listening to the hawks and not going to Baghdad to go after Saddam? Good to know.

  4. Avattoir says:

    Click to the Faculty page of the Hertog Foundation website: a large picture of Bill Kristol.

    Scroll down: Kristol isn’t there as a mere speaker, he’s in the Faculty list; as is Charles Krauthammer; and Fred Kagan, among sundre Kagans; and Michael Doran who’s been in the news much owing to his role in the PM of Israel’s SOTME address to Congress; and, as you mentioned, Libby and Wolfowitz. The Hertog Foundation is embedded deep in the American Neocon Cluster.

  5. Peterr says:

    Marcy, I think you should apply for this. Per the link you provided to their website:

    The Hertog Advanced Institutes are for individuals who seek to influence the intellectual, civic, and political life of the United States. Applicants may include students and professionals in the following fields:
    • Public policy, including national security and economics
    • Academia
    • Journalism
    • Law & Business
    • Military

    And just to make it interesting, they offer a $2000 stipend for non-DC folks.
    The application should be a snap — half a Milbank unit of writing — which Marcy could churn out in no time:

    • Personal Statement: Describe your background, your intellectual interests, and your future ambitions as they relate to your preferred institute(s). (1000 words or less)

    • An essay of 750 words or less in response to the following question: Describe a significant economic, security, or moral challenge facing America. What is your best idea to address it?

    • An essay of 200-250 words in response to the following question: Who is the most impressive political, intellectual, or religious leader working today, and why?

    The possible answers are . . . amusing. I say “Go for it!”
    Just imagine the look on Scooter’s face when Marcy enters the seminar room . . .

    • wallace says:

      quote”An essay of 750 words or less in response to the following question: Describe a significant economic, security, or moral challenge facing America. What is your best idea to address it?”unquote

      Hang every goddamn war criminal in the US Gov.

      Start with that one.

  6. wallace says:

    quote”Scooter and Wolfie”unquote

    OMG emptywheel, your pottymouth runnuth over. GAK! The mere sound of those words elicits warnings of profanity to adjacent children, notwithstanding my own spasms of eminent projectile vomiting. Please refrain from using these words in the future..unless preceded by scumbags, pond scum, cockroaches, or other identifying labels, notwithstanding descriptive gems such as war mongering psychopaths, etc. I mean..please ..if you feel the need to use such smutty terms as Scooter and Wolfie.. you might as well fill in the whole picture. Other than that, carry on.

    btw, glad you’re back. The intertubes was boring while you were gone. I mean, I was having withdrawals.

    • wallace says:

      quote”Scooter & Wolfie admit their Iraq debacle made Iran stronger, but neglect to mention half a million they killed.”unquote

      That’s better. A qualifier such as mass murdering war criminals is better than nothing.

  7. bevin says:

    Half a million dead seems to be a very conservative estimate. The Lancet study is about ten years old and it talked about a million dead. And that is a figure that has to be put into the context of years of sectarian violence, of a sort unknown in Saddam’s Iraq, culminating in AQ 2.00, ISIS and other militias rattling around the region thanks to the sponsorship of US allies, and the war against Syria, which also bears the sectarian hallmark of the Pentagon’s State Department.
    Add in the millions whose death did not bother Madeleine Albright in the period between the two invasions, the US sponsored southern shia rising and ensuing massacre, the turkey shoots and bombings of the Gulf War itself and you have figure which is reaching Indo Chinese proportions. Well into the millions, and probably exceeding the six million figure which scarred the post war culture.
    Incidentally the one thing that the neo-cons did that was beneficial was to strengthen Iran. Unfortunately instead of resting on their laurels they then enlisted in the anti-shia genocide co-managed by Tel Aviv and Riyadh.
    We all have much to be ashamed of, probably much more than the German civilians who emerged from their country’s ruins in 1945- we cannot even pretend not to be aware of what our governments are doing in the Middle East, the Balkans and eastern Europe.

    • RUKidding says:

      Very good points. Unfortunately most US citizens are able to be in massive denial based on the false notion that what’s happening is for “our safety” and other debased notions. Yes, I feel we have as much or more to be ashamed about as post-WWII Germany, but most US citizens would recoil in horror at that notion and say: WHY???? Hey, it’s all good because it’s something that happened “over there,” the people are mostly suitably dusky-hued and Muslim. Ergo: where’s the beef?

      Unfortunately. Attempting to educate US citizens is an uphill battle. I hear all kinds of excuses and rationalizations these days. Frankly, most US citizens simply could care less about what happens “over there.” Think it falls under the notion of: they got what they deserved. And so on…

      • Don Bacon says:

        re: … most US citizens simply could care less about what happens “over there.”
        Why should anyone care? Most Americans have enough to think about putting food on the table, raising a family etc. They follow George Washington’s dictum: avoid foreign entanglements.
        I don’t subscribe to the “sheeple” argument for wrongful US actions. It is the criminals in Washington and the lawyers who justify their actions who are to blame.

  8. GKJames says:

    The words that jump out at me are “American interests at risk” and “defied America.” The first reflects a sea-change in the debate: with respect to rationales for military force, it used be the “national security of the U.S.; then it became “national security interests;” and now it’s simply “American interests.” Small wonder we’re in action in a whole lot of places. As for Saddam’s “def[ying] America,” these two buffoons reflect the classic imperial mind-set: how dare other countries have interests of their own.

    • Don Bacon says:

      re: “American interests.”
      It’s always been so.
      In in a speech delivered in 1933, General Smedley Butler (USMC) said:
      I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

  9. bloopie2 says:

    I’m looking for my next Kindle purchase. Can someone suggest a solid history of the Middle East? Unbiased, just the facts (not down to the level of Tribe X fought Tribe Y in 1842 in ABC Province”, though). Preferably a lot of maps, that helps me a lot when learning history. Not too long, either; I’ll give up after a while. (Random thought — Will and Ariel Durant ‘Civilization’? I know it was a classic at one point.) Thanks.

  10. Don Bacon says:

    “…sapped American … credibility”
    There is no problem with American credibility, Americans are seen as a danger everywhere in the world.
    Worldwide Caution
    The Department of State is updating the Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. . .
    NOTE: terrorists are by definition anti-American

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