Thursday, May 19, 2022


The days are busy, and as full of bad faith and mendacity as they are I can’t keep up. (Though I make an effort at Roy Edroso Breaks It Down. Subscribe, cheap!) But sometimes a piece of pixelcrap emerges that I just can’t let it pass.

At the Washington Examiner Byron York writes about George W. Bush’s unfortunate moment during a recent speech at SMU, in which he meant to say "wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine” but had to correct himself after saying "wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” York’s conclusion seems mildly sympathetic to the old war criminal:

But most of all, Bush's words at SMU conveyed the sense of a man who made a career-defining mistake that still troubles him, two decades later. It troubles the country, too.

Boo fucking hoo. But the real howler for me is York’s portrayal of how support of the invasion and war went: 

The war in Iraq has roiled American politics for nearly 20 years. In the early years, opposition to the war became a litmus test among Democratic politicians. Two of the party's presidential nominees, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, voted to authorize the war as senators, while a third, Barack Obama, avoided the test because he was not in the Senate when the authorization vote was taken.

In the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, candidate Donald Trump agitated the GOP when he openly described the war as a disaster. Trump did it in part to rattle his competitor in the primaries, Bush's brother Jeb. But Trump did, in fact, strike a nerve among Republicans who supported the war when it began but came to believe it was a mistake. Now, no one would be surprised if Trump at some point makes use of the new Bush blunder as new ammunition in Trump's battle against what used to be called the Republican establishment.

If you had missed the past 20 years of American history, you might get from this the (clearly intended) impression that the war was pushed through by GWB and the Democrats, and opposed by Republicans, especially the ones who would later become the MAGA movement. *

But that just ain’t so. Check Pew Research in 2011, when Obama announced that, as he had promised in the 2008 campaign, the U.S. was withdrawing from Iraq (which turned out not to be entirely true, unfortunately):

Since the start of the war, there has been a wide partisan gap on the question of using force in Iraq. In March 2003, with major combat operations ongoing, the gap was substantial: 93% of Republicans supported the decision to use force, compared with 66% of independents and 59% of Democrats. This gap persisted through the first year of the [war]. Across all surveys conducted in 2003, 90% of Republicans backed the decision to use force, compared with 66% of independents and 50% of Democrats.

Over the ensuing years, support for the war has plummeted among independents and Democrats plummeted, while Republicans have remained largely supportive. In surveys conducted in 2008 — the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency — just 17% of Democrats said it was the right decision to take military action in Iraq, compared with 73% of Republicans.  Since President Obama took office, support for the decision to go to war in Iraq has increased among Democrats.

However, Americans are ready to move on — 56% believe that the U.S. has mostly accomplished its goals in Iraq, and three-quarters of the public support Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011. (emphasis added)

Also a lot of us marched and otherwise made our anti-war feelings known, as Republicans pointed and laughed at the dirty liberal hippies. 

If you’re of a suspicious turn of mind -- and with York why wouldn’t you be -- you might think he’s trying to erase the cold fact of a massively liberal anti-Iraq-war opposition to make it easier to peddle Trump and his minions as Right From The Start. If that seems like a stretch, think what other fantasies MAGA, QAnon, and all the big Republican constituencies have accepted in similar defiance of evidence and common sense. 

* Oh, and in case you were wondering, York was a big Iraq War fan once upon a time -- see his June 2003 column, “The Truth About Bush’s ‘Lies’”: 

…if the administration's case was a lie, then everybody, including much of the political opposition, was in on it. Just as importantly, if it turns out that prewar estimates of Iraq's capabilities were incorrect, the Bush administration can say — truthfully — that it erred on the side of protecting American national security. 

And he seemed to think the war was a great success, as described in his December 2006 column, “In war-torn Iraq, unlike here, there’s optimism”:

Presumably without access to The New York Times, The Washington Post and television news, millions of Iraqis say their lives are better than they were last year, better than they were before the United States invasion, and will likely be better a year from now than today.

Among the measures of victory cited by York: “In 2003 (in another poll), 32 percent [of Iraqis] had a satellite dish. Now it’s 86 percent.”

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