On the front page of Sunday's Style section in the Washington Post is an article headlined "No I-Told-You-Sos." Reporter Lynne Duke hailed anti-war voices and their predictions of doom as correct, but there is "no gloating" among them. But there's one nagging issue for readers. Duke never quotes an actual prediction from 2002 or 2003. Among her heroic non-gloaters were skeptical hawks (William Odom, Anthony Zinni), but she also focused on doves: Jimmy Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (they did so well in Iran?) and, most egregiously, leftist Rep. Barbara Lee (pictured with actress Susan Sarandon), who wouldn't even vote for war after September 11. Is she vindicated? Duke hailed how Lee "saw it coming" in 2001 and had the foresight to oppose the entire military War on Terror.
Duke began her thesis this way:
It is the culture of this town -- trafficking in rightness. People clamor day in and day out, in that polished and politic way of the Washingtonian, to be proved right.
But on Iraq, the vindicated are pained. There is no gloating -- not with thousands of people dead, Americans and Iraqis; not with the Iraq war precipitating an ongoing foreign policy crisis that has left the United States' global image in tatters.
For people who were pilloried, penalized or warned to be careful because of their opposition to a powerful president's war, vindication is nothing to celebrate. It is a victory most bitter.
Duke explains how all of her non-gloating heroes suffered criticism, even ostracism, for their anti-war views. The most bitterly anti-Bush, unsurprisingly, is Brzezinski. But is someone who worked "national security" for a bungling president who couldn't even succesfully fly helicopters through the desert to rescue American hostages in Iran really have any room for gloating? Duke explained:
He opposed Bush's doctrine of preemption and assessed the war policy as one that "was propelled forward by mendacity." He spoke out before and during the war, and he believes his criticisms began to sting as the war began to falter. As a result, he says, he was ultimately shut out of high-level Defense and State Department briefings he had often attended and was publicly upbraided by a foreign policy peer.
Despite the broad sea change in opinion among the political and policy class, Brzezinski's sense of vindication has its limits, he says, because "I have the feeling that the president's team is hellbent on digging itself in more deeply and if it does not succeed in Iraq some of its wilder policymakers seem to be eager to enlarge the scope of the war to Iran.
It is one thing to praise hawkish people for having the courage to oppose their fellow hawks. But liberals and Carterites oppose the use of force for nearly everything, so were they brilliant prognosticators -- or merely on the politically correct side of the ideological fence for the Washington Post? Here's how Duke handled the case of Barbara Lee:
Could this scenario actually play out? It is, among the vindicated, not at all absurd, for official Washington's sights have turned to Iran with "the same signs, a very similar drumbeat" as that which preceded the war in Iraq, says Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
Lee saw it coming -- not Iran, but Iraq. Back in September 2001, days after the terror attacks, she saw the broadly worded congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use force to fight terrorism as giving him a dangerous degree of carte blanche.
That early resolution allowed the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
It is language that haunts her still.
"I said then it was giving the administration a blank check to use in perpetuity," Lee says. "If you read that resolution, it's very clear that it was the beginning of a march to war."
She voted against that resolution -- the only member of Congress to do so -- and then took the barbs.
"It was a very tough period," she says. "To call me unpatriotic was the lowest of the low," especially considering that her father, an Army lieutenant colonel, served for 25 years and saw duty in World War II and Korea.
Now, she says, people are eager to tell her she was right. But "it's not about feeling vindicated," she says.
"I want people to understand that this is a very dangerous foreign policy, the administration's foreign and military policy is very dangerous, that the notion of preemptive war is very dangerous and that we need to support more rational approaches to our foreign and military policy."