Bill Keller Was Wrong About Iraq, But We Should Heed His Calls For War in Syria

John Glaser, May 07, 2013

Bill Keller’s piece in The New York Times yesterday got a lot of attention, and for all the right reasons. The absurdity of the piece wasn’t lost on most people: Keller lays out how terribly wrong he was for supporting the Bush administration’s war of choice in Iraq, and is now asking readers not to collapse in laughter as he speaks with an air of authority on why we should invade, or at least bomb, Syria.

Keller_Bill_sized_jpg_800x1000_q100Keller explains that “at the outset of the Iraq invasion, I found myself a reluctant hawk. That turned out to be a humbling error of judgment, and it left me gun-shy.” How harrowing the experience must have been for you, Bill – using your position as an opinion-shaper at the most widely read newspaper in the country to cheerlead an illegal war that destroyed an entire country, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and cost trillions of dollars.

Still, Keller wants you to know he thinks we’ve over-learned the lessons of Iraq: “But in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.”

He then takes us through all “the ways it is not Iraq,” and what follows is a dubious motley of pro-war arguments. Some of them are just flat out delusional, like his first one:

“First, we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region.”

Keller’s too blinded by his own warmongering to realize that it’s been our limited interventions that has made his scenario a reality, not the other way around. The rebels, many of them jihadists, received arms and support from dogmatic religious dictators in Riyadh and Doha (with CIA help) from very early on. The Sunni-Shiite sectarian war has already metastasized thanks to foreign meddling.

Despite all the wishful thinking from Keller, every option for intervention, from no-fly zones to invasion, carries terrible consequences for Syrians and Americans. But beyond that, what he and his establishment brethren can’t overcome is this idea that America has either the right or the responsibility to police the world and make civil wars our own wars. They are infused with the propagandistic notion that America is “the indispensable nation,” the moral actor on the international stage. And they are once again putting those delusions to use by rallying for another illegal, elective, protracted conflict in the Middle East that is bound to worsen the humanitarian situation and carry grave costs in blood and treasure.




41 Responses to “Bill Keller Was Wrong About Iraq, But We Should Heed His Calls For War in Syria”

  1. Bill Keller is an ass. War criminally insane ass at that.
    "…a danger to neighbors who are all American allies…"
    That would mean Israel? Bill needs a visit from the grammar nazis. "Neighbors" shouldn't be plural.
    Keller is an obedient, if not faithful, mongering lap dog. Who's a good doggy, Keller's a good doggy…

  2. It's thrilling that Keller admits his errors in judgment concerning Iraq. It takes a big, big person to do that and one feels almost unworthy to even comment on the serious, reasoned prose he delivers in the case against Syria. Of course, innocent people will still be slaughtered, children will still suffer agonies, a whole population will be put in harm's way, but you can see by his steely gaze and that benign little smile that he bravely accepts these things. They're just the costs we have to pay–well, somebody has to pay–to fulfill our glorious destiny. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

  3. If Keller thinks terrorism will be a problem he ought to be supporting Assad.

  4. [...] Glaser characterized the piece as “absurd,” [...]

  5. [...] AntiWar.com’s John Glaser characterized the piece as “absurd,” [...]

  6. Best comment I've read in ages. You rock Rosemary.

  7. [...] AntiWar.com’s John Glaser characterized the piece as “absurd,” [...]

  8. Setting aside that those who shouted loudest about Saddam’s threat to America, America’s allies, American interests, etc. are the same voices today pushing for direct US military involvement in Syria, we have already made a major contribution to the disintegration of the country and its descent into civil war and ethnic and sectarian conflict. Bashar al-Asad was and remains a brutal dictator, but our history is replete with our close ties to despicable tyrants. Our “friends” in the Middle East are not known for their liberal democracy–its good to be a king sitting on oil fields. Keller’s, and others, who decry the situation have omitted that these same “allies” would not have acted without the green light from Washington. Would Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Bahrain have risked their thrones if they did not know we had their back? And Turkey, with overt meetings between Washington and Ankara going for months, not mentioning any secretive meetings, saw Turkey escalate its involvement in Syria’s revolt. Although not widely reported by our complicit news media, it was revealed months ago that we had placed military and intelligence personnel on the ground in both Turkey and Jordan to provide communication, logistics and intelligence for the rebellion. Economic and diplomatic pressure on Asad came early and increased with time.
    Now, pundits, politicians and think tank wonks are concerned about the humanitarian issues, WMDs, negative impacts upon Lebanon and Iraq, the rebirth of militant religious (the second coming of al-Qaeda types) and wider concerns for the stability for the Persian Gulf. Before we and our followers abetted the rebellion, all of these issues were non-existent. The situation that is unfolding is one of wish fulfillment. We have helped to manufacture a crisis, and thereby provide justification for yet another war in the Middle East. Or the “leadership cabal” claim that we did not expect the terrible consequences of “our good intentions.”

  9. Well, thank you kindly, Mike.

  10. Not only was Keller wrong in judgment and position on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya but he was instrumental in getting his reporters and editors in line. He is a paid tool of the establishment.

  11. NYTimes won't point out Obama's hypocrisy of denying Americans the right to assault rifles yet CIA passes out assault rifles, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades into the streets of Syria.

  12. Shouldn't that be Bill "Killer"?

  13. Keller speaks of "missed opportunities, dimished credibility, and enlarged tragedy" – and then he attributes these shortcomings to a reluctance to launch another illegal war. What insanity! What utter bs!

  14. That's because it's for "over there" and not "here in the homeland." They fail to understand that eventually, it will all come home…

  15. But it looks sooooo good in print…print that millions of people will read.

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  17. There was virtually no legal basis for what the U.S. ended up doing in Libya. There ended up being no net benefit for Libyans or for U.S. interests as defined by Washington. It was a failure and its consequences continue to haunt us.

  18. neighbors who are all American allies…"
    That would mean Israel?

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