On August 27, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that explicitly laid out the case to invade Iraq based on an assumption that “Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Cheney’s speech conflated the threat presented by Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda, as he had been doing since the 9/11 attacks, arguing for a sudden shift in American policy from containment and deterrence to preemption. In doing so, the Bush administration ignored an opportunity to make diplomatic inroads with Iran and instead destabilized the Middle East with an unprovoked disaster that killed and injured more than 100,000 civilians, thousands of U.S. soldiers, and evaporated more than a trillion dollars in American wealth.
From late August 2002 until March 19, 2004, a slow-motion tragedy unfolded in front of the world. American officials made the case for war using dubious intelligence while effectively casting any and all opposition to the effort as unpatriotic and un-American. A complicit media generally repeated the case unquestioned and though millions protested the invasion all over the globe, the American public supported the administration’s lust for a second war in response to 9/11 by a margin of 72-22.
Still, critics of the “the single worst foreign policy decision in American history” (including many liberals in Congress and much of the left-leaning media, including editor-in-chief Joe Conason) did their best to break through the drumbeat, even before the Bush administration’s foolish prosecution of the war made the capricious folly of the Iraq War apparent to the world.
Here are a few of the people who criticized the invasion of Iraq, even as they risked their careers and reputations to do so. (And here are the folks who got it wrong.)