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Jonathan Chait on the Iraq War

Looking back on the arguments and the outcome

Adam Chandler
March 20, 2013

Over at New York, Jonathan Chait (among many things) looks back at the Iraq War–which started ten years ago this week–and reviews what led him to write in support of it. This is a good piece for a number of reasons: it’s frank, virtuous in its self-examination, and intellectually confessional. Here’s a small sample:

Looking back, I have several regrets. We now know that Iraq no longer had any unconventional weapons program. Over the years, this has come to be seen as retrospectively obvious. It was not. While the Bush administration deliberately twisted and overhyped evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the legitimate evidence did show, albeit less dramatically than the administration said, that Iraq had active unconventional weapons programs. This was the judgment of fellow Western intelligence agencies. It was also a logical inference from Saddam Hussein’s refusal to fully comply with U.N. demands even after threatened with invasion. (That Iraq refused full compliance was documented at the time by Hans Blix, Butler’s successor, but this has largely been brushed aside in the retrospective critique.)

The absence of weapons of mass destruction is the most crucial element of my argument that I got wrong, though the part I have the least regret for getting wrong, as it was very hard to know at the time.

It’s difficult to assign a particular value to a piece of writing like this. But if you read it and the slew of acrimonious and supportive comments that follow, I think this is useful for a lot of reasons.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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