Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ignatieff's Mea Culpa

What makes Michael Ignatieff completely unacceptable as a leadership aspirant or potential Prime Minister is the mistake he made in supporting George Bush's war in Iraq. It demonstrated extremely bad judgment.

This weekend he published a mea culpa in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. However, even though he acknowledges his poor judgment, it struck me that, despite his regrets, he was still being disingenuous. The phrase that irked me the most was the following:

But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

He does not specify in any way who the many were or what they expressed. It is clear that the president was after the oil at least in part. This of course could all be cleared up by releasing all the details of the Cheney energy task force, where, if Ignatieff is to be taken seriously, the subject of Iraq's oil could not have come up. However, the subject does appear to have been discussed:

Documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Sierra Club’s and Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, dated March 2001, also feature maps of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates oilfields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the project’s costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date.

If Iraq had no oil, would there have been an invasion? A rhetorical counterfactual question to be sure but the query answers itself.

I am not the only one not to have been impressed with the new Ignatieff. Reed Hundt says at TPM Café:

He doesn't even begin to know all the reasons why he was so completely nutso about Iraq. It makes me wonder if anyone who was wrong about Iraq has yet gotten right about why they were wrong. Does it matter? If you think that those who misread their own history shouldn't be trusted with the power to make the same mistakes twice, then yes.

The reaction was shared by others. See Kevin Drum here.

UPDATE: A correspondent drew my attention to this comment by Katha Pollitt in the Nation, best critique I have read so far.

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