I was thinking about a post written by a friend (Rimor Vita) in which it is suggested that the judgment of George W Bush for actions taken during his presidency will be better done in the future, looking back at the past because hindsight is 20/20. I have to respectfully disagree. While hindsight is 20/20 in some situations—like mine right now as I sit in a hospital ER waiting to be seen—it is not always 20/20. More on the reason why I’m here in another post, another day.
As for hindsight being 20/20, the problem is that we can only see the results of the actions taken, not the results had those actions NOT been taken. Therefore, only the outcomes can be viewed this way. The potential good or harm that may have occurred otherwise may never be known.
What we can say based on three points is that there were no WMD in Iraq. Point #1: The Iraqis denied having them. Point #2: Not everyone in this country or in other countries was convinced that there were any based on the “evidence” given. Point #3: No WMD or credible trace (residue, radiation, etc.) to show they existed were ever found.
What we can say with some certainty is that 4,552* military men and women have died as a result of the actions taken against Iraq. Estimates on Iraqi deaths come in at just over 1.3 million.**
The lives! The families shattered! The hopes and dreams! Children without a parent, and parents without children. Widowers, widows, orphans…
The damage to our economy!
If hindsight is truly 20/20, it will have to take into account what evidence there was or wasn’t against the value of taking out a relatively stable, yet minimized despot and bringing in his place years of instability, insurrection, and increased sectarian violence. Sadly, history has a serious lack of peripheral vision in such situations, looking only at what has happened, not at what could have been avoided. Even so, I am certain that some will say that we avoided the deaths of thousands or millions as the result of a WMD—those same WMD for which there is no evidence.
No, hindsight is not 20/20. Hindsight for the sake of history is selectively blind, selectively myopic, or is combined with a bad case of tunnel vision. And after enough years, historians come back to do a high-level review of the facts and revise the history of their forbearers.
* http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties/2009.01.html with up-to-date numbers