Other delusions abounded. Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency. Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges. Biden’s solution to the palpable breakdown of security in the summer of 2003 was “more foreign troops to share our mission.” It was a fantasy, beloved of that era’s pro-war Democrats, that would never materialize, despite Biden’s assurance that aiding the occupation was “in their naked self-interest.”

By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage.

Writing in The New Republic, Biden insisted that Bush was wrong but he was right, since “the international community’s need to enforce these U.N. resolutions provided a compelling case for war.” The “most pernicious legacy” of U.S. failure in Iraq, he continued, would be not the hundreds of thousands the war killed, maimed, and traumatized, nor the millions more it turned into refugees, but “a further hardening of the Vietnam syndrome that afflicts some in the Democratic Party—a distrust of the use of American power.” Those who had been right about the war—those that had forecast its disaster—could not be allowed to gain influence.