Tag Archives: iraq war

2016’s Mission Impossible: Support Jeb While Forgetting George

Republicans won’t repent the Bush/Cheney mistakes, so they have to keep pushing them out of mind.


The aura of inevitability around Jeb Bush’s nomination started to flicker this week, as he gave four different answers about Iraq in four days.

  • Monday, he responded to Fox News’ Megan Kelly’s question: “On the subject of Iraq, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” With “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody.” (In her 2014 book Hard Choices, Clinton addressed the topic like this: “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”)
  • Tuesday, he told Sean Hannity that he had misinterpreted Kelly’s question, but still avoided answering: “I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical. But the simple fact is that mistakes were made.”
  • Wednesday, at a town hall meeting in Nevada, he defended Tuesday’s non-answer, citing the feelings of the families of the soldiers who died in Iraq: “Going back in time and talking about hypothetical, ‘what would have happened, what could have happened,’ I think does a disservice for them.”
  • Thursday in Arizona, he finally gave the opposite of Monday’s answer: “Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.”

While this clumsy performance does raise doubts about Bush’s ability to run a smooth campaign — how could have he not have foreseen that question and prepared a better answer? — it was just a bad week, and he has a lot of weeks to get back on track before any votes are cast. But Jeb’s Iraq misfortunes underline a larger handicap for Republicans in general in Jeb in particular: In response to the horrible shape President Bush left the country in — and the corresponding electoral disaster of 2008 — the Republican Party still has not developed any better strategy than pretending George W. Bush never existed.

For comparison, Bill Clinton came back from his impeachment to be one of the most valued campaigners in the Democratic Party, with prime-time speaking slots at every Democratic Convention since he left office. (Bill has in fact spoken at every convention since he gave a widely-panned nomination speech for Mike Dukakis in 1988. I wonder if seven in a row is a record.) But W has been a no-show at Republican conventions, and his political appearances in general have been limited to closed-door fund-raisers in front of audiences known to be friendly. As for the other major players in his administration: Dick Cheney was not even in the country during the 2012 GOP convention, where the only speaker with a major Bush-administration role was Condoleeza Rice, who Romney’s people needed for racial and gender diversity.

During this time that they’ve kept W himself locked in the basement, though, Republicans have never rejected his policies or philosophy. Again, compare to the Democrats: Bill Clinton’s centrist “New Democrats” turned away from classic liberalism after bad losses in 1980, 1984, and 1988; and recent Democrats have changed their minds about specific Clinton administration policies while continuing to cite the successes — relative peace, low inflation, low unemployment, and budget surpluses — of the Clinton era in general. For example, many Democrats cheered when the Supreme Court rejected the Defense of Marriage Act, and Hillary’s recent speech against “mass incarceration” implicitly rejected Bill’s 1994 crime bill.

But in spite of all the “revolutionary” noise the Tea Party has made since Bush left office, their candidates’ proposals (with the exception of Rand Paul’s isolationism and several candidates’ anti-immigrant positions) are to do more of what Bush did: cut taxes on the rich, cut regulations on corporations and the big banks, boost fossil fuel production, deny global warming, hold the line against gay rights, keep chipping at abortion rights, and don’t shy away from new wars in the Middle East.

You can’t ask for forgiveness if you won’t repent, so Republicans’ only option is to keep pushing out of mind the mess left behind the last time a president implemented these policies.

Like all people trying to forget a traumatic past, Republicans are full of impatience and even anger when Democrats bring it up: Why can’t Obama stand on his own record rather than keep blaming things on the disaster he inherited from his predecessor? The rare occasions when they speak the forbidden name usually are coupled with some major memory lapse, as when Rudy Giuliani edited 9/11 out of history: “We had no domestic attacks under Bush.”

I’m reminded of a quote in Patrick Smith’s Somebody Else’s Century, from a Chinese man reflecting on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution: “The official forgetting we are supposed to do will not produce the desired result. [Eventually] people forget why they are supposed to forget, and then they start to remember.”

