The best thing about this political moment in the U.S. (if not for the good people of Iraq) is that the rise of ISIS and the Republican candidates’ embrace of the Iraq war is posing that deep and permanent question to the American public, Why did we invade Iraq?
Last night Chris Matthews asked that question again and David Corn said it was about the neoconservative desire to protect Israel. Both men deserve kudos for courage. Here’s part of the exchange:
Matthews: Why were the people in the administration like [Paul] Wolfowitz and the others talking about going into Iraq from the very beginning, when they got into the white house long before there was a 911 long before there was WMD. It seemed like there was a deeper reason. I don’t get it. It seemed like WMD was a cover story.
Corn: I can explain that. For years. Paul Wolfowitz and other members of the neocon movement had talked about getting rid of Iraq and there would be democracy throughout the region that would help Israel and they came to believe actually a very bizarre conspiracy theory that al Qaeda didn’t matter, that Saddam Hussein was behind all the acts of violence…
Matthews: The reason I go back to that is there’s a consistent pattern: the people who wanted that war in the worst ways, neocons so called, Wolfowitz, certainly Cheney.. it’s the same crowd of people that want us to overthrow Bashar Assad, .. it’s the same group of people that don’t want to negotiate at all with the Iranians, don’t want any kind of rapprochement with the Iranians, they want to fight that war. They’re willing to go in there and bomb. They have a consistent impulsive desire to make war on Arab and Islamic states in a neverending campaign, almost like an Orwellian campaign they will never outlive, that’s why I have a problem with that thinking. … we’ve got to get to the bottom of it. Why did they take us to Iraq, because that’s the same reason they want to take us into Damascus and why they want to have permanent war with Iran.
What a great exchange. And it shows up Paul Krugman, who mystifies this very issue in the New York Times. (“Errors and Lies,” which poses the same question that Matthews does but concludes that Bush and Cheney “wanted a war,” which is just a lie masquerading as a tautology.)
Here are my two cents. We invaded Iraq because a powerful group of pro-Israel ideologues — the neoconservatives — who had mustered forces in Washington over the previous two decades and at last had come into the White House were able to sell a vision of transforming the Middle East that was pure wishful hokum but that they believed: that if Arab countries were converted by force into democracies, the people would embrace the change and would also accept Israel as a great neighbor. It’s a variation on a neocolonialist theory that pro-Israel ideologues have believed going back to the 1940s: that Palestinians would accept a Jewish state if you got rid of their corrupt leadership and allowed the people to share in Israel’s modern economic miracle.
The evidence for this causation is at every hand.