The first part of The Power of Nightmares, still relevant as an examination of how the neocon invasion of Iraq came to be
I have been taken aback at how the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has suddenly become a political issue again. Republican candidates have been made to say whether they would have made the same decision Bush did, and have been memorably maladroit in their desire to say what people want to hear while not admitting that the whole enterprise was a massive failure. The main dodge so far has been to say that "we went to war based on false intelligence."
Of course, anyone with a brain and a memory knows that this is the usual political bullshit. The crummy, doctored intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq was created to give public support for a decision that the Bush administration had already made. Hell, Donald Rumsfeld was talking about the invasion of Iraq on 9/11. Most people in this country were either too nationalistic, too desirous of post-9/11 revenge, or just too damn lazy to see the truth back in 2003. Polls at the time showed that most Americans thought that Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9/11 attacks.
Twelve years later, things have changed. The invasion of Iraq has turned out to be an even bigger catastrophe than I predicted at the time. I figured that the war would create a fake democratic American puppet state and embroil the United States in a whole host of "regime change" in the region for the forseeable future. I did not predict that American troops would watch while the country was looted, that armed resistance to occupation would continue for years, that civil war between different factions would erupt, and certainly not that an institution like ISIS would rise from the ashes of conflict. Basically, the absolute worst case scenario actually happened, and it's a long way from "we will be greeted as liberators." It is now the majority opinion that the invasion was a mistake, something blindingly obvious even to the biggest nimrods drooling their way across this land of ours.
I feel a big part of Iraq's comeback in political discourse isn't just because of ISIS, but due to a major miscalculation by Republicans. They know that the economy is improving, and thus need to steer towards foreign policy in the 2016 election. Conservatives have long painted liberals as "weak" and themselves as "strong," but seem to have forgotten what their "strong" neocon policies have wrought. When they try to tell the electorate that they will keep them same from ISIS, members of the electorate reasonably ask them where ISIS came from in the first place.
Republican presidential candidates have also been pretty brazen in continuing the neocon foreign policy and even taking advice from architects of the Iraq invasion. Paul Wolfowitz, for example, is an advisor to Jeb Bush. Chris Christie has vigorously defended the NSA, employing the kind of "give up your freedom or the terrorist boogie men will get you" rhetoric favored by Dick Cheney at the height of the 2001-2005 neocon fever dream. Lindsey Graham has jumped in the ring, declaring his love of drone strikes on anyone who even THINKS of joining ISIS. Only Rand Paul has only questioned this, and even he is pretty limited.
Of course, it's not like the Democrats have a much better track record. Many of them voted for the invasion, and president Obama has unleashed American air power in what amounts to a third American war in Iraq. While Iraq has become an issue again, it won't actually lead to any true reckoning with America's global role, just a lot of finger pointing. Republicans will use the old scare tactics, and Democrats will continue military interventions lite. For all the talk about Iraq, little will change, I fear.