'NYT' Sunday Preview: Michael Ignatieff on Why He -- and Bush -- Got Iraq 'Wrong'

By: E&P Staff In a major feature in this coming Sunday?s New York Times Magazine, longtime contributor Michael Ignatieff, a liberal ?hawk? on the Iraq war in 2003, admits his mistakes under the headline ?Getting Iraq Wrong.? But he goes further in attributing the same errors, and others, for the ?unfolding catastrophe? to President Bush.

Ignatieff, a former professor at Harvard, is now a member of Canada?s Parliament. He wrote several influential pro-war pieces for the Times in the run-up to the war.

He says that what he has learned about himself as a lesson for the future ?is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire ? Iraqi exiles, for example ? and to be less swayed by my emotions.? He hits Bush for this and for being detached from reality, for a stubborn belief that history will surely ?judge him kindly," and for holding ?fixed ideas of a dogmatic kind? that ?are usually the enemy of good judgment. It is an obstacle to clear thinking to believe that America?s foreign policy serves God?s plan to expand human freedom.?

He also notes: ?Good judgment in politics, it turns out , depends on being a critical judge of yourself. It was not merely that the president did not take the care to understand Iraq. He also did not take the care to understand himself. ?He had led a charmed life, and in charmed lives warning bells do not sound.? Bush, in essence, "did not know what he was doing" and did not know that he did not know.

Great leaders, he concludes, must be willing to risk failure but also to admit mistakes: "Daring leaders can be trusted as long as they give some inkling of knowing what it is to fail."

One of Ignatieff's pro-war articles for the Times appeared on March 23, 2003, and was titled, "I Am Iraq." Among other claims, he stated: "Who seriously believes 25 million Iraqis would not be better off if Saddam were overthrown?" He noted, however: "A lot of my friends think that supporting the president on this issue is naive."


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