Another Letter To Andy Sullivan

Flying Mail
Flying Mail

Back in March, on the fifth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, Slate Magazine asked a number of writers who originally supported the war to answer the question, “Why did we get it wrong?”  One writer who answered, and published his answer in form of his regular column, was Andrew Sullivan.

I’ve had some correspondence with Andy in the past, and this recent column moved me to write him yet again.

He starts his open confessional-type column,  “How Did I Get Iraq Wrong?” with:

I think I committed four cardinal sins.

Then he goes on to explain his four self-perceived errors in cheering for war on Iraq:

Historical Narcissism


I was distracted by the internal American debate to the occlusion of the reality of Iraq. For most of my adult lifetime, I had heard those on the left decry American military power, constantly warn of quagmires, excuse what I regarded as inexcusable tyrannies, and fail to grasp that the nature of certain regimes makes their removal a moral objective.

Short Version Conclusion:  I didn’t like liberals constantly complaining about the Vietnam War (another war Andy didn’t fight in).

Narrow Moralism

Short Version: I didn’t think through the consequences of making war.


Short version:  I wasn’t conservative enough.

Misreading Bush

Short Version:  Bush is way more incompetent that I could have possibly imagined.

With all this confessional energy floating around, I felt inspired to write to Andy, telling him just how much his article touched me.  My letter:

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

I’ve just finished reading your article “What I Got Wrong About Iraq.”  As a 22 year Vietnam era navy veteran, and a liberal, who never thought invading Iraq in 2002 was right, I’d like to comment.

The real heart of your article is neatly summed up in the statement:

“So I saw the opposition to the war as another example of a faulty Vietnam Syndrome, associated it with the far left, or boomer nostalgia, and was revolted by the anti-war marches I saw in Washington.”

In other words, you supported the war because “Liberals,” which includes people like me, opposed it.  All the rest of your article is moralizing crap that seeks to put a philosophical underpinning under your support for war that has now killed nearly 4000 American troops, left tens of thousands more physically wounded and mentally broken, killed (by some estimates) as many as 1.2 million Iraqis, and shattered a once prosperous country.

In the run-up to Iraq II, I had far less access to information than did people such as yourself, and far less then members of Congress did.  Yet, I knew President Bush and all the many minions flocking around him were lying when they spoke of “a smoking mushroom cloud,”  “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” and Saddam Hussein as the greatest evil that walked the face of the earth.

How did I know?  I knew because I know how to spot when people are lying – even if I don’t know the real truth. This ability comes from working with people, learning to spot inconsistencies in statements and events, analyzing failures and understanding successes.  It’s a trait I call “self-awareness.”

I have also learned that very often, people I strongly dislike are actually correct. Accepting that people you strongly disagree with may actually be right in a given situation is mark of maturity.

Sadly, far too many people such as you who have a platform to influence public opinion lacked the maturity and self-awareness to oppose this disaster of a war when they needed to.  While it’s nice to see that you now actually admit you were wrong – which is more than most of the conservatives you still hang with – your confession falls far short and rings hollow.

May the blood of hundreds of thousands of souls rest heavy on your conscience.

No, He didn’t respond.  Not even with a thank you for reading his narcissistic confession all the way through to the sorry end.

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