Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a quasi-apology for the consequences of Iraq war:
“The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam had WMD, was wrong,” wrote McCain. “The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it.”
Politically, this is a pretty incredible admission.
First, politicians are often pilloried when they change their views on an issue. Flip-flopping in Washington, or changing your mind, as the rest of the country calls it, can lead to political backlash and endless hours on TV explaining or walking back your new position. McCain is a seasoned politician. He certainly knew his admission would create a storm across the country, especially among his political circles. So in that context, anyone willing to withstand some controversy in the pursuit of the truth should be applauded.
Second, McCain built a career out of making people believe his views on foreign policy were well informed and in the American interest. Americans were expected to defer to the years of work that McCain and his colleagues in Congress put into thinking through these complex questions of war and peace. Questioning his decision to support the Iraq war might cause others to challenge his views on other American wars he supports.
When John McCain called the Iraq War a mistake and actually accepted some of the blame, he acknowledged his important role that disastrous war.
But, we should forgive him?
Simple answer: No.
And neither should we congratulate him for having the courage to acknowledge his mistake.
Because he has not earned forgiveness. He is not ready to undo the damage his policies have caused.
Let’s start here. Right now Congress is having a very limited debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 (NDAA FY2019). This is the defense authorization bill that sets the budgetary priorities for the Department of Defense (DoD). In that sense, the bill is meant to help execute the Congressional and White House goals for the nation’s defense strategy.
The NDAA FY2019 – though it will be voted on in 2018 – authorizes $716 billion annually for defense operations. This is an increase of $16 billion from the NDAA FY2018. If the price tag is any indication, John McCain does not seem to think that America is involved in too many wars. He clearly wants to continue funding all of America’s wars; many of which he championed.
McCain is the Chairman of the Senator Armed Services Committee (SASC) – the committee in charge of putting the NDAA together. He could have requested much less funding for the Iraq war or zeroed out the authorization entirely. If he was sincere in his belief that the reasons for invading Iraq were a mistake that cost this country many precious lives, as well as treasure and security, he could have taken steps to end the war. Instead, he hopes to continue funding his mistake.
A Sorry Apology
McCain sent out a series of social media posts congratulating the Senate Armed Services Committee for its work on passing the NDAA for fiscal year 2019:
I count myself fortunate to have @SenJackReed as my partner on the committee. We come from different parties & we’ve had disagreements on the issues of the day. But through it all, we have done our best to collaboratively discharge our duty to provide for the common defense.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 24, 2018