Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Hypothetical War

Doug Feith-- aka "the stupidest fucking guy on the planet", according to Gen. Tommy Franks-- was the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy during President Bush's first term, and one of the architects of the Iraq war policy. He has written the latest in a series of 'passing the buck' memoirs from administration officials looking for absolution in the eyes of history.

Jon Stewart interviewed Feith this past Monday about the book. Like his January interview with National Review editor Jonah Goldberg, the interview went long and had to be edited down for TV. Unlike that interview, however, they made the full interview-- all 20 minutes of it-- available for viewing on their website. And here it is.

It is a shame that the full interview didn't get aired (the version that did can be seen here), because I think the more interesting stuff is here in the uncut version. Jon Stewart spends most of the interview pressing Feith, trying to get him to acknowledge the lies misleading way in which the administration sold this war to the public. In Feith's revisionist history, the administration was perfectly upfront about what a cakewalk messy business war is. But Jon kept pushing, including on the hypocrisy of a policy of preemptive war that began and ended with Iraq.

In the second half of the discussion in the uncut Pt. 2, Jon talks about the "certainty" in which the administration's pre-war rhetoric was enshrined in, noting instead that "this whole war was a hypothesis". He brought up the talk/fear of nuclear mushroom clouds in American cities that was used to sell a preemptive attack and war on Iraq. Feith replied that their attitude was simply "If we don't do something, our intelligence is not good enough to know for sure that they have a nuclear weapon, until they detonate it." Which, of course, proves Stewart's point. And when Jon noted that this was a war of choice (our choice), Feith replied "The concern was, did we want the war to be of Saddam Hussein's choosing", apparently again conceding that we launched a war (an endless, multi-trillion dollar, deadly war) based on the hypothetical fantasy that Saddam was plotting our imminent doom with his hypothetical WMDs.

Stewart ended, after Feith all but conceded the point, by noting that the only hypotheticals the administration refused (and still refuses) to discuss were the downsides to the war.

I think that this was the real meat of the interview, and it's a shame that not only do people have to turn a satirical show for this kind of discussion, but that this part ended up on the cutting-room floor. Still, always good to see a few people interested in how we got here.

[Think Progress: Feith Blames Public For Feeling Misled About Iraq: 'I Think They Misremember A Lot']


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