Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mea culpas of rationalists who supported the conquest of Iraq

Slate has a series of essays on the mistakes rationalists made in supporting the American invasion of Iraq.

Personally I was initially persuaded by Saddam's posturing (turned out to be a mixture of mostly bluffing Iran and genuinely not knowing what weapons he didn't have), our apparent inability to sustain the embargo, the harmful effects of the embargo on Iraqis (sigh), and the fake smallpox immunization program. I reversed course when Cheney/Bush completely alienated Turkey and left us with zero allies - prior to the actual invasion.

Of all the commentaries, Richard Cohen most resembles my own recollections -- but he focuses on the Anthrax mystery rather than my smallpox memories ...
I was miserably wrong in my judgment and somewhat emotional. - By Richard Cohen - Slate Magazine

Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore—at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. In the following days, more anthrax-contaminated letters were received by other news organizations—CBS News and, presumably, ABC, where traces of anthrax were found in the newsroom. Weirdly, even the Sun, a supermarket tabloid, also got a letter, and a photo editor, Bob Stevens, was fatally infected. Other letters were sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's Capitol Hill office, and in Washington, D.C., a postal worker, Thomas L. Morris Jr., died. There was ample reason to be afraid.

The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.

For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same....

Kaplan's story also runs parallel to my own. I would add that while I had some respect for Colin Powell, I was moved much more by Tony Blair's support for war. He had been a Clinton ally, at the time he had a terrific international reputation, and I didn't imagine he'd be a lackey of the Bush administration.

Nobody in the series mentioned Tony Blair. He's getting off far too easily.

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