Nuance for War Criminals.

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I have yet to see Green Zone, Matt Damon’s Bourne-esque latest, but I’ve been enjoying the commentary surrounding it. For instance, here’s Freddie DeBoer with his take on conservative criticism of the film:

What’s really behind these charges of “slander,” I suspect, is that this movie tells the bald truth about America’s involvement in Iraq: that the chief rationale for invading Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, has been proven entirely false. It is true and uncomfortable that we invaded a country and brutalized its people under false pretenses. If telling the unhappy truth about American actions is enough to get a movie labeled anti-American, then I suppose Amistad is an anti-American film. The movie also makes a big deal about de-Baathification and the dissolving of the Iraqi military. The movie points out that this was insanity, and this again is true and uncomfortable.

And here’s Daniel Larison responding to Ross Douthat’s complaint that the film isn’t nuanced enough:

Yes, the problem might be that we do not have artists capable of rendering contemporary architects of a war of aggression that was based on shoddy intelligence, ideological fervor and deceit in a sufficiently subtle, even-handed manner. If only Hollywood were better at portraying the depth and complexity of people who unleashed hell on a nation of 24 million people out of an absurd fear of a non-existent threat! Life is so unfair to warmongers, is it not?

I remain mystified by this conservative refusal to honestly take account of the damage wrought by their war boosterism and militarism. Among mainstream conservatives, support for President Bush’s ill-thought, reckless invasion of Iraq was near-unanimous. And given that the war has claimed tens of thousands of lives and broken many million’s more, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a little bit of contrition from conservatives. Instead, we get nonsense like Douthat’s plea for nuance. “These were decent men! They deserve some sympathy!” At the risk of sounding shrill, where exactly is the nuance in aggressive war? And why should I feel sorry for the ideologues and militarists who destroyed a country and a culture in their insane push to remake the world in America’s image?

It’s uncomfortable to think of the war in these terms — especially given our collective refusal to understand American power as anything but an unqualified good — but if we’re not going to hold accountable those responsible, then the very least we could do is acknowledge the destruction we caused. And if that requires a somewhat simplistic view of things, so be it.


Jamelle Bouie is a writer for Slate. He has also written for The Daily Beast, The American Prospect and The Nation. His work centers on politics, race, and the intersection of the two.

You can find him on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram as jbouie.
  • It still amazes me that some conservatives, while admitting that there were mistakes made, will never, EVER say “We shouldn’t have invaded Iraq”

  • You hit the nail on the head, Jamelle. It’s stunning, sometimes, the lack of self-reflection and self-awareness that drives conservatives.

  • Seth in LA

    The amazing thing is that after foisting this war on the country, they handed over a situation to the new President from which he could not just walk away. And now they’ve handed over ownership of an unsuccessful and unpopular war to a Democratic administration. You rarely even hear them defend it any more. Why bother? It belongs to the Democrats now.

    Say what you want about Republicans, but they are as brilliant as they are evil.

  • DaFunkyFulani

    It should also be noted that democrats didn’t oppose the war. They kept funding it until the end. There were against how the war was conducted and not the war itself

  • Conservatives, umph go figure, thwy want to pretend that they are direct but the aren’t.


  • Jamey

    I remain mystified by this conservative refusal to honestly take account of the damage wrought

    Why? What reason would they have to not accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions? What have they done to earn your benefit of the doubt?