It’s a bad Sunday when I don’t agree with Frank Rich. His brilliant, elegant New York Times column has consistently and mercilessly exposed the cruelty, folly and hypocrisy of government and media war supporters.
Yesterday, in an otherwise superb column, Rich praised a New York Times Magazine piece by former war supporter Michael Ignatieff as an "eloquent mea culpa." Judge for yourself.
I read Ignatieff’s August 5 piece of repentance–""Getting Iraq Wrong: What the War Has Taught Me about Political Judgment"–as an apology that features everything except remorse. As a friend wrote me this morning, the piece reads like "a positioning statement for the political aspirations of Mr. Michael Ignatieff; advice to the reader on the exceptional connections and insider’s knowledge enjoyed by Mr. Michael Ignatieff; expressions of disdain for the academic discipline that Mr. Michael Ignatieff used to take money for teaching. And why was this serious, honest, morally profound Ignatieff so wrong about the Iraq war? Actually, he doesn’t say. He just accuses the people who were right for having had the wrong reasons. We didn’t really know anything, you see. We were just being ideologues."
A new report by Oxfam out last week reveals that the war has produced a huge rise in poverty, disease and malnutrition. Some 43 percent of Iraqis live in absolute poverty; a third of the population depends on emergency aid, but over 30 percent of the people who have been displaced by fighting or sectarian murder have lost access to the subsidized food rations on which they used to rely. Some two million have fled their homes to neighboring countries, the entire region is thrown into bloody chaos, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or maimed, close to 4,000 US men and women are dead and thousands more grievously wounded.
Yet it wasn’t Ignatieff’s fault but ours–those who opposed this unnecessary and disastrous war, those who, as he puts it, "correctly anticipated catastrophe but did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology."
It was a keen sense of history and clear judgment–not the ideology displayed by neoliberal hawks like Ignatieff–that led this magazine and other war opponents to understand how disastrously it would end. Mr. Ignatieff–time for a real "mea culpa"?