The principal justification offered by the Democrats for their campaign against the Iraq War was that “Bush lied” in order to persuade them to support an invasion that was unnecessary, illegal, and immoral. This claim was the only way Democrats could explain the otherwise inexplicable and unconscionable fact that, for domestic political reasons, they turned against a war they had supported, following the lead of an anti-war primary candidate, Howard Dean, who appeared to be on his way to winning their presidential nomination. It was only then that Kerry and Edwards, the eventual nominees, reversed themselves on the war; they were followed by the entire party, which saw a partisan advantage in attacking Bush over an increasingly difficult situation on the battlefield.
The claim that Bush lied was false. Bush could not have lied to Kerry or the congressional Democrats about WMDs in Iraq, because Kerry and other Democrats sat on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and had access to the same intelligence data that Bush relied on to make his case for the war. When the Democrats authorized and supported the war, they knew everything that Bush knew. The claim that he lied to get their support was itself the biggest lie of the war. Its only purpose was to hide the Democrats’ own perfidy in abandoning the nation’s mission for partisan gain, and to discredit the president and turn the country against him, at whatever cost, in the hope of winning the 2004 election.
Republicans didn’t lose control of the national-security narrative simply because Democrats betrayed a war they had authorized, however. Republicans had the option of standing fast, as they had done since the attack on Pearl Harbor. They lost control of the narrative because they never held the Democrats accountable for their betrayal. They never suggested that the Democrats’ attacks on the war were deceitful and unpatriotic, aiding our enemies and risking the lives of our troops in the field. The Bush White House failed to defend itself from the attacks, and the Republicans as a whole failed to expose the Democrats’ lie and to describe their reckless accusations as the disloyal propaganda it clearly was. “Betrayal” and “sabotage” — the appropriate terms for Democratic attacks on the motives of the war — were never employed. Republicans did not accuse Democrats of conducting a campaign to demoralize America’s troops in the field, even when Kerry during a presidential debate called it “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” (How did that sound to a 19-year-old Marine facing down Islamic terrorists in Fallujah?)
The Republican Failure and the American Future
The Republicans’ failure to defend their president and the war turned a good war into a bad one. It turned a disloyal opposition into a patriotic movement. It crippled America’s ability to protect other people’s freedom and defend its own. If the war against a dictator like Saddam Hussein was illegitimate and immoral, then American resistance to any outlaw states could be portrayed — and opposed — as reckless and unjustifiable aggression.
In failing to fight the political war over Iraq, Republicans lost their legitimacy as the party that had always taken the hard, sometimes unpopular steps to protect national security, as they did in the mid 1980s when they held the line against Soviet efforts to support Sandinista subversion and subject El Salvador to a bloody Marxist guerilla war. Losing — and to some degree failing to fight — the war over the war in Iraq is why Republicans are mute today in matters of foreign policy and why they have not challenged Barack Obama’s dangerous course of appeasement and drift, particularly in the Middle East.
The Joint Chiefs had suggested that a military presence of 20,000 troops in Iraq was necessary to keep it free of Iran’s control, but the demand for such a presence became problematic when the Republicans allowed the Democrats’ narrative of “Bush lied, people died” to succeed. When 2008 presidential candidate John McCain suggested that maintaining troops in a postwar Iraq was a prudent measure, candidate Obama attacked him as a warmonger. “You know,” Obama said, “John McCain wants to continue a war in Iraq perhaps as long as 100 years.” This refrain became a constant theme of the winning Obama campaign — Republicans are warmongers, and dangerous.
That is why three years later, when Obama withdrew from Iraq, no Republican dared accuse him of betraying the Americans who gave their lives to make Iraq independent, even though Iraq as a consequence fell under the sway of Iran and was providing air space for Iranian weapons headed for Syria..
How far America has fallen since Madeleine Albright called us the indispensable nation that stands taller and sees farther becomes ever more apparent with each new international crisis. We are not only losing the war with enemies whose stated goal is our destruction, we are led by a political party that constantly finds excuses not to take these enemies seriously, and never has to account for its disgraceful conduct because its potential opposition is mute. The only way to reverse this trend is to mount a campaign to put Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood at the forefront of the political debate, and to educate Americans about the real dangers we face. Americans need to become aware of the Islamic-supremacist threat, of the malignant designs of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of the disasters that may lie ahead because of the Obama administration’s policies of appeasing and enabling our enemies’ evil ambitions.
— David Horowitz is author of Radicals: Portaits of a Destructive Passion.