It’s still too soon for Republicans to remember the Bush administration, because the American people still haven’t forgotten why we’re supposed to forget. So any successful 2016 Republican general-election campaign will have to continue making the Bush/Cheney years disappear. And, as we saw this week, the candidate least likely to pull off that trick is Jeb Bush.

Gracious Statesmanship and other short notes

Reflecting on the Republican response to Muammar Qaddafi’s death, following so soon after the death of Osama bin Laden, The New Yorker’s David Remnick wrote:

If a Republican had been responsible for the foreign-policy markers of the past three years, the Party would be commissioning statues. In Tripoli, Benghazi, and Surt, last week, Obama won words of praise; on Republican debate platforms, there was only mindless posturing.

And, noticing the same phenomenon among the Party’s Congressional leaders, Jon Stewart asked: “Is there no Republican that can be gracious and statesmanlike in this situation?”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Apparently not. But that’s just ordinary partisan politics, right? Democrats who were running against an incumbent Republican president would be the same way. Wouldn’t they?

Well, no. About 30 seconds with the Google led me to what Howard Dean said after Saddam Hussein was captured in December, 2003:

This is a great day of pride in the American military and a great day for the Iraqis and a great day for the American people. President Bush deserves a day of celebration.


So the American war in Iraq is finally going to end on December 31, when our last troops leave.

Juan Cole explains why things turned out this way, even though hawks in the administration and elsewhere clearly wanted to keep thousands of American troops in Iraq indefinitely: When the UN Security Council’s resolution recognizing the US as the occupying power in Iraq expired at the end of 2008, the Bush administration negotiated a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) with the new Iraqi government. The Iraqis insisted on some deadline, so President Bush accepted 2011, confident that the US could renegotiate later.

When President Obama tried to negotiate an extension, the hang-up was the issue of “extraterritoriality” — American troops’ immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. It would have been political suicide for the Iraqi government to grant that.

Why? Because all Iraqis remember the Nisoor Square massacre when Blackwater security guards killed 17 Baghdad civilians in a mistaken shooting spree. Extraterritoriality meant that Iraqi courts couldn’t touch them, and then an American court let them go. No Iraqi politician is going to let that happen again.

Personally, I’ll be glad to have our troops out of Iraq. But if you’re not happy, put the blame where it belongs: on Blackwater’s trigger-happy mercenaries.


Meteor Blades objects to wrap-ups that call the Iraq War a mistake.

Planning for invasion, the concoction of evidence, the ignoring of counter-advice, and the lying to Congress, to the United Nations and to the American people were not “mistakes.”

The war, he writes, was a pre-meditated crime, not a mistake. In a just world, the perpetrators “would some time ago have arrived in shackles at The Hague.”


Harold Camping’s prediction of the Rapture last May got a lot of attention, especially when it didn’t happen. (Or maybe it did, and there were just a lot fewer real Christians than everybody thought — and Camping himself wasn’t one of them.) But the Rapture was always just a prelude to the End of the World, kind of like when “last call” is announced before a bar closes. The real EotW was scheduled for last Friday.

Still here? Back to the drawing board.


Can’t decide between living in a forest or in an urban high-rise? Why not move to Milan and do both?


American feminist bra-burning is a historical myth, but Japanese environmentalist bra-burning is happening now. It even sounds like a pretty good idea.


Hunter on Daily Kos explains Occupy Wall Street to pundits who refuse to understand it.


Thom Hartmann explains the way in which OWS has already succeeded: It forced the media to remember the unemployed, who had been almost completely forgotten during the manufactured “debt-ceiling crisis” last summer.


Occupy Wall Street continues to be a great source of visual humor, most of which just adds to the movement.

And some older images are having a revival:


But the funniest thing I saw this week was this piece by Bad Lip Reading: