Iraq: Let’s Quit Confusing the Issues

August 29, 2005

It’s easy to blame President Bush for failing sufficiently to articulate his case for the war against Iraq, but he does have a nation to lead and a war to fight. Plus, he already made the case for attacking Iraq at the time it mattered — before we attacked.

He convinced Congress — overwhelmingly — and the American people. Instead of our insisting that he spend all his time responding to the Left’s distractions over this, more of us should do a better job coming to his aid on the issue.

The antiwar Left has finally succeeded in turning public opinion against the war in Iraq with their endless assaults and distortions. The war’s supporters, in our defensiveness, have unintentionally taken on a greater burden of proof than, by rights, we should bear.

The truth is that we were morally and strategically justified in attacking Iraq, based on the information we had available at the time of the attack. Conversely, the wisdom and propriety of our decision to remain until our mission is complete — which we must — and the president’s conduct of the war, depend on facts now in existence. But by all means, let’s keep the issues separate.

That is, even if we conclude we were wrong to have attacked Iraq — which we certainly were not — our decision is done and can’t be retracted, even by withdrawing. Our decision to remain or withdraw must be based on what is going on today and the likely consequences of remaining or withdrawing.

The problem is that the antiwar Left has conflated these issues. They have been so obsessed with establishing (through monomaniacal repetition) their fraudulent case that President Bush lied to get us into this war, they have literally paralyzed themselves from contributing anything constructive to any issues concerning the ongoing war effort.

Stripping the issue to its bear essentials, my simple contention is that we were justified in attacking Iraq, among other reasons, because:

We believed, based on the best intelligence available to us, that Saddam represented a threat to our security because of his lust to acquire and reacquire WMD, his prior use of them on his own people, and his willingness to use them against us and our allies. His abiding hatred for the United States and his harboring of and support for terrorists (from Palestinian suicide bombers to Al Qaeda) exacerbated his dangerousness to the United States. That we have been unable to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq doesn’t mean President Bush lied about their existence, nor does it change the propriety of our decision based on what we knew at the time. The fact that Democrat leaders have conveniently denied they assessed Saddam’s threat to be at least as grave as President Bush did, both at the time of the attack and years before (during the Clinton administration), does not erase from history their well-documented and forcefully expressed opinion to that effect. The only difference between Republican and Democrat leaders on the subject is that Democrats just talked about it. Republicans took action.

Saddam had repeatedly violated the post Gulf War treaty and U.N. resolutions and defiantly refused to honor his agreements or comply with international law, making a mockery of Gulf War I and the American lives lost during it. He played games with weapons inspectors, and, despite his burden of proving he’d complied with his agreement to divest himself of WMD, he filed a fraudulent 12,000-page document — both of which led us to believe our intelligence assessments about his WMD were correct. If he didn’t have WMD or wasn’t trying to produce them, why on earth did he do those things?

He repeatedly violated the no-fly zone and fired on our planes.

To be sure, magnificent consequences have resulted and continue to flow from our liberation of Iraq — from Libya’s abandonment of WMD, to the end of real torture and massacre of Iraqi citizens by Saddam, to the development of a constitutional republic in the heart of the Middle East (and much more). But supporters of the war don’t need to cite these developments to justify our invasion of Iraq, because our decision to attack was justified largely independent of those issues, based on our reasonable assessment of the threat he posed and his lawless behavior.

Yes, let’s meet head on the Left’s charge that our mission in Iraq is neither part of, nor advancing our war on terror — which it emphatically is. But let’s do so in the context of how we should prosecute the war now that we’re there, instead of dwelling on the moot issue of whether we should have attacked in the first place.

But, truth be told, the Left doesn’t want to focus on the here and now, because by doing so they would have to forfeit the delicious political mileage they continue to accumulate against the president by confusing the issues.

Besides, with the exception of a few of their extremists, they (including all of their legitimate presidential hopefuls) know we can’t legitimately talk about withdrawing, which is why they are not offering — not even pretending to offer — any alternative plans.

Let’s debate all the Left’s spurious allegations, but, for the sake of our mission and our troops, let’s try to keep the issues separate and discrete at least for the purpose of making prudent decisions from this point forward.