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Whose mistakes mattered the most?

Joel Connelly
Aspen, CO Colorado

With tickets disguised to read an “Into the Wild” screening, musician Eddie Vedder did a performance in west Seattle on Tuesday night as a warmup to upcoming gigs on the road.

Vedder joked as how he could correct mistakes, but alluded to the Iraq war in a tough aside: When neoconservatives make mistakes, people die.

The war has just passed its fifth anniversary. U.S. war deaths just topped 4,000. The latest “butcher’s bill,” after a shootout in Basra, is dozens killed.



And yet, ubiquitous and shameless and unrepentant, the neocons are all over the place. Newt Gingrich talks war and political strategy on Fox News. William Kristol is a New York Times columnist. Dick Cheney is predicting success from the current strategy.

It calls to mind words from Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former overseer of the U.S. military’s central command: “It’s pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it go the other way.”




Mistakes by those who initiated a war come to mind as headlines once more focus on a peacenik’s pre-war trip to Baghdad.

The Justice Department charges that Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agents secretly paid for a trip to Iraq by three U.S. House members, including Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). The 2002 trip came as President Bush pressured Congress to authorize military action against Iraq.

On this trip, live from Baghdad, McDermott told ABC’s “This Week” that he believed that Bush would mislead the American people to get us into a war.

“I would do it again,” McDermott said Thursday. “I didn’t plan it. I felt strongly about it. I don’t know how I could have done it differently.”

McDermott made other points. House members took the trip to see what sanctions were doing to Iraqi children. McD said the Church Council of Greater Seattle approached him to make the trip. He claimed the trip was cleared beforehand with the House Ethics Committee.

And, of course, nobody knew that trip host Muthanna Al-Hanooti had ” if the government’s charges are true ” been promised 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil by the dictator.

Oh, and another point from McDermott.

“I have never been invited back on a national television news program since,” he

said.

Biases of this space are well known. I’ve criticized McDermott’s many travels abroad,

complained that he neglects the home front, and suggested he retire from Congress.

In 2002, this column wondered whether McDermott had been in a “Hussein asylum” to suggest that Iraqi regime’s claims be taken at face value.

The Iraq trip remains a monumentally dumb move, and McD’s remarks probably stampeded some Democrats into voting for Bush’s war resolution. Still, shouldn’t

McDermott get chits for resisting the rush to war?

Recall the words of those who are still running things in Iraq, pontificating on cable TV, or claiming the foreign policy credentials to fill the Oval Office.

“We now know Saddam Hussein has resumed his effort to acquire nuclear weapons,”

Cheney said in a speech just before McD visited Baghdad. And, he added, “There is no doubt he is amassing [WMDs] to use against our friends, our allies and us.”

Was there danger in occupation? Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz assured us that the Pentagon’s post-war requirements would be low because “there’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting each other.” Iraqi oil revenues would pay for post-war reconstruction, he added.

Of course, there was this from Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld: “We know that [Saddam] continues to hide biological or chemical weapons, moving them to different locations every 12 to 24 hours.”

Cheney was upbeat. “We will be greeted as liberators,” he predicted on “Meet the Press.”

Adoring NBC pundit Chris Matthews asked Sen. John McCain: “Do you believe that the people of Iraq, or at least a large number of them, will treat us as liberators?”

“Absolutely! Absolutely!” he replied.

After Saddam was overthrown, U.S. overseer L. Paul Bremer abolished Iraq’s army, leaving 400,000 armed soldiers out of work, with no income, and nothing to do. It was, a State Department official later wrote, “one of the greatest errors in the history of U.S. warfare.”

Five years have passed: The total of U.S. killed and wounded approaches 30,000.

The war’s cost has topped $700 billion. Two senators who backed Bush, McCain and

Hillary Clinton, are running for president.

In the Senate’s war debate, McCain proclaimed that Saddam “has developed stocks of germs and toxins in sufficient quantities to kill the entire population of the Earth several times.”

As if landing under fire in Bosnia, Clinton dodges and weaves nowadays when asked if her vote for the resolution was a mistake.

Hear, however, emphatic words spoken by the “gentle lady from New York” that day: Saddam “has given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members.”

Such assertions ” and their consequences ” rob me of the urge to rag on McDermott.

And they suggest a question: Whose mistakes have REALLY cost this country?