I’m a little bit late to the party, and will try not to bury the lede. Washington Post columnist and frequent CNN guest Max Boot, who has recently renounced his conservative past, believes Americans are “too stupid” to govern themselves.
The revival of measles is an indication of a serious political problem. The case for democracy is that voters in the aggregate will make better decisions than a lone monarch or dictator would. But does majority rule still work when so many people believe so many things that simply aren’t so?
If anyone is qualified to offer an informed opinion on people who believe “things that simply aren’t so”, it’s Max Boot, a man who not only actually, truly believed the Bush administration’s WMD lies that got us into Iraq, but who used his status as a public intellectual to promote those transparent lies in newspaper columns and public appearances, and to continue defending those lies long after the rest of the country had woken up.
Here he is at UCal Berkeley in March 2003:
The subject of my speech today is foreign affairs, and specifically America’s place in the world. That naturally brings up talk of the war we are about to embark on. I think so far things have been going pretty well. Preparations have been proceeding as smoothly as you could expect. Our troops are massing on the border. We’re getting support from important allies like Britain, Spain, and Italy. I’m fairly confident that within a few weeks’ time the enemy’s capital will be occupied. I know there are concerns about what happens after the capital falls, about the occupation, but for my part I’m not too worried about it: I think occupying Paris will be a very pleasant assignment. But I want to assure everyone in this room, and to set the record straight: just because we’re going to war with France, doesn’t mean that we are doing it for ignoble reasons. This is not a war about cheese. I say to you “No blood for cheese!” and I mean it.
The notion that the war we are undertaking is a war for oil is only slightly more silly than we might fight a war for cheese. In the present case, if all we wanted was oil, Saddam Hussein would sell us all we wanted. The only thing preventing more oil sales have been American-enforced sanctions, which Saddam Hussein and the big oil companies would dearly love to see lifted. The U.S. government refuses to lift those sanctions because Saddam Hussein has been building weapons of mass destruction in violation of 17 U.N. resolutions. This suggests that our primary concern has been the threat he poses, not the oil he possesses.
I hate to disappoint all the conspiracy-mongers out there, but I think we are going into Iraq for precisely the reasons stated by President Bush: to destroy weapons of mass destruction, to bring down an evil dictator with links to terrorism, and to enforce international law.
But there were no WMD, France was right, and Boot swallowed a bunch of baloney that he continued to regurgitate on terrified and vulnerable Americans. Here he is just a few months later, saying the failure to find Saddam Hussein’s imaginary arsenal doesn’t matter.
Not able to forgive George W. Bush and Tony Blair for being right, the naysayers are now emphasizing what looks to be their strongest argument: the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction. The European press is in a frenzy about the “lies” that led to war. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is already suggesting this may be “the worst scandal in American political history.”
It is indeed puzzling that U.S. forces haven’t found more evidence of WMD, but this hardly shows that Bush and Blair lied. It does show how imperfect our intelligence about Iraq was, which actually makes the case for preventive war that much stronger.
The safer course when dealing with rogue states that have demonstrated a capacity to manufacture and use WMD is to stop them before it’s too late. Iraq, despite the paucity of “smoking guns” (aside from two possible mobile bioweapons trailers), fits this category. No one–except a discredited former CIA analyst–doubts that Hussein used chemical weapons against the Iranians and Kurds. Neither can there be any serious doubt that he kept WMD long after he was obliged to give them up by United Nations resolutions.
“We didn’t find anything as we promised, but hey no big deal. In fact, our failure is proof we were right!” I wonder if Boot -whose jaunty, off-kilter fedora shows that he’s a serious, muck-raking, truth-telling journalist who’s seen things man, he’s seen things- has ever made that argument to a grieving military widow, face-to-face? One of his enablers on CNN should ask him.
Here is Mr. Boot a year later, tap dancing and flailing, yet doubling down on his folly.
