Even before the Bush administration, Democrats strongly supported the war in Iraq, until it became difficult. Then it became “Bush’s War”.
It represents the ultimate in betrayal for political benefit. President Clinton, his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and his wife Senator Clinton all believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (see youtube video links below), and that war was necessary if full UN inspections weren’t reinstated. The inspections weren’t reinstated, and mainstream politicians in both parties supported the invasion in Iraq. When the “bipartisan” war became difficult and the search for WMD wasn’t yielding results, Democrats pretended they were never in support of the war, and that “Bush lied, and people died”. Citizens on the left fully embraced this view in an unthinking way, too typical of what we see from that side of the political spectrum.
The concept here crosses all lines of decency. We understand that politics is a dirty game, and that the truth is stretched and morals are compromised. But to support a war, send our soldiers into harms way, and then while they are there pretend the Commander-in-Chief lied to get them there, after supporting sending them in the first place? Just when that very war is becoming most challenging and the troops needed us unflinchingly behind them? This is beyond any political betrayal we have seen in our lifetimes.
I am posting this today after reading an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that raises this issue once again (see editorial below). It is an issue that has disturbed me for almost a decade, and the editorial stirred my outrage once again.
One last comment, and then I turn you over to the actual video footage and the editorial. On April 23, 2007, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said “the war is lost” (video link below). While we had 150,000 troops fighting that war in Iraq. While their families suffered here at home waiting for their return, or for the dreaded knock on their door. And in the full light of history, in which the Iraq war turned out to be quite the oppositive, and Iraq is now a democracy, while a fledgling one.
See below for more:
Harry Reid, the war is lost: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyDOAmJYFFA
Bill Clinton on Iraq, just before leaving office: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACffW99kOB8
Senator Clinton, future Secretary of State: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwWA2ehTOrk
Wall Street Journal Editorial:
When Everyone Agreed About Iraq
For years before the war, a bipartisan consensus thought Saddam possessed WMD.
At 5:34 a.m. on March 20, 2003, American, British and other allied forces invaded Iraq. One of the most divisive conflicts in the nation’s history would soon be labeled ” Bush‘s War.”
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants.
The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded “No-Fly Zone War” that had been waged since 1991. Saddam’s military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq.
According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton’s National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of “not whether but when” the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was “no less pressing than those we faced in 1941.”
Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem. The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that “it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam’s representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false.”
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.”
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.
Mr. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, is the author of “Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics” (University Press of Kansas, 2012).
A version of this article appeared March 16, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: When Everyone Agreed About Iraq.