Having been proven so spectacularly wrong about the war in Iraq, anti-liberation liberals have shifted to lower rhetorical ground. Now they argue that if no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq then the entire enterprise was illegitimate.
New York Times columnist and war critic Nicholas Kristof writes if WMDs are never found in Iraq, “then Bush has plenty of explaining to do to the children of the Americans, Britons and Iraqis who died in the war.”
The Nation’s David Corn was on Greta Van Susteren’s show the recently practically screaming at National Review’s Rich Lowry, “Where are those weapons of mass destruction, Rich?”
Liberal Democrat Senator Daniel Inouye had a slightly different take, saying the U.S. “had better find weapons of mass destruction soon, or it may lose credibility globally.”
One would think that the smiling faces of the newly liberated Iraqi people, the emptying of a jail for child political prisoners, the mass graves, the thousands of earless men, and the gruesome discoveries of numerous torture chambers would be all the justification anyone would need.
If that’s not enough, the liberal critics could also consult another interested party — our troops. In a heartbreaking story in U.S. News and World Report about the tragic death of Pfc. John E. Brown in Iraq, reporter Julian Barnes writes, “Like many soldiers here, Brown said he wasn’t really sure what this fight was about when he crossed the border in Iraq. But once he had made it to Baghdad, he said, he understood. He was in Iraq, he explained, to help the people.” That attitude came through in countless television interviews we’ve all seen over the past few weeks with American and British forces in Iraq.
What makes the left’s “find WMDs or else” argument even more curious is that for months we were told that the president was constantly changing his rationale for war, going from WMDs to Iraq’s link to 9/11 and terrorism to human rights to regime change to introducing democracy into the Arab Middle East and back to WMDs again. The fact is, it was all those reasons, and yet the critics can now remember only one.
Furthermore, British PM Tony Blair continually and persuasively made the case for invading Iraq purely on the grounds of the gruesome and threatening nature of Saddam’s regime. Does that imply Bush has explaining to do but Blair doesn’t? That U.S. credibility is lost but Britain’s isn’t? That Basra was legitimately liberated but the rest of Iraq wasn’t?
Even more to the point, the real disagreement with France, Germany, Russia, and the rest at the U.N. was that they all thought Saddam’s weapons were the problem while the Bush administration thought Saddam himself was the problem.
The Bush administration understood that even if Saddam completely and verifiably disarmed, he would immediately restart his chemical, biological, and nuclear programs once U.S. forces departed the region and the world turned its attention to other matters. And within a few years, Saddam would likely have a nuclear bomb, which is precisely why President Bush was right to equate disarmament in any permanent sense with regime change. The inspections regime pushed by France, Germany, and Russia, on the other hand, would at best have led only to a temporary disarmament.
So while the threat to U.S. interests from Saddam was never imminent, it was always inevitable. Given that realization, the question became Do we wait for Saddam to field WMDs or do we act immediately to remove the threat? Considering that Saddam acknowledged one of his major blunders was invading Kuwait before he had nuclear weapons, the case for a preemptive strike was overwhelming — even if WMDs were never found.
And let’s not forget that WMDs may still be found, if not the actual agents then the facilities to manufacture them, which may be more likely. But given Saddam’s behavior before the war, frustrating and bamboozling U.N. weapons inspectors, it is hard to believe he would have gone to such lengths had he nothing to hide. Indeed, if Saddam had abandoned his WMDs, then why did he not offer any evidence to that effect and save himself an invasion and get the sanctions on his country lifted?
Here is what we knew for sure before the war: We knew Saddam used WMDs against the Iranians and his own people. We knew he was hiding WMDs from inspectors for years. We knew he believed a confrontation with the U.S. was inevitable. And, most important, we knew he would never abandon his quest to obtain nuclear weapons as long as he was in power. Given this knowledge, not taking action would have been a dereliction.
I argued before the war that the most realistic worst-case scenario was that we would liberate the Iraqi people from a bloodthirsty dictator without finding a single weapon of mass destruction, and if that was the case then action to remove Saddam was still more than justified. After all, there was never just one reason to remove Saddam, there were many, not the least of which was his penchant for waging war with his neighbors in an effort to dominate the region and its oil production (if anyone willingly traded blood for oil it was Saddam, who launched two wars for oil).
The antiwar critics who want the Bush administration to admit it was wrong about Iraq’s WMDs will never admit that they were wrong about their dire predictions of how the war would play out. So their politically motivated attacks have about as much seriousness now as the discredited predictions they made before the war.
— The Honorable J. D. Hayworth is a congressman from Arizona.