Learning the Right Lessons from the Iraq War

One of the few points of general agreement between the American right and left today is that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal strategic blunder. Yet, Abe Greenwald observes, much of the discussion of the war today is surrounded by “hysteria” that “has made it difficult to look back on the invasion of Iraq with the kind of seriousness that such investigations require.” He finds in Melvyn Leffler’s Confronting Saddam Hussein a much-needed sober evaluation:

Leffler frames the decision to invade Iraq as the last stage in a long-developing showdown between Saddam Hussein and the United States. And in his opening chapter on the life of Hussein, the accurate recounting of the facts is more than sufficient to create a lurid portrait of a life-long monster. There’s much here that the “Sure, Saddam was bad, but” crowd would do well to learn. . . .

Leffler’s characterization of George W. Bush’s path from first son to president is pedestrian by contrast, since the facts of Bush’s somewhat wayward youth and his religious redemption are already sufficiently known. But Leffler’s take is valuable in demonstrating that, upon taking office, neither Bush nor most of his foreign-policy team had any interest in toppling Saddam Hussein or establishing democracy in Iraq. Contrary to popular imagination, this was no neoconservative cabal.

What changed everything, of course, were the attacks of 9/11. But even after that, Bush was slow in coming around to focusing on Iraq. . . . And, for their part, what interested [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and [Deputy Secretary of Defense] Paul Wolfowitz about Iraq was not its dearth of democracy or the prospects for regime change, but rather its capacity to hit the U.S. even harder than al-Qaeda had. This wasn’t the position of the Defense Department alone.

At the same time, Hussein was making jihadist speeches and supporting Hamas. He had kicked weapons inspectors out of Iraq, and the international sanctions regime against him was falling apart. And he had duped inspectors in the past.

Read more at Commentary

More about: George W. Bush, Iraq war, Saddam Hussein, U.S. Foreign policy

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion