Every September 11th, Americans—mostly our political class—gather in New York City or Washington D.C. to say, “Never again.” Never again will we allow 19 deranged terrorists hijack plans and fly them into buildings in America—a vain and hollow promise, as if simply by making an act of will we could have prevented the 3,000 deaths that day.
A promise that would be far more humble and infinitely realizable would be for America’s politicians and media pundits to join together on March 19th and say, “Never again.” Never again will we launch a war of choice against a nation that was a threat to no one, let alone Americans. Never again will we deceive the American people with talk of “mushroom clouds” of our own creation. Never again will we sacrifice the lives of 5,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Never again will we torture and kill in secret prisons. Never again will we throw a country into perpetual violence and terrorism for the sake of appearing strong.
These promises can actually be met by an act of will. They chose to invade Iraq without provocation. They chose to attack civilian targets. They chose to lie and deceive to accomplish these goals. It is these choices that could easily and effortlessly be reversed. It is these choices which we must “never forget” if we are willing to say in earnest “never again.”
But the reality is that the most tragic and violent thing initiated by our government in the last several years is already forgotten. The war will be remembered by our political and pundit class who were so supportive as flawed in execution but well-intentioned in theory (like Vietnam is), that if not for tactical errors and a Republican president things may have turned out differently. Indeed, if our foreign policy under this president is any indication, we are doomed to repeat the errors (and lies) of the past for the next several decades—in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
“Never again” will not happen because America’s commentators and politicians who advocated, promoted, and funded the war still possess all the power and influence they had prior to that lethal choice. Will liberals stop respecting Tom Friedman and Chris Matthews? Will David Brooks ever stop being invited on Meet the Press? Will John McCain stop being considered a foreign policy expert? Will USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post apologize and fire their editors? Will Congress repeal the authorization to use force in Iraq and pass a resolution admitting its mistake? Will Hillary Clinton still be a viable presidential candidate in 2016?
“Never again”? Never going to happen.