WASHINGTON--Amid the general media and Democratic frenzy over Niger yellowcake, it is Bill Clinton who injected a note of sanity. ``What happened, often happens,'' Clinton told Larry King. ``There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it ... British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, `Well, we probably shouldn't have said that.'''
Big deal. End of story. End of scandal.
The fact that the Democrats and the media can't seem to let go of it, however, is testimony to their need (and ability) to change the subject. From what? From the moral and strategic realities of Iraq. The moral reality finally burst through the yellowcake fog with the death of the Hussein Brothers, psychopathic torturers who would today be running Iraq if not for the policy enunciated by President Bush in that very same State of the Union address.
That moral reality is a little hard for the left to explain, given the fact that it parades as the guardian of human rights and all-around general decency, and rallied millions to try to prevent the very policy that liberated Iraq from Uday and Qusay's reign of terror.
Then there are the strategic realities. Consider what has happened in the Near East since Sept. 11, 2001:
(1) In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been overthrown and a decent government installed.
(2) In Iraq, the Saddam regime has been overthrown, the dynasty destroyed, and the possibility for a civilized form of governance exists for the first time in 30 years.
(3) In Iran, with dictatorships toppled to the east (Afghanistan) and the west (Iraq), popular resistance to the dictatorship of the mullahs has intensified.
(4) In Pakistan, once the sponsor and chief supporter of the Taliban, the government radically reversed course and became a leading American ally in the war on terror.
(5) In Saudi Arabia, where the presence of U.S. troops near the holy cities of Mecca and Medina deeply inflamed relations with many Muslims, the American military is leaving -- not in retreat or with apology, but because it is no longer needed to protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam.
(6) Yemen, totally unhelpful to the United States after the attack on the USS Cole, has started cooperating in the war on terror.
(7) In the small stable Gulf states, new alliances with the United States have been established.
(8) Kuwait's future is secure, the threat from Saddam having been eliminated.
(9) Jordan is secure, no longer having Iraq's tank armies and radical nationalist influence at its back.
(10) Syria has gone quiet, closing terrorist offices in Damascus and downplaying its traditional anti-Americanism.
(11) Lebanon's southern frontier is quiet for the first time in years, as Hezbollah, reading the new strategic situation, has stopped cross-border attacks into Israel.
(12) Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been restarted, a truce declared, and a fledgling Palestinian leadership established that might actually be prepared to make a real peace with Israel.
That's every country from the Khyber Pass to the Mediterranean Sea. Everywhere you look, the forces of moderation have been strengthened. This is a huge strategic advance not just for the region but for the world, because this region in its decades-long stagnation has incubated the world's most virulent anti-American, anti-Western, anti-democratic and anti-modernist fanaticism.
This is not to say that the Near East has been forever transformed. It is only to say that because of American resolution and action, there is a historic possibility for such a transformation.
It all hinges, however, on success in Iraq. On America not being driven out of Iraq the way it was driven out of Lebanon and Somalia -- which is what every terrorist and every terrorist state wants to see happen. And with everything at stake, what is the left doing? Everything it can to undermine the enterprise. By implying both that it was launched fraudulently (see yellowcake, above) and, alternately, that it has ensnared us in a hopeless quagmire.
Yes, the cost is great. The number of soldiers killed is relatively very small, but every death is painful and every life uniquely valuable. But remember that just yesterday we lost 3,000 lives in one day. And if this region is not transformed, on some future day we will lose 300,000.
The lives of those as yet unknown 300,000 hinge now on success in Iraq. If we win the peace and leave behind a decent democratic society, enjoying, as it does today, the freest press and speech in the entire Arab world, it will revolutionize the region. And if we leave in failure, the whole region will fall back into chaos, and worse.