Not a moment goes by on the wonderful world of Twitter without a stunning display of ignorance, but this one is staggering enough that it merits further attention. First, we need some background:
1. The American Enterprise Institute is a conservative think tank responsible for churning out terrible intellectual content that has a terrible impact on American policy. To give you an idea of exactly how their for-profit brain trust operates, read this instructive paragraph from a 2013 story at The Nation:
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has emerged as one of the Beltway’s most consistent advocates for the sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan. Previously undisclosed tax filings reveal that while issuing research reports and publishing articles on US-Taiwan relations, AEI received a $550,000 contribution from the government of Taiwan, a source of funding the think tank has never publicly acknowledged.
Of course, selling jets to Taiwan is the least of the damage they’ve caused. One of their main donors (almost $20 million between 2002 and 2011) is “DonorsTrust,” a neocon conglomerate funded by people like Charles Koch—which means that AEI is constantly stumping for lower environmental protections. They fought net neutrality after receiving money from Comcast; they fight minimum wage hikes; they fight Wall Street regulations; they pay scientists handsomely to “cast doubt” on global warming.
You get the point—basically, they’re hired guns for every gross conservative policy that our ruling class can dream up. For a good primer on how think tanks like AEI spread the gospel of corporate America, check out this NYTimes piece.
2. Danielle Pletka is the senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. She’s been there since March 2002, and none other than Eli Lake described her as “prominent advocate” for the war in Iraq. Hilariously, she actually worked for Jesse Helms before AEI. WaPo described her as a “staunch conservative with a caustic manner.” She writes op-eds for Fox News when she gets mad that America won’t fight impossible wars. She’s married to an extremely awful war-cheerleading lobbyist who helped create the Department of Homeland Security.
AEI in general was key in pushing regime change in Iraq, and worked side by side with the “Project for the New American Century.” Sourcewatch describes AEI as “one of the leading architects” for George W. Bush’s foreign policy. As recently as March of this year, they were posting revisionist nonsense like this.
Here’s what Pletka had to say in 2013, a decade after the disastrous war began:
“Ask the people who lived under Saddam Hussein whether they regret the war. People have forgotten what happened when you disagreed with Saddam. You had your tongue cut out if you were lucky. People have forgotten what totalitarianism looks like, because they became obsessed with George W. Bush. There is a lot of bad stuff in Iraq today. Had President Obama chosen not to withdraw from Iraq, it would be a different picture there. We made a lot of mistakes, though.”
That’s who we’re dealing with here.
Now, being a complete policy ghoul is one thing. We have lots of them, and Pletka doesn’t really stand out from the pack in that regard. But we’re here today to go beyond heinous geopolitical policy; we’re here to talk about staggering ignorance.
The incident in question began when the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, tweeted a response from his personal account to a media matters story about Ari Fleischer arguing for destabilizing Iran. Obviously, that is a terrible idea that will lead, at best, to another hopeless quagmire in the Middle East, and Araud drew the obvious parallel to Iraq:
That prompted Pletka to emerge from the dark abyss of the AEI dungeon to tweet out one of her famous “caustic” zingers:
One problem: France didn't fight with us in Iraq. In fact, they adamantly refused, and it was a pretty big deal at the time. Remember “freedom fries”?
Now, you may be thinking, “wait a minute. How on God's green earth did someone like Danielle Pletka not know that?” And your befuddlement would be correct. It's weird and sort of funny and also horrifying.
Twitter had some fun reactions:
It is absolutely no surprise that Pletka is eager to join the full-throated push for war with Iran. What is shocking, coming from one of the people responsible for the greatest foreign policy blunder of the century, is forgetting or not knowing a key part of that history. It’s a bracing reminder of the type of mind—simple, vicious, and above all incompetent—that has pushed America into failure after failure across the world.