As the fifth anniversary of the illegal war in Iraq has come and passed, the American public has been subjected to a seemingly endless stream of pseudo-mea culpas from pundits and mainstream journalists regarding their complete lack of critical thinking in the lead-up to the invasion in March 2003. But rather than apologizing profusely for leading this country into an unjustified and immoral war of aggression, most of these pieces in this unfortunate genre have been attempts at absolving the authors of any actual responsibility for their actions — “if anything, I just trusted our leaders too much… I just didn’t know the Iraqis would not be able to grasp our inherent goodness, etc.” And if you think that’s an exaggeration, consider Megan McArdle of The Atlantic and her recent attempt at explaining away her support for the war:
I should have realized that the Iraqis would find it humiliating to be conquered by an outside power, even one that was (as we are) one of the best-meaning occupiers in human history.
Sure, the war has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, but damn it, we had such good intentions (what’s the saying about the road to hell?). For a look at what an actual mea culpa from a former war supporter looks like, see John Cole at Balloon Juice (“I was wrong about everything.“).
Now, people like Megan McArdle are not important in and of themselves, but she is typical of what passes for mainstream. She is serious, respectable, and utterly lacking in original thought. She also happens to be, as Jonathan Schwarz points out, willfully ignorant of basic and undisputed facts, which is always a desired trait in an establishment pundit.
Oh sure, McArdle will now concede that the war was a “mistake”, but she will never question the underlying reasons for why the United States has military bases in over 130 countries and assumes the right to intervene in any country in the world. It’s okay to say “mistakes were made” (as her post on the fifth anniversary of the war is titled, apparently without irony), but it’s extreme and unserious to say that maybe, just maybe, the Iraq war was simply a continuation of an imperial American foreign policy that has been perpetuated by both Republican and Democratic administrations since at least the time of President McKinley, despite the overwhelming evidence that, well, it is. And though people like Richard Perle, in rare moments of honesty, will admit that the Iraq war was a blatant violation of international law, just try and find that essential fact uttered anywhere on cable news or in Time magaizine — you won’t.
As investigative journalist Robert Parry notes over at his site Consortium News (which I highly recommend), pointing out the underlying criminality of the Iraq war and the complete and utter failure of the establishment news media to question the assumptions that led to it would require there to be actual change in Washington:
During the post-World War II trials at Nuremberg, the United States led the world in decrying aggressive war as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Yet, [PBS’] Frontline and other mainstream U.S. news outlets shy away from this central fact of the Iraq War: by invading Iraq without the approval of the U.N. Security Council and under false pretenses, the Bush administration released upon the Iraqi people “the accumulated evil of the whole” – and committed the “supreme” war crime.
An obvious reason why the mainstream U.S. press can’t handle this truth is that to do so would mean that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, a host of other U.S. officials and even some prominent journalists could be regarded as war criminals.
To accept that reality would, in turn, create a moral imperative to take action. And that would require a great disruption in the existing U.S. power structure, which hasn’t changed much since Bush won authorization from Congress in October 2002 to use force and then invaded Iraq in March 2003.
Not only are Bush and Cheney still in office – and two of the three remaining presidential candidates, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, voted for the war – but the roster of top Washington journalists remains remarkably intact from five years ago.