Saturday, June 28, 2008

When Everyone Lied Us into War

A lot of people fervently believe that President Bush "lied" us into war. This relies on massive suppression of actual events but a whole lot of people succeed in this effort. So what to do?

A trip down memory lane:

Convincing Congress that the United States enjoyed a right of “anticipatory self-defense” against Saddam was hardly a difficult task. On the contrary, in September 2002 the Senate virtually arm-twisted Bush into giving it time to pass a new and more specific resolution than the Clinton-era one authorizing regime change in Iraq. In ringing the tocsin, moreover, leading Democrats spoke at least as assertively as leading Republicans. One of them was Charles Schumer:

"Hussein’s vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and his resent and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations . . . make him a terrible danger to the people of the United States."

Another was Hillary Clinton:

"My position is very clear. The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s WMD’s."

John Edwards was still another:

"Every day [Saddam] gets closer to his long-term goal of nuclear capability."

Howard Dean, then the governor of Vermont, was of a similar mind:

"There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the U.S. and our allies."

More than half of Senate Democrats, including John Kerry and Joseph Biden, joined with Republicans in authorizing the President “to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” and in so doing to enforce all the relevant but ineffectual resolutions passed by the UN Security Council. In the House, 81 Democrats (out of 209 in total) concurred. Later, many would claim that they had been tricked or misled or even lied to. In fact, the vote reflected nothing more than an affirmation of the old Clinton-era position, now urgently reinforced by the experience of 9/11.2

It was, after all, California’s Nancy Pelosi who had warned the nation on December 16, 1998, during Operation Desert Fox, that Saddam’s “development of WMD technology . . . is a threat to countries in the region.” During the House debate in October 2002, Pelosi sounded the same urgent theme, summing up a threat whose imminence the Democrats had been insisting upon for years. “Yes,” reiterated the tireless Pelosi, “[Saddam] has chemical weapons. He has biological weapons. He is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

Funny, Pelosi doesn't look NeoConish. Who knew?

It is certainly the right of one-time war supporters (left and right) to change their minds about the Iraq War. I don't think much of them exercising that right since for members of Congress I would assume that a declaration of war assumes we fight until we win, but this is a free country.

But what I don't like one bit is the refusal by the anti-war side to admit that all of us made choices in good faith based on what we knew at the time.

I believe even in retrospect knowing what we (think) we know now, that Saddam was a threat that could not be allowed to continue. I think we needed to destroy Saddam's regime and it is good that we did. It is also good that we stayed to defeat the al Qaeda and Iranian invasions of Iraq. These victories will serve us well in the decades to come if we don't blow our gains.

The cries that Bush lied us into war are shameful. And all war supporters need to do to defend that claim is to quote current war opponents from 1998 to 2002. Heck, once we do claim the fruits of the victories we are winning in Iraq, those current war opponents will no doubt be quoting their old statements.