Neocons, critics fight over who’s responsible for Iraq mess

As the Obama administration jumps back into Iraq with military advisers, political combatants are fighting over who created the problem in the first place.

Hussein Malla/AP
Iraqi Shiite Turkmen gunmen stand on their vehicle as they prepare to patrol around the village of Taza Khormato in the northern oil rich province of Kirkuk, Iraq.

History will sort things out in the end, but the original architects of US military involvement in Iraq are having an “I told you so” moment as the Obama administration scrambles to deal with an Islamist insurgency that’s sent the Iraqi army fleeing and threatens a divisive government propped up by US influence.

But wait, comes the push back: You guys took us to war based on weak (or concocted) evidence, so who are you to complain?

That reasoning hasn’t given pause to the likes of former vice president Dick Cheney. Together with his daughter Liz, Mr. Cheney wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Rarely has a US president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

“Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded last week on the Senate floor. “To the architects of the Iraq war who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say thanks but no thanks.”

‘‘The only thing I want to hear from Iraq war architects is an apology,’’ Sen. Reid tweeted.

Not all the push back is coming from Obama officials and supporters.

“I think the same questions could be asked of those who supported the Iraq War,” Sen. Rand Paul said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “You know, were they right in their predictions? Were there weapons of mass destruction there? Was the war won in 2005, when many of those people said it was won?”

Sen. Paul also accused supporters of the war in Iraq of “emboldening Iran.”

“Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well, sir,” Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly told Cheney during an interview.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, the former VP defended himself.

“If we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face,” Cheney said. “Rand Paul, with all due respect, is basically an isolationist. He doesn’t believe we ought to be involved in that part of the world. I think it’s absolutely essential.”

Since polls show most Americans believe the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was a mistake to begin with, they’re unlikely to be swayed by the criticisms of Obama by Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and  other Bush administration alums.

“There’s a tone-deaf quality to it,” James Mann at Johns Hopkins University, author of “Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet,” told Bloomberg News . “The strategic mistake since going into Iraq was all theirs. The mistake was going in.”

For some Republicans, there’s also concern that refighting the war – including the Obama administration’s withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq in 2011 – is not necessarily good for the party.

“Whenever the conversation is on Iraq, it’s not good news for Republicans,” John Ullyot, a GOP strategist and former Senate aide, told The Hill newspaper. “That’s not helped at all over the last week by a bunch of people who we hadn’t heard from in several years – Republican figures associated with Iraq from the Bush administration – who were suddenly back on major shows discussing the current state of affairs in Iraq. It was not a helpful reminder.”

“The fact that [Cheney] came out swinging the other day is disappointing to some Republicans because it does nothing but encourage people to remember that this was Bush’s war,” Steven Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told The Hill. “So they do risk putting themselves into a position where on one of the few salient issues of the day they’re not on the right side.”

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