Politics & Policy

Two Roads Diverged…

Democrats should follow John Edwards's lead.

President George W. Bush has begun to shove back at critics of his decision to remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Democrats have been hammering away for months, accusing Bush of intentionally exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam’s regime. Finally, in a speech on Veterans Day, the president signaled that he’s had enough: “It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began. More than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to remove Saddam Hussein from power.”

#ad#John Kerry responded at once to Bush’s words, charging, “This administration misled a nation into war by cherry-picking intelligence and stretching the truth beyond recognition.”

The debate over the collection and organization of intelligence is interminable, of course. Kerry is correct in a limited sense; the Bush administration thought toppling Saddam was necessary and clearly sifted and presented intelligence data to make the case for doing so as strong as possible. But Bush is also correct that key Democrats believed, prior to the invasion of Iraq, and prior even to Bush’s election, that Saddam’s weapons program posed a significant threat to the region and ultimately to the United States. To wit:

‐”In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”–Senator Hillary Clinton, 10/10/02.

In the final analysis, of course, the crucial question is not who believed what about Saddam’s WMDs but whether the decision to invade Iraq was the right thing to do. It’s a question for the history books; a definitive answer is likely a decade away. The more instructive question for the present, the more courageous question to ask right now, is this: “If you could turn back the clock, would you undo the invasion?” With an eye on a run for the White House in 2008, John Edwards on Sunday became the first serious contender for the Democratic nomination to tackle this question head on, writing in a Washington Post op-ed: “It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake.”

Edwards’s position is therefore clear. Weighing the costs and benefits of the war in Iraq, he would choose the road not taken. Consider, in that light, the chart below:

The Road Taken vs. The Road Not Taken

<table width="614" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="10" border="0"

style=”border: 1px solid #333; font-family: Times, Sans, Times New Roman; font-size: 12pt;”>

<p

style=””><span style="font-size:

13.5pt;”> 

<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”>1) Saddam is in

prison, about to go on trial for crimes against the Iraqi people and

against humanity.

<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>2) The prospect of a representative

democracy, albeit one with an Islamic character, founded on a

constitution that guarantees individual human rights. <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />
<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”> 

3) The

Oil-for-Food scandal is rapidly unraveling, the names of prominent

politicians, diplomats, and businessmen disgraced by their

involvement.
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>4) Over 2,000 American military personnel are

killed in Iraq; over 15,000 are wounded.<o:p _moz-userdefined=""

/>
<span style="font-size:

13.5pt;”> 
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”>5) Over 100,000 Iraqi

civilians are killed as a direct result of the invasion of Iraq, most of

the casualties coming from American bombing campaigns–according to

high-end estimates cited by Noam Chomsky. (The actual number, it should

be noted, is likely a fraction of this.)<o:p _moz-userdefined=""

/>

<span style="font-size:

13.5pt;”> 
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>1) Saddam continues to rule Iraq, jerking

around United Nations weapons inspectors, torturing and killing

political opponents.
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>2) The prospect of reigns by Qusay and

perhaps Uday Hussein, whose previous forays into power politics include

mass torture and genocidal rampages.<o:p _moz-userdefined=""

/>
<span style="font-size:

13.5pt;”> 
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”>3) The Oil-for Food

program is ongoing, with prominent politicians, diplomats, and

businessmen enriching themselves while helping Iraq skirt United Nations

sanctions.

<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>4) No American casualties are taken in Iraq;

more military personnel are free to search for Osama bin

Laden.
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

<span

style=”font-size: 12pt;”>5) Roughly 4,500 Iraqi children under the age

of five are dying each month as a result of U.N. sanctions–according to

high-end estimates cited by Noam Chomsky. (The actual number is likely a

fraction of this.) By <a

href=”http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/iraqemb.htm”>Chomsky’s

figures, the total number of Iraqi children saved by the end

of sanctions since Saddam’s regime fell in May 2003 is roughly 135,000.

)
<p style=""

class=”MsoNormal”> <o:p

_moz-userdefined=”” />

There you have it. The road taken and the road not taken. For the sake of intellectual consistency, let every critic of the war embrace the road not taken–as Edwards has. But no more “cherry-picking” (to echo John Kerry’s favorite phrase) outcomes. Reality isn’t a take-out menu. You can’t select three from Column A and one from Column B.

Mark Goldblatt’s novel, Africa Speaks, is a satire of black hip-hop culture.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Netflix Debuts Its Obama Manifesto

This week’s widespread media blitz heralding Netflix’s broadcast of its first Obama-endorsed presentation, American Factory, was more than synchronicity. It felt as though U.S. publicists and journalists collectively exhaled their relief at finally regaining the bully pulpit. Reviews of American Factory, a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Capital versus Tucker Carlson

Advertisers do not advertise on Tucker Carlson’s show to endorse the views of Tucker Carlson. They advertise on his show for the same reason they advertise elsewhere: a captive audience — in Tucker’s case, the second-largest one in cable news — might spare thirty seconds of attention that will, they hope, ... Read More
Natural Law

Are Your Sexual Preferences Transphobic?

Last year, a study exploring “transgender exclusion from the world of dating” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Of nearly 1,000 participants, the overwhelming majority, 87.5 percent, irrespective of their sexual preference, said they would not consider dating a trans person, ... Read More