First, we'll start with one guy who was right - Tony Norman:
Last week was the 10th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. With few exceptions, most of the media commentary about its own credulousness was self-serving when it wasn't simply dishonest.He then goes on to quote large chunks of this column from March, 2003. It was stuff that turned out to be completely correct. Stuff like this:
After all, nothing guarantees a trip down the collective memory hole faster than an unambiguous failure like Iraq and the stinging memory of one's own complicity in that failure.
Still, print journalists are compelled to look back on what we've written, if only to figure out how to move forward with some integrity. During the lead-up to the war, those of us who argued that invading Iraq would be a treasury-emptying disaster were vilified as unpatriotic. The letters page of this newspaper was dominated by those who took the Bush administration's word as gospel.
This weekend, an army of peacemakers will converge in Pittsburgh to protest the Bush administration's plan to vanquish the exaggerated threat of Saddam Hussein's fourth-rate military. Such a lopsided war will decimate much more of the country than the Gulf War did, leading to the kind of political and military destabilization in the region that terrifies Iraq's neighbors. Who knows? Perhaps a Greater Kurdistan will be a shining beacon of democracy in the tribal cauldron that is the Near East, but somehow I doubt it.And so on. Tony's always worth a good read.
But I want to take a look at who got it wrong ten years ago.
Fellas like Jack Kelly - here he is from December 2002:
Few besides Iraqi functionaries maintain that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction. U.N. weapons inspectors found thousands of tons of chemical and biological weapons and their precursors, and a well-funded nuclear development program. At the time they were kicked out in 1998, all the inspectors were convinced that there was more to find. Presumably, Saddam would not have run the risk of war by expelling them if he didn't have something to hide.Except that in September 2002, the Guardian published this:
[Scott Ritter]: Iraq manufactured three nerve agents: sarin, tabun, and VX. Some people who want war with Iraq describe 20,000 munitions filled with sarin and tabun nerve agents that could be used against Americans. The facts, however, don't support this. Sarin and tabun have a shelf-life of five years. Even if Iraq had somehow managed to hide this vast number of weapons from inspectors, what they are now storing is nothing more than useless, harmless goo.The discussion of nuclear and biological weapons is the same: eliminated programs with no evidence (and the evidence would be easily detectable) of any restart.
Chemical weapons were produced in the Muthanna state establishment: a massive chemical weapons factory. It was bombed during the Gulf war, and then weapons inspectors came and completed the task of eliminating the facility. That means Iraq lost its sarin and tabun manufacturing base.
We destroyed thousands of tons of chemical agent. It is not as though we said, "Oh we destroyed a factory, now we are going to wait for everything else to expire." We had an incineration plant operating full-time for years, burning tons of the stuff every day. We went out and blew up bombs, missiles and warheads filled with this agent. We emptied Scud missile warheads filled with this agent. We hunted down this stuff and destroyed it.
[William Rivers Pitt]: Couldn't the Iraqis have hidden some?
R: That's a very real possibility. The problem is that whatever they diverted would have had to have been produced in the Muthanna state establishment, which means that once we blew it up, the Iraqis no longer had the ability to produce new agent, and in five years the sarin and tabun would have degraded and become useless sludge. All this talk about Iraq having chemical weapons is no longer valid.
Also, it turns out after the war that there were no weapons of mass destruction. (It also turns out that Scott Ritter ran into his own rather disgusting mess - but that doesn't mean he was wrong about the WMD)
Jack Kelly was wrong about that.
Then there's Jack's claim about the linking of Iraq and al-Qaida:
So debunking evidence of ties between Iraq and al-Qaida has become an urgent task for anti-warriors. The New York Times has three times published stories casting doubt on a report that Sept. 11 hijack leader Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague last year, each time to have its debunking debunked by the head of the Czech intelligence service, the Czech interior minister, and the Czech prime minister at the time. All maintain to this day that the meeting took place.Jack was wrong about this, too. There was no meeting between Iraqi Intelligence and Mohammad Atta. From the Washington Post May 1, 2002 (a few months before Jack published his column, by the way):
The task of the debunkers is getting more difficult. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, David Rose reports that a special intelligence unit in the Pentagon has found nearly 100 separate examples of Iraq/al-Qaida cooperation going back to 1992.
There is no evidence that the alleged leader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, met in April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, a finding that eliminates a once-suggested link between the terrorist attacks and the government of President Saddam Hussein, according to a senior administration official.And:
But after months of investigation, the Czechs said they were no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying "he may be different from Atta," the administration official said. More recently, FBI and CIA analysts who went over thousands of travel records concluded that "there was no evidence Atta left or returned to the U.S." at the time he was supposed to be in Prague, the official said.Huh. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that?
That determination was first disclosed in Newsweek magazine this week.
"We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in a speech in San Francisco last month, setting out for the first time the extent of the investigation and its results.
Jack was wrong.
Turns out we were right and Jack Kelly and those cheering for invasion in 2003 were wrong. There were no WMD and there was no operational connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaeda. And all of the death and suffering that happened because they insisted they were right and we were wrong was all completely necessary.
Yea, that's not really something to be celebrated, of course.
But it still nice to know that George W Bush has a pleasant hobby.