The panic gripping Washington over the state of Iraq makes it clear we have been spoiled by the seemingly easy, apparently bloodless victories of the last decade. From the Persian Gulf War of 1991 to the Afghanistan war of 2001, we got used to winning largely through air power. There were casualties, of course, but few of them were on our side. In Kosovo, we managed to prevail without losing a single person. We forgot what real war looks like. Iraq is providing an unwelcome reminder of how messy and costly it can be.
By comparison with the wars of the last decade, what’s happening in Iraq appears to be a terrible failure. Things look a little different if you compare it with earlier conflicts.
“We” have forgotten, adds Mr. Boot, a man who has never served a day in the military in his life and whose only experience with war is through a word processor. “We,” as if Max Boot sacrificed so much as a damned fingernail in Iraq. “It’s not that the whole idea was a crock of shit, it’s that American troops are pussies,” says Max Boot, a man who seems to have always been a balding, frail weakling who’s only happy when he’s sending other people to die for his night terrors.
One envisions Boot dressed as Homer Simpson chasing a runaway whole roast pig down a hill insisting “it’s still good, it’s still good,” until it lands in the Springfield River and floats away.
Here’s Max Boot in 2005, telling Americans not to believe their lying eyes.
A large majority of the American public is convinced that the liberation of Iraq was a mistake, while a smaller but growing number thinks that we are losing and that we need to pull out soon. Those sentiments are echoed by finger-in-the-wind politicians, such as John Kerry, Harry Reid, John Edwards, John Murtha, and Bill Clinton – who supported the invasion.
Yet in a survey last month from the US-based International Republican Institute, 47 percent of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37 percent who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56 percent thought things would be better in six months. Only 16 percent thought they would be worse.
American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64 percent of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits – no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq – reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.
Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the US armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any.
Worth noting is the fact that the International Republican Institute board of directors currently features deep thinkers and honest brokers like far right Republican Senator Tom Cotton, far right former Republican Congresswoman Kelly Ayotte, Project for a New American Century board member Randy Scheunemann and other true believers. Which is to say, Boot wasn’t being forthright with his readers or honest with himself: he was sharing only information that backed up his point of view.
It’s honestly too depressing to go through so many years of Max Boot lying to the public and himself about the war that continues to cost innocent people their lives, but it’s worth noting that by 2014, Boot was largely absolving George W. Bush (and by extension, himself) of the disaster…
How did this disaster come about and what can be done about it? Critics of the Iraq war affix blame to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade in 2003. But there is no guarantee that, even absent American intervention, Saddam Hussein would have had any more luck staying in power than other Arab despots. A civil war might well have broken out in Iraq anyway, as has been the case in Syria and Libya. It is true that Bush’s mismanagement from 2003 to 2007 aggravated the situation, especially his foolish decisions to disband the Iraqi Army without sending enough U.S. troops to fill the vacuum and to purge Baathists from the government in a process that was hijacked by Shiite militants such as Ahmad Chalabi. This created the lawless conditions out of which both Sunni and Shiite extremists arose.
… and blaming (who else?) Barack Obama:
In hindsight, the pullout from Iraq looks increasingly like the pullout from Vietnam a generation before. “We want a decent interval,” Henry Kissinger told Chinese leaders, implying that Washington would be okay with the conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam as long as it didn’t occur immediately after American troops left. A “decent interval” is what Obama got in Iraq—the country stayed quiet long enough to allow him to run for reelection in 2012 as the president who “ended the war.” In truth, however, Obama has helped restart the war.
So to review. Max Boot believed transparent lies about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Because those lies fit his particular worldview, he promoted them uncritically. Like Donald Trump, Boot gleefully hurled insults at his opponents, in this case the French (who, again, were correct). Also like Donald Trump, Boot refused to take any responsibility for his mistakes, preferring to blame Obama. Boot continued to tell lies to Americans about the conduct of the war, the effectiveness of our efforts, and what was going wrong, for several years. Much like his Washington Post colleague Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot helped blur the lines between fact and fiction for millions of Americans who supported that war.
Now, like Rubin, Boot doesn’t want to lie in the bed he helped make. And true to his [lack of] character, he wants to blame everyone but himself for the sorry state of affairs he created.