Lefty British writer Johann Hari has had enough. One of the more prominent liberals who supported the war in Iraq, he’s now throwing in the towel. His website reproduces a column he wrote for The Independent of London declaring his “melancholic mea culpa.” He was pushed over the edge, he says, but watching justÂ how routine mass killings had become; by the stone-cold fear in which some of his Iraqi friends live:
So when people ask if I think I was wrong, I think about the Iraqi friend â€“ hiding, terrified, in his own house â€“ who said to me this week, â€œEvery day you delete another name from your mobile, because theyâ€™ve been killed. By the Americans or the jihadists or the militias â€“ usually you never find out which.â€ I think of the people trapped in the siege of a civilian city, Fallujah, where amidst homes and schools the Americans indiscriminately used a banned chemical weapon â€“ white phosphorous â€“ that burns through skin and bone. (The Americans say they told civilians to leave the city, so anybody left behind was a suspected jihadi â€“ an evacuation procedure so successful they later used it in New Orleans.). I think of the raw numbers: on the largest estimate â€“ from the Human Rights Centre in Khadimiya â€“ Saddam was killing 70,000 people a year. The occupation and the jihadists have topped that, and the violence is getting worse. And I think â€“ yes, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.
I’ve great respect for Johann and I can imagine the anguish he feels. Our political perspectives are quite similar. Amidst those who supported the war, Hari was among the closest to those who opposed it. I, on the other hand, was just barely on the other side of the line. I thought (and still do think) that overthrowing Saddam’s regime was a dandy idea but I opposed this war from the onset, assuming that it would be fought wrong and end badly.
Some war supporters, Hari argues, cling to a similar view i.e. that the principles behind the war trump its actual prosecution. But no way:
The lamest defence I could offer â€“ one used by many supporters of the war as they slam into reverse gear â€“ is that I still support the principle of invasion, itâ€™s just the Bush administration screwed it up. But as one anti-war friend snapped at me when I mooted this argument, â€œYeah, who would ever have thought that supporting George Bush in the illegal invasion of an Arab country would go wrong?â€ Sheâ€™s right: the truth is that there was no pure Platonic ideal of The Perfect Invasion to support, no abstract idea we lent our names to. There was only Bush, with his cluster bombs, depleted uranium, IMF-ed up economic model, bogus rationale and unmistakable stench of petrol, offering his war, his way. (Expecting Tony Blair to use his influence was, it is now clear, a delusion, as he refuses to even frontally condemn the American torture camp at Guantanomo Bay).
Hari should be comended for his frankness. No one, and certainly that includes journalists, likes to admit that he or she has been wrong, especially about matters of life and death. I’m sure this is a wrenching experience for Hari and I hope he is not made the target of jeering fools.
Christopher Hitchens, meanwhile, is sticking by his original proposition. In fact, he’s emotionally doubling down on his pro-war stance. There’s one twist, however, in Hitchens’ newest piece. His admission that he, also, would have liked to have seen this war fought out completely different but was left no choice other than to support the Bush plan [sic].