Slow Burn: The Road to the Iraq War

Season 5: Episode 4

Fighting Words

Many intellectuals on the right and left found themselves on the same side in the debate over Iraq.


Episode Notes

In the year leading up the invasion, George W. Bush sketched his justification for the war: good vs. evil, us vs. them. The president wasn’t interested in fleshing out the details beyond that, but lots of other people were.

How did intellectuals, on both the right and left, help bolster the Bush administration’s case for war? And how much responsibility should they bear for one of America’s deadliest mistakes?

Season 5 of Slow Burn is produced by Noreen Malone, Jayson De Leon, and Sophie Summergrad. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.


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Makiya, Kanan. Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, University of California Press, 1989.

Mann, James. Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet, Viking, 2004.


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Fallows, James. “The Unilateralist,” the Atlantic, March 2002.

“Flags for Miss Pollitt Update,” the Weekly Standard, Oct. 29, 2001.

Gallagher, David F. “A Rift Among Bloggers,” New York Times, June 10, 2002.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Armchair General,” Slate, Nov. 11, 2002.

Hitchens, Christopher. “How Did I Get Iraq Wrong?,” Slate, March 17, 2008.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Images in a Rearview Mirror,” the Nation, Nov. 15, 2001.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Multilateralism and Unilateralism,” Slate, Dec. 18, 2002.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Taking Sides,” the Nation, Oct. 14, 2002.

Hitchens, Christopher. “(Un)Intended Consequences,” Slate, March 17, 2003.

Ignatieff, Michael. “Getting Iraq Wrong,” New York Times, Aug. 5, 2007.

Keller, Bill. “The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club,” New York Times, Feb. 8, 2003.

Keller, Bill. “The Sunshine Warrior,” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2002.

Kelly, Michael. “Who Would Choose Tyranny?,” Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2003.

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Leibovitz, Annie and Christopher Buckley. “War and Destiny: The White House in Wartime,” Vanity Fair, February 2002.

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Parker, Ian. “He Knew He Was Right,” the New Yorker, Oct. 8, 2006.

Remnick, David. “Making a Case,” the New Yorker, Jan. 26, 2003.

Reynolds, Glenn Harlan. “The Blogs of War,” National Interest, March 1, 2004.

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Seymour, Richard. “Christopher Hitchens: from socialist to neocon,” Guardian, Jan. 18, 2013.

Tanenhaus, Sam. “Bush’s Brain Trust,” Vanity Fair, July 2003.

Tyler, Patrick E. “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop,” New York Times, March 8, 1992.

Weisberg, Jacob. “Fishing for a Way to Change the World,” Newsweek, Jan. 19, 2008.

Weisberg, Jacob. “The Case Against the Case Against War,” Slate, Sept. 26, 2002.

Why Did We Get It Wrong?, Slate, March 2008.

Zakaria, Fareed. “Why The War Was Right,” Newsweek, Oct. 19, 2003.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

How the Iraq War Ignited Online Discourse

And looking back at Slate’s own history with the topic.


About the Show

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without provocation. Most Americans supported the war—as did most politicians and intellectuals, both liberal and conservative. Today, it’s universally considered a disaster.

Hosted by award-winning reporter Noreen Malone, the fifth season of Slow Burn explores the people and ideas that propelled the country into the Iraq war, and the institutions that failed to stop it. How did the Iraq catastrophe happen? And what was it like to watch America make one of its most consequential mistakes?

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  • Noreen Malone is the host of Slow Burn Season 5. Formerly, she was the editorial director of New York magazine and a host of Slate’s The Waves. Her magazine reporting has earned a George Polk Award.