Spreading the blame

As Pat Buchanan—yes, that Pat Buchanan—astutely notes in a recent column about the Iraq Study Group Report, the crucial question the bipartisan panel of political elders never asks, and so never answers, is: Was the Iraq War a blunder to begin with?

Most Americans think of the conflict in Iraq as President Bush’s responsibility, but, as Buchanan reminds us, both major parties are responsible for this mess. It was Bush’s decision to defy world opinion and unilaterally invade a country that had done nothing against the United States, but Democrats in Congress failed to stand up to him.

Democrats could have insisted, for example, that UN weapons inspectors be given time to complete their work. They could have challenged the flawed intelligence data flowing from the White House. They could have refused to support the war until Bush proved, beyond all doubt, that not to attack would put our country in grave danger. They had a constitutional duty to ensure that going to war was absolutely the last resort, and they failed to exercise it.

Instead many Democrats, fearful that they might be seen as soft on national security, joined Republicans in giving the administration a green light and a blank check.

Granted, the Iraq Study Group’s mandate was to look forward, not backward, so its recommendations attempt to point a way out of the current quagmire, not assess blame. But the rest of us need to remember that, as badly as the Bush administration has botched the occupation of Iraq—and it’s likely to go down as one of the most misguided and poorly executed foreign-policy gambits in American history—the Democrats who failed to insist that it was wrong and dangerous to invade in the first place also bear a good part of the blame.

So do, in fact, all of us who failed to speak out, demonstrate, write letters or otherwise do all we could to prevent the war. Just as Americans can take pride in their country’s many positive contributions to the world, we should also take responsibility for her mistakes. And, as the Iraq Study Group’s report makes abundantly clear, invading Iraq was a mistake of historic proportions.