$3 trillion; the end of America's moral authority in wartime; the empowerment of Iran and Pakistan; the deaths of hundreds of thousands; the wounds of countless more. Joe Klein elucidates the impact of an ideology on America and the world:
The replacement notion that it was our right and responsibility to rid Iraq of a terrible dictator--after the original casus belli of weapons of mass destruction evaporated--is a neo-colonialist obscenity. The fact that Bush apologists still trot out his "Forward Freedom Agenda" as an example of American idealism is a delusional farce. The "Freedom Agenda" brought us a Hamas government in Gaza, after a Palestinian election that no one but the Bush Administration wanted. It brought the empowerment of Hizballah in Lebanon. It raised the hopes of reformers across the region, soon dashed when the Bush Administration retreated, realizing that the probable outcome of democracy in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be the installation of Islamist parties that might prove more repressive than the dictatorships they replaced. Freedom may well be "God's gift to humanity," as Bush intoned regularly, radiating a simple-minded piety that never reflected another of God's greatest gifts--the ability to doubt, to think difficult thoughts and weigh conflicting options with clarity and subtlety. But I'm pretty sure God never designated the United States to impose that freedom violently upon others.
And, yes, a mea culpa, because Joe is an intellectually honest man, unlike so many who did far more to create this catastrophe and even now express no regret, no introspection, no sense of tragedy or responsibility - just the neoconservative formula of never explaining and never apologizing, but moving on and on to the next war and the next:
As for myself, I deeply regret that once, on television in the days before the war, I reluctantly but foolishly said that going ahead with the invasion might be the right thing to do. I was far more skeptical, and equivocal, in print--I never wrote in favor of the war and repeatedly raised the problems that would accompany it--but skepticism and equivocation were an insufficient reaction, too. In retrospect, the issue then was as clear cut as it is now. It demanded a clarity that I failed to summon. The essential principle is immutable: We should never go to war unless we have been attacked or are under direct, immediate threat of attack. Never. And never again.
(Photo: Umm Omar holds a rifle as her son plays with it at their house in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on July 30, 2010. By Azhar Shallal/AFP/Getty.)