george w. bush and rumsfeld

Sinan Antoon is an Iraqi-American novelist who publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq that was initiated 15 years ago today. He has a good piece in the New York Times. You should read it. Here is how it concludes:

No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime. Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of Trumpism and a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago, I watched Mr. Bush on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.) The pundits and “experts” who sold us the war still go on doing what they do. I never thought that Iraq could ever be worse than it was during Saddam’s reign, but that is what America’s war achieved and bequeathed to Iraqis.

Americans aren’t accustomed to calling their foreign policy blunders “crimes,” nor do they send their failed foreign policy leaders into exile the way the Ancient Greeks used to do. Maybe we should do both of these things. Or maybe we should learn more about the Ancient Greek word “hubris,” which meant “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods” which leads to a downfall for the protagonist.

In modern usage, “hubris” is better defined as “over-confidence,” which doesn’t quite capture the immorality of invading Iraq based on false premises and bad faith, leading to massive region-wide humanitarian, political and sectarian crises.

I was encouraged to see John Cole whip himself like a penitent for being wrong about literally everything in the lead-up to the Iraq War. That’s a man who knows how to act when he’s advocated something that resulted in complete disaster. But John Cole was a cheerleader, not a policymaker. He didn’t make the decisions that led to the downfall of our moral credibility and the entire Middle East.

Today is an anniversary when the people who really were responsible should whip themselves. They should whip themselves in print. And, maybe they should whip themselves with fronds in public, too.

Finally, the people who let these people off the hook cannot complain that they’ve made a comeback.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at