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The Iraq War is one of those world events in which no one comes off great. The American people chose a government who almost completely botched the intelligence process and who then tried to rebuild a country before winning the war. After commendably getting things back on foot, we promptly elected a new government that fulfilled its promise to leave, consequences be dammed. The Iraqis, for their part, have not acquitted themselves terribly well either, with both Sunni and Shia factions showing precious little reluctance to side with devils in the interests of settling scores and looking after their own. That the Iraqis have borne the overwhelming brunt of the consequences of the war does not make them innocents.
In all of this, those on the anti-war left have held their heads high, claiming their opposition to the war has permanently absolved them of any responsibility for what happened since 2003, and pretending that their implicit endorsement of the pre-war status quo was morally neutral. But in the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum has written a flawed but brave piece examining — if not her opposition to the war itself — then at least the unearned and harmful self-righteousness on which she and others have gone to lunch for the last dozen years:
The wrongness of the war, and my rightness about that wrongness, mattered to me a great deal – not just in the run-up to the invasion, but for years afterwards. The division between pro-war and anti-war cleaved a sharp line through the world between the lost and the saved. For the remainder of the decade, I would judge an MP on their voting record on Iraq; a journalist on their coverage of Iraq; a publication on its editorial line on Iraq. And the moral certainty of that period was simply blissful. I do not believe I am alone in this: being right about Iraq gave a whole section of the British left a sense of burning, brilliant superiority.
[I]t is bloodily, horribly obvious that the plan for post-invasion Iraq was barely thought out, but I do not think that the anti-war left should take much comfort in that. It would have been better to be wrong. It would have been better, in fact, to prove ourselves wrong – to divert political energies from stopping the war (or being right that the war should never have started) and into building a plan for Iraq after Saddam.
This did not happen. I was right, and my being right helped no one, ameliorated no violence, saved no lives. Or rather, it helped one person, meaning me – helped by giving my world a gleaming sense of right and wrong that made an otherwise morally awkward universe much easier to navigate. It took until 2012 for rape apologist Assange supporters to kill that certainty off in me…
I don’t agree with most of the rest of the piece, but this deserves our commendation. We should all be willing to be so honest when wrong.