The Limits Of Conciliation Revisited
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
on March 27, 2014
In merciful brief, the president attempted to explain to the world why the self-destructive and mendacious decision of the United States to engage in aggressive war in Iraq in contravention of god alone knows how many provisions of international law was manifestly different — politically, legally, and morally — from Vladimir Putin’s land grabbing in and around Ukraine. Before anyone gave him a chance to be president, and throughout his unlikely rise to the White House, the president famously called the war in Iraq “the wrong war in the wrong place.” It was the first stark difference between the president and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign and the clearest difference between the president and Senator John McCain in that year’s general election. It represented the cleanest break available to the country from the bloody stupdity of the previous administration. It was the seedbed for all the hope and all the change. The problem arose when the architects of the American fiasco were allowed to escape any real accounting for what they’d done in Iraq and to the United States. There was no public punishment, no public shaming, no indication from the new administration that it was ready to demand penance from the old. And yesterday, the president illustrated quite clearly the size of the corner in which his basic philosophy had painted him.
The case he made was preposterous.
He knows so much better than that. The case we made before the U.N. was a insult to the world, built on stovepiped intelligence, wishful thinking, and outright bullshit, and delivered by Colin Powell because, as Dick Cheney put it so eloquently, Powell could lose a couple of points off his poll numbers. He knows that the Bush people were going into Iraq even without the U.N. — which, of course, it eventually did. (Digby handled this with her usual aplomb.) He knows we made Iraq take its oil industry private, and he knows why. He knows who the profiteers are, and he knows into whose pockets the oil revenues descended. They are the people he inexcusably let off the hook by looking forward and not back, and by offering them and the country absolution without first demanding penance. (For all her other faults, Holy Mother Church at least gets the order right.) All of these things make up what he once called “the wrong war.”
He also knows very well why the riposte about America in Iraq to any attack on Russia in the Crimea has such a sting. It has a sting because it is almost entirely accurate. The destruction of American credibility in the areas of foreign affairs and international law that was wrought by our criminal occupation of Iraq will cost us decades to repair. The rest of the world, most of which declined to participate in our excellent adventure, doesn’t have to listen to our preaching on those subjects without snickering. The president yesterday sought to rouse the outrage of the world against Russia through what were essentially debating points. If he had demonstrated, early and loudly, that he was going hold the perpetrators accountable for the crimes they committed in the previous administration, that he was going to call them to account for their lies, their greed, and their basic disregard for democratic norms and for the standing of the United States in the world, if he had demanded penance before absolution, then, maybe, he could have given yesterday’s speech and not looked and sounded so damned bizarre. As it was, it was less a speech than it was an elegy, a sad eulogy for missed chances and lost, golden promises.