The U.S. discourse space is filling up rapidly with “ten years after” pieces related to 9/11. Me, these days I mainly just feel tired, tired. People in the U.S. political elite never listened to those of us who, prior to September 2011, had spent a whole career studying and interacting with the problems of the Middle East and the world, and who warned as loud as we could about the dangers of over-reacting and of taking that oh-so-tempting path toward militarism and U.S. unilateralism.
Actually, it was far worse than that. It’s not just that they did not listen to us. They derided us and our expertise and many well-connected members of the elite went to great lengths to exclude our voices from the national discourse. Many of us suffered great professional harm from those campaigns.
So how do I feel today when I see this piece from WaPo uber-columnist Richard Cohen? In it, Cohen finally comes straight out and calls the situation in Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion there “a disaster” and notes,
- It was not Saddam Hussein who attacked us, and it was not Saddam Hussein who had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons or a nuclear program. None of these existed — not a mere intelligence mistake, as is now claimed, but a mistake caused by preconceived notions, an insistence on seeing a goblin in every shadow, a nuclear program in the weak glow of a watch face, a lust for the head of Saddam Hussein. Oops, we marched smartly off to the wrong war.
At the end of the column Cohen comes as close to a “mea culpa” as I have seen him get:
- I went home on Sept. 11 with my shoes dusted with the detritus of the World Trade Center. I felt a hate that was entirely new to me. Soon after, the anthrax attacks began, and I was ready for war — against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, for sure, but against Saddam Hussein as well. I was wrong, and for that I blame myself, but I blame us all for going along with it and then rewarding incompetence with another term…
Excuse me, Richard Cohen? ” I blame us all for going along with it…” ??
There were a good few of us who did not “go along with” the whole project to invade Iraq, who questioned the flim-flammy evidence being adduced to justify that invasion from the very beginning. Go back and read the CSM columns I was writing in the months before March 2003. Go and read what I was blogging in February 2003… The record is there.
And now, Richard Cohen, you have the gall to say, “I blame us all”??
What a self-referential, sad, and immature person you are, Richard Cohen, for (a) completely ignoring the contribution made by all those of us who warned against the invasion of Iraq from the get-go, and then (b) trying to dilute the level of the “blame” you allot to yourself by trying to make the claim that, “everyone else did it too.”
Everyone else did not do it.
So now, firstly, you owe us an apology. Secondly, you need to tell us what you will do to rebuild the basis of the national discourse so that that wilfull, ideologically manipulated “manufacturing of consent” that happened in the lead-up to March 2003 never happens again.
This is not all about you, Richard Cohen. It is about steering this country back to a foreign policy that is based on a solid respect for both facts and the principles of international law. And no, we are not there yet, by any means….