If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.
Is this true? I wish my memory were more detailed about what anti-war liberals were saying back in 2002, but it's not. I once thought about browsing through old archives to at least see what the high-traffic liberal blogs were saying back then, but that turned out to be easier said than done. Matt, Josh, and I all supported the war for a while, so we don't count. Kos and Tapped seem to have lost their archives from that far back. C&L, Firedoglake, Aravosis, Greenwald, and the Huffington Post didn't exist back then. Atrios still has his archives, but he didn't post obsessively about the war and didn't write the kind of essays where he explained his position in detail anyway.
We started posting our transcripts in January 2003, but our editorial position was pretty staunchly in opposition to George and Dick's Excellent Adventure in Iraq well before then. I checked our archives, and we weren't into dropping tightly worded polemical essays to explain the fucking obvious on the radio back then. I remember posting a lot of comments in other venues, particularly the comments threads at the few jingoblogs that had them and didn't ban me too quickly, but like Atrios, I didn't spend a lot of time trying to write 800-word manifestos against the war. Who the fuck reads those, anyway?
As I recall, as Atrios and Digby allude here and here, the central argument that unified all the anti-war voices, i.e. both on the Left and the collection of drug-addled Internet centrists and weirdos that everyone wants to paint as "the Left," was essentially an economical argument. Sure, some folks were lathering on a good bit of moralism, but the unifying thread that bound everybody together was the cry, "Why Iraq? Why now? How much will it cost, and what good will we get out of it?"
Here at The MojoWire, we were opposed because the answers to those four questions were deeply unsatisfying to us. Let's remember what the liberal hawk answers to those questions were at the time: A) because Iraq is more convenient than the alternatives; B) because we can't go back in time and do it eleven years ago; C) peanuts, and Iraq's oil reserves will pay for it all with plenty to spare for the Iraqis; D) democracy, whiskey, sexy!
The message you would have heard from the anti-war "left" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq— had you been listening to it— was that all of these answers were insulting to the intelligence of civilized people everywhere. They were obvious bald-faced lies, propagated by a venal and corrupt political leadership who couldn't be trusted to use military force in the national interest. There were no good reasons to do it, and there were lots of good reasons not to do it, starting with the canonical WarIsBadForChildrenAndOtherLivingThings meme and moving on from there to bean-counting arguements about dollar returns on investment and social welfare policy.
For the record, we were exactly fucking right about why the war was a bad idea. The war in Iraq has gone off the rails for exactly the reasons we said it would: chaos is the plan (that's Josh Marshall explaining in April 2003 what the freaks have been saying in street protests since 19-goddamn-68, by the way). It was a bad idea because the whole point was to do nothing good and to do lots of damage, for the sake of doing something bad.
Once again, the liberal hawks are happy to keep feeding live babies into the fiery maw of Moloch as long as it means they won't be seen to agree with the DirtyFuckingHippies™. There is, however, an important lesson to draw here. Sometimes you have to blow the 800 words on the obvious just so you'll have a page in the archives you can link when the inevitable opportunity arises for you to show proof when you say "I Told You Freakin People So!"
Update 1.0: If you want to know what "the left" was saying before the Iraq war began, you can grovel through the archives at Common Dreams for days and days. Here's a fine example from August 25, 2002:
Reasonable chance of success? The just war theory requires stringently weighing in advance the consequences of a military campaign, even though this requirement by itself is not decisive. Any one who has read Tolstoy's War and Peace or who remembers the Vietnam War should know that when success is made to sound too easy, skepticism is the order of the day. Precious human lives and scarce economic resources are at stake.
Would "liberating" Iraq really be a "cakewalk," as Ken Adelman, former U.S. arms control director, has claimed? Or is Immanuel Wallerstein of Yale University correct when he warns that Iraq could become another Vietnam: "Just as in Vietnam, the war will drag on and will cost many U.S. lives. And the political effects will be so negative for the U.S. that eventually Bush (or his successor) will pull out. A renewed and amplified Vietnam syndrome will be the result at home."
According to some estimates, as many as 250,000 U.S. troops will be needed. While other estimates are lower, one Pentagon study has projected an "acceptable" death rate of 20,000-30,000 U.S. soldiers. (The number of "acceptable" Iraqi deaths has apparently not been calculated.) The Iraqi army, estimated at 500,000 troops, will be defending their homeland against a foreign invader who has been bombing them for years. Dissident military analyst Carlton Meyer says: "Ideally, the campaign can be won by sending in 50,000 troops charging in from the air and sea. . . . However, they could get bogged down if the Iraqis fight in the cities and mine the roads. In every military operation there are a hundred things that can go wrong; if you can anticipate half of them, you're a genius."
Arab leaders have warned that a U.S. war against Iraq could destabilize the entire region. Iraq itself threatens to collapse into anarchy. A puppet regime is far more likely to result than a democracy, and even that will be difficult to achieve. Senior U.S. military officials reportedly have serious doubts about whether defeating Iraq would be worth the high military and diplomatic cost. A unilateral war against Iraq would be widely perceived as an American bid for colonial occupation in the Middle East. An occupation of oil-rich Iraq, says Meyer, "will not be about freedom, democracy, or security; just money and power."