HONEST MISTAKES

Posted in Rants on November 13th, 2007 by Ed

For the second consecutive day I will not only mention George Will but also tip my hat to him. Don't worry, it's in the context of tearing him a new one.

Kudos to Mr. Will for recommending Curveball by devoting his Nov. 12 column to it. If this book were mandatory reading for every American adult I can guarantee you that we'd avoid the impending aerial fireworks display over Iran. Alas, it is not required reading. But if you feel like being really angry (or have an academic interest in group decision-making along the lines of Scott Plous' Psychology of Judgment and Decision-Making) don't wait another minute to read it.

Good work, George. Unfortunately, even in your best moment you cannot hide what a pedantic, smug, and condescending tool you are. To wit (emphasis mine):

(Curveball) claimed to have been deeply involved in Hussein's sophisticated and deadly science, particularly those notorious mobile labs. Notorious and, we now know, nonexistent.

A few months ago I wrote about the Republican Unburdening of the Soul (RUotS) ritual, for which I have exactly zero patience. The nation is littered with middle-aged white guys who are just so gosh darn upset about this war for which they were mindless cheerleaders in 2002 and 2003. They wander around seeking absolution and loudly speaking of lessons learned. Will is doing the pundit's version – the I Made an Honest Mistake ritual. Put in the uncomfortable position of having to rationalize how they got Iraq so completely, mind-bendingly wrong, pundits' choices are limited. If they're not going to go Bill Kristol (i.e., "Wrong? I'm not wrong!") then the only tactic left is….Well golly, folks, how on Earth was I to know that the entire case for war was based on a mountain of happy horseshit? Will titles his column "Seeing what's not there is a dicey strategy" like a man who speaks from experience. And yet he still won't accept responsibility for it.

Yes, George, "we now know" that the WMD stockpiles and the cartoon drawings of mobile bioweapons labs were nonexistent. Of course there was just no way of knowing that at the time, nor was there even the slightest cause for skepticism. That's odd, given that I recall reading quite a bit about the Judith Miller – Chalabi – Curveball dog & pony show long before the White House sent Uncle Colin's credibility on a kamikaze run to the U.N. We hear a similar, if not identical, argument from Hillary Clinton (and John Kerry in 2004) – "I voted for the war because I believed the President. How on Earth was I to know, or even suspect, that the entire administration is full of shit to the bursting point?" Such rationalizations leave only two possible conclusions: either they (Hillary, Will, etc) are flat-out lying or they are criminally stupid. To expect us to accept that they swallowed the White House's story with less skepticism than the average American uses to shop for a new car is beyond insulting.

My advice to the gentle reader: let no one (columnists or random right-wing acquaintances) wash off the blood so easily. There are 4,000 servicepeople and untold six-figure numbers of Iraqi civilians dead on account of their thundering ignorance. Indulging their quest for forgiveness and accepting "It was an honest mistake based on what we knew at the time!" is simply the most efficient way of ensuring that no one learns anything from this experience – meaning, of course, that we will be repeating it presently.*

So please blow it directly out your ass, Mr. Will. Take your guilt to your grave. There will be ample time for your rationalizations then, and you will need them.

*No, I am not using that incorrectly. "Presently" means, in the classical sense, "imminently."