Steve Inskeep's interview with Iraqi ex-pat and Brandies professor Kanan Makiya is fascinating. (Morning Edition, April 18, 2007). When the Bush administration was working hard in 2002 to build a back-story behind the decision they had already made to go to war, Iraqi ex-pats provided juicy tales of both horror and promise. The soundbyte that Makiya provided was on of the juiciest. He told the spin team at the White House that the Iraqi people would "greet the Americans with sweets and flowers."
Inskeep's interview, in which he forces Makiya to confront and explain the role he played, however small, in the case for war is one of those rare moments in which people are held accountable, and perhaps hold themselves accountable in a public forum. In some ways it reminded me of The Fog of War, the Oscar-winning documentary film in which Robert McNamara explores his own role in the Vietnam War. Inskeep's questioning is calm, even respectful, but deliberate and probing.
Makiya explains his thought process and motivations in December 2002 in measured, but seemingly honest words. He takes some shots at the post-invasion Iraqi leadership, but he also takes some moments to swipe at the Bush administration, but he does so with what he leaves unsaid. In answers to the toughest questions about his own role, for example, he notes that he "never argued for this war on the basis of weapons of mass destruction, or on the basis of national security" but strictly as a "humanitarian case."
As to what went wrong in Iraq? "Above all, (it) is the looting. The sense of insecurity that today pervades Baghdad was born on the day of liberation in Iraq -- April 9th, 2003 -- when looting went rampant. And when you combine that with suspicions of American intentions and motives ..." What goes unsaid, and I wish Inskeep had asked him, was who did Makiya hold responsible for the looting, and the subsequent erosion of order and security? There is only one answer.