My executive summary is founded on this - on 9/11 I was actually in theater, a quick jump to the Iraqi border. In those first few days after the attacks, you know what the N2/J2 folks were kicking out as threats? All coming from Iraq. From small groups of terrorists to actual chemical weapons coming over the walls in mortar shells. The message traffic, the briefings ... it is all part of the public record now. Either the US military and all our allies were suffering from mass delusion, were part of a huge conspiracy, or ... perhaps ... we were making estimates based on the information and intelligence available to us - and what we saw - at that place in time - without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from pampered agenda-driven, foam flecked partisan haters.
Here is the ES: we were justified in our attack. It was the right war, fought imperfectly through three of four phases. No one can see alternative presents, but my bet is that both we and Iraq are better because of it.
As in all wars, it took awhile to get good leaders. We forgot sound military history and example, and too many people thought they were smarter and better than those who went before. We got better, we got a little lucky ... and in a case of true leadership - Bush '43 gave the finger to his bad advisors and leveraged the surge with progress at the tribal level and we left in what I define as a victory in the fall of 2008. The rest is up to the Iraqi people ... as it should be.
It all went political in a ramp-up to the 2004 election - and that is where we find ourselves now.
Though it is behind the WSJ firewall - Naval War College professor of national security affairs Stephen Knott speaks much better than I do in reminding everyone of a core truth. History is what it is.
In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had “stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to “develop nuclear weapons.” Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that “a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam's] hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”The rest is just posturing, Monday AM quarterbacking, and the usual post hoc ergo propter hoc grabassery.
Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, “we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing” WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would “likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.”
Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.
If Mr. Bush “lied,” as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that “regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq's] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin.” Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that “it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years.”
According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.
The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.
We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war.
Hat tip Powerline.