Neocons Don’t Regret the Iraq Disaster — And Now They Want War With Iran

You might have thought the media’s Bush-era peddlers of Middle East death and mayhem would be too humiliated to show their faces in public. Nope, they’re still here — and now they want war with Iran.

New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens on MSNBC discussing Donald Trump and Iran on September 17, 2019.

Compared to Bush’s war in Iraq, which began in 2003 to ecstatic pundit approval, Trump’s recently threatened war with Iran didn’t find many enthusiasts, even among the most debased and ghoulish of the chattering classes. Not even George Packer, Jonathan Chait, Joe Scarborough, nor Davids Remnick, Frum, or Brooks — all of whom championed the slaughter of Iraqis — are on board with the dangerous Iran adventure.

But not all of the bloodthirsty commentariat has gone gently singing kumbaya into the good night. A few supporters of the Iraq War are digging in for an even more murderous and suicidal war with Iran.

Jeffrey Goldberg, who has admitted taking part in — and covering up — brutal beatings as a former guard in a detention camp for Palestinian political prisoners, has matured from such physical violence into the armchair variety, always safer for the perpetrator. As a New Yorker writer, he peddled, with very thin evidence, the now-discredited connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, which Bush used to make the case for war with Iraq. Now, Goldberg is the top editor at the Atlantic, where, last November, he published former US ambassador to Israel Michael Oren’s concerns that Trump was turning “a blind eye to Iranian aggression” and might fail to back Israel in a conflict with Iran. More recently, the magazine published another article claiming that Qassem Soleimani’s death was greeted with “elation” in the region, while most other news outlets reported that tens of thousands of mourners filled the streets of Tehran, many demanding vengeance.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman once enlighteningly told Charlie Rose that the Iraq War had been worth it because after putting up with all that terrorism it was high time the United States went in with “a big stick” and told people in the Middle East to “suck on this.” He brings similar eloquence and acuity to the current conflict with Iran, surmising, just after the Soleimani assassination, that one day the Iranians “may name a street in Tehran after President Trump.”

In a Washington Post roundup called “The TV Pundits Are Talking About the Prospects for War With Iran, and It Sounds a Lot Like 2003,” Paul Farhi observed that Ari Fleischer, who was Bush’s press secretary during the lead-up to the Iraq War, cheered the January assassination of Soleimani, babbling childishly that it was “entirely possible that this is going to be a catalyst inside Iran where people celebrate this killing of Soleimani and puts pressure on the Iranian government to stop its terrorism. . . .” Farhi also noted the TV presence of Iraq War fan and former Bush adviser Karl Rove, who called the assassination a “major victory” for “the cause of stability and moderation in the Middle East.” Karl Rove, noted expert on how countries should achieve political stability and moderation!

An even more bloodthirsty alum of the Bush administration and the Iraq War, John Bolton has, as Mother Jones put it in May, “Wanted War With Iran Since Before You Were Born.” During Bolton’s recent tenure in the Trump administration, the president remarked, “I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing.” Trump privately complained that Bolton wanted to “get into a war.” Thankfully, he’s no longer in the White House — fired by Trump in part over such differences — but he’s still tweeting. Bolton cheered the general’s assassination, writing, “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.” He’s now a liberal hero for agreeing to testify in the Senate impeachment proceedings, but he should continue to be reviled as one of the most consistently dangerous people on earth.

Professional backpfeifengesicht Bret Stephens, in addition to his fondness for race science, is an adamantly unregretful Iraq War stan. For some time, he’s been rattling the sabers for war with Iran, criticizing Trump for not being tough enough, bragging on centrist Pravda — sorry, MSNBC — that “in 1987 we sank the Iranian Navy without any consequences to the United States. We could do it again.”

As for Joe Lieberman, who came close to losing his Senate seat over grassroots Democrats’ dissatisfaction with his enthusiasm for the Iraq War, he recently opined with distress in the Wall Street Journal that his fellow Democrats were failing to celebrate the assassination, worrying that it will lead “many Americans” to fear that “today’s Democratic Party simply doesn’t believe in the use of force against American’s enemies in the world.” Actually, what “many” of us truly fear is a party that tolerated such a bellicose right-winger for so long: even after he endorsed McCain over Obama, Senate Democrats allowed him to remain in charge of the Homeland Security committee.

These guys have made successful careers of being catastrophically, tragically wrong. No one should ever listen to any of them again.