Team Iraqi Freedom: Where Are They Now?

The Atlantic Wire

The Iraq War did not go as planned — not for Iraq, not for the United States, and not for the careers of the people who told us it'd be such a great idea to go. On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the American invasion, a car bomb killed approximately 60 people in Baghdad. The war killed almost 5,000 American troops, and according to the most scientific survey, 600,000 Iraqis. Let's catch up with the folks who brought us there a decade ago today:

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George W. Bush. President. Since leaving office, Bush has painted more than 50 dogs. 

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Today: In 2008, Cheney was still claiming Iraq had had the capability to produce WMDs. That wasn't true. In a new documentaryThe World According to Dick Cheney, Cheney bashes Condoleezza Rice, saying, "Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues so we had significant issues." Cheney successfully lobbied Maryland legislators to allow gay marriage. Since getting a heart transplant in 2012, Cheney now has a heartbeat. (Photos via Associated Press.)

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Scooter Libby. Cheney's chief of staff. He was convicted in 2007 of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements for his role in leaking that Iraq war critic Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.

Today: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored Libby's right to vote just before the 2012 election. He is vice-president of the Hudson Institute.


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Donald Rumsfeld. Bush's first secretary of defense. Reporters loved Rumsfeld's folksy confidence during his Iraq war press conferences. "Stuff happens!' Rumsfeld said of looters in Baghdad. He made a major contribution to modern philosophy: "There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know." The routine was less charming when a soldier asked Rumsfeld why he had to dig through landfills to make DIY Humvee armor, and Rumsfeld said, "You go to war with the Army you have."

Today: Rumsfeld tweets, and has published a memoir titled Known and Unknown. He lives on a ranch in TaosHis most famous folksy philosophizing has its own Wikipedia page. He is not into this wrestling ban at the Olympics.

(Photo via Associated Press and Twitter.)


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Colin Powell. Bush's first secretary of state. Powell gave a very scary and very convincing speech to the United Nations making the case for war. He said he had "no doubt" Saddam Hussein was trying to get nuclear weapons.

Today: Powell says he was misled on Iraq, just like the rest of us. His primary Sunday show purpose now is to criticize the Republican Party. He endorsed Obama for president twice. He's a strategist adviser to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

(Photo via YouTube.)


John Yoo. Yoo authored the infamous Bush "torture memos" justifying the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," like waterboarding.

Today: Yoo is a law professor at Berkeley. Though Sen. Ted Cruz invoked Yoo's name during Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster over drones, Yoo has given his stamp of approval to Obama's drone policy. "I admire libertarians, but I think Rand Paul's filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do — they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position," Yoo said.


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Condoleezza Rice. Bush's former national security adviser and secretary of state. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Rice said about Iraqi WMD. On Bush's false claim in his State of the Union address that Saddam Hussein had bought uranium in Africa, Rice said, "It is 16 words, and it has become an enormously overblown issue."

Today: Rice is rehabilitating her image. She published a memoir in the fall of 2011. The Drudge Report floated her as Mitt Romney's running mate in the summer of 2012. She gave a rousing speech at the Republican National Convention. Rice is on the faculty at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and just got a book deal to write about promoting democracy. She golfs!

(Photos via Associated Press.)


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Bill Kristol. Editor of The Weekly Standard. Kristol is well-known as being one of the wrongest wrong people on the Iraq war. He said the idea that Sunni and Shia wouldn't get along was "pop sociology." He said the Iraq war "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East." That was because  "we can remove Saddam because that could start a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy."

Today: Kristol is still The Weekly Standard's editor and a Fox News pundit. He continues to be wrong about things, like Sarah Palin. He is mad about Obama's "inaction" in Syria and Iran. He thinks Obama hasn't done enough to sell his drone policy, saying Tuesday:

We cannot sustain a serious foreign policy abroad without public debate and without a president who leads. And that's been the biggest problem; hawks like me, who want to support some of the things that Obama has done, he's never defended them. He doesn't explain them. He doesn't put them in context. As a result, there is more support for a Rand Paul-type view... So, in that respect, President Obama, in a way, has created Rand Paul...

(Photo via YouTube.)


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Credulous reporters. "U.S. SAYS HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS" The New York Times' Michael Gordon and Judy Miller wrote in September 2002. "If he's a cowboy, he's the reluctant warrior, the Shane in the movie, strapping on the guns as the last resort because he has to, to protect his family, drawing on the emotions of 9/11, tying them to Saddam Hussein, using the possible or likely rejection vote from the U.N. as a badge of honor," Howard Fineman said of Bush in March 2003. The New York Times Thomas Friedman wrote op-eds about the feelings of "The Arab Street." He inspired the term "Friedman Unit," in which "the next six months" in Iraq would be crucial.

The feeling that the Iraq war was a super-hot story to get in on is captured pretty well in this March 2003 story for New York by Michael Wolff.

The excitement is about going along, about having access, wearing war clothes, eating war food—a desire, finally, to be part of the scene, to be an “embed,” to hang out in Doha at the $225,000 briefing stage. It’s all spectacle. War is a media thing. Not just a ratings gift but a personal professional plum. Take advantage of it.

I was in college during the first half of the Iraq war. My editors were fixated on finding a local angle for The Passion of the Christ.

Today: Some people learned lessons. Fineman wrote last week, "Of course for journalists, the most patriotic thing we can do is our jobs — which meant that we all should have doubled down on skepticism and tough questions. Some did. I wish I could say that I was one of them." A couple years ago, Miller was using the email address JudyMillerFreeSpeech@[grudginglyredacted].com. She is an occasional Fox News pundit. Then there's this:


Not Credulous Reporters. The Atlantic's James Fallows warned we were getting a "Fifty-First State." Jonathan Landay and John Walcott wrote for McClatchy and Knight Ridder under headlines like "Lack of hard evidence of Iraqi weapons worries top U.S. officials," and "Failure to find weapons in Iraq leads to intelligence scrutiny." The Washington Post's Walter Pincus was a skeptic, even if the Post's editorial page was not. The New Republic's John Judis was nearly alone among his colleagues in opposing the war.

Today: Today they say "I told you so." Several warn the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone that it could happen again.


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Dan Senor. Spokesman for the reconstruction effort in Iraq. "Off the record, Paris is burning. On the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq," Senor told reporters, according to The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a book that will blow your mind.

Today: Senor was Mitt Romney's foreign policy adviser. Not such an odd choice for a candidate who would glibly suggest we "double Guantanamo." (Photo via Associated Press.)


Guantanamo Detainees. On November 13, 2001, Bush signed a military order saying the Defense Department would decide where to hold war on terror detainees and would create a system for trying them military law or civilian law, as The New Yorker's Jill Lepore explains in an essay on the last decade's history of torture. Cheney said "there's precedent for it." Of the hundreds who've been held in Guantanamo since then, about 165 are still there. The Obama administration says about 50 are too dangerous to ever release.

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