Revisionism: Iraq Invasion a Great Idea, After All

Declaring Mission Accomplished

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History is a funny thing. Pretty quickly after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq in search of W.M.D.s that never existed, the country collapsed into sectarian conflict and terrorism that has since ended 4382 American lives, killed an estimated 50,000 Iraqi civilians, displaced 4 million Iraqi refugees, and imprisoned thousands of Iraqi detainees. But, on Sunday, Iraq held national elections that by all accounts have been a success. This has been enough of a reversal for some commentators to declare "mission accomplished" and argue that it proves the invasion of Iraq was a great idea after all. Unsurprisingly, this particularly impatient bit of historical revisionism has critics in an uproar.

  • Mission Accomplished  The cover of Newsweek declares triumphantly, "Victory At Last," over a photo of President Bush next to the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner. In the actual article, a team of Newsweek reporters write more much tepidly, "something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraq. And while it may not be a beacon of inspiration to the region, it most certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East.
  • Invasion Was Right, Worthwhile  The New York Times' Thomas Friedman writes, "Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing." He dismisses criticism that the invasion has not been worth its toll.
  • Iraq War Was Like Toppling Hitler  The Financial Times' Nigel Biggar deflects criticism that the Iraq invasion was "morally flawed" by the scores of civilian causalities and dishonest rationale. "Most just wars are flawed. Take the war against Nazi Germany." Biggar says that both wars endured significant casualties in the service of a difficult but necessary fight against evil. Therefore, invading Iraq was basically the moral equivalent of defeating the Nazis.
  • Republicans Led to 'Victorious' War  Fox News' Sean Hannity says of the Iraq war, "The good news is that we were victorious in spite of the Democrats' efforts and attempts at preventing victory."
  • Are You People Nuts?  Salon's Glenn Greenwald balks. "It was only a matter of time before American elites abandoned their faux regret over Iraq.  For tribalists and nationalists, America can err in its execution but never in its motives," he writes. "It's nothing short of nauseating to watch those responsible glorify what they did without weighing -- or, in Friedman's case, affirmatively dismissing as irrelevant -- the extreme amounts of death and suffering that they caused, all based on false pretenses."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.